Best Of :: Shopping & Services
There used to be a typical antique mall jammed into this warehouse-like West Colfax building, but that was before Jen Schafer and her Blue Sky Books and Media took it over. Now it's a diamond in the rough: Essentially a community gathering place in progress, it's not only home to Schafer's sprawling used bookstore, which donates a percentage of all sales to Doctors Without Borders, but it also offers basement space to KGNU's Trust the Dust non-profit used CD and vinyl record store and Skull Gate Games, a haven for role-playing gamers looking for more of the same. Upstairs, there are artist studios, a gallery and a dance studio; until this month, the Free Boutique clothing exchange also held forth in part of the space, and the Holistic Business Center, an organization giving workshops for small business owners, is in the process of setting up an office. But Schafer is also trying to show it off as place to hang out without spending a lot of money, by encouraging artists, musicians, authors and poets to perform, meet, jam and otherwise make use of the space in a community-building way.
There's a lot to recommend about Gimme Anime, but integrity is the foremost reason to feed your cultish obsession for Japanese animation, comics, serial graphic novels and accessories there. Owners Roger Morse and Emily Morse-Lee run a strictly bootleg-free business and stand by the quality of the stock, both new and consigned, that they put on the shelves of their Aurora strip-mall shop. But it's also an encyclopedic go-to for the very best stuff around, decked out with locally made fan art, where they'll gladly bend over backwards for you with special-ordering and wish-list services. Plus, the store offers a Gimme Manga frequent-buyer's card that will net you a free Fruits Basket (or other serial comic) for every nine that you buy and will provide meeting space for fellow mangamaniacs. That's not just retail; that's community.
Common Threads is a combination high-end used-clothing consignment boutique, local-product gift shop and creative lab, where you can learn to repurpose your newly purchased secondhand rags or send your kid to a spring-break sewing camp. Designed also with a dual purpose — to serve at-risk girls from Boulder's AIM House with special programs and to cater to the public at large — its all about the woman-to-woman experience (though guys are certainly welcome) with a green tinge, offering everything from a mentoring helping hand and a friendly stitch-and-bitch atmosphere. Believe it: This is the boutique of the future.
Anna Bé is exactly what you always imagined a wedding-dress shop would look like: a charming boutique with exposed brick walls and four neat rows of simple, elegant designer dresses; one massive pedestal before a three-tiered mirror; and not another bride in sight. Adorable, never-pushy co-owner Anna is only concerned with you. She'll bring you and your friends champagne and stay out of your way while you try on the first few dresses. Then she'll casually hang a dress outside your door and suggest you give it a try. It looked plain on the hanger, but on you, it's absolutely perfect.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. In a perilous economy, lots of people look to precious metals and collectable coins, but there are plenty of weirdos in the field as well as professionals. We like Dave Eichenberger's shop because the folks there are friendly, well-versed in the eccentricities of coin collecting, never intimidating and eminently fair, both in what they sell and what they pay for old coins and jewelry. Dave dispenses good advice for collectors, can spot a three-legged buffalo nickel in a pile of mere spenders, and can perform a quick assay to let you know if Grandpa's ring is real gold or 99 percent pure ersatz. And that's what you want from professionals these days: a quick winnowing of the chaff from the golden wheat.
So the photography nut on your gift list has asked for a stack of hardcover photo books by people with names like Lee Friedlander, Alfred Stieglitz and Annie Leibovitz. Don't know where to turn? Camera Obscura Gallery has plenty of fine art; in fact, the gallery and store claims to have the biggest selection of photography books in Colorado. Plus, they'll let you peruse the books before you buy them. Spend an afternoon there flipping through some of the best photos ever — then solve your gift-buying problems in a flash.