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Six years ago, while hanging out at Uptown’s Ace Eat Serve, Blake Adams had a realization. “I said, ‘I bet ping-pong halls were cool in Brooklyn like five years ago,’ ” Adams recalls. That led the Tulsa, Oklahoma, native to start thinking about other business models that had already blossomed in bigger coastal cities but not yet hit the Mile High City.
Less than a year later, Adams held the first Denver Flea, a weekend bazaar featuring artisanal brands—a concept he cribbed from New York City and Los Angeles. The inaugural event in City Park had 35 vendors, live music, and several kegs. Adams says he had to beg sellers to come, but his pleading paid off when more than 5,000 people attended. “Every vendor was totally cleaned out,” Adams says, “and so we knew something was there.” Since then, the market has grown to a quarterly shopping spectacular, drawing an average of 10,000 to 20,000 attendees in spaces spanning old Kmarts, vacant fields, and the Denver Post’s former printing facility. The secret to the Flea’s success? Impermanence. “There’s this sense of scarcity,” Adams says. It might seem counterintuitive, then, that Adams’ next step is to open a brick-and-mortar location.
Sometime in late May or early June (exact opening date is TBD), Adams and his team will debut Fetch Shop, a 3,000-square-foot space they’re calling a “retail incubator,” at LoDo’s Dairy Block. The idea is to re-create the atmosphere of the Denver Flea on a permanent basis by housing outposts for 20 artisan vendors—though they won’t have shelter there for long. Each tenant will sign a six-, nine-, or 12-month lease, ensuring fairly consistent turnover. “There will be reasons for the same person to come back and check out what’s new,” Adams says. “It’s also about the experience that we hope to create.” That means Fetch Shop will host a slew of maker nights, trunk shows, musicians, pop-up bars, and workshops on everything from calligraphy to cutting boards.
Denver Flea fans need not worry. The large quarterly festivals will continue, although under the name of Fetch Markets. Now that the company has grown so large in Denver, Adams hopes to export his retail model into other cities. Hence, he needed a moniker that would translate in new towns. “We believe that retail is not dead,” Adams says. “You just have to reinvent it.” In other words: This time, Denver will be the city setting the trends.
The Goods at Fetch Shop
Bridget Dorr Ceramics
5280 Pick: A handmade set of three Honeycomb dishes with 22-karat gold luster detailing. $58
Old Pine Candle Co.
5280 Pick: The Summit citrus and pine candle hand-poured with American soy wax and phthalate-free fragrance oils. $20
Union Stitch & Design
5280 Pick: A hand-sewn Classic Collection kitchen apron. $75