On June 6, word came down that Colorado College had decided to end its lease with Adam Leech and his Leechpit on North Nevada Avenue. Then, on July 2, Josh Kennard announced he was closing Lofty's, the cute café/music/open mic venue that's been tucked for 2½ years in a corner of the Lowell Development lofts off Fountain Boulevard.
Finally, on July 8, Shelley Laur, owner of Swish Vintage and Vogue Apparel, released a "happy going-out-of-business sale" notice for her long-loved Old Colorado City shop.
That's three community treasures, announcing they'd be packing up shop within five weeks. I felt borderline morose, and I wasn't alone; on Sunday, Lofty's last day in business, Josh told the Indy that it was "like a funeral procession all day, with people coming by to pay respects."
Here at the Indy, we've followed Lofty's since its early days. The café's opening marked Kennard's return to the scene after exiting Rubbish Gallery a couple years before. We reported on its opening, then tagged along as artist Jonas McCluggage spent months hunched over a dark wood table in the café while creating The Lofty's Comic ("Graphic novelty," March 3, 2011).
Over the years, Lofty's grew into not only a community hangout and a live music venue for the likes of Joe Johnson, Mike Clark and Chauncy Crandall, but also housed regular meetings for Pikes Peak Writers and the Hear Here open mic poetry group.
(Lofty's also catered art openings for Sabi, the year-old eclectic lifestyle shop and gallery at Institute and Boulder streets. A July 3 post on its Facebook page announced that it, too, would be closing this month, which looked like a blow to shoppers and artists such as Phil Lear, Tylan Troyer and Marc Huebert — to say nothing of the hundreds of people who would attend their openings. As it turns out, the latest word is that Sabi will actually carry on.)
Then there was Swish, one of the quirky, warm and colorful stores that helps make the west side, the west side. During her final mid-July days, Shelley Laur sat on the floor of her shop, exhausted. Her plan had been to keep her sale running for another week, but the constant emotional outpouring from her customers — and giving back to them as she so naturally does — was taking its toll.
Swish almost doubled as a therapist's office. If you were having a shitty day, Shelley was the first to offer up a hug, and sometimes a glass of wine.
When you were feeling frustrated about how every pair of pants you tried on didn't fit, Shelley would run around grabbing everything she knew would make you look like a retro rock star — and whether or not you took a dress home with you, you'd always leave with an improved sense of self-esteem.
'A place ... for us'
It may be easy to blame a long-sluggish economy for these closures, and Josh in particular does point to the slow growth of the Lowell Development as a huge factor.
But as for Shelley, her brother-in-law had a stroke last year, and she's leaving the shop to help care for him. (The business is up for sale, and she hopes that someone will purchase it and carry on.)
Meanwhile, CC's decision to cut Adam Leech off came in spite of his business' success. "We were midway through our busiest month in 10 years," he says.
Whether local or tourist, punk musician or Palmer High student, Adam (a former Indy columnist) would welcome you to the Leechpit like a long-lost neighbor. He was often the first to support a community fundraiser, helped fashion designer Aaron Graves grow his skills and collection of works ("Runway project," Sept. 22, 2011), and rocked out annual Record Store Day in style. And over the years, the 'Pit itself became a place to lose yourself in stocked-to-the-brim piles of the intriguing and unusual.
Which is why, when I dropped by to chat last Friday during a final "estate sale"-type event, I was shocked at the change in atmosphere.
The building contained only a few piles of dusty albums, collectible toys, well-worn shoes and vintage odds-and-ends. Oh, and architects from Colorado College, roaming around and eyeballing the space.
Adam looked tired as he dickered with customers on bargain-basement prices. But he was emphatic about one thing: "The essence of the Leechpit has been tucked away safely," he said. "I'm sure there is a place in the world for us."
It was the kind of sentiment that, after all this bad news, I had longed to hear.
Yes, Adam, there is a place for you. And for Josh, who says he has some ideas percolating — perhaps with Olde World Bagels & Deli, which he co-owns with his dad. And for Shelley, as she starts a new chapter of her life.
I just hope all those places are here in the Springs.
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