Super Market

Stanley Marketplace lacks big box stores, but features chains of Daniels College of Business connections

By Lorne Fultonberg

They used to make airplane parts here. Ejector seats, specifically.

In 1954, Stanley Aviation opened the doors to a 140,000 square foot manufacturing facility—a site that would become the city of Aurora’s largest employer. Passengers at the nearby Stapleton Airport could easily spot the iconic neon blue-and-red sign, denoting the workshop of the eponymous Bob Stanley: the first man to test fly an American jet.

The airport disappeared in 1995. The warehouse followed suit in 2007.

The neon sign, however, remained. And 17 years later, it’s shining once more.

The easiest way to describe Stanley Marketplace might be “a mall,” but it doesn’t feel like a mall. The two floors of commercial cubbies house 57 retailers, service providers and eateries. There are no big box stores. Everything is local, independently owned. People come to visit, not just to shop, but to enjoy one of five event spaces and hundreds of free events every year.

It’s the vision of Daniels College of Business alumni Mark Shaker (MBA 2011) and Megan VonWald (MBA 2011) who built a supportive community that’s “here for good.”

Amid Stanley’s bustling corridors lies a web of Daniels connections. Its founders have University of Denver diplomas. So do many of the tenants who have come and gone over the years.


Take a quick tour and get to know some of the alumni who are making Stanley “no ordinary marketplace.”

Mark Shaker

There is a saying in West Africa, where Mark Shaker worked, building hospitals and raising money for women’s obstetric health: You get things done through gentle, constant pressure.

But when push came to shove, Shaker noticed, too many nonprofits failed to move the needle.

“I saw so many great ideas of talented people—who just were not be able to make their businesses or nonprofits work,” said Shaker (MBA 2011), a social worker by trade. “I didn’t think there was a strong enough business acumen—and I needed to sharpen my own.”

By the time Shaker moved out to Colorado, he was a well-traveled citizen of the nonprofit world. His passport was pressed with stamps from altruistic stops all over the globe. In Connecticut, he worked at a Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a Paul Newman-founded endeavor that empowers children with serious illnesses. In Chicago, he put together a couple of organizations that supported the siblings and family members of those afflicted kids. After his stop in Niger, Shaker found his way to the Centennial State to do more of the same.

The gap he had seen for years—between ideas and execution—became impossible to ignore. He would fill it, he decided, with an Executive MBA from the Daniels College of Business.

The program started with an Insights Discovery assessment: a Jungian framework that helps students understand the way they communicate—and how to communicate with people different than them. During his 18 months on campus, Shaker completed a team-building sailing trip, an overseas global experience and a hands-on social impact project with the Worldwide Fistula Fund, an organization that works with women in Africa to prevent the childbirth-related tissue damage.

The gap he had seen for years—between ideas and execution—became impossible to ignore. He would fill it, he decided, with an Executive MBA from the Daniels College of Business.

The Stanifesto is the foundation of the Stanley’s core beliefs

“Besides a top-notch education, when I left there I was in a way better position business-wise than when I started,” Shaker said. “It was also the relationships I made with fellow classmates, instructors and administrators. Most people had different backgrounds than I did, but in a lot of cases they came together in a positive manner. I found everyone there to be really open and easy to share information, to learn best practice from.”

Not long after he graduated, Shaker’s mind returned to his time in Niger. He thought about the local marketplaces, which featured far more than buying and selling. They were cultural hubs with community events.

The gentle push began.

The idea of transforming a former aviation manufacturing facility was daunting, but enticing.

The idea of transforming a former aviation manufacturing facility was daunting, but enticing.

“We had heard from a number of people during our preliminary development process that this was a risky endeavor for a number of reasons,” Shaker said. “The size of the project, execution risk, there were environmental issues, we didn’t have anchor tenants, our ZIP code was not a great demographic ZIP code for what we wanted to do. We took a lot of that to heart as far as figuring out ways that we created our own village.”

The ideas were one thing. The execution was another. And to get things done, Shaker returned to the diverse crop of people he had met during his EMBA program.

Classmate Megan VonWald (MBA 2011) became Stanley’s co-owner and Shaker’s primary business partner. Many others from the cohort served as investors and consultants. Adjunct faculty member Charlie Knight helped set up legal documents. Professors Scott McLagan and Kerry Plemmons served as mentors and advocates. None of that is to mention the Daniels alumni who were flagship tenants.

“I can’t say enough about how the DU experience was instrumental in bringing this project to fruition,” Shaker said. “That process of building connections and relationships that continue to this day. There were probably 10 people in that cohort, in one way or another, that touched that project in some capacity.”

The Daniels community is unquestionably at the roots of the Stanley family tree—which continues to grow. The City of Aurora estimates that 1.1 million people visit every year.

“I’m pleased and surprised that we even made it through,” Shaker said. “I think we were fortunate with all of the challenges we were facing. There are a lot things we didn’t know what we were doing. We were trying to be honest with ourselves and find people who were experts in different fields that we didn’t have a knowledge base in. I think it’s come together nicely.”

“I can’t say enough about how the DU experience was instrumental in bringing this project to fruition.”

Let’s continue our tour

Factory Fashion

Skye Barker Maa

The music school, she created for her son. The fashion institute, for her daughter.

Finally, Skye Barker Maa is starting a business for herself.

“At this point, it’s undeniable,” said Barker Maa (MBA 2009) of her new fashion label, SKYE | AIRE. “I can’t not do it at this point. It’s just part of me now. I love fashion, I love the industry and I think Denver has a lot of work to do to build the industry. At my age, it was time to go with my own passion and heart.”

It’s hard to catch up with Barker Maa. Since graduating from the Daniels College of Business Executive MBA program, she has created so many ventures, she has to stop and count. (It’s eight.) In 2021, the last time she spoke with the Daniels Newsroom, she was running around Factory Five Five, her new fashion/film/photography/theater company.

