The Underground Music Showcase returns to South Broadway this weekend. A huge line-up of acts will take over the neighborhood, which will likely encourage a resurgence of crowds. The energy last year was a little more chill than usual, as Denver slowly emerged from COVID stasis. People who make their livings on music were still getting back on their feet in 2021.
But business owners who don’t deal in food, booze or tunes are not necessarily expecting big cashflow this weekend. Still, they’re excited for the spectacle, and maybe the chance to hook some repeat customers.
Listen to some UMS tunes to get you through the news:
“We might get a little bit more revenue, but not by much.”
Brooke Jacobsen is in charge of product displays at Decade Gifts, which will be right in the middle of the UMS party. She said business in general has picked up in the last year or so, but the store’s bottom line is still feeling customers’ COVID-era behavior shifts.
“We do see a good amount of people over the weekends. We do make up for what we lost in the pandemic, but we’re still not fully back to what we used to make,” she said. “I don’t know if the people from the music festival will be buying anything. We’re just trying to make it welcoming for everybody.”
Jacobsen said they’ve been ordering extra music-themed products, which they’ll move to the front of the store for the weekend. Maybe someone will buy some Jimi Hendrix socks.
It’s been a rough few years for Broadway, a place where economic survival has always been tenuous. When business owners were boarding up windows during the depths of 2020, some told us they didn’t expect every store to make it through the next few years.
One was Erika Righter, who ran the socially conscious gift shop, Hope Tank. Righter announced late last year that she couldn’t keep up with high rents in the area and was moving her business elsewhere.
Another was Alicia Cardenas, founder of Sol Tribe Tattoo, who was killed by a right-wing extremist in a murder spree just a few weeks after Righter said she was closing. While Sol Tribe is still open, Cardenas’ absence is one of many indicators that things on this stretch of Broadway have changed significantly in the last few years.
During our survey of area businesses last year, we also spoke to Amber Corcoran, co-owner of Fancy Tiger Crafts, who has also left the neighborhood. Christina Patzman, who now is a part owner of the business, told us Corcoran and her partner decided to move on to other ventures and sold Fancy Tiger to its employees, making it a co-op.
While Patzman said she’s also not expecting much business from UMS attendees, she is down to do some people-watching through the window.
“I don’t have high expectations because, yeah, their brains are elsewhere. They’re in party mode,” she said. “People are like, ‘Ehh, fabric and yarn?'”
Goodwill, at least, is expecting some blockbuster sales. The crowds may bring some less concrete benefits, too.
While Angel Macauley, who owns the Femme Fatale intimates and swimsuit shop, also said the music lovers won’t buy much lingerie this weekend, she expects her brand will stick in the minds of people who wander in.
“I would like that. I think that would be ideal, if what I could do is networking instead of selling. It’s not really a big sales day for me. But yeah, they’ll come back,” she said. “People don’t want to walk around with bags.”
Femme Fatale was one of the economic outliers of this block during COVID. As her neighbors had to get creative to stay afloat, she said lots of people were still seeking out her wares.
“Yeah,” she told us, “everyone was just staying in and having sex!”
Things have been so good that she’s considering a new outpost in Golden to serve customers who otherwise drive downhill to shop with her. Still, she has no plans to leave her current location.
“Broadway’s awesome. We love Broadway. Broadway’s done us really nice,” she said. “I’ll be here long-term.”
And a block south, the giant Goodwill thrift store, which hosts the UMS’ main stage, is bracing for a lot of business. Store manager Patti Martin said they’ve been saving up the right kind of merch for a month, which they’ll place front-and-center to capture some impulse buys as people wander through their parking lot.
“We put clothing out there. We put rock-and-roll t-shirts. We put that hippie style. Musical things like that,” she said. “They can get a guitar to take home. They can get drums. Stands for their music.”
Goodwill has been on this block for decades. Martin said the neighborhood has transformed so much in that time, but one thing has been a constant: loyal customers, whether they’re on the block for a festival or a more normal weekend.
“It has changed. Pricing has changed, the economy has changed. But we have such great people who donate all the time,” she said. “They keep us going.”