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Priced out: Five Points businesses work to stay open

Five Points Buy Back the Block Campaign.jpg
Posted at 7:45 PM, Dec 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-08 21:45:54-05

DENVER — For years, minority-owned businesses in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood have struggled to stay open amid a changing city.

Nearly one month ago, Welton Street Café, located in Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood, announced it was leaving the building it’s called home for the past 22 years.

“We’re moving to 2883 Welton Street. Really, like two blocks down the street north of Welton. It’s a bittersweet conversation,” said Fathima Dickerson, co-owner of Welton Street Café.

Back in May, Dickerson said the restaurant was in danger of closing permanently due to needed repairs. Denver7 viewers donated to the restaurant, and Dickerson said repairs were made. But the building is outdated, and they need to move to survive long term.

“We want to make sure that we fit in the world of the up and coming and in the new Five Points because this place isn’t anything that I remember as a kid,” Dickerson said.

A bigger issue

Welton Street Café is one of just a handful of Black-owned restaurants in Five Points. But this wasn’t always the case.

“There were restaurants, there were liquor stores, there were hat shops, all lined up,” said Norman Harris, managing partner of the Holleran Group.

Harris helps connects small businesses with financial resources and witnessed the decline of Five Points as a business district.

“There’s a number of different factors that started to cut off the lifeline that was feeding these businesses, but I would argue that the way the light rail was designed didn’t necessarily push forward equitable opportunities for the business and property owners that are there,” Harris said. “It’s a one way stop. You know, there’s no loop.”

Other factors include a changing demographic and rising rent prices, leading to the closure of several legacy neighborhood businesses.

“Probably the one that would stick out as a real legacy business that didn’t make it was Capri, it was a chicken spot... The Taste of Detroit was another restaurant that closed,” Harris said.

But Harris said there are solutions to make sure the businesses that are left stay open.

“We need to focus more on what specific resources can be provided to small businesses,” Harris said.

Harris said businesses also need to develop strategies to increase their capacity.

A new business in the neighborhood

The restaurant Agave Shore opened in Five Points back in May. Agave Shore co-owner Chuck Jones said the first few months were successful, but they also face a challenge many minority-owned businesses do.

“There’s been a hard push nationally regarding supporting Black and brown businesses, women-owned businesses, and that's great, but the messaging has to be such that those outside of those culture groups still feel welcome,” Jones said. “Just because we might be a Black-owned business doesn’t mean we serve only Black people."

Jones said he wants customers to know they have something for everyone.

“We wanted to make sure that the core item that we’re selling was one that’s consumed by everyone: tacos,” Jones said.