Abstract is now at home at 742 Santa Fe Drive.
Abstract is now at home at 742 Santa Fe Drive.
Photo by Circe Baumgartner

Op Ed: Shop Local, Be Yourself, Have a Voice!

After fifteen years, Indyink/Abstract has relocated from its home at 84 South Broadway. We loved being a part of the community, but after much reflection and soul-searching, we decided it was time to move on. We had been fighting and preparing for the inevitable rise in rent while watching the soaring cost of real estate in Denver over the last ten years. However, the time finally came, and even though we continue to grow, it was unrealistic to think we could maintain a profitable retail business at the proposed new lease.

While we are sad-hearted about closing down on South Broadway, we will be all right. IndyInk has moved all production and is thriving in a warehouse down the street, and we have found a new retail home for Abstract close by in the Art District on Santa Fe. Our biggest regret is losing our battle with the changing Denver landscape and having to leave our community on South Broadway.

We started IndyInk with a 6K loan to purchase our equipment and pay an affordable retail lease. We are saddened because the circumstances that fostered the growth of our business seem to no longer exist in Denver. We are grateful to our previous landlord, Goldie, who didn’t see the world as numbers but as a living society full of individuals. She understood the impact and importance of affordable rental rates on the health of a community. We saw and helped the neighborhood evolve in our time there.

We encourage growth and recognize the role of competitive lease rates in the health of a community. What is happening on South Broadway is not that, though: We were priced out, along with a lot of the rest of the block. We tried to reason with the new landlord and step our way into the increase. We showed him our customer counts, daily sales tracking, fifteen years' worth of increasing retail demographics at the location. There was no badly needed building renovation offered or plans shared with us. With the construction and empty spots around us, it was just not possible to stay. What hurts the most is that after the decade-plus we put into creating and building up our spot and doing what we could to help our neighbors, we were pushed out and all our efforts were quickly going away. The street is currently in much the same condition as it was when we moved to South Broadway in 2002. Drunks fighting in our alley, people sleeping in the doorway, vacant buildings all around.

Inside IndyInk at 82 South Broadway.
Inside IndyInk at 82 South Broadway.
IndyInk

Shop local, support small business is not just a bumper sticker: It is what creates a community. Small business is the heart of community and a source of diversity. Our fifteen-year retail journey’s focus has been to develop and foster new artists, brands and creatives. We have offered affordable pop-up shops, to help build upcoming clothing brands; provided an affordable gallery space to help launch careers of new artists; sold urban art supplies to support young graffiti writers and encourage them to a grow into a respectable art avenue, creating beautiful murals that are now prevalent around Denver. We brought in new brands to expose our market to new fashion, design and creativity. We put on affordable DIY events in collaboration with up-and-coming music artists. We partnered with a local bike shop for a time, to allow another independent business to grow.

We are not special or unique; we just had the right conditions and passion to fight for our own worldview. Young people will still rebel; human passion and creativity will not die. However, without brick-and-mortar establishments in communities, they will not easily be cultivated or shared. Online avenues are more accessible to utilize, but the community space must be preserved. We can’t live on our screens and be satisfied with a world full of the same storefronts owned by only 10 percent of the population. That is not our America, and we will continue to fight against it.

We are not the first story of a community being priced out of its neighborhood. This time, however, it was our block, our community. We may have moved, but we are not giving up the fight. We are maintaining our focus, keeping our roots and our founding ideals. We are excited for our new home in the Santa Fe art district and hope to see you all there.

Our hope is that if the changes on South Broadway affect you, if you have been a customer, supporter, friend of IndyInk/Abstract and our South Broadway neighborhood in the last fifteen years, that you are not discouraged. Instead, support your locally owned shops and neighborhood that still exist. Fight to keep them from being priced out. Boycott the major corporations moving into our remaining pockets around the city, or create new creative pockets. Get out there find a community, make face-to-face friends before they are all gone. Where you spend your money is a vote for what you support. That is our power as Americans, and it’s what makes this country great.

Shop local. Be yourself. Have a voice.

Op Ed: Shop Local, Be Yourself, Have a Voice!
IndyInk Facebook

Aaron Cohrs and partner Dave Roggeman founded IndyInk in their garage before moving to South Broadway and now Santa Fe. They'll host their first First Friday art show, with work by Casey Kawaguchi (above left) and Lance Inkwell, from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, March 2, at the new Abstract location at 742 Santa Fe Drive. Find out more on the Facebook events page.

Westword occasionally publishes opinion pieces on issues of importance to Denver readers. Have one you'd like to submit? Send it to editorial@westword.com.

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