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Posted: August 04, 2009

Golden arches on 16th Street Mall suits corporate crowd

What’s next, a Zagat listing?

Patricia Kaowthumrong

“I’m pretty sure this is the nicest McDonald’s I’ve ever been to. And I’ve been to lots of McDonald’s,” said Juante Chavez, who enjoyed his Big Mac and french fries at the 16th Street Mall and Cleveland Place restaurant. “It makes me want to put on a suit and tie.”

With patent leather booths, local art, a stage for performers and walls made of Colorado quarried stone, nothing is reminiscent of a typical McDonald’s except for the food. And even that has seen an upgrade with the new McCafe area that serves frothy drinks and gourmet coffees.

Co-owner Tom Carlson, Sr., said the $1 million facelift has not only boosted business but it has also attracted a new corporate crowd, who like to take advantage of the wireless Internet, patio seating for meetings and business news displayed on flat-screen TVs.

After undergoing a five-month renovation, the McDonald’s reopened its doors in April with a completely new vibe. And customers say they love it.

“I feel more comfortable coming here for my lunch break; the atmosphere is so calming and comfortable,” said Eileen Krall, who works in a law office near the restaurant. “This really should be in the Zagat guide.”

The ambiance is an original design by Carlson and his son Tom Carlson, Jr., who together with another partner co-own this and three other McDonald’s restaurants in Denver. Their intention was to highlight the beauty of Colorado, Carlson said.

The Cleveland Place location is the first to undergo such a drastic renovation.

The restaurant is divided into four seasonally themed sections, each with a flat-screen TV showcasing scenes from nature. The colors, sounds and lighting in each area are also coordinated to accentuate the environments.

For instance, the “winter” area has a blue color scheme with a working fireplace and televisions broadcasting stock market and business news. The stage area has a TV showing music news from local artists with Denver concert listings.

For the grand opening in early May, a Frank Sinatra impersonator headlined the stage.

“Everything you see here is new,” Carlson said. “It is a complete makeover.”

While a typical McDonald’s restaurant places a priority on convenience and quick service, Carlson said their goal was different. Instead, he said, they sought to create an environment where people can come and relax.

“Because it’s so unique, it caters to a different clientele downtown.”

Their McDonald’s on Pennsylvania and Colfax is next in line for a renovation in 2010.

“There’s no question that we want to continuously upgrade and stay with the times,” he said. “And one thing that’s great about McDonald’s is that they like to stay relevant to the consumer.”

Oregon resident Teri Boynton, who is working at the Cleveland Place McDonald’s for the summer, said she gets positive comments all the time about her workplace.

“They’ll stop me and say ‘it’s so much nicer and so much more relaxing’ or ‘please tell them thank you from the community,’” Boynton said. “They’re always pleasantly surprised. I think it’s great. I’ll have to tell them in Oregon about this one.”

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Patricia Kaowthumrong is a student at the University of Colorado School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Contact her at

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