ink! Coffee’s ‘happily gentrifying’ ad sparks broader conversation about Denver changing

What started as anger over an ink! Coffee advertisement making light of gentrification boiled over Saturday.

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The protest spilled into the street. A rally against Ink! Coffee in Five Points, Nov. 25, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado; ink coffee; five points; rino; gentrification; protest;

The protest spilled into the street during a rally against ink! Coffee in Five Points, Nov. 25, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

What started as anger over an ink! Coffee advertisement making light of gentrification boiled over Saturday to a larger conversation about how development is changing neighborhoods throughout Denver.

Scores of people gathered Saturday afternoon outside ink! Coffee’s location in the River North section of Five Points to talk about displacement and other issues that tend to follow new businesses and residents coming into historically diverse, working-class neighborhoods. The demonstration comes after ink! placed a sign out front Wednesday that read “Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014.”

Varcy Jackson grew up in the area and said he is not against the neighborhood improving and redeveloping.

“But when you start to push people out, that’s a problem,” Jackson said.

ink! replaced the thrift shop Cash From Clutter at 2851 Larimer St. The coffee company has 14 other locations in the metro area and one in Aspen where it was founded.

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Tay Aderson, who recently lost a bid for the District 4 seat on the Denver School Board, organized the demonstration Saturday, gathering somewhere between 150 to 200 people. Anderson told the crowd that he will work with folks from Ditch the Ditch and other community organizations to form a coalition aimed at addressing gentrification issues in the city and identifying new candidates to run for Denver City Council.

Tony Pigford, dean of students at The Boys School of Denver, said the sign at ink! was a “clear reminder of how far we are from having an equitable, vibrant and just Mile High City.”

“What will be different after we move past this moment?” Pigford asked the crowd. “As the inevitable change and rapid growth continues here in Denver, will it be a place that remains accessible to people of all racial and socio-economic backgrounds?”

“It’s time for us to come together collectively and answer these questions,” he said.

The founder of ink! as well as the ad firm that created the controversial ad both publicly apologized this week, saying they had a “blind spot” to the full meaning of gentrification. The coffee shop in Five Points was vandalized and spray painted this week. It is expected to remain closed until Monday morning.

City Council President Albus Brooks represents the area and posted on Facebook on Friday that he hopes the community stays “committed to positivity and highlighting community assets rather than destruction.” Brooks also suggested ink! staff members go through “cultural competency training” and that the coffee chain finds a way to invest in the community.

This article has been updated to include the current title of Tony Pigford. Pigford is the dean of students at The Boys School of Denver.

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