UPDATE: FashioNation has a new home. The nearly 30-year-old business will debut its new location on South Broadway on October 10. Owners Pam and Paul Italiano spent several weeks moving the furnishing and decor of the old store into the new space, which formerly housed Packrat Antiques, even removing a section of drywall containing signatures of famous bands that had visited the store. The new space will also merge FashioNation with its companion store, Babysitter's Nightmare.
It's a story all too common in Denver these days: Longtime businesses are being booted or forced to jump ship as rents rise and new owners take over hot properties (see the demise of Gabor's for a famous case). The latest is counterculture apparel mainstay FashioNation, which is saying goodbye to its 13th Avenue location after nearly three decades on the block.
"We were the first ones on that side of the street when it was just a piece of crap building," says owner Paul Italiano. "Then Imi Jimi moved in and the record stores were across the street and things started happening down there."
But FashioNation's story won't have a sad ending: The shop is going strong and looking for a new location in the area. Italiano says he has his eye on a particular spot, but he doesn't want to jinx anything by saying too much before a lease agreement is solidified. There is no official closing date yet, but he's encouraging people to stop in to say goodbye.
Italiano and his wife, Pam, opened FashioNation in April 1987; fellow storied retail outlet Imi Jimi opened next door that August. Italiano says there was never even a lease -- just a handshake -- between FashioNation and the building's owner. But after the landlord passed away recently, the property went into a family trust and was sold. As a business owner, Italiano understands that the rent hike and upcoming remodel are part of business as usual.
"They definitely want to upgrade the building, and I'm not going to badmouth the guy -- he's just a businessman. But on the other side of it, he doesn't know what he's killing, you know? How many people came of age buying stuff from our store? Think about the best show you went to in your best outfit. We were somehow a part of that."
FashioNation and its counterpart, Babysitter's Nightmare, currently occupy four stalls in the six-stall retail building. Italiano says he inquired about going down to just two storefronts to make the rent more affordable for his and his wife's miniature empire, but the landlord didn't want to spit up the property. Italiano says he is disappointed, but sees the move as a new era for a store that was selling hair dye in out-of-this-world colors and studded belts to Denver music fans long before mainstream retail outlets would even consider catering to the counterculture.
Besides attracting visits from out-of-towners like Green Day, Love and Rockets, Ministry, Peter Murphy and store favorites Skinny Puppy, FashioNation supplied customers locally and globally with one of the best selections of Doc Martens in the country. There is even a Facebook group, "FashioNation Footwear Fiends," devoted to the shop's extensive shoe collection.
And even if FashioNation were to stay in its longtime home, changes and upgrades to the structure's facade wouldn't quite fit with the shop's aesthetic. "There goes anarchy alley; there goes the Doc Martens mural; there go the skulls on the front of the building," says Italiano of FashioNation's infamous exterior.
"(At least) there will be nice windows without bullet holes," he adds with a laugh.
Wherever it ends up, FashioNation will continue to be a place to buy one-of-a-kind apparel and see out-of-town rock icons getting their Denver counterculture fix. The store owner says he has already spoken with store regular Ogre from Skinny Puppy, who plans on doing something special for the shop when the band comes through Denver in December.
Italiano sums up this new chapter in FashioNation's history best: "Punk's not dead. It's just moving, okay?"
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