part 1 of 4
Best Star Trek Paraphernalia
8770 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada
8400 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora
Beam me up, Scotty! Business is out of this world for Stephen and KathE Walker, who've turned their obsession with Star Trek--all generations--into two local stores and a booming mail-order trade. Customers from around the world--next stop, the universe!--rely on Starland to keep them up to their Vulcan ears in gewgaws from their favorite show. Kitschy, kitschy coup.
Best Nuclear Fallout
212 S. Broadway
Sure, the bottom of your kid brother's closet was a mess--but could you have guessed that all those cereal-box prizes, Pez dispensers, posable action figures and Gilligan's Island lunch boxes would someday be valuable collectibles? No, or else you'd be laughing all the way to the R2D2 piggy bank with the owners of Atomic Antiques, whose snug little emporium is stuffed with all the junk your mother threw out--and that now could pay your kid's way through college. It's all here: Danny Partridge Kool-Aid glasses, original Barbie Dream Homes, a genuine Campbell's Soup T-shirt signed by Andy Warhol, cases and cases of Star Trek miniatures, and assorted trinkets featuring the lesser-known but oh-so-familiar TV and comic-book characters that studded the Atomic Age. Hey, save that cool multicolored Formica teardrop-magazine-rack-cigarette-cocktail table for me!
Best Funky Furniture
Anthony's Used Furniture
4431 Tennyson St.
Put the word "antiques" right out of your mind, because that's not what you're going to find at Anthony's Used Furniture. Instead, Jack Anthony has crammed his place with old--but not that old--dressers, tables, chairs and lamps that have seen better days. His cheap treasures are perfect for do-it-yourselfers and would-be folk artists who like turning bargain furniture into one-of-a-kind conversation pieces. Spotted recently at his shop: an old glider sofa (with cushions) for $49, and Fifties metal lawn chairs, 12 bucks apiece.
Best Upscale Boutique
286 Fillmore St.
Tastes are fickle in trendy Cherry Creek North, but Tapestry has been going strong now for twenty years, selling beautiful and unusual clothes that are derived--but a voguish step removed--from the flowing caftan school of fashion. You'll find ethnically flavored, richly textured togs in knockout colors and fabrics, complemented by handsome, one-of-a-kind jewelry. It's a place to step outside the fashion cookie-cutter without losing a crumb of style.
Best Upscale Women's Clothing Buys
The Back Room at Loehmann's
7400 E. Hampden Ave.
Shedding your clothes in front of your fellow shoppers is a small price to pay for a bargain. At Loehmann's Back Room, you don't pay fancy fees for fancy tags--sometimes they've been cut out, anyway, and you just have to guess the maker (regulars get to be good at it). What you don't have to guess about is the quality of the product: Silk is silk, wool is wool, a great cut is a great cut, and it never goes out of style.
Best Junket for Shopaholics
Nordstrom's Sky Trip
Colorado doesn't have a Nordstrom's, the high-end department store famous for coddling customers. But there's something almost as good for credit junkies: annual store-sponsored weekend trips to the chain's Fashion Valley store in San Diego. This year's Sky Trip, slated for late July (when the winter fashions arrive), features round-trip airfare, two nights in a hotel and shuttles to and from the store--even an in-store hospitality room stocked with appetizers and beverages. Sky Trippers can also shop unmolested; the store opens an hour early in their honor.
Best Hole-in-the-Wall Boutique
1021 S. Gaylord St.
Truly a hole in the wall, Old South Gaylord's Come-Hither is full of wonderful clothes with a vintage feel. There's a rack of flimsy frocks in rayons and chiffons--all reminiscent of the days when women's clothing was more sensuous and less obvious--along with beautiful hats of the crushed-velvet and satin-flowered ilk, beaded scarves, and hairpins and headbands decorated with pale, delicate silk roses. Just the place for the Victorian in your soul.
