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Arts & Life

Denver Beards And Neckties, All From Your Local Neighborhood Vending Machine

Condoms, burritos, and neckties now have something in common, you can score one from a vending machine. The latter of the three, one Denverites' attempt to garner attention for locally made products, albeit in an unconventional setting.

Avant-garde inside and out, Neighbor Supply shakes up both the typical products and the look of a vending machine – be prepared to lighten your wallet with a wooden-faced vendor that deals out local, largely handmade artisanal goods.

Consider it boutique(ish) but with longer hours and no helpful salespeople.

"In some ways that's the novelty of it," said Michael Dix owner and creator of Neighbor Supply. "So that someone can go to work the next day [and say,] 'hey, I bought a necktie out of a vending machine. It's crazy.'"

Neck ties created by Knotty Tie Co. are among nearly 20 items sold in the machine. The organic cotton, handmade piece of business attire is nestled near stickers that proclaim "Keep Denver Beard," and card decks highlighting Colorado's 14ers.

It's not a conventional tie buying venue but Jeremy Priest, Knotty Tie co-founder and owner, said the like-mindedness of the companies and products inside the machine caught his attention. Still, venue logistics was a challenge.

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Credit Carrie Saldo, Arts District
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Customers can swipe and tap their way to details about Neighbor Supply's products.

"Most of our customers in here come in, they can touch the product, they can actually move it around and see the quality of it firsthand” which Priest added is important when many of its products are made-to-order.

Neighbor Supply tries to compensate for the tactile void with an iPad mounted on the front that directs would-be customers to detailed product and company descriptions.

Priest said they have sold a few ties through Neighbor Supply but more often customers take a different approach.

"A lot of people don't end up purchasing from the vending machine but they contact us and say they saw us in the vending machine and [ask] can we make it slightly different," Preist said.

Dix is not discouraged by the loss of a sale.

"A lot of the idea behind the machine too was let's partner with the storefronts and how can we work with them to support them and kind of collaborate," Dix said.

The concept of piqued the curiosity of some at Rooster & Moon Coffee Pub, on Bannock Street, where the machine is located.

"I haven't bought anything from it yet, but I think it's a really great idea," said Hannah Haddadi who sat with her back to the machine while studying.

With product prices that range from $5 to $45, Dix does not expect Neighbor Supply to be visited with the regularity of a lunch room vending machine. Sales thus far, which average a few hundred dollars a month, reflect that.

Its current setting, Dix said has been a great place to test his idea and tweak problems – such as the wrong item being vended. He envisions future Neighbor Supply machines in high-traffic locations, such as Union Station, museums, and Denver International Airport.

Looking beyond Colorado, vending machines stock some wild things. Literally. Caviar can quickly meet one's palate in California; Jamon is a popular item in Spain; and Japan, seemingly the vended items pioneer, offers up live crab.

Regardless of the product, with credit cards accepted at Neighbor Supply and the majority of vending machines, it's unlikely you'll ever have to worry about crinkled currency getting between you and that "native-ish" sticker or wooden mustache behind the glass.

Arts District is a collaboration between KUNC, RMPBS, and KUVO.

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