Retailtainment Goes A Mile High: 10 Concepts That Came To Denver In 2023
In a crowded retail market where customers have seemingly endless options for spending their money, developers and landlords are increasingly combining food and drink with entertainment, art or even workspaces to draw patrons.
Some experts have dubbed the phenomenon retailtainment, or experiential retail, describing businesses that offer entertainment alongside their retail options.
“Being on lockdown for two years gave us all cabin fever, and we all really wanted to go out,” Dallas-based Stephany Ruiz, vice president of experience at Trademark Property Co., said at a Bisnow event last month. “While millennials and Gen Z are driving a lot of these initiatives for us, boomers and every range are looking to experience things and be around other people.”
Denver, with its concentration of young, active residents, many of whom work in high-paying fields, is a magnet for these retailtainment concepts, whether they are brand-new ideas or a reimagining of city landmarks.
Bisnow compiled a list of the most interesting retailtainment spots to open or make significant progress in the Mile High City in 2023.
Green Spaces Marketplace
Green Spaces coworking and marketplace puts a new spin on the coworking trend that has grown in Denver for the past several years.
The space at 2950 Walnut St. in Denver's River North business district includes gallery spaces for artists and creatives to collaborate, a café, an event space and a marketplace. Green Spaces also helps foster the local entrepreneurial community by hosting business workshops and events tailored for Denver's small-business community.
Green Spaces officially opened on April 1, when Denver had about 3M SF of coworking space, according to CoworkingCafe.
After the Westminster Mall started to decline, city leaders decided to take matters into their own hands and create a new, walkable neighborhood in the center of town.
The 105-acre Westminster City Center includes attractions like an Alamo Drafthouse, Bowlero and several local restaurants and bars. The city center also includes about 2,300 residential units to help support the local businesses.
“We had a vision that the mall would sit and become successful,” Mayor Nancy McNally said during Bisnow’s Future of Metro Denver’s Northwest Corridor event on July 12. “The only problem was that we couldn’t find a developer that saw our vision.”
Famed music venues in Denver's bustling jazz scene like El Chapultepec shut down because of the pandemic.
That began to change in April when Orchid Denver, a 1920s-themed jazz bar, opened its doors. The building at 1448 Market St. in downtown Denver includes a large dance floor, a bar with a big screen that livestreams the performances onstage, and seating capacity for 100 guests.
The club has already hosted big names like Convergence, The Ken Caryl Trio and Hazel Miller. Orchid also has plans to support musicians from other genres.
“We don't want to just focus on jazz, although we really love the local jazz scene here,” Orchid Denver co-founder Pete Foster told Westword. “But we will play a lot of jazz.”
Casa Bonita has been a local staple, but it rose to national prominence thanks to South Park.
South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, both of whom call Denver home, purchased Casa Bonita in 2021 with the hopes of turning the once-run-down restaurant and event space into a new destination. The restaurant reopened in the summer and has had a waitlist ever since.
Casa Bonita still has many of its previous features, like the famed pink exterior and cliff diving pool inside the restaurant. One of the biggest upgrades that Stone and Parker made was hiring chef Dana Rodriguez to upgrade the restaurant's menu.
Puttshack Denver, one of the world's only tech-infused mini-golf experiences, opened in the River North business district in May.
The 25K SF facility at 2813 Blake St. includes a high-energy nightlife vibe, a full-service kitchen and bar, and interactive games at each hole. Each game is driven by Puttshack's patented Trackaball technology, which automates scoring and other game features.
“RiNo is known for its high energy and rich culture with art and entertainment in abundance, and we are thrilled for our newest Puttshack venue to be open in this great city,” Puttshack CEO Joe Vrankin said in a press release.
Museum Of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions, an international chain, opened on Denver's 16th Street Mall in September when construction activity along the mall made it difficult for many businesses to stay open.
The museum moved into the former Chili's location at 951 16th St. and includes more than 60 attractions, some of which are unique to Denver. One of the main attractions is the Vortex Room where the walls seem to rotate around guests, which can make them feel like they're spinning and lose their balance.
“It's a double celebration for us at the Museum of Illusions,” CEO Jonathan Benjamin told Bisnow in an emailed statement. “Not only do we get to introduce an entirely new range of imagination-stirring and Colorado-inspired exhibits, but we couldn't have asked for a better location in Denver. With its thriving arts and culture scene, forward-thinking community and thirst for unique experiences, Denver serves as the perfect canvas for our illusions to spring to life.”
Denver has a long and storied aviation history, and a new bar in the Central Park neighborhood is helping bring that history to life.
FlyteCo, a brewery and restaurant concept, opened its doors in October and includes a full mini-golf course, an arcade, a game room with sports simulators and ax-throwing, and tours of the old air traffic control tower that was used at Stapleton Airport. The building is at 499 West 38th Ave., a former Punch Bowl Social location.
“When we got the opportunity to take over this building, it just made sense not only to embrace but really celebrate Denver's aviation heritage,” FlyteCo co-founder Morgan O'Sullivan told Bisnow. “It just seems perfectly serendipitous with our brand and with our mission.”
Mica RiNo, an 11-story luxury apartment complex with ground-floor retail in Denver's River North business district, sits blocks from the Mission Ballroom concert venue and features a lineup of heavy metal-themed attractions like TRVE Brewing and Full Metal Burgers.
The development is the latest example of how Denver's multifamily developers are seeking to incorporate experiential elements into their projects. Other examples include One River North, a 343K SF condo building that includes open-air, plant-covered decks, an outdoor yoga studio and a club room.
“By bringing these exciting concepts to the street level of our building, we're not just enhancing the experience for our residents, but also contributing to the overall charm of the neighborhood,” Hines Director Elliot Marks said in a press release.
Bounce Empire, an inflatable amusement park, opened in Lafayette, Colorado, in May and has attracted hordes of families living in metro Denver's northwest suburbs.
The 50K SF park has more than 50 attractions for guests of all ages. Its signature attraction is a 30-foot "monster slide" that hurls guests down its chute. The space also includes multiple bars, a movie theater and a concert stage.
“Everyone shares something in common when they walk through the door: They can’t decide what to do first,” Bounce Empire co-founder James Hay-Arthur said in a press release.
Girl Scouts DreamLab
The Girl Scouts of America opened the inaugural DreamLab location in Denver in early March as a way of promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics education opportunities for young women.
The 4K SF DreamLab includes a Girl Scout boutique, a podcast booth, a bouldering wall and an outdoor skills area with a faux fire pit and tent.
Girl Scouts of America plans to expand the concept for its Louisiana East and New Jersey South councils.
“DreamLabs are all about inspiring and engaging current and future Girl Scouts with our unique program experiences and offering community members the opportunity to explore new activities the Girl Scout way,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Bonnie Barczykowski said in a press release.