a BIG place to shop SMALL businesses

BY KATHY HISEY BAUM

“Do you know what’s going to go in the building at First Avenue and University?”

You hear this question all the time, from people who have lived here since it was a Bed Bath & Beyond, to people new to the area wondering what the “empty” space is. Whether it’s at the nail salon, in the school pick-up line or at the grocery store, people are curious about what’s going in next.

Guess what? Something is already in the space and you need to get yourself there immediately! The District Shops, a market-style collective built on the belief of supporting local businesses and artisans, opened in early June.

The District Shops will be your new favorite go-to shopping spot. The space is full of one-of-a-kind jewelry, clothing from chic to boho, vintage and modern home decor, handmade bath and body products, unique gifts and even stuff for your pups. There’s also a variety of locally sourced coffee, tea, wine, craft beer and pantry food items.

On a recent visit, I wound through the aisles and browsed through micro-shops of locally roasted coffee, candles, sweetly-scented soaps and lotions, clothing from lace to plaid, statement necklaces, as well as cozy throws, pillows and blankets for the house.  

As I hummed to the country music playing over the speakers, it took about five minutes to find the perfect gift for a hard-to-buy-for friend (not to mention, a few things for myself).

Unlike other markets that are only open at certain times of the year, The District Shops features local, small businesses and artisans in one spot, all year long. Odds are you’ll knock out at least half of your holiday shopping list right here.

We talked with owner Lisa Roina to learn more about The District Shops and the mission to support local businesses in Denver.

How did you get the idea for The District Shops?

The District Shops was a collaborative effort between Cherry Creek’s former specialty leasing agent and us. We’ve been doing Makers Markets for 10 years, and our largest location had been 11,000 square feet. The leasing agent approached us and said “I think you should do this on a HUGE level, and I have a building that would be perfect.” We walked into the 62,000 square foot Bed Bath & Beyond, and instantly turned him down. But after many late nights lying awake in bed, we decided to do it! With a core team of three, and a lot of help from friends and family, we designed and built out the space in three weeks. Then vendors came in and created their own shops ranging from 20 – 600 square feet in each “district” (vintage, boutique, spa, 5280, kids, gentlemen, food, local wine, and craft beer).


What’s the mission of The District Shops?

Our mission is buy local, for local. We created The District Shops to showcase the talents of 300 of our local community members, entrepreneurs, and dreamers. Our goal is to support and advocate for the little guy in every stage, every category, and every product.

Tell us a little bit about your vendors.

From the stay-at-home mom just starting her business to the seasoned veteran making pottery for years, we have it all. Our business owners are attorneys, people battling cancer, military veterans, and even kids. Some have been on the “Today” show, and others haven’t developed a website yet. They’re all here under one roof.  

What sets The District Shops apart from other shopping experiences?

Everything! We have clothes, jewelry, hats, scarves, home decor, furniture, food, and more. But we also have brands and items you will not find in a traditional mall or on Amazon. If you see something you love, but would love it more made a little differently or personalized, many of our local vendors can customize almost anything. From signs to jewelry, to furniture, a huge array of our vendors can create something special just for you or the person you’re shopping for.  

What’s something we may not know about The District Shops?

The District Shops has talent. Lots of talent. With a little more than 300 vendors under one roof, it’s the best local shopping you can find. There are services, too. You can come and get your hair cut, or meet with a designer to help you create the look you want at home, or make and scent your own lotions, create a fairy garden, or even participate in free Sunday yoga, or attend one of our many fun events.

How many shops are owned by women?

Close to 90% of our shops are women-owned, and about 40% of our businesses are minority-owned. From 10 year-old young ladies to 80 year-old old women who have been in business for years, The District Shops reaches out and supports all local businesses. We work closely with Young American’s Bank and Jack Stands to help kids with financial literacy, as well as Outreach Uganda and Free the Girls to support ladies in other countries. We’re currently collecting coats and warm items for the Denver Rescue Mission.  

You seem to have a lot of fun events going on. Tell us more.

From sip and shop events to trick or treating, to a fashion show with dogs, we have fun for everyone. Follow our website or Facebook to find out what’s happening when. And anyone is welcome to host an event, just get in touch with us at info@thedistrictshops.com to share your ideas with us and check our availability.

We’re so lucky in Denver to have a vibrant community of people creating and curating local goods. Nothing can beat a gift made with artistry and love by our neighbors and friends. Visit The District Shops on Small Business Saturday (November 24), and all year round 10am – 7pm Monday – Saturday and 11am – 6pm Sunday.

They’re located at 2500 E. 1st Avenue. For hours, the event schedule, to sign up for the newsletter, or to become a vendor, visit the website at www.thedistrictshops.com. And don’t forget to follow The District Shops on Instagram and Facebook to be first to see new arrivals.

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