For countless college students and Boulder residents, Cosmo’s Pizza on University Hill has served as the antidote to one too many drinks, the location of cherished (if hazy) memories and, for some, the start of significant chapters in their lives.

Vanessa Luna’s most memorable Cosmo’s experience involves a head wound.

The Cosmo’s Pizza storefront on Aug. 26 in Boulder. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

In October 2010, Luna was wrapping up a night of celebrating her 24th birthday with friends when the group stopped by Cosmo’s Pizza, 1325 Broadway, to help them sober up. A young man — Luna thinks he was a CU Boulder freshman — walked up and started a conversation.

Which was fine, Luna said, except he was bleeding from the head.

“We tried asking him if he was OK, handing him napkins, getting his name but he didn’t want to give his name or have anyone be concerned about him,” Luna said, laughing. “He just wanted to make sure everyone was having a good time.”

Luna remembers dipping napkins into cups of water to wipe the blood from his forehead and, before he wandered away, she took a photo of the man on her disposable camera, wondering if she’d need to give it to the police.

“We were trying to figure out, do we follow him, do we make sure he’s OK, is he concussed? And he just walked out the door into the night,” she said.

Cosmo’s Pizza has locations across the metropolitan area, but the Hill was its first and, for many, the most nostalgic location. The shop is closing on Oct. 10 after 20 years of serving up slices of pizza and spicy ranch into the wee hours of the morning.

The area is being turned into a 189-room hotel by the Denver-based Nichols Partnership, with construction slated to begin later this year.

CU Boulder graduate Roman Payan was waiting in line for pizza at Cosmo’s after a night out in early summer 2010 when he recognized a girl, Christie, from one of his classes.

“I never got the courage to say hi or anything, so when I noticed her in line I just started up a conversation,” he said. “There was some liquid courage involved, as well.”

They began dating and will celebrate five years of marriage in October.

“Cosmo’s will always have a special place in my heart,” Payan said. “We even had Cosmo’s catered for our wedding guests as a late night snack, after dinner and dancing.”

Cosmo’s founder and former owner Ryan Shorter has plenty of fond memories of his first pizza shop, many featuring drunken college students and massive crowds after football games and quite a few he can’t repeat.

Shorter opened the store in 2001 after working at a string of other pizzerias and, at the time, Cosmo’s was one of the only late-night food options in Boulder.

The name was inspired by Cosmo’s current owner and Shorter’s brother, Fred.

“It sounded better than Ryan’s Pizzeria,” Shorter said, laughing.

Shorter is also the inventor of Cosmo’s iconic spicy ranch, which he said he had no idea would become so beloved.

Shorter wanted to keep two salad dressings on hand and already had a vinaigrette recipe. He asked a friend for their ranch recipe, changed it up for what he had on hand and made it spicy, which he always liked.

“I just thought it would be a salad dressing. I never thought about people putting it on everything,” he said.

Shorter sold the business to his brother in 2016 because he was starting to burn out, he said, and there are things he misses about it — and things he doesn’t.

Unlike Cosmo’s loyal customers, Shorter does not miss spicy ranch. After stirring up thousands of gallons of it, he still hasn’t regained his appetite for it.

His better memories include seeing young people come in on first dates and families bringing their kids by.

“That part was really what I missed, the community part where you see people and you felt like you became part of their lives a little bit,” he said.



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