VF Corp’s Effect on Colorado

By Ed Sealover  – Reporter, Denver Business Journal

Aug 1, 2019, 7:12am MDT Updated Aug 4, 2019, 7:27am MDT

They began arriving in Denver in early June, coming in groups of 40 to 80 people per week. Some made the journey westward from Greensboro, North Carolina. The majority of them are fleeing the Bay Area — specifically Alameda, California.

By the end of August, most of the roughly 400 employees that VF Corporation (NYSE: VFC) is relocating to Denver will be here as the apparel giant and Fortune 260 company moves its headquarters from the East Coast to the Mile High City and consolidates its five outdoor brands — The North Face, JanSport, Smartwool, Altra and Eagle Creek — under one roof. They will occupy “Camp VF,” five floors of temporary space in the Great-West Life building in the Denver Tech Center, until the spring of 2020, when they will take over all 10 floors of 1551 Wewatta St. in Lower Downtown once building renovations are completed.

Time will tell what will be the ultimate impact of VF’s move to the community — the most significant relocation of a headquarters to the Denver area since Arrow Electronics (NYSE: ARW) bid goodbye to Melville, New York, in favor of Centennial in 2011. But even before it can call attendance at an all-staff gathering, the company with a $34 billion market cap is having some major effects on its new hometown.

Both the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade are citing the company in all of their recruiting materials — with the Metro Denver EDC pointing out that VF’s headquarters relocation from a lower-cost market in Greensboro testifies to the value of this area to corporations. The company has signed a two-year sponsorship with the Colorado Classic, allowing the women’s-only bike race to offer prize purses that allow it to attract the world’s top competitors. Colorado’s $62.5 billion outdoor-recreation industry already has a larger collective voice on economic and environmental matters.

But VF, which received a potential $27 million in incentives to consolidate it headquarters and brand offices here, is bringing half of the employees with it from other states who will fill its 800 tax-subsidized jobs — and hiring about 40 percent of the people to fill vacant jobs so far from outside the Denver area. The company already has convinced arguably the state’s two highest-profile outdoor-recreation advocates — former Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office Director Luis Benitez and Outdoor Industry Association Executive Director Amy Roberts — to leave their posts to work for it. And outdoor-company operators admit that having such an iconic company in town competing for workers is going to make employee recruitment and retention a little more difficult and a little more expensive in the short term.

Still, the only thing harder to find in Denver right now than an outdoor fanatic who isn’t updating their resume is a business leader who isn’t ebullient about what VF will bring to Colorado, competition and all. And that in itself is telling of just how transformative the 120-year-old company may be to the economic fabric of the third different state it has called home.

“To be able to say they are headquartered in Denver and found value here, that case study is a validator for other companies we are recruiting,” said J.J. Ament, CEO of the Metro Denver EDC.

Kathleen Lavine, Denver Business Journal

“To be able to say they are headquartered in Denver and found value here, that case study is a validator for other companies we are recruiting,” said J.J. Ament, CEO of the Metro Denver EDC. “I think that’s an effect it’s had since the moment [in August 2018] its announcement was made. We’ve put it in all of our presentations.”

Decades of transformation

VF is, according to Fortune magazine, the 252nd-largest company in America — a growing firm that generated $12.9 billion in revenues last year while signing paychecks for 69,000 employees. Originally a Pennsylvania-founded glove manufacturer and then a maker of silk lingerie, it now owns 20 companies in the active, outdoor and work sectors — including household names like Vans, Timberland and Dickies whose primary offices will remain in other states.

The purpose-driven company (whose motto is “We power movements of people and sustainable lifestyles for the betterment of people and planet”) decided to relocate and consolidate under one roof because in North Carolina it was far from the outdoor recreation epicenter of America. And its outdoor brands were scattered — clothier/gear maker The North Face and backpack maker JanSport in the Bay Area, luggage manufacturer Eagle Creek in Southern California, running-shoe company Altra in northeastern Utah and performance-sock maker Smartwool in Steamboat Springs.

Combining the companies’ locations, as VF does in its European and Asian hubs, will cut real-estate costs, reduce the company’s physical footprint and minimize travel time between the 20 brands, allowing officials to get from Denver International Airport to any of their brand offices in three hours, VF CEO Steve Rendle said in an interview last month. But it also allows them to locate in the heart of the outdoor space for which they make goods, and it will have the incalculable effect of increasing teamwork between the companies and sharing talent to work as one unit on issues.

VF Corp. brands

The Altra brand features running and casual shoes such as the men’s Cayd pictured here.

For us, it’s kind of this final step in what’s been a multiyear journey to transform ourselves to be this consumer-centric, more retail-minded company,” Rendle said.

Knowing that its talent was the key to its success, VF offered jobs to the roughly 800 workers whose positions would pick up and move to Denver. In previous headquarters relocations, OEDIT had seen no more than 30 to 35% of employees come to Colorado with their firms. But after offering “generous” relocation packages and allowing all affected workers to travel to Denver for a weekend to get a sense of housing and schools and other lifestyle factors, a full half of those positions will be filled by people coming in from California, North Carolina or Utah. (VF received no incentives for the 75 jobs that will move from Steamboat to Denver when Smartwool relocates in the spring.)

Anita Graham, VF executive vice president and chief human-resources and public-affairs officer, says the willingness of so many people to give up their current homes and move to Denver with the company shows the level of commitment that VF has engendered as an employer.

Kathleen Lavine, Denver Business Journal

Anita Graham, VF executive vice president and chief human-resources and public-affairs officer, argued that the willingness of so many people to give up their current homes and move to Denver with the company shows the level of commitment that VF has engendered as an employer.

She noted too that of the 350 people VF has hired anew so far for Denver-based roles, about 60% are from the local market but 40% are moving into Denver with the company, displaying the national draw for talent. The firm receives an average of 200 applications for each job it posts — putting it at roughly 70,000 applications so far for its Denver-based positions — and has gotten as many as 800 job-seekers for one role.

But this movement of people from other states for the positions means that roughly $18.2 million of the job-growth incentive tax credits Colorado is giving to VF for bringing jobs to this area is going to partially offset the federal income taxes of individuals who are moving to the Centennial State with help from the state government.

Michelle Hadwiger, global business development manager for OEDIT, noted that the tax-incentive law doesn’t contemplate where people are coming from who must occupy those jobs for one year in Colorado before the tax credit can be claimed by the company. And she noted that while they may be coming from another state in this case, the beneficiaries of the tax credits will be contributing to Colorado’s tax base, spending money in this state and creating a ripple effect in the economy.

Ament too defended the offering of tax credits to so many workers who will be moving here, calling it “a huge validation that Colorado is still a very attractive place to live.” And he noted that while the first wave of jobs may be attracting folks by the bushelful from other states, VF will continue to expand and grow jobs in Colorado — and those future positions likely will be filled by people already working here or graduating from local colleges and universities.

Rendle added that VF, upon accepting the incentives, planned to match them at a 1-to-1 ratio with contributions to this community from its nonprofit foundation. And therein lies another reason that local officials are heaping such praise on this relocation.

‘Employer of choice’

One of the key players in bringing VF to Colorado was the state’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, a division of OEDIT that was created by former Gov. John Hickenlooper to try to take advantage of Colorado’s jaw-dropping and wild scenery and attract companies that focus on getting people into nature. One of the first major hires announced by VF was, in turn, Benitez — who launched the outdoor rec office and piloted it for nearly five years before deciding the company he recruited was the place he would go to work as vice president of government affairs and global impact in March.

