Gentrification is no laughing matter, as a Denver coffee shop is finding out after trying to make light of it on one of their signs, only to be met by outrage and protests, reports The Guardian. The store in question was a location of the Colorado coffeehouse chain ink!
The ink! chain has 15 locations in Denver, but perhaps the location played a role in the anger. The store in question is located in the Five Points neighborhood, an area traditionally known as a home for artists and people of color that has been steadily becoming more white and middle-to-upper-class, due to gentrification. Last Wednesday, the store put a sign on its sandwich board that read: “Happily Gentrifying The Neighborhood Since 2014.” While the store closed the following day for the Thanksgiving holiday, people wanted answers.
“At first I thought, ‘No way that’s real,’” said Ru Johnson, an event producer who works in the hip-hop industry. “And when I found out it was I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ To make wanton jokes about gentrification is just totally uncalled for and disrespectful to the people who still live here. This city, and particularly this neighborhood, was made cool by the artists. Before that, this wasn’t a place that people could hang out, and certainly not a place where a coffeeshop chain would move in.”
Katie Leonard, a Denver native just returned after graduating from Harvard with a degree in African-American studies, said the sign “really felt like a fork in my side. This is a historically black neighborhood. Five Points was known as the Harlem of the West.
“Coming home after four years of being in college, it’s unreal to see the changes that have happened in a short time.”
While not responding to requests to comment, ink! did make a comment on its Facebook page apologizing for the sign. “Hmmm. We clearly drank too much of our own product and lost sight of what makes our community great.
“We sincerely apologize for our street sign. Our (bad) joke was never meant to offend our vibrant and diverse community. We should know better. We hope you will forgive us.” With people losing their homes and neighborhoods losing their identities behind gentrification, it remains to be seen if the Five Points neighborhood will be so forgiving.