The Freemasons who own the South Broadway building that houses the popular punk clothier FashioNation and the martial arts studio Denver Aikido had a tough time during the pandemic, and the group is ready to sell.
The Platt Park building, at 15 E. Iowa Ave., was built in 1920, according to city records — a decade after South Gate Masonic Lodge #138 was chartered in 1910. The current owner is the South Gate Masonic Building Association.
The building sits next to one of Denver’s last independent clubs, Herman’s Hideaway, and a new mixed-use condo development. The Gate’s rubber factory redevelopment, which will increase density in the area, is rising not too far away.
The two-story, 19,000-square-foot building houses retail, an apartment and a Masonic Lodge with a historic pipe organ.
The property’s being advertised for $3.9 million and as a site for possible renovation, redevelopment or repositioning. But if realtor Joshua Cohen has his way, the building will sell to someone who will keep the current, loyal tenants.
Cohen was the person who got FashioNation into the space more than a decade ago, and he’d like to see the store stick around.
FashioNation, opened by Paul and Pam Italiano in 1987, is one of the hottest spots to buy Doc Martens and other punk wears. It’s been run by the Italiano family ever since.
Like many businesses, the store struggled through a 62-day shutdown early during the pandemic. To resuscitate it, the Italianos’ daughter brought the store’s brand to TikTok and attracted a new client base seeking “alt-clothing.”
While much of the South Broadway counterculture has disappeared, FashioNation stands out as a testament to the area’s grungier, punkier past.
FashioNation is in its infancy, compared to the Freemasons, whose organization dates back to the 1700s.
Recently, many of the group’s lodges have struggled to attract younger members and keep live events going through the pandemic.
“It’s kind of changed how they’re interacting and operating,” said Cohen, who is not a Mason. “I don’t think they need the building or that much space anymore. And so we’ve determined that it makes a lot of sense to sell the property and kind of reposition how they handle in-person get-togethers.”
While some fraternal organizations, including the Elks who run a popular lodge at 2475 W. 26th Ave., have adjusted to a changing world, the Masons are in the early phases of figuring out how to reinvent themselves.
“They want to become a modern-day men’s club, a modern-day networking-type club,” Cohen said. That means adapting. “I know some lodges have quite well, and some others, depending on where their membership is, depending on age and demographic, they’re hitting hurdles or walls they’ve got to navigate.”
The South Gate #138 Masons did not respond to Denverite’s request for comment.