Envisioning the chill zone: Entrepreneur plans cantina and lodging facility

Phil Castle, The Business Times

An illustration depicts what the front deck of El Jet’s Cantina will look like when the eatery is constructed as part of project planned for the Dos Rios development in Grand Junction. (Illustration courtesy Jen Taylor)

Jen Taylor envisions the kind of place she’d like to stay. Somewhere near a river that affords scenic views. A cantina that serves salty margaritas, cold beers, and tasty fish tacos. And an eclectic mix of accommodations — everything from tent and RV sites to vintage trailers and surf shacks.

In other words, the perfect base camp from which mountain bikers, rafters and other outdoor enthusiasts can explore Western Colorado. 

“It’s a super vibey chill zone,” Taylors says.

If everything goes as planned, Taylor’s visions will become reality in 2022 with the opening of El Jet’s Cantina and Sky Outpost as part of a mixed-use development in the Dos Rios neighborhood in Grand Junction.

Taylor says she’s invested her own money in the project in purchasing land, paying engineering and architectural fees and securing permits. “The dirt is ready. The plans are ready.”

It’s a matter now of securing about $5 million for development, she says, whether that’s from bank lending, private funding or some combination.

Taylor is one step closer to opening in completing a Kickstarter campaign to fund the purchase and renovation of 10 vintage caravans — including Airstreams, Spartans and Silver Streaks. 

The caravans are named for the people from whom they were purchased — an Airstream named Betty, for example, that’s been renovated and fitted with French doors. Work is underway on Hattie Rose.

Taylor said she’s excited years of planning and work could soon come to fruition. “I feel honored that this thing came to me.”

Taylor says she was inspired by a trip to Baja California 18 years ago with her friends and children. Days were spent drinking margaritas and beers and stopping at roadside stands in search of the best fish tacos.

Taylor worked in the cycling and outdoor clothing industry — including positions with DT Swiss and Mountain Khakis as well as operating her own business, Mountain Sprouts. More recently, Taylor switched to real estate as an agent with the Christi Reece Group. 

But she never forgot about her project or applying what she learned in her various experiences. “It was just something I could keep coming back on.”

Taylor plans to construct her cantina and lodging facilities on a site along the Colorado River as part of a mixed-use development envisioned for the Dos Rios neighborhood.

Taylor says she purchased a 4.2 acre plot and leased another acre within the 58-acre Dos Rios development.

A Baja-inspired eatery with indoor and outdoor seating, El Jet’s Cantina will serve margaritas and beers as well as tacos, burritos, ceviches, empanadas and other fare. El Jet’s also will serve El Jet’s tequila, a private label tequila Taylor says she’s having made in Mexico.

Taylor doesn’t envision El Jet’s Cantina as a bar so much as she does a favorite coffee shop that happens to serve margaritas and beers.

The Sky Outpost will offer a total of 71 of what she calls lodging pods, including 22 tent sites, 20 full-service RV sites, 10 vintage caravans, seven surf shacks, six A-frame tilt-wall cabins and five bubble hurts. “There’s something for everyone,” she says.

Taylor says the lodging facilities will be available for rent on a nightly, weekly and monthly basis to accommodate weekend trips as well as longer excursions.

She expects the facility to serve as a base camp of sorts from which mountain bikers, rafters and other outdoor enthusiasts can explore the Grand Valley and Western Colorado.

The facility is ideally located, she says, with its proximity to mountain biking trails, the Colorado National Monument and Grand Mesa as well as the national parks in the region. The facility will add to an outdoor recreation industry that already constitutes a major economic driver in the Grand Valley.

It’s an attractive target market, she says, that includes educated and affluent people willing to spend money. 

Taylor also has built a philanthropic component into her business plan in earmarking a portion of proceeds to the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, Forever Our Rivers Foundation and Riverside neighborhood.

Taylor has set a target opening date of April 16, 2020, although that will depend on how quickly she can secure funding and complete construction.

She remains hopeful her vision soon will become a reality in a place that offers good food, comfortable accommodations and memorable experiences. 

In fact, she believes the facility and experiences ultimately could be replicated elsewhere.

“I’d want to stay there,” she says.

For more information about El Jet’s Cantina and the Sky Outpost, visit the website at  www.eljetscantinaskyoutpost.com.