Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Cute betrothed couple Mike Johnston and Janet Chambers decided to spice up their lives by opening the Savory Spice Shop in the nascent 15th Street business district just west of the Platte River. The flavorful store boasts 300 different herbs and spices, including a slew of international flavors such as dried curry and Kaffir lime leaves favored in southeast Asian and Indonesian cuisines. Patron favorites include infused vanilla-bean sugar and freshly ground Vietnamese cassia cinnamon, an addictive seasoning that reveals the seasoning's very essence in a single sniff. And if a pinch is all you need, that's all you'll have to buy.
You're at a hot concert, but you're running out of cash for cold beer. Bummer, dude. But wait -- it's the Fabulous Free ATMobile to the rescue! Last summer, Compass Bank rolled out a customized mobile van that visits fairs, festivals, concerts and sporting events (it made its debut at the Elephant Rock Cycling Festival in Castle Rock), dispensing fee-free cash from two NCR machines. There's no such thing as a totally free lunch, of course: While the service is free no matter where you bank, you'll have to work hard to avoid all the Compass marketing materials touting other services.
Parking in Cherry Creek is a nightmare -- no two ways about it. Oblivious pedestrians stream through the streets, giant-ass SUVs block sight lines, and the few parking garages are so narrow that using them requires a death wish. Hopping the bus to the swanky district doesn't have the cache of arriving in, say, a new Mini Cooper or a Crossfire -- but a bike, well, there's a certain charm to two wheels. And the Cherry Creek Bike Rack is there to care for your speedster. Tucked between the Janus building and Hapa Sushi, the tiny shop functions much like a coat check: Employees lock your bike up tight and give you a claim ticket so you can return in a few hours, at the end of the day -- or even the next, if you down a few too many at the Cherry Cricket. Best of all, the service is free, thanks to the feds. The boys in Washington gave a grant to Denver-based Transportation Solutions, which advocates for better -- you guessed it -- transportation solutions. The public-private partnership then teamed up with Campus Cycles to set up the Bike Rack. Happy trails.
Yes, we all know that parking in Cherry Creek is terrible. There's never enough space, the meter rates are murder, and valet? Forget it. No one wants some nose-picking dweeb in a rented blazer getting his goat stink all over the leather of the new Lexus. But here's a secret: Just north of the intersection of Third Avenue and Columbine Street is a stretch of road where parking is not only available, but free. It's not the most convenient location in all of Cherry Creek, but during the six o'clock dinner rush when every spot within six blocks has been taken, there always seems to be room for one more. And you know what they say: Beggars can't be choosers.
The construction of Wewatta Street in the Platte Valley from 15th Street to Park Avenue West is finally complete, making it the best parking in LoDo. The hordes have yet to find this convenient oasis, which, at the moment, remains meter- and pay-kiosk-free. Just pull over, step out, walk across the Union Station light-rail platform and hop the 16th Street Mall shuttle to your drinking destination. Or you can enjoy the evening while strolling along 16th Street: Wewatta is just one block from Wynkoop Street. The strip between 16th and 19th streets has a two-hour-parking restriction until 10 p.m., but local nightlife doesn't get started until after 10, anyway. And there's no street sweeping after 2 a.m., so if your night is a little too eventful, feel free to leave your car and take a cab.
Have pocket bike, will travel. Boulder-based NightRiders has been caring for Pearl Street Mall drunks for nearly five years, and last September the company finally brought its for-hire designated drivers to the LoDo-reveling throngs. The best part is, they drive you home in your own vehicle -- returning on their collapsible scooters -- so you never have to bum a ride back to your car the next morning. Just dial them up, and they're on their way. Cheers!
For the hopelessly tech-dependent, the battery-powered Segway may just become the city vehicle of choice. Four grand gets you one of the self-balancing, no-pedaling-required human transporters that go -- and park -- anywhere. Belmar shopping center's security forces are rolling on them, and now they're being spotted on the most fashionable LoDo streets. That's because Len Osmond recently opened Segway of Denver in the Waterside Lofts building, just across the street from the Pepsi Center, gambling that urban hipsters are tired of battling downtown parking meters. Just be sure to stay on the city's sidewalks: Segways only go 12.5 mph.
All hail Rodney's, the parking savior of Cherry Creek. While all the usual suspects provide valet service for their gas-guzzling guests -- Whole Foods even offers it on weekends -- nobody would expect it of this divey fern bar. Still, Rodney's is offering it up for free -- yes, free! -- after 5:30 p.m. when customers come in for, at least, a cocktail. All the more reason to visit this outpost of smoker culture hidden in the basement of ritzy Cherry Creek North.
Airport retail shops capitalize on the wretched disposition of the procrastinator. Usual suspects such as the Body Shop and the Discovery Channel Store offer travelers a chance to hurriedly snag something meaningful for the family before boarding the flight home. But if Grandma has been hinting at some leather biker chaps for her birthday, head to the mezzanine of Concourse B, where Mile High Harley-Davidson has a selection of biker apparel, including T-shirts, leather wallets and jewelry. They also carry enough shot glasses to keep you stocked in gifts till next year.
Miss Talulah's has hit one out of the park. After almost five years in the Ballpark neighborhood, the dainty shop filled with all things ladylike and out of the ordinary headed to a new home in the just-built Stapleton Town Center. You'll still find the thoughtful mix of beautiful jewelry, artisan handbags, brocade slippers, Mariebelle chocolate products, soaps and lotions, but the bigger, more modern space also means more stuff. For the new shop, owner Robin Lohre forayed into patio furniture decorated in funky stripes and polka-dots, and she's taking a cue from the Uptown Talulah Jones by stocking children's toys, books and adorable baby clothes. Welcome home.
All the goods inside Ten Thousand Villages bear the "Fair Trade" stamp, which means the artisans who created them -- women, mostly, from Third World countries -- were justly compensated for their labor. So you can feel very, very good about dropping a little coin in this globally minded boutique. You'll certainly want to. The store is a wondrous place to find unique items for the home, from hand-woven floor mats and crockery from Southeast Asia to colorful bedspreads from India. At Ten Thousand Villages, you'll have the whole world in your hands.
The Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau outpost on 16th Street was located a few blocks down the mall until three months ago, when it moved into new digs on California Street. While the inside is all new, the services are the same: Tourists can come in, get free coffee, look at maps and buy Denver-related trinkets. For natives -- or native wannabes -- there's a Ticketmaster and RTD outlet as well as little-known factoids about the Mile High City.