Long the jewel in the crown of Denver’s shopping scene, Cherry Creek North continues to be the city’s most upscale mixed-use neighborhood, offering restaurants, services and places to stay if you’re visiting from out of town, or to live, if you’re planning to take up residence.
While many national names have moved to the 16-block district in recent years, the area continues to have a distinctly Colorado appeal with its locally owned and operated clothing and jewelry stores, its galleries and cafes.
Nick LeMasters is in a good position to see how business has evolved both in Cherry Creek North and across East First Avenue at Cherry Creek Shopping Center, where such luxury retailers as Neiman Marcus and Louis Vuitton are longtime tenants. Prior to being named president and CEO of the Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District in late 2019, LeMasters spent 23 years as general manager of the shopping center. Earlier in his career, he managed shopping centers in California for The Taubman Company and also worked with Dayton Hudson Corporation’s Mervyn’s chain.
His work also extends into the community, as a member of the board of directors for Visit Denver, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. LeMasters was inducted into the Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame for his work promoting the state. Other honors include the Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday Commission Business Social Responsibility Award and being named Cherry Creek Chamber of Commerce Community Leader of the Year.
Where do you call home today?
How do people describe you?
Difficult to say. I’ve never asked. I hope people would say considerate, honest, keeps his word and follows through. I might be seen sometimes as a bit serious. Might need to lighten up a bit.
Who do you most admire?
Anyone who has served our country in the armed forces.
What was the last great book you read?
Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers, by fly-fishing author John Gierach. He writes masterfully about this great sport.
What is your biggest fashion faux pas?
Not my faux pas, but never wear a necktie with a button-down shirt. Also, I’m not a fan of the “no-socks” look.
What is one thing that you absolutely can’t live without?
Not really a “thing,” but it has to be family.
What was your last major purchase?
A new car.
What gadget can you not live without?
The rangefinder that I use when I play golf has become indispensable.
What are your hobbies?
Golf, fly-fishing, reading.
What is your most memorable Colorado experience?
I took a day trip from Crested Butte to Marble. What an extraordinary place. Home to the whitest marble on Earth; used in several of our national monuments. I ate at the one and only restaurant, which was amazing.
What one word describes Coloradans to you?
What is your favorite spot in Colorado to visit?
Devil’s Thumb resort in Tabernash.
Where do you want to go when it’s safe to travel again?
Mazatlán, Mexico. The people are incredibly warm and gracious.
Are you involved with any charities?
Yes. I serve on the board of the Denver Police Foundation.
What took you down this career path?
Strange path. I studied criminal justice in college and thought I’d work for the FBI. Meanwhile, I worked in retail while putting myself through school and fell in love with the work. That led to a career in the shopping center industry and now Cherry Creek North.
You wear multiple hats at Cherry Creek North. What is your favorite part of each job?
Yes, multiple hats because of multiple constituencies. I love working with all types of people and helping them to solve their business problems. It is gratifying to see the success of retailers, developers, property owners and managers and know that you may have played a small part in their success.
What’s the hardest part of each job?
The most difficult part of my job is to see businesses that have failed. On some level, I take it personally. I wonder if we could have done more to assist. It can also be very difficult to find common ground among the varied interest groups in and around Cherry Creek North. At times, the vision of the neighbors, the city and developers don’t align. I’d like to think that we can play a part in bringing diverse interests together.
How is working in Cherry Creek North different from the role you had at the shopping center?
Working for a publicly-traded company like Taubman is entirely different from Cherry Creek North. Out of necessity, corporate America has far more bureaucracy. With Cherry Creek North, we can be nimble because we’re small. And, the buck stops with me. That’s a huge change.
The pandemic has been a big challenge to both restaurants and retail. What are some of the qualities of those who have been able to weather the storm?
Those merchants and restaurants that seem to hold their own are demonstrating incredible creativity and amazing customer service. They understand the gravity of the time we are in and have dealt with it with courage.
Cherry Creek North has undergone a lot of changes in recent years. What do you view as the biggest improvement in the district?
Without question, the district has experienced significant change and evolution. The area has now become a dynamic, mixed-use area where people can live, stay, play, dine and shop in one 16-block community.
Do you expect the district’s signature events to return—the July arts festival, food and wine celebration, parties in the plaza and the sidewalk sale?
We are approaching the coming year with optimism and the hope that all of these events will return. They have become an integral part of the Cherry Creek North brand identity.
What else can we expect that’s new or different in 2021?
Development within the district has not ceased. The district will become home to its fifth hotel and another first-class office building with one of the country’s renowned workout facilities. We are embracing change within Cherry Creek North and it has become our “new normal.”
Suzanne S. Brown is managing editor of Colorado Expression.
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