Longtime Arvada book and record store owner remembered for thick black glasses, giving spirit

”He was just very friendly and cool”

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/1/20

Through all the changes Arvada has experienced over the last 29 years, one of the city's great constants has been the Black & Read Books, Music and Game store tucked into a strip mall on West …

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Longtime Arvada book and record store owner remembered for thick black glasses, giving spirit

”He was just very friendly and cool”

Ramon Robinson shops for records at Black & Read Books, Music & Games on Oct. 28.
Ramon Robinson shops for records at Black & Read Books, Music & Games on Oct. 28.
Photo by Paul Albani-Burgio
Posted

Through all the changes Arvada has experienced over the last 29 years, one of the city's great constants has been the Black & Read Books, Music and Game store tucked into a strip mall on West Wadsworth Boulevard.

“Black & Read is always changing (as it is) influenced by customers, staff, the world at large,” said employee Kari Bakken. “But it always remains the place you can find that for which you didn't know you were looking.”

While customers could never be sure what would await them among the store's overstuffed shelves, Black & Read had its own constant: owner and founder Danny Graul, with his passion for film and mercurial outlook presented through his gravely voice and trademark thick black glasses.

But Graul, who died on Oct. 23 at age 70, will likely be best remembered by the many who knew him for his warm and welcoming way and love of people.

“He loved talking to different people from all walks of life,” said Michael Baca, who became close with Graul while working with him at Black & Read for the last 20 years. “No matter where you were from, no matter what color you were or anything like that he was just very friendly and cool.”

Opening scene

Graul was born at the old Mercy Hospital in Denver and lived his entire life in Wheat Ridge. He got his started in retail while working at the Sweet's, which Baca describes as a “classic neighborhood video store.” But when Sweet's owners decided to move it to a bigger location a few blocks away, Graul decided to open vintage vinyl, books and clothing store in the same spot.

For most of the next three decades, Graul could be found behind the counter at Black & Read, where most of those who knew him say he was always quick with a joke and even quicker to lend a hand.

Bakken said she will remember countless acts of kindness and generosity, but particularly the time her tire blew out just before she was getting ready to take a friend from out-of-town up to Rocky Mountain National Park.

“He told me that she was a good kid and needed to see the forest before handing me his keys,” said Bakken. “He could be incredibly matter of fact when he was being generous and was always willing to take you to the airport.”

Adventure section

But Graul was also a fierce friend who became close with many of his employees — he never married or had kids of his own — and was always up for a good movie or adventure or some combination of the two.

Baca said he recalls the two doing just that once when they made a trip up to Boulder to see a movie on the CU campus in the middle of a blizzard.

“It turned out to be this real boring Swedish film so we didn't stay long,” said Baca. “And as we left, I remember us saying `this is terrible we drove so long and we risked our lives to get here” but really we thought it was pretty comical.

Derek Rolvsbakken, another longtime employee, said his favorite memory also involves a cold night when he and Graul watched LA Dodger Hideo Nomo throw a no-hitter at Coors Field in 1996.

“It was a late game in the cold and wet, and the Rockies lost, but it was a serious bonding experience,” he said.

Although Graul's declining health prevented him from coming to the store as much as he once did over the last two years, Bakken said Graul was still involved with overseeing the store until the very end.

Baca confirmed the store will continue to operate, although determinations have not yet been made about who its new owner will be — or when the Arvada community will be able to come together to celebrate the man who was one of the town's great characters.

However, a post on the Black & Read Facebook page announcing Graul's death offered a clue -and suggested the occasion will be a worthy one.

“Black & Read will be 30 years old next year — which is over 300 in retail years,” it read “Look for a big celebration for Danny next year.”

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