Walk up to Adult Entertainment’s storefront in Five Points on any night during one of its signature events, and you’ll be sure to see Black and brown folks vibing out, surrounded by thudding trap music and AE’s provocative streetwear.
Affectionately called Adult Ent, or simply AE, by its fans, Adult Entertainment’s products—director’s caps, T-shirts and jackets reading “Not Here To Impress You Muthafuckas”—are a reflection of Denver’s street culture, says owner Torrance “Pastor Pines” Green.
The clothing and accessories are really just the “how” for Pines; standing up for marginalized communities is his “why.” The challenges Pines faced to secure a permanent storefront in Five Points, Denver’s historically Black neighborhood that’s seen rapid gentrification in recent years, proves just how relevant that goal is.
Pines and his mom first moved to Denver from Kansas City, Missouri, in 1998. His friends gave him the name “Pastor Pines” due to his unbiased advice and unwavering duty to be a consistent shoulder for his homies (he recently made it official and got an online certificate to be an ordained pastor).
Streetwear quickly became a passion for Pines. He liked that it was approachable—unlike high-fashion brands that don’t exactly translate to real life—and authentic. “I’ve always liked that aspect of being like wild brass, especially around white people. Not to soften yourself for somebody else’s comfortability,” Pines says. “Streetwear gave me that, that opportunity to have a voice without having the strength to have a voice yet.”
It was a voice Pines needed. He says being a Black man in a predominantly white Denver “scene” comes with a lot of scrutiny, assumptions, and timidness—feelings that go both ways. “Black people not wanting to appear alarming, and white people being alarmed,” he says. “The way I enter spaces, you don’t see my accolades, my morals, my standards, or my character. You see me as a Black man first, and I’m very comfortable with that.”
That idea followed Pines through the early stages of his career. Early in 2015, he interned at New York City T-shirt brand Mishka, and eventually transitioned to being the cover model for its collection and distribution efforts that year. When he moved back to Denver, he worked as creative director at Denver clothing brand Jiberish and Salt Lake City sneaker company Fice Gallery.
Those gigs proved to Pines that branding and curating could be a path to finding his voice while empowering others to do the same. They’re also where he met Justin Day, the photographer at Adult Ent. When he realized he could no longer put in sweat equity for someone else, Pines began building Adult Entertainment in 2015.
From the start, Pines wanted AE to align with his values: Making Black and brown people feel validated and represented, including Black and brown sex workers. “I’ve always been very sex-positive,” Pines says. “[I want to make] sure they are validated in regards to their work and their mission by having someone in this space who steps up and states that.”
Adult Entertainment products hint at that acceptance (one shirt portrays “the many faces of a potential lover,” bondage included) but it’s the store’s physical space that really creates the sense of community. At its first location in Five Points, which opened in February 2021, AE’s events— parties, concerts, smoke and greets—centered around fun initially. But they soon transformed into safe havens where folks can congregate, experience fellowship, and be celebrated, not just tolerated.“The shop, the employees, and consumers create a sense of belonging, no matter your walk of life,” says Eve Gomez, a regular at AE’s events.
Moving into that first physical location in Five Points, right behind Central Market, was a defining moment for the brand, says Pines. Once considered the Harlem of the West, gentrification has pushed many Black and brown residents out of the historically Black neighborhood. In 2020, according to a National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) study, Denver was named the second-most gentrified city in America: “The impact of gentrification was considerable for Black and Hispanic residents who were a majority of the population in 2010 of neighborhoods which later gentrified,” according to the study.
“Since many Black businesses didn’t own their land, rising real estate values and taxes led landlords to favor higher-end and often white businesses as commercial tenants,” says Jonathan Cappelli, executive director of the Neighborhood Development Collaborative, a Black-led nonprofit coalition of 19 affordable housing organizations serving metro Denver.
The flood of white-owned businesses into Five Points is why Daryl Bufford, another supporter, appreciates AE’s determination to take up space. “It’s important to have places like this, especially in the city of Denver, which is still in its infancy when it comes to diverse social outlets,” he says.
Six months after AE’s February opening, though, the owner of the storefront, South Carolina real estate company Edens, declined to renew AE’s lease at 2636 Walnut.
Pines was heartbroken. He says he had done right by the opportunity—according to Pines, AE is profitable—so he felt dumbfounded.
Sommer Hixson, director of communications at Edens, says that Adult Entertainment was a “pop-up” or short-term lease. “These types of leases are meant for incubator retail concepts, start-up businesses, seasonal businesses, or limited-run concepts like the Museum for Black Girls, Volcom, and Denver Picnic Co. If a concept isn’t gaining traction, a retailer isn’t locked into a long-term commitment,” Hixson says. The company spokesperson did not respond to questions about how “traction” was being assessed.
Determined not to be pushed out of the neighborhood he only just landed in, Pines and his team began touring other buildings in the area. Within just a few months, they found a larger space made perfect with inventory storage, space for screen printing and heat press machines, and much more room for the community to congregate. It’s located at 3535 Walnut Street—just down the road from the old location.
The comeback is a relief for people like Momo, the creator of private cannabis-centric events company Whine Up. “AE is a symbol for the culture. A beacon. AE brings people of all backgrounds together by creating safe, healthy spaces.” Momo, a Denver transplant, continues, “When you move to an unfamiliar place solo, it’s hard to find that unique feature of a city that reminds you of home but when you find a community that embraces your beauty and “weirdness” as one, you’re home, and that’s AE.”
(Read More: Emanual Martinez Brought Muralism to Denver. Now, Gentrification Threatens His Art)