Olde Town Arvada: A Hip Hotspot

Olde Town Arvada, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has become a hip hotspot. Located some 20 minutes from Denver, Olde Town Arvada is the next “really cool place,” says Scott Spears, owner of Scrumptious, Olde Town’s funky micro-creamery and candy shop.

Scrumptious is one of the many shops and restaurants lining Grandview Avenue that makes Olde Town a quirky hangout. With a cool retro vibe backed by deep-rooted history, it’s no wonder Olde Town was nominated as one of the top 10 places for the 2011 People’s Choice Live Work Play award, given by the Denver Regional Council of Governments. Many compare Olde Town Arvada to the trendy and popular Highlands neighborhood in Denver.

Hometown pride and a love for Arvada’s small town center stirred many locals, as well as the Historic Olde Town Arvada Association, to breathe new life into the community over the last decade.

The association, in 2002, was designated to participate in the Main Street Program, which focuses on economic revitalization and historical preservation of older communities like Olde Town.

“All of the efforts to beautify the town have created storefronts with new facades, wide pedestrian sidewalks, streets lined with trees and old-fashioned street lamps,” says association president Karen Miller.

Arvada’s history began in the 1850s when miners were making their way across America seeking their fortunes in gold. They dug canals and panned for ore where Ralston Creek and Clear Creek merged (near the site of Olde Town). Although not enough precious metal was found to make a living, the canals would prove to be critical in establishing the real gold of the area: farming.

With the Colorado Central railroad bringing in potential residents and a request for a U.S. Post Office, leading citizen Benjamin Wadsworth and friend Louis Reno officially established Arvada in 1870.

The town grew as a farming community, especially through WWI. Then farming made way for a more modern town setting, with shops, restaurants, a library, a movie theater and other attractions (which still include the local farmers market).
Today, Olde Town has become a local hangout. Whether for date night, family outings or meeting up with friends, there’s a little something for everyone in an area that is still largely comprised of individually owned shops in historic buildings.

“Customers and visitors feel the welcoming atmosphere of the shops and the friendliness of the owners and employees,” Miller says. “What we hear most from people is that they like to come to Olde Town because everyone is so nice here.”

The friendly atmosphere and a strong community foundation spur many Olde Town locals and visitors to become “regulars” at the local businesses to help support and preserve what Olde Town has become, Miller says.

Another reason for Olde Town’s popularity is signature events, which include anything from festivals and food fairs to art walks and shopping sprees. Most are free, and all of them are put on by the locals and Arvada business owners.

Some of the most popular are the Chocolate Affair and the Festival of Scarecrows, plus Flicks in the Square and the farmers market in the summer, and Lagniappe (when merchants give a little something extra with each purchase) in December.

Olde Town even has gift cards that are good at more than 30 local businesses (including Scrumptious, D Note, Archive Room and the Festival Playhouse), encouraging a town unity with an emphasis on having an overall experience, rather than visiting just one business.

Monica DeGraff, co-owner of the Olde Town restaurant/music venue, the D Note, touches on this idea that businesses in Olde Town aren’t in it just for themselves, but want to bind together. “The D Note most definitely is part of the local community,” she says. “We take every opportunity to support our neighbors.”

If You Go

For more information about Olde Town Arvada, its businesses and upcoming events, visit www.oldetownarvada.org.