Then, last month, Roberts announced she was leaving her four-year position as head of the OIA to become senior director of communications and corporate social responsibility for The North Face. Roberts is staying with the influential organization until the end of September and helping officials search for her successor.

Rendle said that VF does not want to come in and poach the best employees from other outdoor companies and organizations, and Graham noted that VF did not put up billboards or actively recruit from other companies for its open positions when it decided to move to Denver. But both said that the company does not shy away from being the employer of choice in the industry, and it is able to offer benefits like paid parental leave and fully funded second opinions from expert doctors across the country that many of its competitors do not.

Steve Rendle, chairman, president and CEO of VF Corp., stands next to a sign at “Camp VF,” five floors of temporary space in the Great-West Life building in the Denver Tech Center. The company will work from that base until the spring of 2020.

“We’re OK with competing [for talent]. And it’s probably not just with the outdoor space,” Rendle said. “What we want to do is put forward the best proposition.”

Kim Miller — the president of Boulder-based footwear manufacturer Scarpa USA and a 40-year outdoor-industry veteran who serves on Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Advisory Council — acknowledged that as VF continues to ramp up hiring, companies more than likely will see a smaller pool of qualified applicants for openings in the near future and could have to raise their wage levels because of the effect VF will have on the local sector.

“They probably are putting some pressure on us in the short-term sense of availability of good staff that is fit to hire,” Miller said. “Certainly, I put that through my filter and said ‘This could happen.’”

But Miller, a former member of the Snowsports Industries America board of directors, said he believes that an increase in competition for personnel will be more than offset by a variety of boosts VF bring to the Colorado outdoor-recreation sector, which already supports some 511,000 direct jobs.

VF’s decision to locate in Colorado will also attract more outdoor-recreation-industry workers to the state, especially as other moves, such as that of the Bureau of Land Management headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, put more of a national spotlight on the ecosystem that is developing here, he said. It will also allow the local sector to have greater power in its collective voice when it needs to speak up on issues from tariffs to environmental regulations.

As a company that has hired a lot of people from the Oakland area for its North Face and JanSport brands, VF will help to bring an understanding of how to promote greater diversity in the sector — a goal the company repeatedly has espoused, Miller noted. And while it may attract high-quality leaders away from other private companies or government-focused organizations, its presence in Colorado may be the difference between those people leaving the state to climb the industry ladder or staying local to do that.

“If they don’t find a place here, they’re going to go somewhere else,” Miller said of the Luis Benitezes and Amy Robertses of the world. “And we will lose that institutional knowledge.”

For all that potential influence that VF is set to wield, however, Rendle is squarely focused right now on two things: Keeping the company in a profitable position for multiyear growth and making sure that the hundreds of employees who are uprooting their lives to stay with or to come work for VF feel like they have a home, both professionally and personally.

At the moment, that involves using little touches like the backpacks and camping chairs that line the elevator lobbies of the five floors VF occupies in Greenwood Village — amenities that workers are free to take on weekend trips as they explore the area and hopefully get to appreciate it like the corporate executives of VF already have done.

But by the time this nearly year-long relocation process comes to its conclusion next spring, Rendle knows that VF must not only be firmly planted among the business and economic-development groups that recruited it, but also among the community that is raising expectations high on what the Denver area’s 11th Fortune 500 headquarters will mean to it.

“No. 1 [on our priority list] is getting those who are relocating comfortably settled in Colorado and getting life back to normal,” Rendle said. “I think we all look forward to being able to be settled in.”

Making Denver a friendly place for cyclists is a big issue for city leaders.

Kathleen Lavine | Denver Business Journal

At a city council meeting last March, Denver Council President Albus Brooks said that decreasing reliance on cars is “the area that most of us on City Council agree on — that this is the direction that we want to go.”

Some argue that putting so much effort into this is bad news for cars and will only increase congestion further. Others advocate for it as being a way to provide routes for all modes of transportation and promote exercise and better air quality. For now, it appears city officials are making progress on bikes. A pair of recent reports named the Mile High City among the best in the nation for being bike-friendly.

RewardExpert, an online travel service company, said Denver was the 10th most bike-friendly city for tourists.

The report ranked the U.S.’s 53 largest cities based on 13 metrics, such as biking infrastructure, city profile, bike-sharing availability and biking safety.

“Denver is historically a very bike-friendly city. It scored well across all our dimensions. The city has 267 miles of paved biking paths, which ranks third of all the cities we analyzed,” RewardExpert’s report said.

“Denver’s B-cycle has many stations and bikes in its fleet. Denver ranked fourth in regard to number of bike share stations per capita. Travelers should have no problem biking through the city.”

And late last month, WalkScore.com ranked Denver as the 4th most bike-friendly in the U.S.. Denver received a bike-score of 71, calculated by measuring bike infrastructure (lanes, trails, etc.), hills, destinations and road connectivity, and the number of bike commuters.

Denver also receives relatively high marks for its walkability, a long-time focus of state leaders. In the WalkScore report, it ranked 16th overall, and a recent Thrillist ranking put it 10th in the nation.

Adding to both Denver’s walkability and bicycle-friendliness is something Denver Parks and Recreation is tackling, too. The city will begin improvements to the Washington Park Loop Road with the of goal of making it safer for visitors.

The 2.2-mile road follows the perimeter of the park and is popular for cycling, walking, rollerblading and jogging. Modifications will include a new configuration aimed at addressing major congestion points along the loop

They include:

Lane configuration improvements comprised of a two-way pedestrian lane separated by a two-foot painted buffer from two unidirectional lanes that accommodate wheel-based recreation

Crosswalk and car traffic zone improvements with hatched buffers, flexible bollards, green dashed pavement markings, shared lane markings, pavement markings, and painted crosswalks.

Signage improvements and the addition of new lane configuration signs, speed limit signs and vehicular regulatory traffic signs. These signs will be installed in strategic areas throughout the park to ensure maximum opportunity for education and awareness of the rules and regulation along Loop Road and throughout Washington Park.

Construction on the Washington Park loop improvement project will begin June 19 and is slated for completion by the end of July.


Beyond spaghetti and meatballs: 11 must-visit Italian restaurants in Denver

There’s nothing quite like a plate of good old-fashioned spaghetti and meatballs, but these restaurants? They take that classic dish to the next level.

Zagat — a unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) — put together a list of 11 must-visit Italian restaurants in Denver, consisting mostly of spots that have just popped up in the last few years.

Spuntino. 2639 W. 32nd Ave. “All the warmth of a mom-and-pop trattoria, all the savvy of… more

From polenta-stuffed agnolotti dal plin with ‘nduja and shrimp, and pappardelle, to pizzas topped creamed leeks and fennel pollen, to bucatini all’Amatriciana, pollo alla diavola, tartufo, and much more.

Caitlin Hendee is digital producer and social engagement manager for the Denver Business Journal and covers education. Email: chendee@bizjournals.com. Phone


Denver’s 24 Most Anticipated Summer Restaurants

May 14, 2017 · by Ruth Tobias
Union Station and Stapleton are on fire. Latin food and wood-burning grills are hot hot hot. And several of our OG superstars — Frank Bonanno, Jennifer Jasinski, Troy Guard, Kevin Taylor, Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson — have some exciting projects on the front burner. Here’s what’s cooking in Denver this summer.

