Over a century ago, you could buy almost anything in that area of Denver that would later be known as LoDo -- a house, a horse, a whore. And even in the neighborhood's darkest days -- the '60s, when the skid-row pawnshops were scraped off and turned into parking lots -- there were still shopping opportunities in lower downtown. Between the Stores kitchen equipment emporium at the corner of Market Street and the Rocky Mountain Seed Co. a few doors down on 15th Street, you could go from soup bowls to nuts. And just around the corner in Larimer Square -- the 1400 block of Larimer Street narrowly saved from scrape-off fate by Dana Crawford -- you could buy German nutcrackers and assorted tchotchkes designed to appeal to tourists.
Today, of course, tourists can barely make it through the streets of LoDo for all the locals who flock to the area. But even as retail outlets in downtown proper dwindle -- unless, of course, you think bad souvenirs are a fair exchange for the disappeared department stores -- shopping is making a comeback in lower downtown. Although Stores is long gone, the now eighty-year-old Rocky Mountain Seed Co. is still in full flower. And even Rockmount Ranch Wear, the venerable Western-wear manufacturer that put the snap in Western shirts, has opened a retail room, where you can purchase everything from scarves with images by local artists such as Carrie Fell (pictured) to belts to arts-and-craft lamps (with the Rockmount logo, of course).
Last week, the Shriners were there, snapping up snap-button shirts. "They were here before the parade," says Steve Weil, third-generation Rockmounter. "They laid down some money. They're generous with charities and also with shopping."
The Shriners are gone now, but they left plenty of fabulous items that are ripe for the picking up. And from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 17, you can hear all about the merchandise from Barbara Gibson, executive director of LoDo District Inc., when she leads Historic Denver's LoDo Shopping Tour. In addition to Rocky Mountain Seed and Rockmount, the tour will stop by newer business establishments, with a refreshment break at the Market -- and plenty of history along the way. Tickets are $10 for Historic Denver members, $15 for non-members; the price includes a shopping bag of such essentials as bottled water and coupons from Pharmaca, Ann Taylor and Cry Baby Ranch.