Zipping through the bulk of modern Louisville, with all its bedroom-community developments (it took first place in Money Magazine's Best Place to Live: Top 100 in 2009), you'd think that most of the Boulder County berg's Italian coal-mining heritage has all but disappeared. But once you find yourself in the heart of Louisville -- its historic old downtown neighborhood -- that perception is gone in a blink: Incorporated in 1882 along the great Northern Coalfield of Boulder and Weld counties, the original Louisville sports an old-time charm that lives on in the Victorian frame buildings still lining much of Main Street and its environs.
That's not to say it isn't modern. Downtown Louisville is lined with eateries of every stripe, along with eclectic shops and galleries, making it prime location for a Saturday stroll, any time of year. We were lucky enough to visit on one of those spectacular sunny days in the dead of winter, when skaters were catching a few last spins on the town's WinterSkate rink at Steinbaugh Pavilion, and downtown was hopping in its quiet way.
First, enticed by a sign on the street, we hit Nancy Cooley's Found Underground Consignments, located around the corner on the lower level of the Louisville Chamber of Commerce, 901 Main Street. Cooley, whose resume swings back and forth from stints at the Ritz in Boulder, Alfalfa's Market and as an acupuncturist, keeps a ship-shape resale paradise where the clothes hung by color groups are all hand-picked, high-quality, stylish garments (ditto for accessories). And on top of that, Cooley couldn't be a nicer person. She exudes a certain admirable savoir faire and enthusiasm that makes shopping the racks at Found Underground a totally fun experience. Don't expect thrift store prices here, but you will get something great for the money. Be sure to find your way down there.
Denise Emma's Ju Ju Beads, across the street in a little old house at 836 Main Street, carries a decent inventory of unique beads and beautiful jewelry creations by Emma and other local bead-stringers. Emma says bead people make special trips to Louisville to visit her shop all the time, but the real goldmine here is Emma's patient personality and gift for instruction. To that end, she offers classes, girl's nights and birthday parties where you can DIY, with tutelage.
Across the street again and up a block, shop-owner Kara Reese sits pretty at her Ville de Luxe Boutique (formerly Vie Vie Luxe), 909 Main Street, where she and her mother, Irene Oliver, have been peddling hip and gorgeous Parisian-style clothing, jewelry, tiny luxuries and sweet nothings for the last five years. Great customer service and stylish, one-of-a-kind finds are the specialties here.
Also along the street, among other things, you'll find Bittersweet Art Gallery, a gallery that also offers painting classes, and Mudslingers Pottery, also a workshop with a small retail shop in front, both located in a walk-through indoor mall at 820 Main Street; the coffee is great at Vic's Again Louisville, 801 Main Street; and Wildwood Guitars maintains its popular profile with musicians at 804 Main Street. In addition, northwest Denver's locavore-freindly In Season Local Market has begun making inroads in Boulder County at its new location at 924 Main street.
The eating's also good up and down the street, beginning with the famed Blue Parrot. The classic mom-and-pop spaghetti-and-meatballs palace was first opened in 1919 by Italian immigrants Michael and Emira Colacci at 640 Main Street. These days, the food's gone downhill (the Blue Parrot's main claim to fame more recently was a sudden uproar over whether or not it should change the name of its signature "Wopburger"). But it -- and the Wopburger -- are still there.
Not so for Colacci's, the Blue Parrot's greatest rival in Louisville for years, a vinyl-boothed eatery run by feuding branch of the same family, where Colacci kids played in the aisles and the tomato sauce was rich and hearty: That spot most recently segued into Jim Cohen's Empire Lounge and Restaurant, 816 Main Street, a more modern diner with a retro touch. Of note: The awesome original Colacci's sign remains, though it now says "Empire."
A newer face on the block, The Cactus Wheel, 701 Main Street, found its niche in a old space: a recycled defunct garage, which now opens out onto a large patio area that hops in the summertime. Across the street, the quaintly lavender Huckleberry, 700 Main Street, serves breakfast, sandwiches and high tea.
In keeping with the building's history, the wait station at Cactus Wheel is carved out of an old auto hull.
On our way out of town, we took advantage of the nice weather by loading up on the best ice cream in the world at the relative new kid on the block, Sweet Cow Ice Cream, 637 Front Street (Barn Door B). Spike-haired Drew Honness, a young DIY-style entrepreneur who got his start in the ice cream business scooping for Springs-based Josh and John's, runs his ecologically correct concern with a friendly air that extends to kids and adults alike, and the ice cream is TO DIE FOR, no foolin'. My Almond Joy cone came literally loaded with ginormous chunks of chocolate, almond and coconut in a creamy, perfectly sweetened base; other tastes revealed an incredible Chocolate Coffee Bean concoction using Ozo Coffee and a tart Key Lime Pie. It was warm enough to enjoy the large patio in front, where little ones bounced around on bouncy-cows and complete strangers found something to talk about.
Lucky Pie Pizza and Tap House, whose name says it all, is attached to Sweet Cow at the hip (they share a building), should you care to dive into a pie and a brew before topping it all off at Sweet Cow.
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Visit Show and Tell for past Neighborhoods travelogues by Susan Froyd.