Jonny Barber was long a fan of members of the beat generation — figures like Jack Kerouac who greatly influenced American culture in the postwar years. And when many of these figures came to the …
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Jonny Barber was long a fan of members of the beat generation — figures like Jack Kerouac who greatly influenced American culture in the postwar years. And when many of these figures came to the Denver area, they spent their time on Colfax.
“I love a good story, and Colfax is just an endless stream of history and stories that you can’t make up,” Barber said. “That is part of what inspired me to start the Colfax Avenue website and collecting things from the street’s past.”
Over the years, Barber’s collection of memorabilia, neon signs and historic photos grew so large that it spilled over from his basement, and he decided the best thing to do would be to share it with the world. In November 2017, he started the Colfax Museum in a small space at the Ed Moore Florist shop on East Colfax Avenue. But a recent change in landlords and the metro area’s increasing costs caused Barber to look for a new home.
What better place than West Colfax?
The museum is in the process of making a new home at 6851 W. Colfax Ave., which sits inside Lakewood’s 40 West Arts creative district, in a space previously used by the Pasternack Pawn Shop
“We’re really excited about the museum coming to 40 West Arts,” said Bill Marino, executive director of the Lakewood West Colfax Business Improvement District and board chair of 40 West Arts. “We’re going to work hard with Jonny to grow the museum and make it an iconic destination here on West Colfax.”
The museum’s relocation to the former pawn shop’s location is part of an effort by property owner Scott Pasternack to turn the building into Pasternack’s 40 West Arts Hub. The NEXT Gallery, which serves as an artist cooperative, moved to the building in late April 2017, and Pasternack is remodeling the building to house more gallery and studio space, as well as stages for live music and even a classic car or two.
“Denver is changing and it costs too much money to operate there,” Pasternack said. “Here in Lakewood, we want these kinds of creative businesses to come.”
Barber is still getting the museum off the ground at its new location and is so dedicated to the project that he’s opened up a temporary pawn shop selling some of his own collectibles in its future location to raise the necessary money to get things off the ground. The aim is to have the museum open by autumn.
The change in location for the museum is part of a long-running trend on Colfax — where there once were bright neon signs and thriving businesses, some parts of the avenue have taken significant hits over the years.
But things are changing.
“You see families spending time on Colfax now and that used to never be the case,” Barber said. “It’s a beautiful street with an amazing history, story and culture. I hope people who know it now will come to the museum and see it in a new way.”
For Marino and the organizations he works with, striving to bring West Colfax back to life, the relocation of the museum is affirmation that Lakewood’s most famous street is on the upswing.
“It’s a really exciting time to bring this kind of pop culture and historical facility to West Colfax,” Marino said. “This museum, just like Colfax, is quintessentially Colorado.”
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