Creator of ink! Coffee’s gentrification ad says sign was ‘callous, naive and uninformed’

A Denver ad agency is in hot water after not understanding that its neighbors would not enjoy an ink! Coffee advertisement making light of gentrification.
3 min. read
The aftermath of Ink! Coffee’s signage snafu. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; gentrification; rino; five points; ink coffe; kevinjbeaty; denverite;

The aftermath of Ink! Coffee's signage snafu. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A Denver ad agency is in hot water after somehow not understanding that many of its neighbors would not enjoy an ink! Coffee advertisement making light of gentrification.

Cultivator Advertising & Design Inc. took to Facebook on Thursday to apologize for the campaign it created for ink!, calling the ad "callous, naive and uninformed." The founder of the coffee shop, located in the historically black neighborhood of Five Points, also apologized.

The apologies come amid protests and criticism from residents. More than 500 people indicated on Facebook that would attend a protest of ink! on Saturday afternoon. The coffee shop at 2851 Larimer St. is expected to remain closed through the weekend. The company has 14 other locations in the metro area and one in Aspen where it was founded.

The now-removed ad on a sandwich board sign in front of ink! read on one side, "Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014." And on the other, "Nothing says gentrification like being able to order a cortado."

The messages were meant to be a "cynical perspective on the rapid development of our RiNo District neighborhood," Cultivator posted online.

"What we quickly and painfully realized, however, is that we uncovered an enormous blind spot on the true meaning of gentrification and its most legitimate and honest interpretation," the company wrote.

Gentrification — the process of redeveloping or changing an area with a focus on improvement — is a complicated issue that causes many residents to raise concerns about displacement, class and race. The founder of ink!, Keith Herbert, says he's doing a bit of learning about that right now, himself.

"When our advertising firm presented this campaign to us, I interpreted it as taking pride in being part of a dynamic, evolving community that is inclusive of people of all races, ethnicities, religions and gender identities," Herbert wrote Thursday on the coffee shop's Facebook page.

"I recognize now that we had a blind spot to other legitimate interpretations. I sincerely apologize – absolutely and unequivocally," he said.

Here's how some people are responding:

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at [email protected] or

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