Garbarini is the place to satisfy your wicked shoe fetish and get away with it. The shoes and boots from trendy makers like Kenneth Cole, Via Spiga, Studio Paolo and Cole-Haan are stylish to a fault (after all, the ultimate footwear fantasy needn't be tasteless). You'll also find the cutest little handbags, socks and gloves around.
Best Place to Indulge in an Imelda Marcos Fantasy
613 E. 13th Ave.
Store manager Paul Italiano rightly claims that the streetwise Fashionation carries the best alternative footwear inventory in the West, featuring sole-ful masterpieces from the most insane of cobblers. The funky shoe bazaar includes everything from steel-toed work shoes to thigh-high bitch boots and indigo-glittered Doc Marten's--something for the Liberace in all of us.
Best Incredibly Cool--and Incredibly Expensive--Cowboy Boots
Cherry Creek Shoe Biz
2636 E. 3rd Ave.
Although Russian emigrant Tony Yuffa had built a successful chain of six Shoe Biz shoe-repair shops in the area, he really kicked his business into high gear when he started selling cowboy boots. And what boots! Not only does Cherry Creek Shoe Biz stock classic Lucchese and Nocona models, it's now the exclusive Denver retailer of Rocketbusters, flashy designer boots out of El Paso that sell for between $350 and $2,000. Consider them "rare collector's items as well as fancy footwear," advises Yuffa. Only in America!
Best Gay Apparel
The Pink Planet
P.O. Box 260274
Highlands Ranch 80126-0274
Denver-based Pink Planet began last year as a small cottage industry. Today, with products ranging from leather jackets, watches, hats, sweatshirts, shorts, tanks, henleys and an assortment of T-shirts, Pink Planet is well on its way to becoming the Land's End of mail-order gay fashions. All Planet clothes sport a logo of the world with a pink triangle on top and an exclamation point inside--the perfect way for gays, lesbians and bisexuals to subtly say who they are. Write to request a catalogue.
Best Place for Rich Relatives to Buy Clothes for Your Kids
Cherry Creek Mall
Gap Kids does for kids exactly what it does for adults, but maybe it does it better. The clothes are sturdy and adorable: little jean jackets, striped leggings and T-shirts, floppy hats and cute little coordinates in fruit-bowl colors, all of which hold up remarkably well under the stress a young child inevitably exacts upon his or her togs. There are few bargains at the posh Cherry Creek store, but with any luck, that won't deter Aunt Alice.
Best Children's Clothing Consignment Store
9116 W. Bowles Ave., Littleton
None of the consignment stores in the area feature as large a selection of reasonably priced, good-condition kids' clothing as Kids Again. As a bonus, there's a second Kids Again in Littleton; if what you're looking for isn't at the Bowles branch, the clerk will gladly call the sister store in an effort to locate it there. For those who'd rather not drape their kids in threads from the Gap, this is an easy-wearing and easy-spending alternative.
Best Place to Buy Boxer Shorts
11720 E. 49th Ave.
Wholesaler U-Trau puts everything on the table twice a year, when it holds a big factory sale. And what does U-Trau sell for cut-rate prices? How about shorts, T-shirts, sweats, drawstring pants and boxer shorts, hundreds of 'em, in all sizes and a variety of fabrics, including comforting flannel.
Best Upscale Eyewear
100 Fillmore St.
Folks who prefer to see and be seen will appreciate the selection at Europtics. The glitzy, gargantuan Cherry Creek store displays a mind-boggling array of fancy frames from stylish makers like Matsuda, Indian and Gaultier. If you can't find what you want here, you might as well stop looking.
Best Full-Figured Gal Consignment Shop
Christine's UpScale Plus
3890 Kipling St., Wheat Ridge
Oprah Winfrey can go ahead and auction off the contents of her closet (sizes 8 through 22 inclusive). Closer to home, full-figured gals count on Christine's UpScale Plus to keep them in stitches. The shop stocks clothes both new and near-new in sizes 14 through 4X, with a special emphasis on career attire and designer labels, including Gianni Versace, Givenchy En Plus and Oleg Cassini. You're living large--and you look mahvelous.
