The ten best shops on Sixth Avenue
All Photos by Byron Graham
While Sixth Avenue may be less celebrated than other Denver streets, the lineup of unique shops between Grant and Downing streets definitely make this strip one of the city's most convenient shopping areas. One of its most charming, too: The quirky specialty stores in historic brick bungalows and storefronts from every era are almost impossible to resist. Where else can you get an old-school barber shave, stock up on medical cannabis, shop for fly-fishing gear and get your dog groomed during a short walk? Unlike Broadway, its perpendicular cousin where seemingly half the storefronts are occupied by self-consciously kitschy antique stores, or parallel Colfax, with its long stretches of nothingness, Sixth Avenue has plenty to offer in a small stretch of space. Here, in no particular order, are the ten best shops on Sixth Avenue.
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10) Moon Dance Botanicals, 601 Corona Street
Moon Dance Botanicals is a boutique and spa specializing in products made from fresh, organic ingredients. The shop, open since 2002 in the building it shares with the trendy Table 6 restaurant, carries gourmet bath and beauty products. In addition to handcrafting its own product line, Moon Dance Botanicals offers natural living classes, with curricula like hula-hoop crafting and natural liquid- soap making. Customers are included in the craft madness: The store features an "Artistic Alchemy" corner where patrons can design their own aroma-therapeutic pillows, potpourri and customized potions. Moon Dance is also available to host private spa parties that serve organic wine, cheese and chocolate to green-clay-masked guests.
9) Pablo's Coffee, 630 East 6th Avenue
Sixth Avenue is full of interesting restaurants -- so much so that they deserve a list all their own. But Pablo's Coffee is much more than a coffee shop. Founded in 1995, Pablo's is a legit small business success story: Owner Craig Conner was functionally homeless, sleeping on the coffeehouse sofa, until his business venture paid off. And how: Today the Pablo's brand is sold in coffee shops all over town and the store itself recently expanded to a second location. The original Pablo's is populated with bookworms and hipster parents having hushed conversations. To keep this a neighborhood gathering place and discourage lurkers, Pablo's makes a point of not offering wireless Internet access to its customers.
8) The Wine Seller, 600 East 6th Avenue
Though there's little on the shelves to distinguish the Wine Seller from your average neighborhood liquor store, the friendly staff behind the counter make it easier to reconcile slightly overpaying for your bourbon. The employees' quirkiness extends to the store's exterior sign, which they fill with beer puns and funny sayings, offering passersby something new to smirk at each week. The message right now? "Cold Beer, Hot Clerks."
7) Trout's Fly-Fishing, 1303 East 6th Avenue
Trout's Fly-Fishing caters to those hooked on this sport. Seasoned anglers know they can find precisely what they need in the vast collection at Trout's, and novices can nod politely while the staff explains exactly what fishing gear they need. In these days of big-box stores, the shop-owner-as-expert paradigm is fading; it's as refreshing as a wade in a mountain stream to find a store that cares so much for its customers.
6) Video One, 600 Downing Street
Video One left Colfax Avenue for Sixth, and it's a welcome addition. Its new location, right across the street from the Esquire Theater, makes this Denver's most cinephile-friendly intersection. Owned and operated by Jeff Hahn, Video One preserves the experience of the independent video store, offering affability and the kind film-buff input that no streaming service can ever replicate. The noble video store is as endangered as the giant panda, stalked relentlessly by streaming and bit-torrent predators, so any video store that manages to survive in this unforgiving economic climate is worth visiting -- even saving.
5) Oliver's Meat Market, 1718 East 6th Avenue
One of the most charming things about Sixth, aside from its tiny old buildings, is how it fosters the endurance of antiquated business models. Supported by locals who recognize that specialty stores preserve a level of product quality that larger stores are willing to sacrifice to the tides of commerce, Oliver's Meat Market is an old-time butcher shop that's served the surrounding neighborhood since 1923. Whether weighing out cuts of Prime USDA natural beef, fresh seafood or one of its forty different types of sausage, Oliver's Meat Market serves up top-notch meats in a retro atmosphere.
4) Esquire Theatre, 590 Downing Street
The Esquire is a branch of the national Landmark Theatre chain, but it's much more than just a place to check out foreign and independent films in a historic building: It's a community resource. Midnight screenings of cherished cult classics bring cinema nerds together and give teenagers with limited late-night entertainment options a place to hang out and shout along quotes into the dark.
3) The Clinic Capitol Hill, 745 East 6th Avenue
The illustrious Denver Clinic dispensary franchise slings its connoisseur-quality herb from every corner of Denver's greater metropolitan area. Although this location is geographically impaired -- it's technically located in the Alamo Placita neighborhood -- the Clinic Capitol Hill is a fine boutique-style dispensary, one that capably meets or exceeds the weed needs of its local patients. The menu may differ only slightly from one location to another, but this spot stands out with its friendly, expert budtenders. The personal touch extends to weekly deals, which include a trivia game with medicinal prizes that's unique to the Cap Hill Clinic.
2) The Wag Shop, 1222 East 6th Avenue
This city's love of canines is well-documented; Denverites are overwhelmed with pet-care options. Finding the right groomer is an extensive and involved process, though, because it requires entrusting a stranger with the care of your beloved pet. The Wag Shop has a holistic ethos, using exclusively organic products and never caging your dogs. The employees are gentle and trustworthy folks whose love for animals is evident. Be prepared to pay salon prices, though. That might strike some as frivolous, but many owners don't mind paying a little extra to make their puppy happy.
1. Cigars on Sixth, 707 East 6th Avenue
What better way to kill the anxious hours while you wait for your newly groomed dog than to get haircut of your own? Clips on Sixth, located in the back of the cigar shop, is a full-service barber where you can smoke a classy cigar while getting a straight-razor shave without time-traveling to the 1930s. Cigars on Sixth has an appealing clubhouse vibe, and customers are encouraged to kick back in their overstuffed leather chairs in this classically manly lounge and enjoy a gourmet smoke from the redolent humidor. A crowd of regulars gather seemingly every game day, which can make it feel like you're interrupting a private party when you're just stopping in to buy cigarettes, but creating a sense of community while remaining one of the few places in Denver where it's permissible to smoke indoors earns Cigars on Sixth a special place in our heart.
And here's one more thing to love about Sixth Avenue, a mural that makes peaches look like butts:
Follow Byron Graham on Twitter: @ByronFG
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