Tom’s Home Cookin’ becomes Jean-Philippe Failyau’s Home Cookin’: In taking over the beloved old Five Points joint, the Park Burger restaurateur will honor its predecessor by focusing on fried chicken along with other Southern-inspired eats, including pimiento breakfast burritos and sandwiches of all kinds, from morning to night. On the more techie side, the space will be equipped with kiosks to not only process orders and payments, but store past orders for easy repeats, send text alerts when your food is ready and so on. “We’re trying to reinvent fast food,” explains Peter Newlin, the president of Failyau’s company, adding that sustainable sourcing and a license to serve beer and wine are part of the program too.
ETA: Early June
800 E. 26th Ave.

Jorge Aguirre

A couple of years ago, we introduced you to mobile vendor Jorge Aguirre and his wonderful corn empanadas. Now we’re delighted to learn that he’ll be offering them at his upcoming brick-and-mortar cafe in Platt Park, along with many other Colombian specialties. Take bandeja paisa, an elaborate combo platter that typically includes beef, chorizo, chicharrones and a fried egg as well as plantains, red beans and rice; meaty soups like sancocho or fried green–plantain patties called patacones that Aguirre plans to offer in several variations; and mantecada, a sweet cornbread, as well as guava bread pudding. To drink, there will be tropical juices alone or in cocktails from the full bar, and Aguirre’s also working to import coffee direct from Colombian farmers. Bonus: Though La Chiva will be a casual place with counter service, the chef-owner hopes to make it festive too, with occasional live music and dancing.
ETA: Early June
1417 S. Broadway

Nicole Branan

Only Troy Guard could roll out two restaurants in one season without breaking a sweat (see FNG below). But the powerhouse entrepreneur (pictured center) says this one is personal: “I live in Stapleton, and I think the neighborhood’s ready for some cool new options.” As the name suggests, the 100-seat spot in the Eastbridge Town Center is all about breakfast, serving a creative array of hashes, Benedicts and pancakes with juice cocktails. ​No word yet on the interior design, but knowing Guard, it’ll be funky.
ETA: June
10155 E. 29th Dr.

Courtesy Frasca Food and Wine

Thrilled as Denverites are to have their very own slice of Frasca, owner–master sommelier Bobby Stuckey has kept a different Italian institution in mind as inspiration for his LoDo venture with chef-partner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson: the legendary Cipriani. “Those guys were so good at hospitality — it wasn’t formal, but it was really crisp,” he explains. With that in mind, he and Mackinnon-Patterson have put an ace team in place. Chef de cuisine Ian Wortham has been traveling from Piedmont to Sicily for ideas for the pan-regional menu; Thomas Keller vet Justin Williams will serve as GM; and wine director Carlin Karr, a 30 Under 30 alumna whom Stuckey calls a “superstar,” is building the all-Italian cellar. Stuckey’s no less jazzed about the 125-seat space, including the fireplace-graced bar: “It looks right into the canopies of Union Station,” he says. “You get off the train and you’re staring at it.”​
ETA: Late June
1889 16th St.

Courtesy Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group
Hickory & Ash

With this soon-to-be anchor of Broomfield’s Arista complex, pioneering Denver chef-restaurateur Kevin Taylor marks his comeback even as he turns the reins over to his son, chef/co-owner Ryan. The younger Taylor will preside over a contemporary kitchen centered on a hickory grill, where he’ll showcase local ingredients in offerings such as Aspen Ridge Ranch short-rib pastrami and gnocchi in squash “Bolognese.” Mountain-chic decor will set the stage for a casual experience throughout the 120-seat dining room, adjoined by a patio.​
ETA: Late June
8001 Arista Place, Broomfield; 303-534-1455

Courtesy ViewHouse
ViewHouse Littleton

Like the Ballpark and Centennial branches, the 10,000-sq.-ft. Littleton iteration of this playground for all stripes — sports fans, party people, families — will be a biggie, complete with a rooftop deck, courtyard cabanas, ubiquitous flat-screens and a Sunday brunch buffet. We’re told the wide-ranging, easygoing menu will resemble that of its siblings, encompassing tacos, burgers, flatbreads and steaks to pair with endless variations on the martini and the mule. ​
ETA: Late June
2680 W. Main St., Littleton

Courtesy The Kitchen Restaurant Group
Hedge Row American Bistro

As much as we love The Kitchen, we’re all the more excited to learn that what was slated to be its Cherry Creek satellite is morphing into a similar but distinct venture, named for the farm that originally supplied The Kitchen’s Boulder flagship with its produce more than a decade ago. Needless to say, Hedge Row will be as staunchly farm-driven as all of the restaurant group’s endeavors, while its wood-burning oven will transform those carefully sourced ingredients into specialties like roast chicken (pictured) and mole-braised short ribs — though a few Kitchen classics remain on the menu (yes, sticky toffee pudding included). Wood will dominate the interior design as well, complete with locally commissioned furnishings. And we’re told there will be more than one patio to amp up the lively aura.
ETA: Early July
100 Steele St.

Courtesy Kevin Delk
Bang Up to the Elephant!
(fka Mighty Mighty Sparrow! and the Sea Maiden)
You probably guessed it from the whimsical name(s) alone: This Capitol Hill project will be every bit the wild wonderland as its siblings Beatrice & Woodsley and Mario’s Double Daughters Salotto. Partner Kevin Delk is keeping the precise details under wraps for now, but he promises it will be serving food that’s “very festive, bold, big-portioned, a rockin’ value and super-unusual to the Denver dining scene,” while an adjoining cocktail bar brings the liquid fun.
ETA: July
1310 Pearl St.

Troy Guard

Think of this West Highlands arrival as a more casual, low-key Mister Tuna. At F’in Good (to use the full but NSFW name), Troy Guard and company will turn out a contemporary comfort-food menu with an emphasis on wood-fired dishes. Reflecting the trend of the moment, they’ll also sell packaged items for neighbors on the go.
ETA: July–August
3940 W. 32nd Ave.

Courtesy Sage Restaurant Group
Urban Farmer
Following the success of Departure Restaurant + Lounge, Sage Restaurant Group’s Peter Karpinski is exporting yet another Portland, Oregon, sensation. This 21st-century steakhouse franchise will take over where McCormick & Schmick’s left off at The Oxford Hotel to serve as a showcase for whole-animal butchery and local products alike, from produce to spirits and beer. Menus have yet to be released, but they’ll be fairly similar to those at the other locations — so perhaps we can look forward to duck breast with foie gras pudding, twice-baked fingerling tarts and butterscotch sundaes in addition to premium chops. A U-shaped bar, a charcuterie station and cheese cart service promise to bring interactive energy to the ultramodern, spacious interior.
ETA: July
1600 17th St.

Courtesy Chubby Cattle
Chubby Cattle

Denver has a few fine outlets for hot pot these days, but none quite like this one. The second branch of a Vegas phenomenon, it promises all the culinary fun and games you’d expect from the Entertainment Capital of the World thanks to its key feature: a refrigerated conveyor belt to transport food from the kitchen to diners seated around the main counter. Meanwhile, the iPad menu’s as useful as it is amusing, considering there are dozens of ingredients to choose from: beer-braised lamb, live clams, chrysanthemum greens, duck flippers (really!), you name it. Then there are dumplings, skewers, fried rice and more — not to mention a full bar in the 70–80-seat Baker space formerly occupied by The Walnut Room. This will surely be a blast.
ETA: July–August
2 Broadway

Courtesy Four Friends Kitchen
Four Friends Kitchen

Well before big-name chefs started moving into Stapleton, two couples — Tim and Genefer Thornton and Kurt and Sarah Pletcher — decided to take the neighborhood’s dearth of dining options into their own hands by opening a cheerfully modern, Southern-inspired daytime joint for the whole family. It’s been such a success that they’re now opening an equally colorful University satellite, where kiddos will be treated to their own menu as well as playthings to keep them occupied — so that the adults can relax over cocktails and mushroom–sweet potato hash with eggs or root-beer BBQ brisket sandwiches.
ETA: July–August
2070 S. University Blvd.

