Best Of :: Shopping & Services
While politicians and pundits trade theories on how to stimulate the economy, the folks at Mile High Business Alliance are digging in and doing it. The Alliance maintains that every dollar spent locally circulates at least three times more than one spent with a non-locally owned corporation or chain. Through programs such as the Colorado Local First Campaign and Local Flavor Guides, which celebrate the character of neighborhoods such as LoHi and SoBo, MHBA encourages everyone to direct at least 10 percent of their spending to businesses that sprout from Colorado soil. The organization also maintains a user-friendly online guide to Colorado businesses. True, MHBA doesn't yet represent all 500,000 of the locally owned businesses in Colorado. But their clever campaigns ("My local coffee shop can kick your corporate coffee shop's ass," reads one MHBA-produced poster) spread awareness about the power of how and where we spend our dollars.
There's nothing like shopping at a farmers' market, but come winter, most of them pack it away. Not James and Irina Bertini, whose venture, Denver Urban Homesteading, runs year-round, every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The market features fresh foods from within a 100-mile radius (or at least from somewhere in Colorado), including everything from raw honey and goat's milk to heritage turkeys, hand-canned sauerkraut and grass-fed buffalo meat. Plus, the Bertinis started a Community Wine Project, in conjunction with the Infinite Monkey Theorem winery, to allow backyard vintners to grow grapes and bottle wine under the DUH label. Now, that's thinking — and drinking — locally.
A collaborative think tank bringing private and public factions together in the interest of creating and growing a local economy through the promotion of local foods, Grow Local Colorado starts with its founding sponsors: the Living Earth Center, Transition Denver, the Mile High Business Alliance and Denver Botanic Gardens. But from there, it spreads to include every one of us. Anyone who's ever thought of growing backyard produce to sell at micro-markets or to restaurants, or just anyone who'd like to find that kind of food to buy and eat in the first place, will benefit from this group, which helps put gardeners in contact with projects and lists classes in sustainable growing practices. This is networking on a brave new level. From lowly grassroots, great ideas will grow.
For a good while, Jessica LeRoux, aka the Cheesecake Lady, was everybody's best friend in the local pre-concert tailgating scene. Strolling through parking lots with her crazy hat and wavy hair, she offered up specially infused heavenly treats at unbeatable prices. The medical marijuana boom has allowed her to go mainstream, though, and LeRoux has opened a commercial kitchen where she bakes a variety of cannabis cheesecakes and chocolates that are sold at dispensaries around the state with her signature "Twirling Hippy Confections" logo. And not only are these some of the best edibles around, but LeRoux has made a habit of organizing fundraisers for indigent patients. That's right: You can have your cannabis cheesecake and eat it, too.
Littleton artists Tom Sarmo, Teresa Brooks and Ruth Fiege threw open their studio doors last fall, and you won't find a more whimsical shop anywhere. Although it first and foremost displays the trio's eclectic clay works, shadowboxes and illustrations, along with some art by other locals, Sk3tchbook's most discerning features would be the curiosities it bears: vintage radios, religious art, old books, bottles and tins, machines and tubes and all manner of dumpster finds, which not only spiff up the place in an unusual way, but make you want to come back again and again.
When things get tough, the tough start saving, and the stuff of garage and estate sales, the Goodwill store and the slightly higher-end consignment stores begins to look a whole lot better to folks looking for a change in wardrobe or home design. The little enclave at the intersection of Hampden and Chambers Road in Aurora goes a long way toward making the hunt simpler. Three secondhand palaces, including Leta's Loot (303-617-5668) for furniture and home decor, Little Tykes Trading Post (720-870-7191) for all things ten-and-under, and Celine's Designer Resale Boutique (303-680-5544) for razzle-dazzle resale rags, nestle side by side on the southwest corner, offering one-stop shopping for discerning bargain hunters.