When Aaron Cohrs and Dave Roggeman opened their IndyInk screen-printing studio, gallery and apparel shop at 84 South Broadway in Baker, they were pioneers on a changing retail strip that’s since blossomed up around them with bars, eateries and independent shops for a hip demographic. Roggeman notes that they did so on a $6,000 loan and a lot of hard work, creating a community-friendly business in the process — one that promoted the work of under-the-radar local artists and their own original printed T-shirts and caps up front while providing screen-printing services in the back.
“When we moved to the block fifteen years ago, the landscape of South Broadway was much different, and there were only a handful of businesses,” Roggeman says. “Even fewer businesses from that time are still open. We feel that we have been a huge part of the change on Broadway, helping to make it what it is today.”
And IndyInk changed with the neighborhood, too. Eventually, the entrepreneurial duo moved the production studio to a larger space, transforming the Broadway storefront into Abstract, specializing as before in their own product, but adding other lines of street wear to the shelves. Cohrs and Roggeman had a landlord who understood them and kept their rent affordable, even as the South Broadway real estate began to rise in value.
All good things must come to an end, though, and the block began to change around them. Abstract’s building changed hands. Famous Pizza, which had occupied the northeast corner of Broadway and Bayaud Avenue for 43 years, closed. Cohrs and Roggeman faced an inflated monthly rent triple of what it had been before. “The new property owners and investors, who were coming in, buying buildings and raising rents, seem to have no ties to the block or care about the history of the shops and owners who have shaped the block to what is today,” notes Roggeman. “They just see numbers.”
Though IndyInk continued to thrive as a printing studio and wholesaler, Cohrs and Roggeman made the difficult decision to close Abstract at the end of 2017. But they were able to strike an affordable deal on a storefront in the Art District on Santa Fe, which they’ve been renovating into swankier digs that will benefit from district-wide First Friday festivities.
Cohrs and Roggeman aren’t looking back. The new Abstract opens on February 23, and Roggeman expects the old space is destined to become a bar, the same as the Famous Pizza space, upsetting the balance of retail and taverns on South Broadway. “I don’t see how so many bars on a block that is already fighting for parking are going to be sustainable,” he adds.
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“We were involved with the merchants’ association and were involved in the changes happening on Broadway, like the bike lane, hoping that will help get more people on the block without having to fight for parking," Roggeman continues. “I know not all the bars and restaurants are on board, and most of them don’t attend the merchant meetings to give input or alternate solutions to the parking problem. Both Aaron and I are native Coloradans and welcome the growth in Denver, but at what cost? Displacing businesses that have been there for so long to make way for another bar? Sober up, Denver: You need a good mix of retail, service and nightlife to have a thriving business district.”
Cohrs and Roggeman hope to find the right blend on Santa Fe Drive. “We are excited to move the retail shop to Santa Fe and be a part of the art district," Roggeman says. “We will have regular First Friday openings, with great art, live screen-printing and limited-edition clothing releases.”
Check it out at Abstract’s grand reopening on Friday, February 23, at 742 Santa Fe Drive. Enjoy live music by Milky.Wav and SecsPeterson, free food and drink and giveaways, from 6 to 10 p.m. The first art opening at the new location will showcase work and limited-edition T-shirts by Lance Inkwell and Casey Kawaguchi, at a reception on Friday, March 2, also from 6 to 10 p.m. Stay abreast of happenings at Abstract at the website or on Facebook.