Designer toy shop Plastic Chapel closes its doors, but not its spirit

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Scribe's lowbrow poker dogs are seeking a new home.
When Dea Webb and Dave Wendt opened Plastic Chapel eight years ago in a literal hole in the wall in Baker, the designer toy emporium was not only a pioneer business in the neighborhood, but it also owned a retail niche that hadn't been explored much in Denver. They opened the chapel doors to make public the collectible vinyl toys they loved (and that Kidrobot popularized on the coasts), and even though the space was closet-sized, they also began to host gallery shows for lowbrow and graffiti artists.

See also:
- Best Toys for Grownups -- Living Room, 2006: Plastic Chapel
- Slide show: DIY Designer Toy Show at Plastic Chapel
- Task One creates designer toys based on television favorites for "As Seen On TV"

Business burgeoned, and they moved to East Colfax Avenue in 2007, when things were breaking out there, and settled in the same block as Tran Wills and the Fabric Lab. Wills introduced Second Saturday block parties on the retail stretch, and for a while, things were rocking for everyone. Plastic Chapel had some good years, hosting toy-trading parties and shows that featured local talent -- Scot Lefavor, Mike Graves, Markham Maes, Sandra Fettingis, Jason Thielke and John Fellows -- as well as national artists in the same vein.

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Brandan Styles
But then the party ended. Wills closed the Fabric Lab and eventually moved to RiNo, where she and husband Josh opened Super Ordinary Gallery, and the Second Saturday fervor seemed to move downtown with her. More recently, Kidrobot relocated its headquarters to Boulder and opened a store there; its influence cut into the success not only of Plastic Chapel's sales, but also its toy release and trading parties.

Business slowed and, sadly and quietly, Webb and Wendt closed the doors of the store at the end of last Sunday.

"I'm just glad we made it eight years, and we had a blast doing it," Wendt says. "We brought in some amazing out-of-state talent, like Scrbie ( Donald Ross), Julie West, Hannah Stouffer, Filth ( Lucas Irwin) and The Yok, just to name a few. We were happy to have introduced Denver and the surrounding cities to a new art form: designer/urban vinyl."

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There is a silver lining to the story: Wendt says they will build a stronger online presence with a virtual store, and will also continue to sell smaller stock, including plush toys and blind-box toys, at The Shoppe, their neighbor on Colfax for several years. And beginning next week, you'll also find Plastic Chapel reincarnated as a pop-up shop inside of Indyink on South Broadway. That, Wendt intimates, might grow into something bigger.

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"I'm sure Dea and I will come up with another business within the year," he says hopefully. "We just can't sit still, and we both love being involved in our community, especially in the arts. So whether it's another boutique, a gallery, both or something completely different -- keep an eye out. We'll be back!"

For more information, visit Plastic Chapel online.

To keep up with the Froyd's eye-view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.





Location Info

The Shoppe - CLOSED

3103 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Indy Ink

84 S. Broadway, Denver, CO

Category: General

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5 comments
plasticchapel
plasticchapel

* I will reiterate again, Dea and I are friends with Josh and Tran, and will always support, and help spread the word for any of their numerous ventures. But us closing our brick and mortar is really about one thing – the economy. When we opened 8 years ago, in that little hole in the wall, our business exploded, even as the country fell into another depression, although- no one would admit it. It wasn’t until we moved and expanded that we started to notice a drop in sales, and customers. We thought we could just wait it out, and hoped for the best. But while both of us work full time jobs and continued to maintain and run a small business, it started to really take it toll, and wear on us! All I know is people are fighting to pay for gas, food and lodging – toys, art and expendable purchases might soon be a thing of the past. To this I say, I hope not – I think art is an important part of our lives, it makes us think, it makes us happy, and above all it brings us together. Dea and I love this town, and believe in the amazing community of artists! Now that 3109 is gone, I know that our wonderful neighbors will continue to be successful, and we gladly pass the torch for future “Second Saturday” art openings. Thank you, that is all….

plasticchapel
plasticchapel

Thank you Susan - for the write up.  It seems as though there is a bit of contention due to some miscommunicated facts- my only constructive criticism would be the focus/ spotlight was unfortunately eclipsed, by someone whom had no bearing on our decision to close, and the implication (guessing this was not intentional) that East Colfax somehow failed once one business (FL) closed its doors, over 3 to 4 years ago.

…“Wills introduced Second Saturday block parties on the retail stretch, and for a while, things were rocking for everyone. Plastic Chapel had some good years…” *- Not quite - Dea actually came up with ”Second Saturdays” as to not detract or directly compete with other galleries/art walks.

... "But then the party ended. Wills closed the Fabric Lab and eventually moved to RiNo, where she and husband Josh opened Super Ordinary Gallery, and the Second Saturday fervor seemed to move downtown with her. " *- The "Fervor" was actually recently co-opted by Rino - and not necessarily by "Super Ordinary"- It was other long standing entities that originally made Rhino what it is.  We don’t own “2nd Saturdays” and never did, but all of us on East Colfax fought long and hard to establish it, and now others are enjoying that hard work, with little or no effort.

chickletjones
chickletjones

Dea Webb deserves a special shout out for her many years of participating in the Denver Art's movement.  From her first gallery 8oz. Fred on South Broadway which opened when it was a mere strip of dusty bookstores, vintage shops and dive bars, to the advent of Plastic Chapel with Dave Wendt, her involvement in our culture has obviously been pioneering, seeing what is becoming to not only Broadway, but also the little stretch of Colfax, Plastic Chapel is leaving.  One must note that Dea originated 2nd Saturdays, and along with the Shop & Fabric Lab started a movement that has grown into a much more organized event through out the city, for all those who fit into the DIY gallerists category from Sante Fe Dr.  to Rhino's new hip art hood cred.  Plastic Chapel will be missed, any one who knows Dea, knows she is not one to sit still too long.  Thanks for over 15 years of making Denver proud, and bringing people from all walks of life together.


Joseph_Mama
Joseph_Mama

Does the breast milk get stale after three years of sucking on Tran's tit? The Fabric lab was a financial disaster that died those same 3 years ago. Plastic Chapel beat it. Survived off of a very specific fan base. You should get out and explore more.

love, your Mom

susan.froyd
susan.froyd

@Joseph_Mama Well, Mom, to be honest, I loved Plastic Chapel and am really sorry to see it go, and I think I made clear all the reasons why it was a special place. I really didn't want to get mired in the politics of the block, which aren't my business, and not part of this story. To her credit, Tran did get the block rolling in the very beginning, so I mentioned it, but it wasn't my intention to make it look like no one else on the block could survive without her. Plastic Chapel stood on its own merit, and that's the story here, so shut yo mouth. 

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