In times of economic turbulence, you really see how much a local business means to a town. Faceless shops will be passed over by budget-conscious Walmart shoppers, while more memorable stores will flourish and become staples of a community that embraces them. This is certainly the case with IndyInk, the local apparel, printshop and gallery that will celebrateits tenth anniversary on Saturday, August 18
. "We don't really do much advertising -- it's all been word of mouth," says co-owner Dave Roggeman. "So people get referred by somebody else, and somebody else, and somebody else. And that's how we've built our business and our reputation. People want to support local and support us, and they know that they can come in and talk to us face to face."
Tucked snugly inside the core of the Broadway shopping district, IndyInk has created a personalized space that reflects the artistic culture its shop inhabits. Selling road bikes, locally designed clothes and artwork in front, while the back rooms are active with the dirty work of screen-printing, the store has a casual -- yet inspiring -- environment that attracts local artists. And this Saturday many of those artists are coming together to celebrate IndyInk's ten years with a group show inside the store. "These are all artists that we like and have worked with in the past," says co-owner Aaron Cohrs. "These are people who have given us designs and ideas that have helped make the store what it is."
What the store is today is a far cry from the garage-based operation that started ten years ago. When they met in an Arapahoe Community College photography class fifteen years ago, Roggeman and Cohrs were both heavily interested in screen printing and design, and as their friendship developed over the years, the pair loosely discussed starting a business together. After college, Roggeman was working as a paramedic, while Cohrs was unhappy with his life as an art director. "Then Aaron called me up one day," Roggeman recalls, "and said, 'I saw this screen-printing equipment for sale, let's buy it and start printing our own shirts.'"
For the first year and a half, the IndyInk operation was located inside the garage of the Cohrs house at Evans and Washington. The partners quickly tapped into the local T-shirt market, developing quick and lasting relationships with nearby businesses. "Kaladi Brothers Coffee was one of our first clients," remembers Roggeman. "They placed an order for around 120 shirts only two days after we got the equipment." In time, the pair built a business foundation strong enough for them to afford to quit their day jobs and move into their current location at 84 South Broadway.
Cohrs and Roggeman remember the neighborhood as very different then from how it is today. "It's much safer now," observes Cohrs. "Back then there would be people sleeping in the doorway and fights all the time. There's much more of a nightlife now, more restaurants. Back then people wouldn't come down and walk around like they do today."
Broadway becoming the pedestrian-friendly shopping district it is today has been integral to IndyInk's success, allowing the business to become not just a print shop, but a storefront retail operation with walk-in appeal. After initially selling just their own designs, Roggeman and Cohrs have slowly taken on a variety of products, ballooning the operation into something far beyond a local printshop. "When we started out we had no idea what we were doing with retail," recalls Roggeman. "It was a matter of finding the right people to help us out with that. We didn't want the store to just run itself, but we wanted our focus to be screenprinting."
About two years ago, Roggeman and Cohrs hired a fulltime business manager, allowing them the time and energy to focus on their own work, as well as that of other artists around Denver. Today IndyInk doubles as a gallery space, and has become a staple of Broadway's First Friday art walk. "We pushed for that really hard for the first four or five years," says Cohrs. "But lately we've stopped doing First Fridays, because people are coming here for art now and we don't need to compete with Santa Fe. We can pick other days now."
And that job is now spearheaded by Max Kauffman, IndyInk's arts curator, who began as just another shy artist asking to put on a show. "I got the courage up to approach Dave with some new paintings at the end of 2007," Kauffman remembers, "and had a split show with my pal Mike Gallegos in the spring of 2008. That relationship paved the way for my first shows in town, my first illustration gigs in town, and pals that I've been close with till today. It seems like many people in town got their first break from IndyInk."
And many of those people will be featuring new art at IndyInk's tenth anniversary show: Over fifty artists will display work inside the space, and a featured selection of ten artists have designed T-shirts that will be selling for ten dollars each. Biker Jim's Gourmet Hot Dogs will also be on hand. The event promises to be a celebratory culmination of community, small business and an art scene that's come a long way over the last decade. "There definitely was a scene here before we started," says Cohrs, "but we definitely helped grow it into what it is now."
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IndyInk's 10 Year Anniversary party begins at 7 p.m. this Saturday, August 18, at 84 South Broadway. For more information, visit www.indyink.com or call 720 937 9722