Since 2017, Pasternack's Art Hub, a Lakewood pawn shop turned cultural center, has been home to orphaned arts cooperatives and galleries that could no longer afford rent in Denver but wanted to stay in business. Now, owner Scott Pasternack — who comes from a long line of Colorado arts supporters and created the Art Hub at the request of the 40 West Arts District after shuttering the pawn shop in 2015 — has decided to sell the building at 6851 West Colfax Avenue.
Currently, that building houses Next Gallery, Kanon Collective, Core New Art Space, Edge Gallery and Flourish Creative Spaces and Galleria — all reliable tenants with multi-year leases, Pasternack says. They make the building a First Friday gallery lover's must-visit destination, and a real coup for the arts district.
For a short while, the Art Hub was also home to Jonny Barber's Colfax Museum; it moved out last fall after two floods in the summer of 2019 wreaked havoc on the spaces occupied by several tenants.
Lakewood plans to address the conditions creating the floods over the next few years; in the meantime, it's loaded Pasternack with a lot of zoning- and safety-code issues to address. Managing that, fielding calls from tenants, and also trying to remodel the half of the building that's still empty so that more galleries and artists can move in has become Pasternack's second full-time job...and one that's gobbling up his savings.
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"They want to activate the sprinkler system in the building," he says of Lakewood officials. "I don't have $150,000 to throw in a sprinkler system in the building."
Despite all of the challenges, deciding to sell the West Colfax building was not easy. Pasternack spent weeks waffling between his love for the Art Hub and his need to focus more time on his family's remaining pawn shop, at 9745 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora, making money there so that he can eventually retire — and perhaps even live out his dream of hitting the road in an RV and traveling full-time.
The pawn shop business — which has taken a hit as jewelry and watches have fallen out of style and big-box stores and online retailers sell electronics at bargain prices — is making most of its money these days on guns. They're a hot commodity, Pasternack notes, as people panic over social unrest, efforts to defund the police and firearms restrictions. While he has some misgivings about how people will view his gun sales, they're keeping his family business alive, he says.
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The Pasternacks immigrated from Russia to the United States in the late 1880s. Scott's grandfather, who was diagnosed with tuberculosis, worked for the railroad and eventually rode the rails to Colorado, where the dry air was considered an excellent remedy for the respiratory disease. In 1919, he opened a pawn shop, the first of many under the Pasternack name. He's buried in the Jewish section at Golden Hill Cemetery, alongside other Pasternacks.
After remaining members of the family agreed that the West Colfax building should be closed, Pasternack started breaking the news to the gallery owners. He's worried that they'll panic, even though they have leases; after all, many of them have already been displaced at least once. And with properties such as 900 Santa Fe Drive — where Spark Gallery and D'art are located — already on the market, they have every reason not to want to lose a good thing.
And maybe they won't have to: Pasternack is hoping to sell the building to someone who shares his vision of keeping it a space for art galleries, studios and cultural events, he says, pointing out that 40 West Arts will have first dibs. And according to his real-estate broker, Josh Horowitz, there's also the possibility of selling to a Colorado-based client who owns a gallery or California-based investors who love the arts.
"I'm not going to take the first offer to sell the building," Pasternack promises. And even though he's cashing in, he's not giving up on his vision. "It's going to stay that jewel if I have anything to do with it," he says. "I'm not walking 100 percent away. I need the money to help with my business and my family. My goal is to make sure it stays what it is and grows into what it can become. ... It's going to be something amazing to the art scene here in Colorado."
Correction: This story has been updated to correctly identify Spark Gallery (not Space Gallery) as an occupant of Pasternack's Art Hub.