Nina Lee and her husband Rollie Ortiz have been business partners at the beloved 503W in Old Colorado City for seven years. Nina worked events and part time shifts in the restaurant industry since college and after Raleigh received his master’s degree in Hawaii, they decided to plant roots in their native of Colorado. Nina’s mother was working at the bar/restaurant that she owned currently and conveyed to Nina she was ready to move out of the space. She sold the place to Nina and Raleigh and Nina remarks, “We wanted to curate a space with both our experiences. That’s where 503W came to be. An Asian fusion concept with great beers and cocktails. We wanted to create a business plan that incorporated supporting the local economy.”
When the COVID pandemic hit, Nina knew that they would need to work hard to pivot to support their business but even more so, their staff. 503W curated to-go cocktails and their delicious food on delivery and to-go platforms. Their customers boast of the incredible hospitality with staff members often writing to-go order names in big, beautiful lettering with kind notes.
Their menu boasts of delicious items often with a cult following like the Fire Cracker Nachos, Goat Cheese Shrimp Cakes and Korean Tacos. One of their top selling items is their Little Seoul Bowl – Jasmine Rice + Kimchi + Pickled Cucumber + Wakame Sea Salad + Spun Carrots + Bean Sprouts + Cilantro + Green Onion + Sunny Side Egg + Black And Toasted Sesame Seeds. There is something for everyone at 503W.
When COVID hit, it was a tight pinch but Nina was determined to take care of her staff.
“We took out two PPPs to help pay our staff. We made sure we took care of our staff to acknowledge the hard work they do and the trouble times they were going through. We were constantly on-the-fly thinking. We had to think from a budgetary stand point. We had to tighten things and also increase our marketing capacity to mee the need of the every changing requirements.”
She remarks about owning a small business too.
“You know, it’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, mixed in with a profuse amount of swearing and juggling many things at once while smiling. It’s pure madness and yet one of the most rewarding experiences.”
Currently, their restaurant and bar are open to following El Paso County Public Health requirements and are still offering curbside pick-up and delivery (GrubHub). They are eager to help keep their staff and our community healthy and do their part to get back to the new normal.
Meet the Photographer
Peyton has such a passion for small business’s because they are the heart of the city, they make art and talents come to life, and create family in small spaces. She loves walking downtown knowing the high odds that she will run into five people she knows, it creates a safe space and a longing to connect. There’s nothing like knowing the impact a dollar can make in supporting a local business, the impact is like a domino effect within the city. “Small business’s do that,” she said, “they spread life around the town.”