Shoppers are the same, wherever they come from, so whether you’re here as a DNC delegate, ready to paint the town red, white and blue, or a local citizen looking for deals and Obama swag out the wazoo, now’s the time. And though it’s fair to expect independent retailers all over town to keep their doors open a little later and offer specials during the convention, it’s the shopping districts closest to the action that will be going all out.
But in that category, Highlands Square, centered up and down the streets around the intersection of 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard just ten minutes from downtown, wins the blue-state ribbon. The area’s merchants and restaurants have banded together to offer UnCONVENTIONal Fare in Highlands Square, wooing DNC visitors with discounts, special menus throughout the convention’s run, with a free Hop, Skip and a Jump shuttle to and from the Teatro, Magnolia, Monaco and Grand Hyatt hotels, leaving hourly between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on August 26 and 27. Some highlights? At Studio Bead, browsing delegates will be treated to free “Believe it!” charms, while next door at Le Chocolatier, they’ll be handing out chocolate Democratic buttons; on the foodie front, Highland’s Garden Café will open its arms to out-of-towners by serving a special Lean ´n Green, local-centric DNC menu, and wind-powered Swimclub 32 will feed more budget-conscious delegates with $8 pizzas. Hungry? For all the deets, go to www.32ndavedenver.com.
Right in the thick of things, Larimer Square (Larimer Street, between 14th and 15th streets) is already decked out festively with a bevy of state flags, all topped off by a red, white and blue LED light canopy over the street, and most retailers plan to keep late hours in the square, and contrary to whatever buzz you’ve heard, restaurants in the square still have tables for folks caught in between shopping sprees. The trendy boutique, Eve, will stay open until 11 nightly, serve hors d’oeuvres and will even make house calls to hotel rooms, bringing pack and ship services What’s in store? Easy, body-hugging microfiber separates and Elana Kattan party dresses, for two. Call 720-932-9382. At Dog Savvy, 303-623-5200, you can pick up an outré Obama t-shirt for your Democratic lap dog, and no visitor to the Square should leave without first dropping in on Crybaby Ranch, where some of the best Wild West paraphernalia in town can be found. Go to www.larimersquare.com.
At the other end of downtown proper, at the Denver Pavilions, 500 16th Street, the official Democratic National Convention Committee store has opened its doors, across Maggiano’s, through the convention’s duration, selling every kind of Obama memorabilia known to man or woman. Ditto for Best of Denver, the center’s permanent tourist schlock shop, which specialized in Colorado-made merchandise. For details call the Pavilions hotline at 303-260-6000 or go to www.denverpavilions.com.
Galleries and businesses along Santa Fe Drive have declared the burgeoning arts district, between the street’s 500 and 1200 blocks, a Tax Free Art Zone. Conventioneers visiting galleries up and down the street, many of which feature DNC-inspired shows and will be open for extended hours during the DNC, can purchase art tax-free from August 23 through 28; see www.artdistrictonsantafe.com for information. Out-of-town art lovers can also check out bargains at the End of an Era Art Sale, featuring works by local artists, mid-century treasures and more, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. 4 p.m., through August 31, at Mary Mackey Art, 2912 W. 25th Avenue. Call 303-783-9339.
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At Talulah Jones, 1122 E. 17th Avenue, a woman-owned, independent purveyor of grown-up fripperies, and classy toys and little kids’ frocks that’s closer to downtown if off the beaten path, hosts a Locally Made section during August, featuring the goods of local artisans and artists. In addition, two percent of all delegate purchases will be donated to the Democratic Party. Win, win! Call 303-832-1230 or go to www.talulahonline.com. Convention greenies won’t want to miss Ahimsa Footwear, a nearby, all-vegan shoe boutique, nearby at 1668 Marion Street. Visit www.ahimsafootwear.com.
DNC hipsters should also not miss the bohemian businesses of South Broadway, where two stalwarts in the block between Ellsworth Avenue and Archer Place, are getting in the spirit. Rock the Cradle, an alternative children’s store at 18 S. Broadway, is going all-out by stocking too-cute Obama onesies for wee politicos (rockthecradlebaby.net); but the folks at Fancy Tiger craft shop, on the corner at 1 S. Broadway, have designed their own Barack Obama needle felting kit ($15, while supplies last), for Democratic DIYers everywhere. Visit fancytiger.com or call 303-733-3855.
And finally: Pssst. Hey you, local person! Drop in on Cherry Creek North merchants between August 23 and 30 and take advantage of locals-only discounts and promotions. Can it really be? Don’t forget to bring your Colorado ID. Visit www.cherrycreeknorth.com for a full list of the deals.
– Susan Froyd