DENVER — Colorado Home and Garden Show organizers don’t just want to ban AR-15s from their show, they also want to ban pictures of them.
James Webb, owner of 1776 Roofing in Westminster, was stunned when he was told he was not welcome to participate in the upcoming Colorado Garden and Home Show that kicks off Saturday at the Colorado Convention Center because his company’s motto doesn’t fit the organizers’ mission.
The man behind the “Get a roof, get a gun” promotion, said he was stunned when he learned nearly immediately after they pulled into the convention center Thursday morning to start setting up that organizers were not OK with his message.
Webb’s Hummer — the main component of his booth — is decked out in red, white and blue and displays an AR-15 on both sides with the message “getaroofgetagun.com.”
“I’ve got a contract with them,” Webb said about the $7,500 he paid for a booth at the entrance to the facility for the nine-day event. “Nowhere in that contract does it say anything about they can kick us out because they don’t like the way our booth looks.”
Two years ago, Webb started buying AR-15’s for anyone who contracted with him for a new roof. The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II Rifle retails for about $700, he said. If someone doesn’t want the gun, they get a gift card to Cabela’s.
Those who do take the gun offer also just get gift cards to purchase the gun with on their own, as Webb cannot legally give a gun away.
He said he got the idea after buying an existing roofing company and learning how competitive the industry was.
“We were trying to do something different and really speak to our target audience,” Webb said. “We needed a way to stand out from the crowd.”
That audience was a very conservative Douglas County experiencing multiple hail storms. That combined with Webb’s military background and appreciation for the 2nd Amendment, he said, made the gun give away an obvious promotion.
“It was so overwhelmingly successful, it’s continued to be our brand,” Webb said, adding he’s accustomed to getting push back from anti-gun organizations and people, but has never been kicked out of show like this before.
Jim Fricke, executive director of the Colorado Garden Foundation, the non-profit that owns and produces The Colorado Garden and Home Show, sees it differently.
The event has been produced for 59 years, Fricke said. It is one of two shows that the foundation puts on annually as its main fundraisers. The money from this show and one in the fall, support scholarships and other horticulture related grants statewide, Fricke said.
He said when they agreed to rent space to Webb, they thought it was a solar company and that their contract is clear if they don’t like the message they can shut it down.
Fricke said they have asked others in the past to do the same thing, and this was a message Fricke just didn’t think was appropriate.
“We have a lot of families with a lot of kids,” Fricke said. “With the recent police shootings, especially with the one in Douglas County and the school shooting in Florida with military style rifles, we were not interested in having it on display in our show.”
Fricke said he told Webb he could stay if he covered it up, but Webb said it’s the basis behind his business.
Fricke refunded Webb the booth charge, plus another $1,100 in ancillary losses, he said.
“We have the right to sell space to who we want to sell space to,” Fricke said. “I feel for him because I know a lot of people want to do business here. And I get it there are people who are in favor of this. But it’s not something I want a 7-year-old kid to see, or an adult for that matter. We are just trying to be as apolitical as possible. We want people to come and have fun.”
Webb, who has until noon Friday to clear out his stuff, said as frustrated and disappointed he is, Fricke ultimately made it right.
“In the end, they didn’t like the gun thing, but they treated me amicably,” Webb said.