Arts and Culture

Designer toy shop Plastic Chapel closes its doors, but not its spirit

When Dea Webb and Dave Wendt opened Plastic Chapel eight years ago in a literal hole in the wall in Baker, the designer toy emporium was not only a pioneer business in the neighborhood, but it also owned a retail niche that hadn't been explored much in Denver. They opened the chapel doors to make public the collectible vinyl toys they loved (and that Kidrobot popularized on the coasts), and even though the space was closet-sized, they also began to host gallery shows for lowbrow and graffiti artists.

See also: - Best Toys for Grownups -- Living Room, 2006: Plastic Chapel - Slide show: DIY Designer Toy Show at Plastic Chapel - Task One creates designer toys based on television favorites for "As Seen On TV"

Business burgeoned, and they moved to East Colfax Avenue in 2007, when things were breaking out there, and settled in the same block as Tran Wills and the Fabric Lab. Wills introduced Second Saturday block parties on the retail stretch, and for a while, things were rocking for everyone. Plastic Chapel had some good years, hosting toy-trading parties and shows that featured local talent -- Scot Lefavor, Mike Graves, Markham Maes, Sandra Fettingis, Jason Thielke and John Fellows -- as well as national artists in the same vein.

But then the party ended. Wills closed the Fabric Lab and eventually moved to RiNo, where she and husband Josh opened Super Ordinary Gallery, and the Second Saturday fervor seemed to move downtown with her. More recently, Kidrobot relocated its headquarters to Boulder and opened a store there; its influence cut into the success not only of Plastic Chapel's sales, but also its toy release and trading parties.

Business slowed and, sadly and quietly, Webb and Wendt closed the doors of the store at the end of last Sunday.

"I'm just glad we made it eight years, and we had a blast doing it," Wendt says. "We brought in some amazing out-of-state talent, like Scrbie ( Donald Ross), Julie West, Hannah Stouffer, Filth ( Lucas Irwin) and The Yok, just to name a few. We were happy to have introduced Denver and the surrounding cities to a new art form: designer/urban vinyl."

There is a silver lining to the story: Wendt says they will build a stronger online presence with a virtual store, and will also continue to sell smaller stock, including plush toys and blind-box toys, at The Shoppe, their neighbor on Colfax for several years. And beginning next week, you'll also find Plastic Chapel reincarnated as a pop-up shop inside of Indyink on South Broadway. That, Wendt intimates, might grow into something bigger. "I'm sure Dea and I will come up with another business within the year," he says hopefully. "We just can't sit still, and we both love being involved in our community, especially in the arts. So whether it's another boutique, a gallery, both or something completely different -- keep an eye out. We'll be back!"

For more information, visit Plastic Chapel online.

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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

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