Michael Velez had been a downtown retailer for 20 years, but last month he relocated Velez Gallery to Old Colorado City.
The move was necessitated by what he believes is a changing retail environment in the downtown area.
“I think downtown is a great place for night life, but people aren’t looking for window shopping,” said Velez, who first opened his shop on East Bijou Street during 1989 and moved to Tejon 12 years later. “Five years ago, we had retailers lining Tejon Street from Boulder Street to Colorado Avenue. Now, if you look down Tejon, there are seven or eight vacancies along that stretch.”
Velez began his retail career by selling his own woodwork and paintings by his brother Andrew Velez. Slowly, he gathered work from other artists and began building a defined theme.
“Most people don’t understand what Native American means,” he said. “They think of natives of the United States. But America is a continent. We try to educate the public about indigenous peoples and we have a lot of stuff, including jewelry, carvings and paintings from places like Ecuador, Peru, Canada, Mexico and Panama. Our concept here is to offer items from the Amazon to the Arctic. Native Americans shouldn’t be classified as just from the U.S.”
Sales at the Tejon location were great for years, but just saw a downturn in recent years.
“Downtown, during the day, we didn’t do much business,” he said. “My best time was between 5 and 9 p.m. and I’m ready to go home at 6.”
The new gallery at 2508 W. Colorado Ave. has been open two weeks and Velez is already happy about the decision to relocate.
“I think we’re going to do very well at the new location,” he said. “I have a good feeling, even though the economy is slow. I’m getting four times as many walk-ins here …. Some people even come in and tell us they thought we were a new business. They never saw us downtown.”
The gallery is slightly larger than its Tejon Street predecessor and Velez renovated the space with new walls, floors and carpet.
“Most of the renovation cost was in labor, and I had my family help me with that,” he said. “We recycled a lot of the old wood, too.”
Manitou Springs hosts the summer Midweek Farmer’s Market from 4 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday through August 26 at Soda Springs Park
Shoppers this year can buy African market baskets at the venue and are encouraged to use them as an earth-friendly way to shop. Wine, dairy, bread and coffee vendors will mix with urban farmers and clothing and accessories retailers.
The market will feature musical entertainment by local artists and end with a Chili Cooking competition on Aug. 26.
Americans are expected to spend an average of $90.89 on gifts for dad this Father’s Day, a slight decline from $94.54 last year, according the National Retail Federation’s Father’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.
People will spend the most on a special outing, like a sporting event or dinner, but apparel, such as socks, slacks and ties still rank high among gift givers. Other favorites were gift cards, electronics, books, home improvement items and sporting goods.
The report indicated that discount retailers and department stores will benefit most from consumer spending nationwide.
Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.