Denver entrepreneur opens community marketplace for small businesses in RiNo

Businessman and environmentalist Jevon Taylor is part of a coalition working to green up Denver’s Five Points neighborhood by adding trees, plants and open spaces. Now, he’s nurturing entrepreneurs and artists with a new marketplace aimed at growing local businesses.

Taylor opened Green Spaces Market in April in the River North Art District section of Five Points to serve as a kind of springboard for small businesses in the area. He bought the Green Spaces coworking business and building a block down from his former clothing store in 2021 and turned part of the 13,000-square-foot space into a marketplace and kind of business incubator.

“I want to make it more like a community hub rather than just a coworking space,” Taylor said.

As new stores and restaurants open in the growing business district and new apartment buildings go up, Taylor wants to ensure that local artists and business people have a place in the community.

“Due to affordability issues in the district and the city as a whole, it’s hard for small businesses to be prominent in shopping districts. I wanted to give them an opportunity, make Green Spaces a launching pad,” said Taylor, a member of the RiNo business improvement district board.

Some of the 11 vendors and five artists who have moved into the spot at 2590 Walnut St. were featured at Taylor’s former apparel store, False Ego.

Taylor said the businesses sell everything from exotic snacks to flowers, plants, candles, jewelry, colognes and clothes. Many of them stress using environmentally sustainable materials and practices. The building uses solar energy.

When fully leased, the market will house 20 vendors. A coffee shop and bar are scheduled to open in June.

“This has allowed me to do what I was already doing and gives me a lot more square footage to get all my ideas out,” Taylor said.

“Green Spaces is an incredible resource in our community that expands opportunities and raises visibility for small businesses, nonprofit organizations and local artists in the District,” Charity Von Guinness, executive director of RiNo Art District, said in a statement.

Kimberlee Ward sold some of her handmade candles at Taylor’s former store. “It gave me the confidence to be here and create community in a space where small businesses have kind of been pushed out,” she said.

Ward began Eternal Balance Candle Co. in 2019. To deal with depression, she began meditating and used candles to “deepen the practice” and turned it into a business after deciding to leave her job in higher education.

“All my candles are made from soy wax, which is biodegradable,” Ward said. “I use lead-free cotton wicks.”

Ward said her fragrance oils don’t contain certain preservatives or chemicals that have had negative health effects in some clinical trials. Her fragrance names include Royalty (amber and lavender) and Tranquility (eucalyptus, bergamot and tea tree).

Not far from Ward’s space is one leased by Anthony Tori, whose business Theo and Amelia, uses scents to tell the story of his travels. A cologne called Uzzano includes bergamot, orange and grapefruit in a scent that evokes for Tori the northern Italian village where his grandfather grew up and tended to citrus crops.

“Travel is a really big part of my life. I started making scents to help remember where I’d gone,” Tori said.

After selling his products online, Tori wanted to open a shop. He said Green Spaces is affordable while giving him a chance to be around other entrepreneurs.

Rachel Kois started Simple Switch four years ago in an effort to provide alternatives to shopping on Amazon. Her offerings range from food to clothing, household goods and fitness products. People can shop based on their social and environmental concerns. The product display at Green Spaces marks the company’s first physical location.

“For us, this space is kind of a way for people to touch and feel products and get an idea of what we do,” Kois said.

Being at Green Spaces also gives Kois a place to host events with partners. And she said she supports “the mission that Jevon has.”

In a nearby section, Dalton Bidula has a display of the coats and hats he creates for his company Laaw Designs. The coats have interchangeable patches to give the clothes new looks.

Bidula, who started his design company about a year and a half ago, had been selling exclusively online. He said he met Taylor and “fell in love with the idea” of a community marketplace that is more economical for startups like his.

“With the high rents in RiNo, it just creates a hardship for a small business to enter the retail market here,” Bidula said.

Green Spaces is the third location for the business called It’s a Bodega, owned by KC Christian. The store specializes in exotic snacks imported from around the world.

“The focus is on brands that we have here in America but flavors that don’t exist in America,” Christian said.

An item not available in the neighborhood King Soopers or Safeway is Burger King Flame Grilled Whopper-flavored Doritos or potato chips that taste like chili-roasted chicken.

Christian’s favorite? “My personal favorite at the moment is probably going to be our Kobe beef Lays (potato chips).”

For sweets, there are Oreo double-stuffed cinnamon bun cookies and KitKat cheesecake candy bars.

Opening a location in Green Spaces is going full circle for Christian. He started his business about a block away.

“Jevon is a good friend of mine. He told me his idea, the thought behind the project. I figured it would be a perfect fit, being back in the neighborhood,” Christian said. “It gives us more exposure and allows us to be in the side of town that has some of the most foot traffic.

“And being among other small businesses, we can thrive off each other,” he added.

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