Best Art of Darkness Store
1325 Broadway, Boulder
Get your gargoyles here! Wolf Konecny is in the dark as to why some people think his new store, Benediction, is an outlet for satanism. "Some people choose to perceive us as black practitioners," says Konecny. "I think that is ridiculous and due to ignorance. What we are is a means of expression, communication and interaction. We happen to have a lot of items that involve darker concepts, but darkness can be enlightening, and we will not refrain from displaying items because they aren't `normal.'" Oh? Bone jewelry and gothic/death clothing are "normal" fare at Benediction? We don't know where you're from, Wolf, but in our neck of the woods...
Best Ankle Bracelets
Boulder-based BI Inc. makes just the right accessory for every crime: ankle bracelets that monitor the whereabouts of people sentenced to house arrest. And although that invention is what originally footed BI's bills, the company has since branched out to manufacture hardware for hard times and to better serve the corrections industry by creating computer software for jail management systems, as well as contracting to track scofflaws electronically. At last count, BI had the number of 7,500 offenders across the country.
Best Rubber Room
508 E. Colfax Ave.
Yes, Virginia, it's not just for bicycle tires anymore. Uzi makes much of its own merchandise from the shiniest, softest rubber you can imagine wrapping around your...whatever. Featuring everything from corsets and jackets to full-body suits and masks with tiny slits for breathing, Uzi is the only store in Denver that caters to the latex fetishist. You'll find locally made jewelry, bondage wear, erotic art from local artists and a display of old-time S&M implements. And if you ask nicely, Mistress Mari may put you in the custom-made steel cage.
Best 16th Street Mall Vendor
Between Champa and Stout streets
In an ocean of cheesy sunglasses and overpriced lattes, Sekou Kamara's business is an oasis of tranquility and class. Since the closing of Woolworth's, it's also about the only place you can get a key made downtown fast and cheap. At this writing, you can still get three keys for the price of two, a deal Kamara is thinking about extending indefinitely. And if you're a chronic key loser, take heart: Kamara's admonitions to keep your spare keys separate sound much more serious in his beautiful Senegalese accent.
Readers' choice: Christian's 50-cent hot dog stand
210 E. 13th Ave.
After traveling for two years with the Lollapalooza caravan of merchants and craftsmen, Kyle and Heather Vermeer have settled in Denver and opened Pandora Jewelry to showcase their collection of eclectic adornments. With an inventory ranging from standard fare such as rings and necklaces to festive night-clubbing baubles, body-piercing implements and beaded curtains, the Vermeers' store can accommodate anyone with the need to embellish wide-open spaces.
Best Used Tuxedoes
78 S. Broadway
Why add to Pierre Cardin's coffers when you can find something much cooler--and much cheaper--among the bowling shirts and other vintage clothing items at American Aces? For that matter, why look like a high school prom geek when you can go for the James Bond at Monte Carlo look instead? Or how about Clark Gable in the ballroom scene--or Buddy Holly, or even James Brown? Finally, why rent when you can own one of these dapper garments for the same price?
Best One-Stop Antiquing
The Antique Guild
1298 S. Broadway
The biggest and best store on Broadway's antique row, the Antique Guild has two huge floors filled with items ranging from the inexpensive (pop bottles from the past) to the exorbitant (vintage furniture you'd kill to own). The prices aren't bad by the strip's standards, and the variety can't be beat. And for those of you who need refreshment, the Guild also contains an old-fashioned soda fountain, stocked with time-tested treats to put you back in the shopping mood.
Best Antique Buys
401 S. Public Rd., Lafayette
Good antiques are easy to find in Denver; decent prices are another matter. So when we stumbled upon West's Antiques, it struck us as Hepplewhite heaven. These two side-by-side stores carry everything from bedroom sets and baking tables to mantelpieces and a pipe organ from the old Omaha Opera House, and they sell it all at prices one-third to one-half of what you'd expect to pay on South Broadway. The store also has a variety of layaway and financing plans, making it that much easier for you to spend your money.