Unnamed restaurant (fka Paired) from Craig Lieberman
Cracker kingpin Craig Lieberman turned 34 Degrees into an international force, but his next project is as intimate as they come. Inspired by his own culinary travels, it occupies two tiny, adjacent old RiNo houses offering two different formats — casual all-day dining on one side, dinner-only tasting menus on the other. In both cases, the cuisine will be “eclectic and constantly changing,” he says, and he and his chef-partner (whose identity is intriguingly under wraps, though all will be revealed soon) are also “looking to feature guest chefs with different backgrounds and styles on an ongoing basis.” Upon launch, there’ll be seating for 40–50 inside and out on the front patio; eventually, a backyard garden will add more tables while offering “a different, more playful vibe.” ​
ETA: July–August
2843 Larimer St.

Ryan Dearth
French 75

Smokehouse, speakeasy, sandwich shop: At this stage in his career, Frank Bonanno has done it all. Now he’s going back to his French roots. But while flagship venue Mizuna focuses on contemporary interpretations of the cuisine, his Downtown venture will present traditional bistro fare, prepared in an open kitchen where, he says, “I’m really excited to work with the rotisserie I ordered from France — can’t wait to put a Colorado leg of lamb on that baby.” Here’s what else we can’t wait for, judging from an early draft of the menu: lobster-mascarpone risotto with lemon fondue, classic sole meunière and a trio of foie gras preparations. As for the atmosphere, Bonanno offers a little hint: “There’s a pretty spectacular interior component that requires 7,000 Chartreuse bottle caps.” ​
ETA: August
17th and Stout Sts.

Courtesy Citizen Rail
Citizen Rail

This Kimpton project shares a number of traits with Hearth & Dram: the glam Union Station location, the open kitchen and, to keep it humming, an acclaimed exec chef from the coast — in this case, Christian Graves, most recently of San Diego’s Jsix. Of course, Graves has his own thing going on, starting with a dry-aging room for house-cut steaks; this being a hotel restaurant, he’ll also be offering breakfast and brunch. Some dishes we’re especially looking forward to: oxtail with aged-cheddar rice porridge, marigold and sorrel; a vegetarian chef’s board with selections such as eggplant caviar and cauliflower tabbouleh; and whole ember-roasted lobster. An extensive drink list seems apropos for the size of the bar area, which commands more than 50 of the room’s 150 total seats.
ETA: August
1899 16th St.

Stacey Kleinman
The Inventing Room Dessert Shop

Sweet news from Denver’s (and now Dubai’s) conjurer of confectionery: Ian Kleinman will reopen his much-missed molecular dessert shop in the fledgling SloHi neighborhood, where he’ll have a much bigger stage for his smoking, popping, floating, tongue-twisting creations — one that combines some of the steampunk aesthetic of its predecessor with a living wall and a patio (not to mention underground parking). In addition to his kooky shakes, sundaes, ice cream sandwiches, miracle-fruit tastings and other signature treats, expect a few new curios like the “virtual s’mores waffle”; Kleinman will also continue to host pop-ups like the monthly Gobblefunk​ dinner and temporary donut shops.
ETA: August
Tennyson St. & W. 29th Ave.; 303-885-2802

Courtesy Lobster Bliss
Ocean to Plate
The owners of the namesake seafood wholesaler who also run the Lobster Bliss food truck are bringing a bit of the breezy oceanside to Uptown with this One City Block venue, housing an exhibition kitchen that prepares steam kettles full of cioppino, raw-bar items galore and much more (including, of course, lobster rolls). There will also be plenty of shellfish-friendly beers and wines by the glass on hand to sip in the light-filled dining room or out on the patio.
ETA: August
444 E. 19th Ave.

Courtesy of Lustre Pearl
Lustre Pearl

In describing this RiNo watering hole, GM Matthew Wienholt refers back to the original in Austin (pictured above): “It somewhat felt like you were at a house party, but with an old-timey, Western feel.” Expect something similarly “worn and weathered” here, he says, featuring old woods, chandeliers, curtains and a fireplace — not to mention a stage, as a robust live-music lineup is in the works. As for the bar itself, it will keep 16 beers from both local and Texas brewers on tap, supplemented by several more in cans and bottles, as well as lighthearted cocktails like the frozen Orange Crush. And while there’s no kitchen, there will be drink-friendly snacks as well as an outdoor smoker for weekend BBQs.
ETA: Mid August
1315 26th St.

Unnamed bar and lounge from Swirl Girl’s Kendra Anderson
We don’t know its name or address yet, but those are minor details compared to what we do know — charismatic sommelier-about-town Kendra Anderson is opening a RiNo wine bar and cocktail lounge that will be “sleek, modern, a bit masculine and a lot sexy,” according to her team. We also know her penchant for bubbly, rosés and Negronis, and we’re hoping it’s a clue to what we can look forward to.
ETA: Mid-late summer
Address TBA

Jennifer Jasinski, Beth Gruitch and Jorel Pierce’s tapas bar

From pintxos to petiscos, the small plates of Spain and Portugal will star at Jennifer Jasinski, Beth Gruitch and Jorel Pierce’s tapas bar–inspired locale in Union Station’s Great Hall (just steps away from sibling Stoic & Genuine). The team tapped its Bistro Vendôme chef, Adam Branz, to do the honors in the kitchen, where he’ll prepare dishes both classic and original — perhaps offering prix fixe as well as à la carte menus for those who’d prefer a guided tour of regional items like almond gazpacho and sardine toast. The bar too, will encourage exploration by pouring variations on the standard gin tonic (as they’re called overseas) along with sherry flights. Good thing a patio will double the capacity of the mezzanine-lined 50-seat space — small as it is, this place is going to be big.
ETA: Late summer
1701 Wynkoop St.

Courtesy Punch Bowl Social
Punch Bowl Social Stapleton

Robert Thompson’s retro-cool dining, drinking and gaming emporium has become a multistate franchise complete with a celeb chef, Hugh Acheson, for a partner. But it started right here, and now the Baker flagship is spinning off an instant landmark, set in the old Stapleton airport’s control tower. (You bet there will be plenty of room to play outside as well as in.)
ETA: Late summer
Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Uinta St.; 303-765-2695

To date, all of Mike Huggins and Lenka Juchelkova’s successes have been inspired by the past — think the post-Prohibition patina of Arvada Tavern, the Old World–meets–small town vibe of Kline’s Beer Hall or the pre-Prohibition sepia tones of Union Lodge No. 1. By contrast, this Berkeley cocktail lounge will be all about the here and now, says Huggins, giving his GM and lead barman Josh Sevy “a lot more room for creativity.” Granted, at 900 square feet, Tatarian won’t have a lot of room period — but its savvy design will set the stage for experimentation, first and foremost with the use of wood. Huggins explains that the bar’s named for a species of maple tree found in the neighborhood, so Sevy’s working on various tinctures and bitters that “extract more of the savory bitterness” of barks, herbs and so on.
ETA: Late summer
4024 N. Tennyson St.

