On November 22, 2021, Tshering and Ling Dorje passed the baton of the Desert Sage restaurant on to its new owners, and there have been many recent rumblings going around about who those new owners are and what their plans are for the restaurant. Well, rumble no more! The new owners are Mary Gaetjens and Paul Winans, and to say they’re excited about their upcoming plans for that space is a huge understatement.
The following excerpt is from their website, sageshearth.com, where they plan to continually post updates on their progress.
“At the moment we are closed pending a litany of improvements including redesigning the kitchen, updating the water and electrical, modernizing the living spaces and overhauling the building’s exterior. The vision is to create a marketplace consisting of an elixir and coffee bar, a bakery also serving cream, and vegan, ice cream, a chocolate crafting room, a small store offering specialty items along with fare from the kitchen and service from the restaurant. We are honored to be the latest stewards of where the Crestone community meets. Let’s get together to make our lives tastier and refreshing.”
The restaurant will get plenty of attention: the centerpiece will be a huge 10,000-pound masonry heater, with a fireplace on one side and an oven on the other; they’re going to raise the roof 5’ to add a second floor dining area, take down walls and put up new ones, and get the electrical and plumbing up to current codes; a 180° dishwasher will eliminate the dumping of chemicals into the water; the tower will be resurrected at the front of the building with huge windows in it along with a new clock, and patrons will be able to go up there to experience phenomenal views; there will also be 3 rentable apartments in the back part of the building, “because there’s nowhere for people to live in this area,” Paul said, which we all know to be true. The timing of this project will depend on their ability to hire quality, reliable construction crews, as well as Paul & Mary’s time since they will be doing a lot of the work themselves.
A big part of their plan for the restaurant is to be farm-to-table with zero carbon and zero waste as the goal. They discussed starting a delivery service in Crestone, shared by all the restaurants, and utilizing reusable to-go containers. “We just don’t want to be a provider of yet another styrofoam or cardboard piece of trash,” Paul said.
They also communicated their intentions of finding and filling their own unique niche here. Paul explained, “Part of our plan, explicitly, is to not compete. We want to complement, rather than compete. We’re not going to serve the food that the other places serve. That’s not what we’re about.”
Regarding the farm-to-table aspect of their fare, they will start with using what was the large dining room on the south side of the building as an onsite garden. Mary also discussed potential partnerships with Colorado College: “We’re hoping to expand our relationship with the college. Our vision aligns with theirs and the Teyuna Foundation Elders have lectured to CC students.” Unique and exciting opportunities for students, teachers, and the entire community are being envisioned. They’re hoping that relationship could lead to a greenhouse, and we also talked about the potential of holding gardening classes for local children. The possibilities are endless!
Paul and Mary also discussed having different cooks on different nights, guest chefs, etc. and renting out the commercial kitchen during off hours. Mary said, “We know that there are people who travel far for a commercial kitchen, so we thought it would be nice to make a marketplace kind of situation where there was space for bakers, chocolatiers and other talented folks who need a place to work their magic.” Paul added, “There’ll be a coffee bar, an elixir bar—there are so many possibilities in this place.” They are certainly excited to open, and the restaurant will be back to serve the community as soon as possible.
Paul and Mary first came to Crestone in the summer of 2018. Crestone was a stop on their 10,000 mile Teyuna Foundation tour to “share the teachings and practices of the four families of the Teyuna with individuals, organizations and networks focused on Earth Stewardship, ecological protection and planetary consciousness.” (From the Teyuna Foundation mission statement, teyunafoundation.org) They felt an instant connection to Crestone during their visit and made many friends. One friend invited them to return after the completion of the Teyuna tour for a complementary stay in her Baca Meadows townhome. They accepted her offer and shortly afterwards purchased a townhome of their own.
They joined the board of the Baca Townhome Association (BTA) in 2019. Mary is the President, Paul is both the Secretary and Treasurer, and Sunia Beelendorf is the Vice President. Local BTA members are involved and provide excellent support in the decision-making processes. There are extensive plans in the works for beautification of the townhome property.
Paul and Mary didn’t come to Crestone intending to purchase a restaurant, but when the opportunity arose, they felt it was a way they could make the most positive impact in the community. Mary stated, “We got interested in the restaurant because the Sage is a crucial and keystone feature of the BTA and has always been a community center for the Baca and Crestone as well and we are both excited and motivated to make it even more welcoming.
“There’ll be more trees, gabion walls—it’s going to look really nice,” they said. Mary and Paul have experience with renovating properties. Mary told me, “In California, we had a great time renovating and beautifying, and turned places into paradises. We’re going to do that here. We’re working on a plan already with local people.” For instance, they’re working with Peter May on the BTA landscaping plan. Natives, edible and medicinal plants will be restored, providing support for monarch butterflies and overall greening of the area. They’re excited about it all and even have plans for the parking area. “Everything is going to get a total facelift. This whole area. The BTA is going to be a village.”
And as if the construction, landscaping, gardening, restaurant-opening and BTA-running wasn’t enough, they also have plans to open an institute. As Mary explained, “This is part of the village concept. Hopefully soon, we’ll have an Amerindian Creole Institute here where we’ll teach philosophy, language and music. Together, Creole and Amerindian people birthed spiritual practices throughout the Americas blending their ways of life, both of which are based on earth stewardship. The Teyuna Elders I work with were aware of the relationship between the Amerindian and Creole peoples when they asked me to found the Teyuna Foundation. The Teyuna, as one of the last remaining pre-Columbian ethnic groups, caretake much of the most ancient Amerindian knowledge. The Teyuna wish to have a presence in Crestone and the Elders of my tradition have also asked that we establish a presence here.”
The following text is from the teyunafoundation.org website, and seems an appropriate conclusion to this article. “[Mary] believes that indigenous wisdom is the only thing that can save the human race and she works with the last surviving pre-Columbian tribes to emphasize that. If the industrialized world does not heed the council of the Elders, does not turn to holistic ways of living that are founded on holistic principal: we are not separate from nature; we are the natural world. We were meant to live harmoniously: flora, fauna, ocean, sweet water, and land. We must care for Mother Earth as if she was our own mother, because she is. We must uphold peace, spiritual commitment, hope, and love as our highest values and weave our many cultures into a common thread of connection. We must honor the distinctive combination of insight, vision, and acceptance that empowers people to discover themselves through a connection to Earth, thereby a connection to themselves.”
Tshering and Ling Dorji and their family dedicated 14 years of their lives to serving much more than just food to the Crestone community. They and their delightful staff hosted wedding receptions, funeral gatherings, fundraisers, Winterfest, Halloween, Colorado College, and the list goes on. They have profoundly touched thousands of lives over the years with their delectable cooking and genuine kindness, compassion and friendliness. Many thanks to them—they will truly be missed!
Please extend a warm welcome to Mary and Paul when you see them out and about. They are thrilled to be a part of our community and hope to have much positive impact here.