Best Place to Buy Old Baseball Cards
Bill's Sports Collectables
2335 S. Broadway
Big isn't always better--but sometimes it is. One of the best things about Bill's Sports Collectables is that it has acres of space. Every inch of that space is covered with new and old (and sometimes autographed) collector's items ranging from team caps and jerseys to sports books and videos. And, of course, more baseball cards than you can shake a Louisville Slugger at.
Best Used Sporting Goods Store
Play It Again Sports
Five metro locations
Looking for a top-of-the-line Wilson A2000 fielder's glove (retail price: $150) for 89 bucks? It's never been used. How about an $800 set of Jack Nicklaus Personal Model irons for just $240? They've been played only three times. These are typical bargains at Play It Again Sports. Stock and availabilities change constantly, but the rock-bottom policy doesn't. When we last called, you could get a broken-in A2000 for just $40, or a $329 Dana Designs backpack for $180--never worn.
Best Thrift Store
ARC Value Village
1515 S. Broadway
Let someone else break in those coffee cups, cutting boards and flannel shirts. All you have to do is head over to the ARC Value Village on Broadway and hunt them down. Well-run, clean and fabulously stocked with a regular turnover, this store also consistently offers the best selection of previously owned shirts--formal, Hawaiian, mountain-man or knockabout styles. Case clothed.
Readers' choice: ARC Value Village
Best Thrift Shopping Area
88th Ave. and Washington St., Thornton
Being thrifty can be a time-consuming task, but the bargains come a lot quicker when the shops are in close proximity. With that in mind, welcome to thrift shopper's paradise. Located in Fifties suburbia--now transforming itself into Nineties urban fringe--the two strip malls at this intersection are brimming with bargains. Regular visits to the stores--The Salvation Army Thrift Store, Bargain House Used Furniture, The Used Bookstore, ARC Value Village Clearance Store, DAV Thrift Store and Beauty's Treasures--will yield great finds from a past generation, as well as practical necessities for budget-minded families.
Best Flea Market
Mile High Flea Market
I-76 and 88th Ave.
Don't pass over the permanent booths up front at the Mile High Flea Market; among the T-shirts, shades and dreck, you'll find repackaged CDs at very low prices in one space and a mad hodgepodge of unrelated items in another, while still another stop unearths cheap bundles of socks. And absolutely go for the tent-city garage sale going on in back. For every chipped plate and paint-by-numbers gem, there's another item that's truly unique--a bit of railroad memorabilia, an antique Navajo rug or a Yoruba beadwork snake (the seller claimed it was handmade by his grandma in Uganda, but that's just part of the game).
Best Place to Buy Mardi Gras Beads
9 E. Ellsworth Ave.
In between the racks of "vintage" Seventies clothing (Adidas athletic shorts and Munsingwear shirts of the "old school" are big sellers) and cutting-edge music (club DJs are known to drag themselves out of bed to go vinyl hunting at Fat Tuesday on weekday afternoons), owner and New Orleans native Merrick Delesdernier keeps a small supply of bona fide Mardi Gras trinkets on hand. The bead necklaces may be little more than hard plastic on a string, but they're from the big parade itself--and Merrick, who drives a UPS truck when he's not cooking up a pop-culture gumbo, sells 'em in Denver for a fraction of what you'd expect to pay in the Big Easy.
I Do Slipcovers
4856 S. Acoma St., Englewood
Elaine Ellis, an almost alarmingly committed artiste, has never met an old sofa she didn't grow to love. And when the owner of I Do Slipcovers becomes inspired, watch out. She'll find you deals on fabric, show you hundreds of photographs of her work, ask you exactly what you want--and return a couple of weeks later with a washable, one-of-a-kind slipcover that will withstand even the grimiest home environment. She will then thank you for providing her with such an exhilarating creative experience. As for her prices--they can't last.