Courtesy Kyle Foster

Long known as the head butcher and salumaio at Colt & Gray, Kyle Foster is striking out on his own — or rather with wife Katy Foster of Stir Cooking School — to open this RiNo tribute to his Southern roots. “Respecting tradition” will be a cornerstone of the restaurant, he says, with daytime menus composed of “simple, thoughtful” regional staples and a bar built around domestic whiskey. But come dinner, “I’m hoping to surprise people with food they might not expect.” That plan extends to his charcuterie, which he’ll reserve for composed dishes: “I’m trying to get away from the meat and cheese boards you see everywhere else,” he explains. What Foster calls a “sophisticated Southern” design, featuring an expansive mezzanine and patio, will complete the picture.​
ETA: Late summer/early fall
3254 Larimer St.

Wewatta Point
Grill Concepts, the California-based restaurant group behind gastropub Public School 303, is bringing a second brand to the Union Station area, this one seafood focused. If it’s anything like its Los Angeles sibling Laurel Point — and there’s good reason to assume it will be — expect an urban take on the breezy coastal fish shack, with a pan-regional menu encompassing lobster rolls, cioppino, oysters and sushi.
ETA: Late summer/early fall
1607 Wewatta St.

That’s because many restaurants do not open when originally estimated. That can be due to a variety of reasons, such as the longtime shortage of construction workers, which often pushes building timelines back. Some operators have also complained about slow building permit approval in Denver.

Here are the new ones slated to open this summer.

King Soopers in Glendale the U.N. of Supermarkets


Hanan Chthieer has done harder things than push a line of shopping carts up an incline through an obstacle course of a parking lot — like flee Iraq in fear for her life, for example. But now this is her job, and it’s difficult. The wheel on one of the carts is busted, and it fights Chthieer as she tries to corral it toward the entrance of King Soopers Store 124, at Leetsdale and Cherry, as cars swerve by her and others back out blindly.

Chthieer and her daughter came to Denver in 2013 as refugees after ISIS, displeased with her husband, a photographer for the Associated Press, threatened to kill them. She’s worked at this King Soopers since July. Her English is limited and so is her vision, so she sticks to carts and bagging. It’s a good job, she says. The managers are nice and she’s learned some English words from the customers. She’s made friends with a fellow refugee, a woman from Sudan. Petite, with large brown eyes and dark hair covered by a scarf, Chthieer is the only Iraqi employee at Store 124. But she’s hardly the only person here from somewhere else. In refugee circles, King Soopers has a reputation for being friendly to foreigners. Chthieer was allowed to bring her daughter as a translator when she interviewed for the position. Many of her co-workers were recruited from the African Community Center, the Women’s Bean Project, the Urban League and other agencies that help low-income people, especially women and refugees, find jobs.

Since I first started shopping at this store six months ago, I’ve heard Russian, Spanish, Hebrew, French, Amharic and Arabic all woven into the chatter of the place, which hums along like the constant radiant emissions of the overhead lights. Based on my amateur ethnographic survey, workers at Store 124 come from Africa, the Middle East, Mexico and Eastern Europe, as well as from across the United States. It’s a funky, eclectic place — just like Glendale, the neighborhood in which it sits.

I moved to Glendale in March, myself a kind of refugee — from gentrification on Denver’s north side, where I lived for sixteen years. I moved for love and cheaper rent, somewhat reluctant, fearing I’d traded Victorians for strip malls, green chile for Chili’s. And it’s true that Glendale — that tiny Libertarian enclave in the middle of Denver, with its own city government and police force, and strip clubs and dispensaries aplenty — feels a bit like Las Vegas, with ’80s-era mid-rises that are likely bedecked with wall-to-wall mirrors and brass chandeliers. But it has something that Denver increasingly lacks: melanin.


Glendale Unveils Plans for “Glendale 180” Entertainment District

A new King Soopers in Glendale will sell full-strength beer and wine

Glendale is one of the most culturally rich pockets in the metro area, with a percentage of African-American and Latino residents that is significantly higher than that of Denver. Unlike my formerly beloved Highland, which has seen its population of Latinos decrease by 40 percent over the past ten years and where, at the time of the 2010 Census, fewer than one percent of the households were African-American, Glendale is still affordable to all kinds of working-class people, from all over the world. One in ten residents of Glendale was born in another country. This makes for a vibrant urban neighborhood. It also makes for a fascinating grocery store.

Inside King Soopers Store 124 on this Sunday night, the march toward a Denver monoculture seems slightly less inevitable. An Orthodox Jewish couple shops for bread, a boy with ringlets in tow. Two firefighters contemplate an antipasto bar with sixteen kinds of olives. An Indian mother-daughter team inhales sensual hits from lilies and roses in the huge floral department that sits just inside the main entrance.

Like most new or remodeled King Soopers, this a beautiful, competitively fancy store, with an inventory that might seem schizophrenic until you consider the economic polarities of the area. The always-crowded parking lot provides a clue, with Ferraris and BMWs from Montclair and Crestmoor to the north, beaters and bikes from the run-down condos to the south. You find more clues inside, where you can pick up organic plums, marinated peppers, sushi, prosciutto and parmesan from Murray’s Cheese Shop in New York, whose products were sold here before they became available chain-wide. But you can also buy dried beans, bulk rice and spices for cooking up an inexpensive curry, fried chicken and green beans to go, and all manner of pickles, meat and desserts from one of the state’s largest kosher sections. (You can also buy booze, thanks to a state liquor-law loophole that currently allows a chain to sell alcohol in a single store in Colorado — and King Soopers chose this one.)

Kelly Fox, multicultural products manager for King Soopers, is the intelligence behind the store’s eclecticism. She knows when to order gefilte fish and brisket for the Jewish high holidays and when to stock up for big events in the local Latino community. Every quarter, Fox mines demographic data to figure out what to carry in Store 124 and eight others located in culturally diverse areas. She also talks to community leaders to find out what sells well in local ethnic markets, to learn what specialty items might not be on a store manager’s radar.

“When I first got this position, I went to all of the local synagogues,” says Fox. “I knew that they were going to be able to help me. If there were products they wanted that we didn’t have, anything we were missing, I told them to reach out to me, and they do. I visit with them throughout the year.”

Fox, who describes herself as a “completely average, non-Jewish white girl,” has become an expert on the dining preferences of groups of people: apples, grapes and beets for Jews; smoked meats for African-Americans; gourmet ethnic for foodies. She hopes to bring in halal meat for Muslim customers soon.  “We’re not really relevant to the Islamic community during Ramadan, but that customer base is out there,” she says. “We’ll never be able to be totally relevant to everyone, and we can’t and don’t want to replace the really specialty ethnic markets. But we need to be somewhat relevant to them. We need to be doing something.”

At 10 p.m., the lights in Store 124 go dim, as they do every night. The music gets a little softer. I look in people’s carts, ponder the mysterious particularities of other human beings. This is one of the secret joys of grocery shopping. Why seven cases of grape soda, Hispanic man with pigtails? What’s with all the shrimp ramen, drunk grandma? What will motivate the Asian woman, smiling in the dairy section, to choose a coffee creamer? Hazelnut or plain? And what is Hanan Chthieer thinking as she places the Totino’s Pizza Rolls and Prosecco in a bag?

I’ll never know. But in the parking lot, as I push my cart to the curb, I’m so happy for this odd, well-lighted place, with its wide variety of fascinating strangers.

