Alyson Two Eagles on Career Changes, Community and Closing Ironwood

When Alyson Two Eagles, a waitress, and then-partner Jeff Childress, an electrician, opened Ironwood   on South Broadway in 2011, they were aiming to do something bigger with their lives. They called it a “things we love” store — and right from the beginning, it was: a curated cabinet of curiosities, a magical natural-history museum of antique objects, books, live plants and work by artists the couple knew from the neighborhood. Ironwood’s classic yet modern personality fit right into the community of independent shops and small businesses that line Broadway in Baker.

The couple split two years ago, remaining best friends and business partners, but Two Eagles began to feel the pull of bigger things again. Childress’s suicide last summer sealed the deal: In picking up the pieces and an extra load of duties as a business owner, Two Eagles decided she’d finish off 2016 by closing Ironwood so that she had time to investigate a new career in conflict resolution.

“It’s done everything I had hoped it would do,” she says. “It made my life bigger. I met so many people. Now I want to do bigger work. I’ve always advocated for artists, and I’m ready to apply my skills in advocacy on a grander scale. We can live many lives.”
A born curator at heart, Two Eagles is also working to keep the community spirit of the block alive by handing over Ironwood’s narrow South Broadway space to a another woman business owner with dreams of opening a plant store and apothecary — and a promise to keep Ironwood’s staff.

“They are my family,” Two Eagles explains fondly of the Ironwood crew. “I feel like they are my daughters, but also my peers, my friends, my flock. For the two weeks after Jeff passed, they figured out how to do my job, and they took care of everything. I like taking care of my people — I’ve been so well taken care of myself.”

And Ironwood, a longtime Westword Best of Denver favorite, will live on in other small ways along the Broadway strip. “Other shops on the street will be absorbing some of my lines,” Two Eagles notes, adding that “Matthew at Fancy Tiger is picking up my vintage turquoise and silver jewelry and ceramic lines.” And though she sees change coming to Baker, she has faith in the community that its business owners have cultivated.

“We can always mourn what was, but change is inevitable,” Two Eagles says. “The core feeling is still here, but there’s a different demographic moving in. Look at Jim Norris at Mutiny: He took a dying space and revitalized it into community hub. And it’s one of the few places left where underage kids can hang out.

“The loss of diverse retail is emblematic of what’s happening in Denver in general,” she continues. “Really, it’s all in the hands of the landlords. Mine is invested in diversity.”
Two Eagles adamantly insists that she’s done being a business owner. “I’ve learned that I’m most potent working for someone else. I don’t like being in charge," she says, then admits, “The weight of it won’t hit until I stop.”

Where can you go to find an Ironwood-style sensibility once the store closes its doors? Two Eagles suggests the Queen City General Store in Capitol Hill or Sacred Thistle in the Golden Triangle. She’s even considering the idea of placing vending machines around town stocked with Ironwood-curated objects. And if faithful customers need help finding Ironwood favorites, she’s keeping the e-mail address, [email protected], and will welcome inquiries.

But you still have time to browse the shop one last time and say goodbye. “If there’s anything in the store you’ve had your eye on for a long time,” Two Eagles says, “now is the time to ask.”

And do it fast: Ironwood’s last day on Broadway is Saturday, December 31.
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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd