Henrik Follin, owner of Scandinavian Antiques, 1760 S. Broadway, doesn't like the idea floated by owners of marijuana dispensaries on South Broadway to rebrand the street. "They can call it Green Mile or anything they want, but I'm totally against it," he said. Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

“Green Mile” marketing plan stirs pot on Denver’s Antique Row

There’s no mistaking the greenish hue on South Broadway. At least 17 marijuana stores do brisk business on the commercial strip in Denver.

But should Broadway embrace its cannabis culture through creation of a “Green Mile” business association and marketing campaign?

The question is dividing pot purveyors and owners of the long-standing antique stores that share the same stretches of Broadway.

Tempers flared at times earlier this week, when antique dealers showed up at an informational meeting hosted by the fledgling Green Mile on Broadway Association.

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Decades before pot shops opened, South Broadway was widely known as Denver’s Antique Row.

“We are not for rebranding ourselves as the Green Mile,” said Rachel Hoffman, senior operations manager of Turn of the Century Antiques, 1475 S. Broadway. “It’s exclusionary, and it would hurt our businesses.”

Backers of the Green Mile concept say it’s not their intention to be exclusionary. To the contrary, they’re hoping to enlist the support of pot and nonpot businesses alike to fund a major marketing campaign.

Colorado’s marijuana laws place strict controls on advertising, including prohibitions on billboards, vehicle-mounted signs and leaflets.

But Green Mile members — all of whom, so far, are owners of cannabis shops — propose to launch an ad campaign that would make no mention of marijuana. Rather, it would promote South Broadway as a diverse retail destination.

Founding member Tim Cullen, co-owner of Evergreen Apothecary, 1568 S. Broadway, hopes to raise $20,000 a month from South Broadway merchants to fund a promotional effort with local, national and even international reach.

Cullen said his group didn’t create the Green Mile moniker, but simply adopted the name that arose in recent years from the profusion of recreational and medical pot shops on Broadway.

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The Green Mile campaign might include advertising on billboards, in magazines and newspapers, and on taxi-mounted signs. All of that would be legal — provided there is no mention of marijuana or cannabis-related symbols, such as pot leaves.

Antique shop owners are wary. They’ve only recently recovered from more than two years of traffic and parking disruptions during a $37 million streetscaping effort on South Broadway.

“They can call it Green Mile or anything they want, but I’m totally against it,” said Henrik Follin, owner of Scandinavian Antiques, 1760 S. Broadway. “That crowd is not my crowd.”

Broadway has been a haven for antique shops for more than 35 years. The merchants formally coalesced in 1997 as the South Broadway Antique Row Association.

“The best-case scenario is that the efforts of the Green Mile group would be combined with the proactive efforts of the antique stores and everyone would win,” said Jon Schallert, a marketing consultant with Longmont-based The Schallert Group. “But that means that all the businesses in that strip of South Broadway will have to step it up and not just wait for people to wander in and find them.”

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Green Mile backer Morgan Carr, owner of the Wellspring Collective dispensary, 1724 S. Broadway, said he is surprised by the budding controversy.

“The whole thing’s kind of funny to us because we really just wanted to promote all of South Broadway,” he said. “We’re not trying to take over or cause any conflict with these guys. I think there may be some misguided angst from the Antique Row folks.”

If the Green Mile initiative raises marketing money and moves forward — not a certainty at this point — at least it needn’t worry about trademark-infringement claims from the Stephen King serial novel and subsequent movie of the same name.

Sabrina Stavish, a shareholder in the Denver intellectual property law firm Sheridan Ross, said there is a “reasonable assumption that people are not going to associate them” with the hit movie about a death-row inmate.

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948, sraabe@denverpost.com or twitter.com/steveraabedp

This story was first published on DenverPost.com