Winter Park Express Success — and ideas for next year in mind – looking at adding amenities, such as food and beverages

Train service between Denver and Winter Park, which resumed in January after a seven-year drought more successful than anticipated 

Reps of Winter Park and Amtrak discussed the season’s ridership figures at an informal media gathering at Union Station on Wednesday. The train’s last runs of the season will be this coming weekend, but it’s clear the service will return next winter. “It totally exceeded our expectations,” said Winter Park Resort spokesman Steve Hurlbert. “We’ve established that there’s a demand, and the potential for this is through the roof.”

Re-establishing train service from Denver was a long-running quest for outgoing Winter Park boss Gary DeFrange, as detailed in this week’s cover story, “Snow Business.” The train had been a vital link between Denver and Winter Park ever since the city first began to develop the ski area in 1940. But insurance costs and other obstacles sidelined the old ski train in 2009. Partnering with Amtrak took years, an investment of $3 million in various platform and siding improvements, tapping train equipment that was sitting idle in the winter elsewhere, and plenty of patience.

The train’s current 540-passenger capacity represents only a tiny portion of Winter Park’s skiers on a given weekend. However, DeFrange estimates that the Winter Park Express takes 500 cars off I-70 every weekend. In all, the train ran 25 days out of the season, including two holiday Mondays; last Saturday’s service was canceled because of a freight derailment. Many of the trips sold out, and more than a quarter of the tickets were purchased months before service began.

“It was like selling water in the desert,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari. Magliari also gave a nod to Amtrak employee Brad Swartzwelter, who approached DeFrange with a proposal for his company to revive the service: “Brad and his union know how important this train is.” Equipment demands elsewhere in the system will continue to limit the Winter Park Express to a January-to-March schedule next season. But resort and Amtrak officials are exploring additional sponsorship possibilities and adding amenities (such as food and beverage service) next year. They’re also asking the public to send suggestions to Winter Park’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Alan Prendergast has been a staff writer for Westword since 1995 and teaches journalism at Colorado College. His stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.

Glendale Triumphant – Glendale 180 to Proceed Soon


Glendale Emerges Triumphant In Federal And State Courts

by Charles C. Bonniwell as reported in the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle January 2017

The extraordinary scorched-earth legal and public relations campaign by Mohammad Ali Kheirkhahi, his family members and the corporation named for his initials M.A.K. Investments LLC (M.A.K.) against the City of Glendale, its employees and elected officials has come to a sudden and shocking end. Kheirkhahi and his family members own Authentic Persian & Oriental Rugs at 550 South Colorado Boulevard as well as associated 3.8 acres of developable land between E. Virginia and Cherry Creek where they want to build a massive apartment high-rise. The high-rise would be in contravention of Glendale’s Master Plan and zoning laws as well as the apparent overwhelming sentiment of residents of Glendale and adjoining Denver neighborhoods.

On November 21, Federal District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson dismissed all the federal claims brought by M.A.K. against the City of Glendale and related entities. Colorado District Court Judge Charles Pratt had previously dismissed four sets of claims brought in state court by M.A.K. in different proceedings, but one claim remained relating to an alleged violation of the Colorado Open Meetings Act scheduled for trial this January.

On the eve of a highly expensive deposition scheduled in Houston, Texas, M.A.K.’s attorneys contacted Glendale’s City Attorney Jeff Springer stating that M.A.K. might be willing to dismiss this final claim provided Glendale waived any right to attorneys’ fees and costs relating to all the litigation. Glendale refused. M.A.K.’s attorneys were forced to file a Motion to Dismiss with Prejudice for their lawsuit noting Glendale reserved the right to seek attorney fees and costs against them.

It is believed that M.A.K. has spent somewhere between a half million and a million dollars in attorneys’ fees and costs and associated public relations expenses in its campaign against Glendale over the last 18 months without a single claim ever even going to trial. How a relatively small rug shop on Colorado Boulevard could possibly afford such a massive amount of expense in such a short space of time remains a mystery to many. What M.A.K., Kheirkhahi and his in-laws intend to do next is not known. Their actions over the last 18 months, however, have brought them the enmity of not only many of the citizens of Glendale but also residents of Denver and the entire Cherry Creek Valley.

The March On City Hall

It all began on May 12, 2015, when Kheirkhahi, his brother-in-law Saeed Kholghy, and his sister-in-law Nasrin Kholghy launched a wholly unexpected and unanticipated “shock and awe” march through the streets of Glendale ending at City Hall for a regularly scheduled Tuesday night City Council meeting.

Heading up the march along with the threesome was nationally feared paramilitary militia group “The Oathkeepers” who were an integral part of the Bundy Ranch standoff and the Ferguson, Missouri, fiasco. Joining them were hundreds of other extended family members and M.A.K. supporters. Minority and other citizens of Glendale who were simply anticipating attending a regular City Council meeting were forced to run a gauntlet of glaring and chanting Oathkeepers and other militant supporters to be able to get into City Hall itself.

Kheirkhahi had also engaged public relations firm Stratton Carpenter and Associates who convinced all the major Denver stations with camera crews to cover the meeting. The meeting for Kheirkhahi was orchestrated by Phillip Applebaum of the Virginia based Institute for Justice. Oathkeepers and other speakers declared that if the City Councilmembers did not immediately give in to the demands of Kheirkhahi and his family, they would have them all recalled from office.

The City Councilmembers and city staff initially reeled under the attack. All were at a loss over what was happening. The City had for almost two decades wanted to build an eating and entertainment district initially called “The Riverwalk” and later retitled the “Glendale 180 Project” as envisioned for in the city’s Master Plan. Kheirkhahi and the family had acquired the land in 2006 after reading an article in The Denver Post outlining the dreams and aspirations of the city to build the Riverwalk.

According to city officials, at all times prior to the “shock and awe” march, Kheirkhahi and family had supported the Riverwalk/Glendale 180 concept and they were integral in its planning. Glendale had asked M.A.K. what it thought its land was worth for the purpose of obtaining bonding for the project. At the May 12 meeting representatives claimed that the request was tantamount to a threat of condemnation which once again baffled city officials. The city repeatedly tried to assure M.A.K the city had no intention of condemning the M.A.K. land, but that appeared not to matter.

Thinking that M.A.K. simply wanted Glendale to buy the land at above market rate, the city gave M.A.K. a formal offer for $11 million and indicated a willingness to negotiate. M.A.K. summarily dismissed the offer and rebuffed any negotiations. It then began an avalanche of lawsuits in state and federal court with some of the highest priced lawyers, both locally and nationally, with reputations of never settling and virtually always taking cases to trial.

The Light Goes On

What M.A.K. and Mohammad Ali Kheirkhahi and family really wanted, according to the city, was finally revealed at the start of 2016 when they brought iconic Denver developer Dana Crawford and an all-star cast of consultants to Glendale City Hall for a meeting with staff that was openly recorded by the city. They showed pictures of massive, up to 60 story, high-end apartment buildings in Tehran, Iran, and Austin, Texas. (See “Wealth Rug Merchants Plans Exposed,” March 2016 Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle).

Crawford was recorded stating that the proposed building “could be just sensational and observable from almost the entire metropolitan area.” She appeared to believe the numerous lawsuits and negative publicity directed at the city made it uniquely amenable to M.A.K.’s grand plan stating that in Glendale, unlike Denver, you would “be able to do things that are not going to get people hysterical about blocking their views.” Another consultant, Bill James, deminimized the likely massive parking and traffic concerns on Colorado Boulevard stating that people have “been sort of seduced by the car — we’re moving away from that.”

