For 10 years The Leechpit has provided Colorado College with funky party costumes, vinyl records, knick-knacks, and tschotchkes. But after all that time fueling CC culture, the small shop on Nevada Ave. is shutting its doors and looking for a new home.
Soon enough, The Leechpit will cease to exist.
Colorado College will end the store’s lease this coming summer and plans to use the existing 60-year-old gas station as an open space for student activities.
Robert Moore, Vice President for Finance and Administration at CC, said the building’s new use could be for “bands that want to practice there or students that want to schedule activities…Our view is that there aren’t enough spaces for students to have their own kind of activities where they want to design them.”
Leechpit owner Adam Leech sees otherwise.
“Why would they take back this 50- or 60-year-old gas station building in order for students to have a good time?” Leech said. “They just spent a 100 million bucks on an arts building. Did they not plan it out well enough that they need to use this tiny garage for student activities?”
Though he sees it as “a shame” that the lease had to end so soon, Leech was fully aware that the current location, right on the edge of campus, was a temporary one.
Quality Cleaners and Laundry, located on N. Tejon St., is the only business on The Leechpit’s block that is not owned by the college.
“I thought I’d be able to stay longer because they couldn’t develop the whole block until they bought out the cleaners,” he said.
In the midst of the Cleaners and The Leechpit is the school-owned Whitney Electric building, a potential spot for the student center instead of The Leechpit.
“Whitney Electric is the perfect place for bands to practice and as a community space,” Leech said. “I used to practice there all the time—and nothing is in there right now. And the school owns it.”
Leech continued, “It seems like the current administration didn’t even think it through. They’ve been trying to kick us out since the minute President Tiefenthaler took office… I feel like this whole ‘Year of Listening’ thing… they didn’t even ask. They didn’t ask students. They didn’t ask the community. They didn’t talk to me.”
Under the previous presidential administration, the interaction between Leech and the officials at CC was open and honest, according to Leech. Leech spoke with Chris Melcher, the Legal Counsel of CC, and suggested several ideas for the building after the lease was to be terminated.
“I proposed a live music venue or a community rec space or pub where students could hang out,” Leech said. “Thirdly, I proposed a community-based thrift store. A sort of altruistic business, not a money maker, where I’d take donations and sell stuff cheap to CC and to the community of downtown.”
Instead, Melcher suggested that through CC’s real estate associate, Griffis Blessing, a new location for The Leechpit could be found.
“If they found me a new spot, I’d be out tomorrow,” Leech said. “I don’t even have to start a new business. That’s perfect.”
Instead, the administration, according to Leech, put “two-cents” of effort into finding a new home for The Leechpit.
“They showed me three buildings that were completely inappropriate for what I do,” Leech said, “in addition to monthly visits from the landlord pressuring me to move out for no reason.”
Under former President Celeste’s administration, Leech said he “felt then that the administration understood the service that we provided the community, and that they saw the value in that. I thought they just wouldn’t try to brush us aside. I just kind of feel like that’s where we are now, just getting brushed aside.”
According to Leech, most of the members involved with the decision haven’t even visited The Leechpit. When Moore was asked as to whether he visited Leech’s store, he said he hadn’t.
Moore said that The Leechpit has “plumbing, electricity, and heat” for use in the new center. When Leech gave a tour of The Leechpit’s resources, it was clear that a complete overhaul would be necessary for the building to be functional as a student center.
“The Whitney Electric building would be way more appropriate,” Leech said.
The last building to be acquired by the school, the Conoco Gas Station, was torn down to create more parking space. Moore, however, sees the building as a much requested student-run space.
“I think it’s a constant message from students that they ask for a space for some purpose,” he said.
Though CC freshman Weston Sandfort “cannot see how any use of that space by Colorado College could somehow benefit [him] more than access to the Leech Pit,” he is still “quite interested to see how [he] could possibly benefit from any other use of that space.”
Moore disagrees, however.
“In our minds, the opportunity to use that for student activity space is the number one need,” Moore said. There is also the opportunity for the newly acquired building to become a student bar, though that process could take months, if not years, in liquor licensing.
But maybe what the whole city needs is a place like The Leechpit.
“The Leechpit and the CC community have had a mutually beneficial relationship for years,” Sandfort said.
In reference to The Leechpit’s influence on the student body, Moore said, “I haven’t tried to quantify that in my head or anything.”
Leech said, “It was always our goal to serve the CC kids. From day one I wanted to be as close to the college as possible.”
Leech was born and raised in a neighborhood two blocks off campus. He first started working and building his love for vinyl in 1994, at 15 years of age, when he was hired by Tunes Books and Music store. Leech dreamed of the day when he could acquire the former garage.
What was once a garage and was then Tunes Books and Music is now The Leechpit.
“Students have always been a huge part of the business,” Leech said. “We kind of develop what we sell around the campus, with an eye for timeless cool stuff – things that had a part in history. That had a part of changing American culture.”
And students agree.
“You can find amazing and unique things there that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else,” said Cristina Mora Jiliuta, a CC senior. “Every time I go there they have new and amazing stuff.”
Leech described just how “unique” a store like The Leechpit is.
“For this kind of store to be at the foot of CC is exceptionally unique and I just don’t know if they understand,” Leech said. “I feel like a lot of other kids express themselves through this store.”
When asked what the administration’s response would be if the students showed an interest in saving The Leechpit, Moore replied, “I don’t want to say we wouldn’t consider it…”
Leech, despite the goodbye, seems hopeful.
“The Leechpit will be fine,” he said. “We’ll find another place and be bigger and better. But it won’t be a block from CC anymore. I’ve lived close to CC all my life. It’s a bummer because I feel like now that we’re getting kicked out we’re closer to the students than we have ever been.”
Students will miss the shop too.
“It is a real shame that they are going to close that place, cause it is really convenient, the prices are amazing, and they offer stuff you would not be able to purchase elsewhere,” Mora Jiliuta said.