Antiques shop owner calls it quits after Southgate Masonic lodge triples his rent

Owner: We barely survived Broadway reconstruction

DENVER - The owner of Packrat Antiques says he’s closing his shop because he can’t afford the huge rent increase his landlord is demanding.

Lloyd Parris has operated the antique store on the northeast corner of South Broadway and Iowa in Denver for 38 years. 

He sells everything from swords to guns dating back to the Civil War to trinkets from Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show.

"Things like this glass ball," Parris said, while pointing to a blue orb three inches in diameter. "Annie Oakley paid kids to stuff the glass with feathers. And during the show, kids would throw them up and she would shoot 'em and the feathers would fly all around."

Now, Parris and his daughter, Sherri Miller, are packing up his antiques and getting ready to move because the Southgate Masonic Building Association is tripling his rent.

"Tripling," he said. "I can't afford triple rent."

Miller is heartbroken.

"My dad put everything into this place," she said. "This is his second home, his home away from home. They're taking my dad's livelihood away from him and that just kills me."

The head of the association told 7NEWS that they're raising the rent in order to save the building.

"None of us are professional (building managers)," said Chris Nielsen. "Financially, we're not making it."

Nielsen said the association, which purchased the building more than a hundred years ago, recently had to replace the boiler.

"Then a microburst came in and destroyed the roof," he said. "We had to paint the outside of the building and found that our income (from rent) was less than expenses."

Nielsen said they now have someone in the organization with professional experience managing real estate.

"We'd like to build up cash reserves for an emergency fund," he said, "so we can maintain the building."

He said the professional's suggestion was that they raise rent.

It's a hard pill to swallow for Parris, whose business tapered off during the lengthy reconstruction of South Broadway.

"It took them so long to do the road that a lot of people forgot about antiques," he said. "Now, with nearby pot shops, customers can't find a parking spot."

Parris says some customers don't want to walk by the people standing in line outside a nearby dispensary.

His friend, Foxy Hawpe, who owned and operated Foxy's Antiques before retiring, believes the Southgate Masonic Building Association is trying to push Parris out so they can rent to another marijuana related business.

"It's no longer Broadway. It's Pot Way," she said, referring to a ten block stretch of South Broadway between Mississippi and Evans, which contains 11 dispensaries.

But Nielsen said that is not the case.

"We wouldn't rent to a marijuana business, liquor store or bar," he said. "That's against our principals."

Denver District 7 City Councilman Chris Nevitt says there's no way a marijuana business would be allowed in the building. 

"It’s impossible," he said. "They can't be within a thousand feet of each other."

Nevitt notes that there is already a dispensary just a few doors north of Packrats.

Parris says he understands the association's position, but adds that they didn't handle it very well.

"They just brought the paperwork in and said, 'Here it is.' I said, 'What is this?' He said, 'Well you read it over and then you'll know.'"

Parris was flabbergasted when he read it.

He says that when he initially tried to contact the association, no one would talk to him.

The association’s Facebook page contains a note with the definition of a Mason that says in part: "A Mason is a man who is clean inside and outside, who neither looks up to the rich nor down on the poor, who can give without complaining, and who can prosper without bragging, and who is considerate of women, children and old people."

Parris says they haven't been very considerate of him.

"They told me to pay the rent or be out in 30 days," the 77 year old said. "Now, they're giving me 60 days."

"We were willing to negotiate," Nielsen said. "We hate to see him leave. We hate to see anyone leave."

Nielsen said the other tenants in the building will likely face rent increases when their lease agreements expire.

"They’ve signed agreements," he said. "Lloyd was on a month to month. That's why his was the first to increase."

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