Spliff the Difference: New owners of longtime laundromat look to add cannabis dispensary

By Eric Heinz

If Maria Amaya was no longer working at the longtime Sunnyside laundromat, some customers said they would not be coming back, according to laundromat co-owner Bryan Murillo.

Amaya has worked at the laundromat for 18 years and has built more than a rapport with many of the regular customers, Murillo said. Clients were worried that when the laundromat was sold in May, things could change forever.

“People said, ‘If Maria is not back here, we’re leaving,” he said. “I can’t make that up. They said, ‘We’re going to stop coming if Maria is not here.’”

Amaya may understand the significance of the business to the community better than anyone.

“It’s very important,” Amaya said with her daughter, Marivel DeLuna, who translated from Spanish to English. Amaya said she’s seen the changes in North Denver over nearly two decades working at the laundromat, but the business remains part of the neighborhood.

DeLuna said her mother learned some English just by working at the laundromat, and that longtime customers she spoke with were excited to hear she’d be staying on board.

“I think it’s very important too because it’s like the old-school laundromat,” DeLuna said. “There are a lot of customers who have come here because it’s close to home or it’s like what they’ve known.”

The 62-year-old brick laundromat at 2885 44th Ave. has been a staple of the Sunnyside neighborhood, and its new owners are trying to couple that business with a cannabis dispensary. Land developer Rita Tsalyuk, a member of the LLC that purchased the building, teamed up with Murillo to manage the laundromat and establish the dispensary.

“We were already working with Bryan looking for dispensaries, but dispensary locations are very hard to find,” Tsalyuk said.

Denver currently only allows people who qualify for the city’s social equity program to apply for brick-and-mortar dispensary licenses until July 2027, and Murillo qualified after he was arrested in relation to a marijuana charge in Texas.

Although this is his first foray in the cannabis industry, Murillo graduated with a degree in biochemistry from the University of Colorado. Murillo said longtime neighborhood residents had concerns when they heard the building had been sold.

“They expected it to be sold to some real estate developers,” he said. “They kind of thought we were one of these big fat cats from New York or something, coming to destroy their neighborhood and tear down the local neighborhood laundromat.”

Crystal Romero said she has been coming to the laundromat since the early 90s.

“It’s convenient. It’s very important because, for me, it’s within walking distance from my house,” Romero said. “Sometimes you run into some of your locals that have been here for a while, but for the most part, it’s real convenient. You see it just upgrading, and that’s a good thing that it’s still here in the community.”

According to Denver Excise and Licenses records, the cannabis dispensary has been approved for its license, on the condition it passes a future inspection. Part of the front area will harbor the dispensary with a separate entrance, and the existing space will remain a laundromat.

“Bryan has done a really good job because there’s more activity going on here, and we haven’t invested in anything yet,” Tsalyuk said.

Sunnyside Laundromat and Dry Cleaners, formerly B&M Coin Laundry, was purchased by an LLC under registered agent Igor Tsalyuk in May for $875,000, according to Denver Clerk and Recorder records. Other nearby properties have sold for just a little more, records show.

Per the sale price, the LLC paid about $153 per square foot for the entire lot, which Denver last valued at $805,000. Rita Tsalyuk said the property doesn’t necessarily go for as much as other commercial properties that have recently been listed in Sunnyside.

Tsalyuk said the previous owner, Mehret Berhe, was looking for a buyer who would try to maintain the laundromat and provide a comprehensive plan.

Of the other companies and people who bid on the property, “Ultimately, they had a lot of money but they didn’t really have a concrete plan,” Murillo said. “When Rita came in, the plan was pretty straightforward.”

The Denver North Star contacted Berhe prior to publication of this story but was unable to reach her for comment.

Murillo and Tsalyuk found each other through a message board related to the cannabis industry, and Murillo said it was a perfect time for him to get into the industry.

“I started reassessing my life like, ‘Hey, let me look into some things that I wanted to do,’ and marijuana popped up,” he said. “I always wanted to do marijuana since at least when I first moved up to Colorado in 2012. But I was too young, too broke at the time.”

Murillo said finding a location for a dispensary was not easy, comparing it to finding a needle in a haystack because Denver has restrictions on how close each dispensary can operate from one another, and they can’t be close to “sensitive areas.” But when he realized a daycare center license down the street was expiring, he was able to seize the opportunity.

Tsalyuk said it is possible the LLC would redevelop the building in the future with retail on the bottom floor and housing on the floors above, but she said there are “no immediate plans” to do that.

“This building is really a tear-down right? These are very low ceilings,” Tsalyuk said. “If you’re trying to redevelop … you can’t fit as many units as you would like to make it profitable. So this property is really challenging commercially.”


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