Russian Roots in the Mile High City

Brothers find the American Dream with Dazbog Coffee

Published in the 2014-2015 Colorado GuestBook. 

In Slavic mythology, Dazbog was an important solar deity, one of few gods who was overwhelmingly liked and worshiped in all Slavic nations. His name alone, meaning “gift from the gods,” should convey how big of a deal this guy was, but the fact that his name is a word that has persisted throughout centuries is most telling. A common term in Russia, “dazbog” is used to express success, good fortune and happiness. Someone gets married—dazbog! Lands a job—dazbog! It’s a benevolent term that seemed fitting to borrow when putting a name to the Russian-born, Colorado-grown coffee company that, like the god himself, is loved by all who experience it. 

Brothers Leo and Anatoly Yuffa, co-founders of Dazbog Coffee, immigrated to the U.S. with their family in 1979, arriving in Denver—a far cry from their home in Soviet-era Leningrad. Their father, being an entrepreneur himself, opened his own shoe shop within a year of stepping foot on American soil, thereby setting a precedent for what his sons might aspire to accomplish. They followed suit, as they put it, in living the American Dream: finding their own freedom, democracy and opportunity with a small coffee company.

The Yuffa brothers started with a wholesale coffee business in 1996, selling Arabica beans from around the world to local coffee shops, cafes and hotels. When the branding became recognized, the brothers decided to try Dazbog as a standalone shop; a gamble in a city like Denver where the coffee culture was flourishing and, therefore, picky. 

The multitude of Dazbog-franchised stores that has since stretched its way across Colorado and into Wyoming serves as a testament to the Yuffas’ decision. 

Dazbog Coffee
(©Steve Mohlenkamp)

On a Wednesday morning at the Dazbog on 17th and Downing in Denver, college kids are tucked in corner tables on laptops, a group of workers drop in for their 10 am break, and the fluctuating drone of the espresso machine is a constant sound in the background. 

The shops are as unique in character as they are in decoration—overwhelming doses of red, black and gold, and menus that boast Russian-influenced drinks such as KGBlend and Caspian Espresso. A distinct vibe permeates through the shop, one that is familiar yet classy, comfortable and exciting all at once. 

“Dazbog is a fairly laid-back atmosphere. There is a standardization between stores that you don’t find with other independent coffee shops, but we’re still a small, local business at the core, nothing giant,” William Neal, assistant manager of the shop, explains. 

Sure, the coffee is smooth and rich, but it’s this local-centric mentality that has kept Dazbog a constant, grounded favorite. 

The Yuffas remark that people gravitate to their story so much that a printed version of their tale of leave from the communist Soviet Union is found on the back of every coffee bag. This, as well as the recognized red branding and Russian-blend names are all part of the well-received character of Dazbog—one that wouldn’t dare let the Yuffa brothers forget their roots. 

Leo and Anatoly Yuffa
Leo and Anatoly Yuffa (©Redazadi/Creative Commons)

But a more personal, intentional nod to where they started—without which none of this good fortune would exist—is the framed black-and-white photo of the two brothers bundled up in the middle of a bitter Russian winter. Inconspicuously hung behind the counter somewhere in each of their shops, it serves as a reminder of partnership, determination and the opportunity that the Yuffa family sought and appears to have found.