Colorado History

The Wizard's Chest Moving to Broadway — and Taking Lonnie Hanzon's Art Along

The streets of Cherry Creek North may be clogged by ongoing construction and the seemingly endless development in this city — but that's not necessarily a bad thing for the Wizard's Chest. "No, we don't enjoy the construction, but we see where it's going — it's going towards more residential, which could have been better for us," says store co-owner Kevin Pohle. "Yes, it's inconvenient and yes, it's noisy and kind of a pain, but it hasn't actually negatively effected our business at all." But after well over three decades in this neighborhood — with four combined expansions/moves — the iconic toy-and-costume store will leave Cherry Creek at the end of the year and relocate at 451 Broadway.

The Wizard's Chest has long outgrown its current space at 230 Fillmore Street. "The joke we tell is that we've always been trying to fit ten pounds of sugar into a five-pound bag," says Pohle, pointing to the whimsical store's packed but organized shelves bursting with puzzles, games, trading cards, magic tricks and more, as well as a second-floor wardrobe of wigs and every item and accessory imaginable to create the perfect costume. Though the shop is buzzing with customers year-round, Halloween is its busiest time — which is why the Wizard's Chest plans on having both locations open September through Christmas, when it will settle in permanently on Broadway. The idea is to give fans of the shop plenty of advance notice that the Wizard's Chest isn't disappearing, it's just getting bigger and better. (Bigger meaning moving from  8,500 square feet to 18,000 square feet — with 12,000 of that for retail.) "We want to make sure that they have a physical anchor of where we will be next year, so they remember where our new location is," says Pohle. 
Artist and designer Lonnie Hanzon has been with the store almost every step of the way over the past three decades, and his art will make the move, too. He created the Wizard's Chest's well-known castle facade as well as the retail space's sparkling interior. (Hanzon also designed the interior of Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret and created work for the King Performing Arts Center on the Auraria Campus, as well as many public art installations not just across the city, but around the world.) His signature style helps promote the Wizard's Chest's fun and inviting atmosphere, something he plans to foster in the Broadway location. Although the purple fortress facade won't be making the move, Hanzon promises that the shop's next incarnation will be just as charming — and recognizable.

"It's the old Eron Johnson Antiques — he actually saved that building and renovated it — and he left some nice bones behind," says Hanzon of the 451 Broadway property. "The colors will change quite a bit — it will become a little more natural to go with the new building because it has those beautiful bones; I'll be working with brick and all of that. It will still have its level of fun, but I think it's going to — I know, it's kind of strange for a toy store to mature — but I think it will be an evolution. Each time the store has moved or expanded, each time I've done work on it, I'm in a different place than I am now."
The relationship between Hanzon and the Wizard's Chest dates back to 1981, when the artist approached then-owner Betty Arca about creating a wizard figure to put outside her 850 square-foot store on Columbine Street — and she agreed. Hanzon crafted a magical being out of a mannequin, a creation that beckoned customers to come into Arca's store. Each time the Wizard's Chest grew in size, moved to a new space or needed specially dressed windows, Arca brought in Hanzon. Though it has been many years since the artist has done any work for the store, current co-owner Pohle immediately thought of Hanzon when it came to designing the future shop.

In another Colorado-connected twist, Arca owns the Broadway location — a situation that Pohle calls ideal, as they will be working with a lease-to-own agreement. Being able to buy the building was another motivator for the move; Pohle and co-owner Brad Brickley wanted to take control over their real estate destiny. They'd  been thinking about moving out of Cherry Creek for a long time, but it wasn't until last year that the duo realized that in the current market climate, the move needed to be sooner than later. Finding a home with more space was key, but also a spot within Denver's city center was crucial. 
"I think for us it kind of came down to either Colfax or Broadway, and we found something that works for us on Broadway," says Pohle. 
"That was the big thing — we didn't want to move to Highlands Ranch or Parker or something; we wanted to be near where we are now, with our core customers. It's next to Meininger's — there's a nice synergy there with their customer base." 

"It's a street of independent retailers and that's really cool," adds Hanzon. "It's going to be great for the Wizard's Chest and it's going to be great for Broadway."

The Wizard's Chest will remain open at its 230 Fillmore location through the end of 2015; the new location at 451 Broadway will open up sometime in the fall. For more information on the Wizard's Chest, visit its website.  

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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies