Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Those who enter the Dollar Tree to slum for 99-cent chatchkes and crappy closeout merchandise might be surprised when they emerge from one of the chain's metro-area outlets with a cart full of things they actually need. Dish towels, extension cords, Tupperware, lightbulbs, work gloves, fabric softener, plastic dinnerware, beef jerky...baby food. All the same stuff you'd buy at the supermarket, but for a buck. Sure, the generic children's conditioner smells kinda weird -- but it's only a dollar! Same with the fancy wrapping paper, picture frames and jugs of jalapeos. Dollar Tree stores are, for the most part, spacious, well-organized and absent of the peculiar scent of many under-a-buck retailers, which means you'll have plenty of peace while examining the wide assortment of ceramic puppy-dog figurines.
Going to the library has never felt so naughty. Walk into the Ross-Cherry Creek Branch Library and you'll be greeted at the door by DVDs -- rows and rows of them. The bookshelves here are a mere backdrop; the establishment has long since embraced that which draws in its patrons. And the movie selection -- oh, the selection. New releases like Borat. Season after full season of Six Feet Under. B-movies with no hint of literary value, such as American Pie: Band Camp. Grab two, grab four -- hell, grab seven, the maximum you're allowed (the librarians get that all the time). And when you check out, the only plastic you'll need to flash is your library card. This being a library, everything is gloriously, scandalously free. Melvil Dewey may be turning in his grave, but we movie buffs wouldn't have it any other way.
First Friday is one of Denver's most reliable monthly happenings. Thanks to Matthew Morris Salon, a chic beauty spot on South Broadway, culture-consuming Denverites can look their best while scoping the city's hot spots for high and low art. During Friday Night Blow Outs, held the first Friday of every month, Matthew Morris offers free polish changes and blow dries in a chatty setting filled with beautiful people. Cocktails are always on the menu, as are a wide array of services and sensual spa treatments -- for a price. And though their work is not the stuff of ARTForum, Morris's talented staff can certainly count themselves among the city's creative class. Just ask anyone who's ever popped in for an updo.
Situated across Tremont Street from the legendary (and extremely expensive) Brown Palace Hotel, the Comfort Inn Downtown affords many of the same luxuries at a fraction of the price. Towering over the Brown at 24 floors, the Inn is less polished than its five-star counterpart, but the art-deco-style standard corner rooms feature comfy beds, floor-to-ceiling windows and spectacular panoramic views of the city. Suites are also available. Because the Comfort Inn is affiliated with the Brown, guests have access to the latter's 24-hour room service and spa, as well as other amenities. The difference is that after soaking up the ambience of the Brown's beautiful atrium lobby or Ship Tavern, Comfort guests can sneak back across the street to their humble digs, with an extra $200 of unspent cash in their wallets.
JCRS is best known as the home of Denver's venerable tourist trap, Casa Bonita, but that's only the beginning of the low-rent excitement. Where else in town can you find a Save-A-Lot grocery store, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar discount stores and an ARC Thrift Store -- not to mention a post office and a place hawking discount video games? Imagine all the essentials of life in one place: food, clothing, cotton swabs, stamps, waterfall divers, Donkey Kong. It's the kind of one-stop paradise Colfax was meant to be.
Mag chloride still stuck to your car? Dog slobber on the windows and fur on the seats? Maybe a spilled Big Gulp left sticky spots on the console. For just $6.99, Octopus Car Wash will have you in, washed, waxed and on your way. For the more deluxe treatment -- which you'll want for that pet hair -- you'll still get out for less than $20. Just be sure to tip.
Colorado Springs has way too few activists, but Adam Leech, who owns Leechpit, a punk-inspired vintage music and clothing store, is one of the strong. He made his message clear last December by setting loose a small army of store regulars with signs and fliers declaring "Corporate Gifts Suck! Please Buy Local!" In a blog posted shortly thereafter, Leech noted that his infantrymen suffered two death threats at Wal-Mart, were asked to leave the Chapel Hills Mall by four security guards and lasted only six minutes at the Citadel before getting booted. But Leech is upbeat about the whole thing: "We had ten people a day calling about it, and for a shop like us, that's priceless."
Finding time to give back to the community is hard, especially when you're a hipster. Between kickball games, fixing your scooter and hating on local bands getting press, there's hardly enough time in the day to perform punk-rock karaoke, let alone give back to the less fortunate. And even if you do find the time, it's not like you have the money. (Do you have any idea how much a pack of Parliaments runs?) Buffalo Exchange, purveyor of fine hipster wares, solves this dilemma with its Tokens for Bags program. Purchase an item, and the clerk will ask if you want it bagged. Say no, and you'll be rewarded with a five-cent token that you can donate to one of three charities. The company has raised $240,000 since it implemented the program in stores across the nation in 1994. So forgo the plastic, hipsters, then go back to your condescension feeling proud.
A Statue of Liberty has carried a torch for Federal Boulevard since the early '80s. Bob Ramsour, the late owner of Federal
Heating, loved building metal figures, and over the years, a collection of his creations, including an Uncle Sam and a skiing tin man, have adorned the neighborhood. But Lady Liberty, constructed using 250 pounds of galvanized sheet metal, remains his masterpiece. She's survived a beheading and the ravages of weather far better than even Ramsour might have hoped. May she continue to watch over Federal commuters for many years to come.
A dancing portrait of Bob Marley stares down from the Caribbean Marketplace, marking the spot where the streets of Jamaica meet the streets of Denver. Bob's smiling face and swinging dreadlocks welcome visitors to the tiny shop. Colfax is a concrete jungle, but it's nice to have a little Rasta watching over the strip.
In Hawaii, flower leis are used to celebrate everything from pre-school graduations to parole-board hearings. But while islanders can buy leis from the local Wal-Mart, here at 5,280 feet the fragrant tropical necklaces are hard to come by. So praise Pele for Little Grass Shack, which sells everything from fresh, single-strand leis and kukui-nut wristbands to Maile vine braids and the Christina Lei, composed of 1,000 tightly woven orchid petals. Maile Inagaki runs the company out of her home but delivers all over the metro area. Just say "Aloha!"
Heaven Sent Me is the de rigueur destination for Pride weekend, but it's also open year-round for all your GLBT needs. Owner George Blackert has assembled scads of multi-hued cards, gifts, magazines, bumperstickers, flags, clothing, jewelry and boy toys, all of which burst forth from every corner of the store. Just be sure to stop shopping long enough to pet George's sweet store puppies, Sasha and Talia. And if you live too far to take the Yellow Brick Road to South Broadway (or you're just a big pillow queen), Heaven Sent Me offers convenient online shopping at www.heavensentme.com.