OFC’s featured local LGBT
entrepreneurs in Colorado
April 4, 2012 | 12:00 am
(Updated: June 2, 2012 | 5:54 pm)
Main story: LGBT entrepreneurs overcome adversity.
Entrepreneurship is strong in the LGBT community – in 2011 there were an estimated 1.4 million LGBT-owned businesses in the U.S., according to a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Community Marketing Inc.
The data is rough since it’s notoriously difficult to track how many Americans identify as LGBT in the first place, but the point is clear: there are a lot of LGBT people out there running their own shop.
On our 36th Anniversary, Out Front Colorado celebrates our local LGBT entrepreneurs:
Terry L. Brewick, D.D.S. – Governor’s Park Dental Group
Opened in 1983
Terry L. Brewick, D.D.S., was a pioneer during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s when dentists would often refuse to treat HIV-positive patients.
At his practice, Governor’s Park Dental Group, which he founded in 1983, Brewick “never refused someone for having HIV or having AIDS,” he said.
Brewick helped found Howard Dental Center, which specializes in providing dentistry to immunod eficient patients. “The grants were written in my home,” Brewick said.
“It was fear that motivated them – dentists were afraid. But it’s just unconscionable to not treat everyone.”
Fortunately, that’s not much of an issue anymore. Brewick said continuing education is important in his field, and he keeps abreast of the latest technology and information that meets his standards of care.
But as for running his business, Brewick said being in the LGBT community doesn’t change anything.
“You have to pay attention not only to aesthetic issues but functional issues. I don’t think with regard to dentistry there’s a difference. I think all patients need to be treated with equal respect and consideration.”
“When I got together with my partner eight years ago, I said – we’re not better than anyone else, or worse than anyone else,” Brewick said.
Gov. Park Dental
700 East 9th Ave. 102
Timothy Leon and D.J. McDermott – Timothy D’s-A Salon
Opened in 1992
It was 20 years ago, after being cruelly gay-bashed, that Timothy Leon decided to be more involved in the gay community and open his new business, Timothy D’s-A Salon in Washington Park, partner D.J. McDermott (pictured at right) said.
For nearly as long, McDermott has been Leon’s partner and co-owner working in the salon.
“In our industry we have a chance to educate the community on our lives and our style,” McDermott said. “The power of the beauty industry is making people feel good. We’re breaking down barriers, in a roundabout way.”
The gay-owned business has lent itself to an open expression, McDermott said.
“Being in the gay community helps keep the artistic freedom. A lot of times we’re in other organizations that try to keep you in a box. But there’s a freedom when you declare your sexuality.”
McDermott said customers of every sexual orientation have been loyal, because of the comfortable ambiance – free of judgment. He said that for years, Timothy D’s had a local drag queen perform at the salon as a dress-rehearsal before big shows.
Timothy D’s used to style ‘The Dead Sinatras,’ a drag king group that sang Frank Sinatra covers.
“You get a salon full of gay people and the energy’s fun; it’s relaxed,” McDermott said.
And McDermott and Leon, celebrating almost two decades as a family, have been mentors and symbols of possibility to a younger generation of ambitious LGBT people, from customers to employees. They’ve adopted two daughters, age 15 and 12.
Naturally, Timothy D’s-A Salon serves more than LGBT customers, and not all of them are gay-friendly.
“You have to be prepared for narrow-mindedness,” McDermott said. And “you have to know when to be professional and when you don’t have to be.”
Still, there’s a certain flair and creativity in McDermott’s work that comes much more easily in a gay-owned business.
“I can do anything from normal to fantasy,” McDermott said of the range of styles he offers. “And I can beat some hair!”
Timothy D’s-A Salon
5500 E. Yale Ave. Suite 400
Nadia Lopez – Admiration Auto Body
Opened in 2007
“I don’t know if I’ve ever even met another gay person in this industry,” said Nadia Lopez, who for five years has owned and operated an auto body shop in Aurora.
But that didn’t dissuade Lopez, who purchased G&F Auto in Aurora in 2007, re-naming it Admiration Auto Body.
“I got tired of working for other people,” Lopez said. “I wanted to change that aspect of my life.”
In an industry dominated by men – mostly Caucasian, Lopez added – it’s not common to see a Latina woman running her own business.
“I find that most people coming in say, ‘wow, you can tell this place is owned by a woman,’ because it’s more welcoming and it’s clean,” Lopez said.
Lopez said she used to wonder if her sexual orientation got in the way of success.
“I think I (once) often used that as an excuse, thinking, maybe I’m not as successful because of that. I had to dance around my sexuality at work because I work with men.”
But Lopez said she’s shifted focus.
“If I run my business right, if anyone ever didn’t want to do business with me because of my sexuality, that’s on them,” Lopez said.
Lopez said her business has grown through referrals and word-of-mouth, and part of that meant getting customers through those she knew: the LGBT community.
“I’ve never marketed to LGBT customers,” Lopez said, “but it definitely helps. I think any small business owner would admit that any business helps.”
Admiration Auto Body
11893 E. 14th Ave.
Christopher Leach – Contract Furnishings Inc.
Opened in 2002
The success of Contract Furnishings Inc. – a company that consults, provides and delivers sets of furniture for offices – is driven by relationships.
“It helps to be active with nonprofits, and the Denver Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce as well,” said Christopher Leach, who bought Contract Furnishings in whole two years ago after owning and running the Denver branch for years and working in the company for longer.
Leach’s business partner started the company in Kansas City in 2002, and asked Leach to open the Denver branch.
“I wanted to be home more often,” Leach said, so starting his own organization sounded good.
Leach isn’t shy about his sexual orientation – and doesn’t worry about what other people think of it – even in the “pretty conservative, traditional white industry” he works in.
“I don’t really think in terms of working in a ‘safe environment’ because I’ve always been out,” Leach said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m gay.”
Contract Furnishings Inc.
3115 E. 40th Ave.
Cadee Harris – Emerald City Eyebrows
Opened in November, 2011
“It takes a strong person to open your own business – and we’re strong people in our
community,” said Cadee Harris, an aesthetician who just five months ago opened her own Denver beauty shop, Emerald City Eyebrows at 70 W. 11th Ave in Capitol Hill.
The shop provides services from eyebrow design and facials to body waxing, and it’s a one-woman-show.
The work “feels very personal and 1-on-1, and I love that,” Harris said. “Being able to work at your own pace and be your own boss is awesome.”
Harris said she understands some of the reasons why launching a small business is
appealing to people in the LGBT community. Individuality, and wanting to have something that speaks to who you are, are big factors, Harris said – not to mention difficulties that can come up working for somebody else.
“I worked at two places before this, when I was coming out, and I was very concerned about the employers and their conservative beliefs, and the clientele.”
Harris said she loves her clients – respectful, down-to-earth people – and the community has been “incredibly supportive” of her ambitions, boosting her growing clientele through word-of-mouth.
At a beauty shop, many the male customers are gay, and some might prefer being waxed or plucked by someone who’s family.
“I’ve been told by some of my clients they just kind of assumed I was (too),” Harris said.
But don’t get the idea it’s only lesbians and gay men who visit.
“You’d be surprised;” Harris said with a laugh, “there are some heterosexual (guys) out there who care about their grooming.”
Emerald City Eyebrows
70 W. 11th Ave.
This list continues here.
(Pictured: Alex Degelman, founder, owner of The Interior Design Company, owner of There Urban Whiskey Bar.)
OFC’s 36th Anniversary Feature on local LGBT entrepreneurs is in three parts:
Main story: LGBT entrepreneurs overcome adversity.
Page 2: Featured local LGBT entrepreneurs (you are on this page).