Dickinson Plaza, at the corner of West 32nd Avenue and Tejon Street, had been in Henry Dickinson's family for 115 years — until he sold the .8 acre property to Trammell Crow Residential on January 13 for a cool $6.8 million. The Texas company's plan? To tear down the building that houses nine businesses and erect a five-story apartment complex in its place. Among the spots that will be displaced: late-night fave Mary Jane's Pizza, a Fat Jack's location and Laughing Latte, a popular neighborhood coffee shop.
"It's been great being part of this community on West 32nd Avenue. If we want the growth, we have to embrace the change," says Paul Krzystyniak, owner of the Juicing Tree, which has a small, window-service location in Dickinson Plaza as well as a larger spot at 1504 Ivanhoe Street. Now he's scrambling to find a space that's similar to his Dickinson space in the hot-hot LoHi neighborhood. "Our last day is somewhat up in the air," he adds. "On paper it's April 30, but after discussing, we may be out mid-summer."
Krzystyniak says that tenants were kept in the dark about the sale until the last minute. "Dickenson told us just a few months ago that there's a rumor going around about him selling, and he assured the tenants that this was not the case," he says. "After our own digging, we found out that he had been working on a deal for quite some time."
The owners of Ritual Tattoo, which is on the plaza's western edge, are more elated than disappointed. Artist Sandi Calistro and her new co-owner, tattoo artist William Crandall, have had their sights set on finding a larger location for some time.
"For us, it's an opportunity to get out of our lease," Calistro says. "Really, we were going to be locked into it until next January, so this gives us an opportunity to get a brand-new spot for a little bit more money. We're outgrowing our space. We'll get more bang for our buck. It's bigger, everything is new. The timing is perfect. Changing over to new partnership, it'll give Billy a chance to create a new shop from the ground up.... I think he would have been pumped either way, but to create our new shop from scratch, it feels like more of a fifty-fifty partnership. It all seemed like a natural progression for us." She adds with a smile, "I'm not that bitter."
While the future location of Ritual is still up in the air, the owners hope to find a home in Sunnyside — ideally across the street from Ritual artist Missy Rhysings's popular gem and Wiccan craft store, Ritual Cravt. (Crandall had recently swapped with Rhysing for a partnership space in Ritual, though she still works out of the shop.)
Most of the artists at Ritual are booked until spring/summer, so they'll have time to let their clients know about the new location. "We get to keep our lease until July, but might be moving out before that depending on when we can get into a new space," explains Calistro. "The new owners are doing everything legit. They're reasonable. They're fair — even going so far as to print up a list of places that were available for commercial rental in the area."
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The Laughing Latte owner is not laughing about the situation, though. Dino Espejo opened the mom-and-pop coffee shop in April 2011, and sold the spot to Trax Henderson on October 1, 2014 — not long before Dickinson made the deal to sell the place. "From what it sounds like, the plans were submitted to have it demolished in October of 2015. It didn't go through until January 1," Henderson says. "That's when we pretty much heard. We have until April 12."
The news came as a blow to Henderson, who says he was an ideal tenant — patient, respectful, prompt with rent, and "trying to build something." While Trammell Crow plans to have commercial space on the ground floor of the new complex, there's no broker for the tenants to talk to — and he's sure the replacement space will cost more. "We could submit, but we don't have first dibs," he adds. "They're really selling the area; they're really selling Denver. If you have money, you have a say." But Henderson is trying to stay positive: "Now, as terrified as I am, I'm excited to see what happens," he says. "If we are able to, we would stay in this spot. It's communal. We love these shops; these shop owners are our friends. And the customers are our neighbors. You can really see the sunrise in the morning from this corner."
He and partner Jennifer Gaudin are now considering all the possibilities, including maybe opening a coffee cart in a pedestrian-heavy zone until they come up with a new space. "We have plenty of ideas, and we're getting really creative. Ideally, we'd like to get our liquor license," Henderson says. "We talk about what's happening economically, how you can't even afford to live here as a native. We're trying to stay in this neighborhood. This is my home. This is where I live."
And by the summer, all of the businesses in Dickinson Plaza — including sandwich shop Fat Jacks, the consignment store Rags, kitschy indie boutique Inspyre, Guiltless Glow tanning salon and two real-estate businesses — an outpost of MileHighProperty owned by Bob Bell, and Madison and Company Properties — will be gone. Soon the east-facing mural on the second story will also disappear. It depicts Dickinson himself, who declined to comment.