IN THE NEWS: The Denver Post

The Wizard's Chest bringing some magic to once sleepy Broadway block | New 18,000-square-foot store one of handful of new retailers bringing energy to the 400 block of Broadway

By Emilie Rusch
The Denver Post

As  Denver's Sports Castle prepares to close, a castle of another sort is readying for its grand opening a little farther down Broadway.  The Wizard's Chest, the Denver costume and game store whose whimsical castle storefront was a Cherry Creek fixture for years, is putting the finishing touches on its new location at 451 Broadway, in the Baker neighborhood. 

Turrets, battlements and shields dreamed up by artist Lonnie Hanzon and his team now top the one-story brick building; the neutral palette of former tenant Eron Johnson Antiques has been painted over in bright burgundy and purple. 

The 18,000-square-foot costume and game emporium has been open since early December; the Cherry Creek location permanently raised its drawbridge at the end of the year. A grand opening is planned for 6 p.m. March 5, co-owner Kevin Pohle said. 

"If you looked at this neighborhood even six months ago, it was Meininger's, dead spot, then the 7-Eleven and South Broadway," Pohle said. "It was this weird dead spot, and it concerned me."

"But," he added, "it's not going to be for long." 

The Wizard's Chest's move to Broadway isn't the only recent change to the once-sleepy stretch north of the booming restaurant and nightlife scene along South Broadway.

Across the street, Denver-based Van West Partners is almost done transforming a vacant 8,500-square-foot Family Dollar store into a collection of small local restaurants and retailers.

Fat Jack's Subs is open in one of the four new storefronts, as is upscale liquor store  Baker Wine & Spirits next door. 

Korean BBQ restaurant  Dae Gee and  Luke & Co., a high-end pet supply and outfitter, will round out the strip when they open starting in the second quarter, Van West principal Wade Buxton said.

An interior view of the Wizard's Chest at its new home on Broadway. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

Banded Oak Brewing also has signed on to move into the small gray building on the north side of the old Family Dollar property's parking lot. 

"The 400-500 block of Broadway needed activation and interaction with the streetscape, and the transformation from a year ago is spectacular," Buxton said. "We are proud to be a part of it." 

Marty Lavine, president of the Baker Broadway Merchants Association, said there really aren't many empty storefronts in the area anymore, and those that remain likely will be under contract soon. 

"All of a sudden there's restaurants and now the Wizard's Chest is a huge anchor — it's like the end of a mall almost," Lavine said. "That end of the street is picking up."

Things could change even more with whatever emerges from the recent sale of the  El Diablo building a few blocks to the south, he said. Also known as the First and Broadway Building, the historic landmark has been vacant for years following a feud between the previous owner and the city. 

A boutique hotel is one concept being considered by the new owner, according to conversations the two have had, Lavine said. 

"Everything could change depending on what happens with El Diablo," he said. 

The entranceway at the Wizard's Chest at its new home on Broadway. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

The new owner,  Digital Cowboy LLC, is an entity registered to Jeff Oberg, who also owns Denver-based REA Development Corp. and SilveRino, an LLC that owns property in the River North neighborhood, according to state business records. 

Oberg did not return a call for comment. 

For  The Wizard's Chest, the new Broadway location means double the square footage in a much higher-traffic area, Pohle said. 

The parking situation isn't all that different from Cherry Creek, although the store is working with neighbor Fentress Architects to use its parking lot on weeknights and weekends, he said. 

Arca Properties, Wizard's Chest's original owner and the store's landlord in Cherry Creek, owns the shop's new home on Broadway.

In the new two-level store, costumes fill the majority of the first level. The space is decorated with faux tree branches and medieval banners to evoke a castle courtyard. 

Down the central staircase — or ramp lined with hedge-maze murals — are games, science kits and other toys. Gaming rooms for after-hours events line one side of the downstairs space, where faux stonework calls to mind the subterranean levels of a castle. 

Hanzon and his team are behind the spirited interior and exterior artwork and decor, as was the case at the old location.

This time around, though, the store's signature castle facade is more than just a decorative feature, Pohle said. 

"Here, it's necessary," he said. Broadway drivers are "going fast by you. We need to catch their attention." 

Emilie Rusch: 303-954-2457, or@emilierusch