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The Story Behind Boulder's Dushanbe Teahouse and Other City Partnerships

Image of Dushanbe Teahouse

Teahouse built in Asia and reassembled in Boulder

The Dushanbe Teahouse is a natural draw for Boulder residents and tourists alike. The decorative elements inside and outside are awe-inspiring – from the hand-carved pillars and original oil paintings covering the interior, to the exterior featuring ceramic tiles and the perfectly situated patio that rests alongside an off-shoot of the Boulder Creek.

The history of how the teahouse was created by artisans in Dushanbe, Tajikistan – one of Boulder’s sister cities – gifted to the city, shipped here only to sit unassembled for 10 years before being rebuilt is an incredible story by itself. But it is only part of the story.

The uniqueness and the cultural importance of the teahouse created the desire for the city to find a thoughtful and sensitive way to manage the structure. Three Leaf Concepts – the management group formed to support several locally owned, award-winning restaurants – fit the bill.

The City of Boulder and Three Leaf Concepts entered into a partnership in 1996 that has proven beneficial to both parties, as well as the larger community.

In addition to the funds received from lease payments, the city benefits by having a unique tenant able to provide culturally responsible management and operation of the teahouse. Approximately two-thirds of the annual lease payments are then used for major maintenance and improvements for aesthetic aspects of the building, which frees Three Leaf Concepts from having to reinvest in pricey upkeep costs.

The restaurant owners – Lenny and Sara Martinelli and Jerry Manning – can then direct more of their focus toward their craft and day-to-day operations with the backdrop of an ornate, traditional central Asian-styled teahouse that is unique to the western hemisphere. The partnership has been essential to making the teahouse one of the largest tourist attractions in Boulder.

This partnership requires a great deal of dedication on both sides. For Three Leaf Concepts, the commitment is deep and apparent, as illustrated by the following agreements that the group will:

  • Emphasize the cultural significance of the Dushanbe Teahouse
  • Enhance the Sister City relationship and create a gathering place in the tradition of teahouses in Tajikistan
  • Maintain price ranges in the moderate range to allow accessibility to the majority of Boulders residents
  • Provide programs, events, fundraisers, weddings, receptions and other special functions throughout the year
  • Serve eclectic, ethnic cuisine representing diverse cultural flavors, spices and textures, including a few traditional dishes from Tajikistan and Central Asia

The relationship between the city and Three Leaf Concepts is just one of hundreds of city partnerships that are contributing to the vibrancy of the community. From the arts to sustainable agriculture and more, the city is committed to partnerships that align with our overall mission, vision, values, and that provide benefit to the public. For more information on partnerships with the city, visit: www.bouldercolorado.gov/city-partnerships

Posted: June 22, 2018