Pandora's Boxes

The thing about walking into Five Green Boxes is this: You won't want to leave. You'll want to move in and walk across the white floor and settle yourself between its clean, cool chartreuse (!) walls, under the high ceilings and unimpeded loft-like expanses. Read the newspaper on a fuzzy green-and-what-have-you, boiled-wool, patchwork-upholstered chair. Sleep on the whitewashed country bedstead adorned with feather-light rosebud-infested organza pillows.

But you'll have to pull yourself together and buy something. It's not hard, considering the vast price gamut you'll find, with merchandise ranging from rare, one-of-a-kind antique Russian carpets to cheerful Chinese bobble-head dolls selling for less than ten dollars. Sometimes, though, it's hard to figure out what's for sale and what's just there for decoration -- for instance, the gallon jars of bright-green pickles lined up in a long, weathered window box or the spooky black-crow decoys that seem to have flown in from an Edward Gorey illustration. Here's the secret: If it has a tag, it's fair game.

Most people who have set foot in the shop since it opened earlier this month say they've never seen anything like it. What it mostly doesn't resemble is its predecessor in the warehouse-like South Pearl Street space, a fiber-arts supply store best remembered for its dusty rows of yarn-loaded shelves. But anyone who shopped here then, when it was still Skyloom Fibres, will also recall its serendipity. In every nook and cranny, there were unexpected treats -- rare beads from Africa, Guatemalan weavings, tomato teapots and fire-spitting Oaxacan dragons. After Skyloom owner Charlotte Elich and latter-day partner Carrie Vadas decided to shut down last summer, what rose from the ashes retained that spontaneous spirit -- banked on it, in fact -- by replacing the workman-like aisles of old with an open, explorable shop not unlike an accordion book. Even the name reflects a sense of whimsy: "It's just compulsive behavior," says Vadas by way of, um, non-explanation. Like shopping itself, Five Green Boxes is all about the mystery of impulse.

"We put an edge on contemporary folk art," Vadas adds, struggling to explain a store that's not a store and a gallery that's not a gallery. "We don't want to call it a gallery, because we don't want buying art to be intimidating. We take it one step further; what sets us apart is that we do our own in-house designing."

Working with artists and resources culled from twenty-some years in the yarn business, Elich and Vadas have thrown their Five Green Boxes signature into the merchandise mix, putting their own private-label furniture, crafts, pottery and jewelry -- among other yet-to-be-created items -- alongside an elegant mixture of gift items, an international spectrum of textiles and antiques, and a well-chosen trove of folk art and other handmade wares. As the business grows, they hope to increase the homegrown presence.

Elich and Vadas also have big plans for the holidays, including what might become the most innovative gift-wrap service in town. "It's not a matter of putting a bow on our box," notes Vadas, but instead involves something with lime-green masking tape and chenille balls. And, she adds, "we're only 42 blocks from Cherry Creek."

Lift the lid. Look inside.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd

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