Where: Denver Pavilions, Downtown
Go For: Quirky home decor from clocks to cabinets, unique gifts like Colorado 14er-opoly, and oh-so-Colorado buttons, T-shirts, and maps.
5280 Pick: Bike chain hooks (pictured, right) are made by Denver’s CSWerxs from discarded chains scavenged from local bike repair shops. $30
Sure, the I Heart Denver Store has plenty of Colorado flag T-shirts, but this gift-store homage to the Mile High City has plenty of more subtle displays of hometown pride (think: local artists). Owner Samuel Schimek’s “Snake” canvas print (a baby blue snake, designed in 3D-depth) has eyes that follow you around the store—along with his real-life, furrier friend on four legs. Schimek’s shop began as a pop-up project in 2009 before he settled into a brick-and-mortar location at the Denver Pavilions in 2011. We sat down to chat with him about his store, owls, and the Denver art scene.
5280: What makes the I Heart Denver Store unique?
Schimek: I think Denver’s a pretty collaborative place. What’s unique here, is the system we developed. It’s all consignment-based and all artists get 70 percent of their sales. That allows the artists to have more faith in giving us pieces because they can economically benefit, which then allows us to build a better store.
5280: What’s the inspiration behind your collaborative store?
I’ve been networking in the creative scene going on 12 years now. I went to art school and I used to do my own exhibitions. I found that collaborating with other artists made my exhibitions better. When I was doing an art show, I would pull in three to four others to sell their work or to do an installation. That way we could benefit from a singular space and a singular marketing call, which allowed for more people to come visit.
5280: What trends do you see around Denver?
Recycling and reclaimed materials are finally becoming more refined, which is better than it looking like a junk heap. In Colorado, everyone’s into skulls and things with horns, which are cool. Foxes have been around forever; they’re still kind of hot, and owls haven’t gone out yet. I’ve been trying to get more into the skyline and mountain themes—tourist-wise, they do amazing.
5280: Do you try to cater toward tourists or locals?
I like tourists because it allows Denver to export our culture globally. If someone from Amsterdam enjoys the store and buys something, then they’re taking a Denver commodity to their nation and sharing it with their friends. But I like the access for local consumers, too. We have everything priced from a dollar to $3,000 dollars, so that allows for access to art on a large scale. I wouldn’t call us fast-fashion art, but that’s a very big trend in our economy right now.