The I Heart Denver store in Denver, Colorado supports the local community by only selling local artists and designers work. Whether that be clothing, furniture, jewelry, or coffee mugs, I Heart Denver is a place that is all about giving back to the community by helping local artists get their work into stores and see a profit.
Every month, the local designers who contribute see 70% of the sales made in the store, giving them the opportunity to expand and receive money straight into their pocket from their hard work. The store incubates these artists, sells their stuff in the store, and in return the artists can see what sells, what didn’t, and how to make their next product even better.
Samuel Schmiek started I Heart Denver so he could give local artists the chance to share their work and build their resources, all the while making Denver’s community more creative and local-friendly.
Q&A with Samuel
1. How did you come up with the idea for the store? Was there a lack of independently owned stores in Denver?
Denver has a lot of energy invested in supporting the creative economy. We are constantly trying new endeavors to evolve and create a successful environment for creative entrepreneurs. In April 2010, I was offered an opportunity to create a POP-Up market that featured local artists and designers during Create Denver Week. I used my 8 years experience in retail and visual marketing to curate and produce a one week store. The first store lead to Denver Pavilions offering more space to keep the project going. I Heart Denver Store is the 5th POP-Up store in a year I have built. It has been a great experiment in retail models and exercise in business structures that can be sustainable and positively influence the local culture.
2.What has the response from the local community been? Has blogging helped spread the word about the store?
The response has been very positive. Locally we have been published in major papers and magazines, as well as important blogs and online venues. On a daily basis we have visitors to the store that live in Denver, have lived in Denver and are back visiting, and new visitors to town that have never been before. Many people mention reading about the program online and tell us how much they like to see so many artists and designers in one place and a business model that provides direct capital to support their work.
3. How do you select what is sold in the stores? Do you work with certain designers and allow them to sell anything? Or go piece-by-piece?
I personally have curated all participating artists and designers. Currently, we are up to 62 artists in the store. Selection is based on contemporary trends in Colorado, sale-ability of the work, and room within the store. There is everything from, T-shirts, jewelery, archival prints, housewares, baby cloths, and more. The quality of these goods shows how the creative industry here is competitive on a national scale.
4. Do you think there could be successful “I <3 …..” stores in different cities all over the country?
I think there are many places in the country this project could be successful in. There has to be the right mix of city and state offices that want to support the project and help leverage relationships with property owners along with a high-energy creative community. There is a huge opportunity for activating downtown centers, exporting the areas culture to tourists and business travelers, and providing direct capital to the local creative economy. Working with a major retail property, over 60 creatives at a time, nonprofits, and city and state offices has been a great experience for everyone involved.
5. What are some of your favorite Denver blogs?
Many artists and businesses have blogs and I have always been impressed by the willingness to promote each other’s shows and work. Denver has a really collaborative environment.
6. What does local mean to you?
Local to me are all the qualities you appreciate in the your community and all the things you do to support them. Weather it is buying local, support local artists, volunteer, etc.