The Great Face Off: Mask-O-Drama

West Colfax Joy Bomb
Photos by Basha Cohen

The mask enters the new world of COVID as the fashion accessory and political statement of 2020. The myriad ways of wearing a mask showcase the face with statement patterns celebrating community from Northside Pride to West Colfax to brands like Little Man Ice Cream. A well rounded wardrobe of masks meet many moods including tropical florals, ethnic ikat patterns, simple dots, stripes, bandana paisley and boldly solid variations. 

At face value, it is a simple piece of fabric. Yet, it  has become a heartfelt symbol of health, safety, care and concern for our fellow human beings riding the crest of the pandemic wave. Sadly, it has also become a symbol of divisiveness and polarization. While a vast majority of Denverites are complying with Governor Polis’ Executive Order that requires patrons to don masks, there are naysayers who want to rip the fabric of our community into shreds with “spit and runs,” coughing and berating service industry workers. 

Paul Tamburello, owner of Little Man Ice Cream was mortified when young employees at his ice cream shop were spat and coughed upon by defiant customers in spite of clear signage and rules posted everywhere. He put his thoughts on Facebook. The post generated thousands of responses, hundreds of shares, news coverage from every media outlet, and an outpouring of love from North Denver and strangers across the country. 

While this rudeness pandemic is not exclusive to ice creameries, another ice cream shop in Ohio, the Mootown Creamery, experienced a similar fate leading its owner Angela Brooks to post a statement, “Stop yelling at these young girls. Stop slamming doors. Stop swearing at them and making a scene. STOP!!!” She ultimately set up a GoFundMe page for her team that raised $3,500 in tips for her young staff.

Dan Shah, Executive Director of the West Colfax Business Improvement District and the registered neighborhood organization, WeCan, have taken a leadership role in promoting masks. They partnered with the Handsome ‘Lil Devils, a brilliant theatrical group, to present a Sci-Fi “Joy Bomb” on West Colfax. Wildly masked artists and alien creatures promoted the importance of masks in a hilariously joyful way. Masks were handed out to passerbys. If you want to own one of these collector’s items, they are available for $6 at the Little Man Ice Cream Factory, thanks to the West Colfax BID.

If there is one lesson during this pandemic, our commitment and connection to one another is crucial. A mask is a simple way to show you care. In honor of those we’ve lost, let’s keep each other safe!

A letter from Paul Tamburello, Owner of Little Man Ice Cream

Guests and Little Man Fans,

I gotta say, this is a strange time for us all and in particular a strange time to be in the hospitality business. We love seeing your faces and being able to serve up a little joy in the form of ice cream. And I’d like to publicly say “thank you” to all the gracious and kind people we encounter every day. But for all the awesomeness working with the public brings, we also witness folks at what I have to believe is not their best selves. In the last week, our staff have reported some guest experiences that literally makes my heart hurt around our requirement for people to wear masks. We have had a team member spit upon. Another guest was angry and proceeded to cough all over our counter and toward other guests. These stories are beyond upsetting. We are taking every precaution to keep our Little Man Family safe and to extend that effort to our community at large. C’mon folks, this is a minor inconvenience at best. We ask you to please wear a mask when you come see us. We are making the best choices we can to protect the young people in our care. I implore you to be courteous and observe our regulations.

If you choose to not wear a mask in your day-to-day activities or if you have a medical condition that would necessitate you not wearing a mask, we respect your right to do so. We hear you but, we kindly ask that you enjoy a pint of Little Man Ice Cream from one of our wholesale partners or maybe just wait it out until these restrictions are lifted.

I am asking you as my fellow brothers and sisters, please help us keep our young people safe and be a good role model for how to treat others.


Paul Tamburello

Owner of Little Man Ice Cream


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