Cafe Society

Shoppe talk: Tran Wills is out of the business, but still has plenty of plans in store

Three years ago, designer Tran Wills took a trip to Chicago and was inspired by some of the cute stores she saw there -- so inspired that she decided to open the Shoppe on East Colfax. "The concept was always going to be cupcakes, cereal and coffee, open till two in the morning," she says.

Wills partnered with Emma Skala on the concept: Skala would bake the cupcakes, and Wills would do marketing and promotions. The arrangement worked well for about a year, Wills says, but then things went downhill.

"She wasn't going to be a partner; I was going to just have her bake the cupcakes when we started," Wills says of Skala. But Wills wasn't at the Shoppe all the time, and the relationship grew strained. "It started slowly being pushed out, not being told things, people getting fired without me being told, people being hired without me knowing," she remembers. "Then I got pregnant, I was really sick, and it got worse for us because I couldn't go in and talk to her, but I was still planning events and art shows. She wanted me to be physically there."

"There were a few instances like that," Skala acknowledges. "I think it basically didn't work out."

Wills gave birth to her youngest child last June, and in July, she received a letter saying the business had been dissolved. Skala refiled paperwork to open the Shoppe again under her name.

"For maybe a year and a half, I tried to buy her out, and made offer after offer," Skala explains. "I tried to write up a partnership agreement, and she wouldn't sign it. It didn't seem like there was any resolution to that."

Apart from re-branding and a new logo, Skala says the Shoppe is "pretty much gonna stay the same. I think the cupcakes are still going to stay the same, and we're still going to do art shows and stuff like that."

But Wills now has some new items on her plate. "We're opening a new gallery at 31st and Larimer; it's called Super Ordinary Gallery," she says. "We're helping Rebel Salon open a new barbershop called Proper, so Josh and I are going to do that and do the designing." She's planning on hosting Pecha Kucha nights at Super Ordinary, as well as some Prototype fashion shows and maybe even on-site Fresh City Life classes.

"And hopefully one day," Wills adds, "we want to open another concept like the Shoppe again. But on our terms."

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Amber Taufen has been writing about people, places and things in Denver since 2005. She works as an editor, writer, and production and process guru out of her home office in the foothills.
Contact: Amber Taufen