Crawford went on to assure city officials not to worry that “there is, you know, there’s some sugar in it, a special sugar in it for the community . . . taking care of some that need a little care.” Consultant David Tryba pointed out with massive density the M.A.K land could be worth as much as $750 a square foot which translated to $124 million for the M.A.K property. Considering that M.A.K. had bought the land for $6.5 million in 2006 the potential payday to M.A.K. was enormous. Glendale officials now believed they finally understood the purpose of the “shock and awe” march on City Hall, the unrelenting negative publicity campaign and the avalanche of extraordinarily costly litigation all orchestrated by Mohammad Ali Kheirkhahi and his family.

They believe the purported fear of possible condemnation was little more than a ruse to garner initial public sympathy. They surmise that Kheirkhahi knew that Glendale would not give in to the demands for super high density in contravention of city planning for at least the last two decades absent extraordinary pressure. That pressure would be accomplished through lawsuits from high-priced attorneys and a sophisticated, and at times stealthy, P.R. campaign which would threaten to destroy the reputation of the city and individual members of the City Council as well as members of city staff.

The tape of the meeting with Dana Crawford was obtained by the Chronicle from Glendale pursuant to a Colorado Open Records request and posted on the website of the Chronicle. The tape turned many prior supporters of M.A.K. against them including the Editorial Board of The Denver Post, as well as, the local television stations. What M.A.K., Kheirkhahi and his Kholghy in-laws were really up to became apparent to almost everyone.

Local citizens and neighborhood groups began to attend Glendale City Council meetings demanding that Glendale hold firm and not give in to the demands of M.A.K. (see “Glendale Residents and Denver Neighborhoods Pour Into Council Meeting To Oppose ‘Death Star,’” May, 2016 Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle). M.A.K.’s inchoate building plan started to become known locally as the “Tehranian Death Star.”

More Pressure

Nothing, however, seemed to phase M.A.K. whose only response was to turn up the heat even more. Jeanne Price, a Denver blogger, suddenly appeared at Glendale City Council meetings to excoriate city staff and City Council members claiming they were engaging in unlawful conduct. She requested thousands of pages of city documents pursuant to the Colorado Open Records Act which she hoped could be used to bring claims or charges against individuals. (See “Persian Rug Merchants Have Denverite Jeanne Price Digging Hard For Dirt” February 2016 Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle).

What M.A.K. had not counted on was how resolute Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon could be. Dunafon finally had enough of Price and exposed that much of what Price was claiming at public meetings was patently and demonstrably false. (“Jeanne Price Exposed — Tapes Caught Her Allegedly Dissembling in Front of City Council” November 2016 Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle).

But the documents dug up by Price were apparently being used also by other outlets to defame City Council members. On February 6, 2016, Colorado Ethics Watch filed an Ethics Complaint against Mayor Mike Dunafon and later M.A.K.’s lead attorney Russell Kemp of the law firm Ireland, Stapleton, Pryor & Pascoe P.C. filed an Ethics Complaint against then-Councilman Jeff Allen. Both claimed that the individuals should not have voted on certain different matters. Both complaints were eventually found to be frivolous and without any basis but both complaints had their intended effect of unfairly harming the reputations of the councilmen involved.

The Ethics Complaint against Mayor Dunafon was put out on the Associated Press wire and picked up nationally in papers across the United States. Dunafon noted after the Ethics Complaint against him was dismissed as frivolous that although the accusation went out nationally his exoneration was picked up by no one.

Enter The FBI

Even more ominously persons associated with M.A.K. also allegedly went to the Denver office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to claim that any opposition in Glendale or Denver neighborhoods to its plans for a massive high-rise was a form of “Islamophobia.” The United States Department of Justice under Attorney General Loretta Lynch was then engaged in an extensive campaign to intervene in local municipal zoning decisions on behalf of landowners wanting to build mosques. Moreover, it is believed that M.A.K. sought investigations against local Glendale officials and elected office holders asserting corruption based in large part on the discredited allegations of Jeanne Price among other claims.

The Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle began to receive panicked calls from individuals who were quoted in the paper in opposition to M.A.K.’s apartment project. They were being harassed by a thug-like private investigator from Tennessee, by the name of Charles Johnson. He had attempted on a Saturday night to gain entrance to the apartment complex where Glendale City Clerk Sherry Frame lived. Various individuals filed harassment complaints with the Denver and Lakewood police against Johnson. Johnson would later claim he was under contract with a female writer/journalist whose name he would not reveal. Persons associated with M.A.K. including Jeanne Price vehemently denied that they had hired Johnson.

Johnson was arrested by the Glendale P.D. when he later returned from Tennessee to harass and intimidate readers of the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle. He was charged with acting as a private investigator in Colorado without a license. Johnson had on him three current driver’s licenses from three different states and it was discovered that he was not even registered as a private investigator in Tennessee.

To the astonishment of all, the Denver FBI then demanded that Arapahoe District Attorney George Brauchler dismiss all charges and quash all warrants against Johnson “for reasons that can’t be disclosed.” (See “Phony P.I. — FBI Mole Or Worse? All Charges Dismissed Per FBI” June 2016 Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle).

D.A. Brauchler refused to do so unless the FBI demanded the same in writing which he made public thereby disclosing that Johnson’s real employer was the FBI Fox 31 News Denver also discovered during an interview with Chronicle columnist and 710 KNUS radio host Peter Boyles that the Chronicle’s offices were under surveillance by a cameraman in a car. Moreover, citizens who filed complaints against Johnson were hauled before the FBI where it was revealed that the FBI was monitoring Boyles’ daily radio show. The matter reminded many of the Scott Lee Kimball case where a local FBI operative tortured and murdered at least five women from Glendale and elsewhere all while under the control and protection of the Denver branch of the FBI.

The Special Agent in Charge of the Denver Office, Thomas P. Ravenelle, was subsequently removed from his position and the constant camera surveillance of the Chronicle’s offices ceased. Moreover, it is doubtful that the new Attorney General replacing Loretta Lynch will continue the DOJ’s foray into local zoning matters under the guise of combatting Islamophobia. But many feel that the threat of the local FBI against anyone in Denver and Glendale residents who opposed Mohammad Ali Kheirkhahi and M.A.K. may potentially continue for a long time.


If anyone anticipated that M.A.K. or Kheirkhahi or his in-laws would offer an olive branch to anyone they attempted to destroy and/or defame they would be disappointed. Nor is there any acknowledgment of the economic harm the avalanche of dismissed lawsuits caused to the City of Glendale and its businesses and the proposed Glendale 180 Project.

As with all prior legal losses, M.A.K. claimed victory through family spokesperson Nasrin Kholghy with an email to the Chronicle which stated in part:

“In a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Colorado blight law and its notification process, a second judge recently ruled that M.A.K. could file a suit if the City of Glendale ever tried to condemn. These two court decisions greatly boosted M.A.K.’s confidence that the cloud of condemnation has finally been removed.

“We still believe that Colorado law should be changed so that private property owners are adequately informed of the impact of a blight findings on their property. When private lands can be seized after a finding of blight and there is no individual remedy, due process and adequate notification requirements should be guaranteed.”