These days, she’s in and out of her 833 square foot space in Stanley Marketplace. Factory Fashion—named for the uncredited women working in Andy Warhol’s “Factory” studio—has 11 industrial sewing machines, nine standing height worktables, eight dress forms and eight people pulling needle and thread. What was once a place for youth sewing lessons is now a small batch operation, largely devoted to making her new label.

“The mission is to build the industry in the Denver metro area,” Barker Maa said. “I think a lot of designers train to leave. Not many designers train and come, so I’m hoping we can change that.”

The thread of Barker Maa’s career begins with an English degree from Metropolitan State University. It weaves in and out of various industries—from sales to politics to community outreach. It winds up at Daniels, where she hoped she would sharpen her financial acumen and leadership skills.

“I think a lot of designers train to leave. Not many designers train and come, so I’m hoping we can change that.”

“I didn’t go through my MBA program to start a music school,” she said, referencing Neighborhood Music & Theater, which she created so her son could take piano lessons. “I went through an EMBA program to take over another business, but there were parts of it that didn’t feel right. But I also didn’t have enough background to know. So I went into the EMBA to explore other aspects of that business. And through my EMBA, I decided I didn’t want to do that and it wasn’t a business for me.”

The businesses that she did pursue were created through the confidence she gained in the program. She still talks about the cases she encountered 15 years ago and still applies the creative financial lessons she learned. Her mentor in the program, Charlie Knight, noticed similarities between Barker Maa and another mentee, Stanley Marketplace co-founder Mark Shaker. He arranged a lunch meeting.

“He put us together and we immediately gelled and started scheming right off the bat,” Barker Maa said. When the idea for Stanley was born, she immediately wanted in. “The original focus was the commitment to the community. They didn’t want a bunch of big boxes here. It’s still a gathering place; it’s still a safe place to come.”

There isn’t a lot of crimson and gold on Stanley’s concrete, industrial walls, but Barker Maa says Daniels—and its entrepreneurial mentality—is palpable.

“It definitely makes sense that we’re all rolling out of the same [master’s] programs, even though we’re completely different humans with different focuses,” she said of the Daniels grads who have filled Stanley’s storefronts over the years. “It’s definitely a hub of people who are used to working together and have a shared set of knowledge and experience. It’s logical that they would all wind up here in a specific community of local and regional entrepreneurs.”

After “a really crazy few years,” Barker Maa said she feels like she’s settling—at least, as much as one can settle while showing clothing around the world 25 times a year.

What’s next? “Survival, always,” she said, laughing. “Just learning from everything in my wake.”

Let’s continue our tour

Logan House

Andre Janusz

It took one cup of coffee to change Andre Janusz’s life.

Jobless, on a motorcycle, wearing a trucker hat and blue jeans, Janusz rode into his midlife crisis with gusto, speeding away from corporate America.

Not far from Yosemite National Park, he walked into a café.

“Six months later, I was still there” as an apprentice, Janusz (MBA 2005) said, “roasting coffee, learning the business, learning the process. When I stopped for that cup of coffee, I think the universe was saying: ‘You’re ready for the next thing.’”

The first thing on Janusz’s resume was an international business degree, which spun a career in consulting. An MBA felt like a natural next step—something he mentioned to the guy next to him on a flight from China. That stranger put the University of Denver and the Daniels College of Business on his radar.

Janusz tacked a stop in Denver on a trip out west and immediately felt like he fit. He loved the Daniels curriculum—and the skiing opportunities didn’t hurt either. (During his time on campus, Janusz would found Race and Case, a signature Daniels experience that incorporates downhill skiing into a business case competition.)

Janusz loved the Stanley concept. He loved the idea of being part of a consortium of locally owned, community-focused Colorado businesses.

“In hindsight, [the Daniels network] is unquestionably one of the most valuable things.”

“I think the thing I totally undervalued going into the program but super value now is the enormous network of people in Denver that went to DU or went to Daniels. In hindsight, it is unquestionably one of the most valuable things,” he said. “I think there’s probably not a place in Denver that doesn’t have a Daniels feel to it. You don’t have to look very deep into any company or project around here.”

He certainly didn’t have to look far at Stanley Marketplace (although he found out about its DU connections after the fact). Co-owners Mark Shaker and Megan VonWald approached him, hoping to entice him to turn his Logan House Coffee roasting business into a coffee shop—something Janusz wanted to avoid at all costs.

But he couldn’t resist the pitch Shaker and VonWald made. Janusz loved the Stanley concept. He loved that it was in an old, historic building. He loved the idea of being part of a consortium of locally owned, community-focused Colorado businesses.

Since inking the lease, Logan House Coffee has thrived. It added four additional locations, where Janusz and his team serve coffee blended with a friendly, gracious approach. (Plus, Janusz met his wife at the cash register.) It’s the connection Janusz craved and the model Shaker and VonWald envisioned.

“I think that fit what they had in mind for Stanley: something that people could really connect to,” Janusz said. “That’s something that’s incredibly important to us, connecting to our guests, and not just in the ‘I know your name and I know you get a cortado every day.’

“It’s deeper than that.”

Today, there is no vacancy at Stanley Marketplace. The 57 multi-use spaces are full.

Hundreds of free events take place on site too, including gatherings with University of Denver alumni.

Shaker is “building his bench” of businesses, as he says, that are waiting in the dugout if space opens up. But he doesn’t have many drastic plans, just little ways to improve the space for his community.

“Just continuing to slowly roll downhill,” he said.

Gentle, constant pressure.

Eleven years since he laid eyes on the project, eight years since Stanley Marketplace opened its doors, the old aviation facility is soaring once again.

That Concludes our Tour

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