Desert Heart Inc.
3480 W. 32nd Ave.
You may come away with something you really didn't need, but at Desert Heart, chances are it'll be something great. The shop sells beads, metal stampings and oddball ornaments that can be purchased by the scoop from color-coordinated bauble baskets--as well as exquisite, jangly costume jewelry designed by owner Deborah Sparshott. And the wares don't end there: There are transparent glass seashells in candy colors, papier-mache animal rattles, fanciful boxes, petroglyph T-shirts and other unpredictable pretties.
Adult Book & Video
4810 Pontiac St., Commerce City
The Triple-X neon sign at Adult Book & Video burns 24 hours a day because this adult toy store behind the Sapp Brothers Truck Stop (the one with the big neon coffeepot sign just north of I-70 and Quebec) never closes. If you yearn for a nice pair of nipple clips at four in the morning, you can find them here, along with a porndog's treasure cache of other goodies. There's a large selection of gay and straight periodicals, books and magazines available in multipack deals. The 25-cent arcade has more titles than you can shake a stick at, and the extremely large video collection is conveniently divided into "subject" areas. You can buy one, rent one, or reserve an on-site viewing room and catch all the action without ever leaving the comfort of the store. An abundant novelty selection includes love kits, paddles, penis pacifiers, risque gag gifts, blow-up dolls and pocket pals, along with enough vibrators, fake phalluses and sturdy strap-on tools to satisfy the needs of even the pickiest consumers. What we liked best was the counter display of red-leather AIDS ribbons for sale.
Best All-Around Vice Shop
Jerri's Tobacco Shop
1616 Glenarm Pl.
Clean living? Who needs it? At Jerri's Tobacco Shop, you can choose your poison: gluttony (a very large array of cholesterol-packed snack items from barbecued Corn Nuts to palm-oil-drenched coconut balls), gambling (Lotto tickets by the score), pornography (the widest assortment of bodice-busting skin mags we've found yet in an establishment that also sells walking canes) and general decadence (care for a water pipe, anyone?). Naturally, the shop is also choke-full of the richest, meanest tobacco this side of North Carolina.
Best Secondhand Smoke
Edward's Tobacco Inc.
3439 S. Broadway, Englewood
Step off busy South Broadway into Edward's, and you'll swear you've landed on Tobacco Road. The bravest souls will even venture into the cozy store's humidor. The aroma inside Edward's definitely will put you in the mood--to either linger amid the choice cigars or run like hell toward the door.
Best Mall for Smokers
The world is an increasingly inhospitable place for that most endangered of species, smokers. But nicotine addicts will find shelter from the norm at the Northglenn Mall, where management, in response to customers' requests, has designated two smoking areas--complete with ashtrays and seating--in the north and west wings, near Sears and Mervyn's, respectively.
Best Use of Rhodesian Railroad Ties
The Baobab Tree
1518 Wazee St.
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Baobab Tree owners Miles Forsyth and Anita Walter have been bringing artifacts back from South Africa, Zimbabwe and other countries on the dark continent for twenty years. So when they recently opened for business, there was no shortage of ethnic stuff for them to put on the block. The spacious room is filled with carved busts, clay figures, exquisite basketry, beadwork, tapestries and other oddities. But perhaps the most unusual items are memorabilia culled from the Rhodesian railways, including gargantuan dining tables smartly fashioned from teak railroad ties--and so well finished you'd never dream where they came from.
Best Folk Art
Fish Head Soup
238 S. Broadway
Fans of the artfully funky will love the up-scale Fish Head Soup, set in an appropriately quirky South Broadway neighborhood. The heart of the store is stocked with shelves of cheap doodads and silly toys such as schnozz-shaped pencil sharpeners that make terrific stocking stuffers. Though the proprietors sometimes carry works by such nationally known folk artists as Howard Finster, much of their merchandise is crafted in the back room. Slide over to the bottle-cap snakes, which cost about a third as much as their Santa Fe counterparts.
end of part 1