However, Glendale City Attorney Jeff Springer of the law firm Springer and Steinberg stated to the Chronicle: “The City of Glendale respects the right of citizens to unfettered access to the courts to air grievances and to pursue legitimate appeals. On the other hand when lawsuits are filed with ulterior motives or as a means to obtain leverage and when the claims are frivolous and groundless that is not consistent with obtaining justice and due process. The city is exploring its options in seeking reimbursement for its substantial costs and attorneys’ fees in defeating the claims filed by M.A.K.”

Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon in turn noted: “This is not just a win for the businesses and citizens of Glendale, but a win for all communities in the state . . . What is unfortunate is the tremendous cost and waste to a community in defeating a scorched-earth campaign by a greedy and unscrupulous few in a town that otherwise has an enormous number of really caring and giving individuals who want to do positive things that benefit everyone.”

Edgewater and Glendale took different paths to become leaders in the marijuana business

How two small cities became the kings of cannabis in the Denver metro area

Edgewater and Glendale are separated by more than the 10 miles between them.

Edgewater is the very picture of suburbia, with its quiet collection of modest, single-family homes perched along tree-lined streets on the western shore of Sloan’s Lake in Jefferson County. Glendale is a hard-charging, commercially focused city defined by apartment living, mid-rise office and hotel towers, strip clubs, strip malls and a world-class rugby stadium.

But both Glendale and Edgewater, with 11 recreational marijuana dispensaries and counting between them, now rank as the leaders in the metro area for the number of pot shops per capita.

How they came to share the title of king of the weed shops, however, unfolded in very different ways.

“We hit the ground running,” said Edgewater city manager HJ Stalf. “We adopted everything well before the opening date (of legal recreational marijuana sales in Colorado).”

That opening date was Jan. 1, 2014, and Edgewater had already embraced the notion that it wasn’t going to sit out what three years later has become a $1 billion-plus industry in Colorado.

“We didn’t go out and actively recruit, but we created a structure that allowed it to succeed,” Stalf said.

That included allowing stores to locate without separation buffers from one another, and most critically, permitting shops to remain open until midnight. With Denver’s more than 150 recreational pot shops required to close at 7 p.m., those extra hours have given Edgewater a built-in late-night market and a competitive edge.

That advantage, however, is not assured in perpetuity. Just last week, the Denver City Council’s marijuana special-issue committee began discussions on extending the hours of operation for pot shops in Denver.

“The best benefit of having a dispensary in Edgewater is the hours,” said Ben Loblick, assistant manager of Green Dragon Cannabis Co. “We get busy after 7 p.m., which is closing time in Denver.”

Green Dragon sells weed in Edgewater’s tiny downtown district, right across the street from the police station.

Across town, Glendale followed a less deliberate path to establishing a recreational pot industry inside its borders. Deputy city manager Chuck Line said the city’s five pot shops — with two more in the pipeline — came about “more by happenstance.” While it’s perhaps not surprising a city with the kind of laissez-faire, business-friendly environment Glendale is known for would one day host a robust retail marijuana scene, it took time.

“The market kind of took care of it for a while,” Line said.

The city’s first recreational marijuana dispensary didn’t open until January 2015 and the city only finalized its cannabis regulations in November, which also allows shops in the city to do business until midnight.

But Line was intrigued enough by the potential economic benefits of the nascent pot industry early on that he actually ventured out on a late-night reconnaissance mission to Edgewater in the first few months of legal sales. He remembers receiving a ticket at one shop indicating that he was nearly the 400th customer that day. Line quickly crunched numbers in his head, estimating the average purchase per customer and calculating the take using Glendale’s 3.75 percent sales tax rate.

“My impression was out of a store that is 1,000 square feet at our sales tax rates — that’s $309,000 sales tax revenue in one year,” he said. “It’s just incredible.”

That’s a calculation Edgewater did long ago. With the $1.4 million in annual marijuana sales tax revenue (that includes the proceeds the state shares back with communities with retail cannabis) accounting for 20 percent of Edgewater’s $6 million budget last year, Mayor Kris Teegardin said the city is fully aware of the value of cannabis cash.

“Revenue has definitely been very productive for us,” Teegardin said.

Stalf said the city’s six pot shops generate taxes equivalent to those of a big box store. Edgewater, which has a 3.5 percent sales tax rate, has used its marijuana sales tax proceeds to repave all 12 miles of its streets and is planning to dedicate future revenues to building a $10 million state-of-the-art civic center to house its city hall, police headquarters, library and recreation center.

It’s a far cry from a generation ago, Stalf said, when the city “really struggled to keep up.”

“We’ve got some problems behind us that we can sustain for 20 years,” he said.

While Glendale’s sales tax collections and state shareback from recreational marijuana stores — more than $1.2 million a year — isn’t far behind Edgewater’s, it accounts for only 3.1 percent of the city’s $31.7 million annual budget, given the city’s well-developed commercial base.

Line said the marijuana revenue isn’t dedicated to any particular line item in Glendale’s budget, but he believes that variety in the city’s retail sector is good for its overall economic health.

“It’s a component that you wouldn’t want to miss — I don’t know why a community would want to miss out on that diversification,” he said.

Taylor Fant, manager of The Smokin Gun Apothecary, said his dispensary has been doing business on the former site of the Shotgun Willie’s strip club for nearly a year.

“We were openly embraced by the city,” he said.

The Green Solution, with 10 shops in the metro area, chose to locate in both Edgewater and Glendale. It’s expecting to open its Glendale location — 4151 E. Kentucky Ave. — later this year. CEO Kyle Speidell said it’s noticeably easier to open a dispensary in the two smaller cities than in more rules-heavy Denver.

He also said there’s a cogent business strategy to setting up shop near two major commercial corridors in the metro area — Colorado Boulevard in Glendale and Sheridan Boulevard in Edgewater. And having the ability to sell weed after 7 p.m. is the clincher, Speidell said.

“I feel they’re really smart in what they are doing,” he said of Glendale’s and Edgewater’s approaches to the sector.

Line said he was initially surprised that two communities, each less than a square mile in size and each with about 5,000 residents, would come out on top of the cannabis heap. It came down to being open-minded about the economic benefits of pot sales and recognizing that the industry could help contribute to a reduction in black-market sales of the drug, he said.

And the cities’ small size turned out to be an important element in allowing them to maneuver in the shadow of cannabis-rich Denver.

“We’re like a speedboat,” Line said. “We both know how to act dynamically and quickly to changing circumstances.”

Those circumstances include understanding the surrounding market and knowing how to take advantage of it, Stalf said. Specifically, Edgewater’s cannabis businesses have benefited from bans placed on recreational marijuana sales in neighboring cities, including Golden, Arvada and Lakewood, he said.

It doesn’t take much figuring to know that it’s not just Edgewater residents who are gobbling up millions of dollars worth of recreational marijuana. And that’s just fine with Stalf.

“We’re an exporter and those guys are importers,” he said.

A tale of two cities, by the numbers

Number of recreational marijuana stores

  • Glendale: 5 (7 by the end of 2017)
  • Edgewater: 6

Recreational marijuana sales 2016


  • Sales tax revenues — $1 million
  • State shareback — $400,000
  • Total — $1.4 million
  • Annual budget — $6 million


  • Sales tax revenues — $987,000
  • State shareback — $254,000
  • Total — $1.2 million
  • Annual budget — $31.7 million

Source: Cities of Glendale, Edgewater

John Aguilar

Originally from Boston, John Aguilar covers Denver’s suburbs for The Denver Post, where he has worked since April 2014. He has also worked at the Boulder County Business Report, the Rocky Mountain News and the Boulder Daily Camera