Neatly stacked green sombreros, a painted pink flower vase, water pitchers, an unopened bottle of 1800 Tequila Reserva: All were up for auction inside 2406 S. Parker Road, the former home of Dora’s Mexican Restaurant.
Auctioneer Bill Dickensheet rattled off an array of items: four margarita blenders went to the highest bidder for $45, a stack of plates for $150.
Dora Hermann, who opened Dora’s 26 years ago, stood among other former employees of the restaurant who were hoping to buy back personal items they had been unable to retrieve until the auction held Dec. 8.
Hermann held her lime green auction ticket and fought back tears as she pointed to various knick knacks she had purchased from Santa Fe that were being auctioned off inside the restaurant. She was not allowed back in after the City of Aurora seized the property because she did not pay sales taxes for 2015.
She said she wasn’t even allowed to re-enter her restaurant to pick up a reservation book to make contact with customers who had booked the restaurant for Christmas parties.
Hermann said she had been in the restaurant business since she was 19. She started out leasing a space from kitchens and bars, and even leased the kitchen out of the Blue Bonnet in Denver for 10 years.
“It’s shaken my self confidence because this is all I know,” she said before the auction.
Over the years, the restaurant became a neighborhood favorite and patrons could often count on Hermann and her twin sister on site to greet patrons and serve up family recipes of home-style Mexican dishes. In 2004, Dora’s won the Aurora Sentinel’s “Reader’s Choice” for Best Mexican.
At the time, readers gushed over the stuffed sopapillas made with shredded or ground beef or chicken, the friendly customer service and a family atmosphere that awaited customers at the door.
Of the 30 or so people who attended the December auction, many of them were former employees of Hermann’s.
Betsy, a former server and manager who didn’t want her last name used, said she had worked at Dora’s for 20 years before leaving to work as a server elsewhere. She decided to attend the auction, like other former employees, to reminisce and to remember, she said.
“Dora is a lovely lady. The family atmosphere and Dora, that’s what built this business,” she said.
Hermann said she started to experience challenges keeping the restaurant afloat following the 2008 recession, when people had less money for eating out.
In March and May of 2014, the restaurant received 21 health code violations from the Tri-County Health Department that included raw hamburger, raw chicken and raw steak being held at unsafe temperatures, and citations concerning employees not demonstrating food safety.
When the City of Aurora Tax and Licensing seized the restaurant building in October, it was auctioned off to Kimco, the owners of the Village on the Park Shopping Center.
Hermann said despite the devastating loss of what she has often called her second home, she is hoping to relocate somewhere in the city and open an new eatery.
“That’s where I know most of my patrons from,” she said.
She said she is even considering selling her home in Broomfield as a way to finance a new restaurant.
“Realistically, the restaurant industry is the hardest that you will ever come up against, but I think it’s the goal, the challenge, and then all of the people that support you, they become part of the family,” she said.
Hermann said because she was unable to inform longtime patrons of Dora’s closure in person, she will be posting updates to the Dora’s Facebook page for what she does next.