Oh, Colfax. It's hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to this avenue's spotty history, but one thing is certain: The street is home to some of Denver's best restaurants, bars, venues and retailers. To survive and thrive along the longest main street in the country takes not just a great idea, but true grit. Here are our favorite stores on Colfax Avenue (yes, they all happen to be along the central section of the strip in Denver) — offered up in alphabetical order, with the exception of the 2015 Best of Denver winner, which holds our number-one spot and a place in our hearts.
10. Angelo's CDs & More
3220 East Colfax Avenue
A wild mishmash of merchandise, Angelo's CDs & More's inventory puts the emphasis on more. Along with new and used vinyl and CDs, the shop carries DVDs and Blu-Ray, collectable toys, apparel, posters, stickers, books, jewelry and more, more, more. A throwback to a time when many record stores functioned as part-time head shops, Angelo's also sells pipes and other smoking accessories. Angelo's is a local venture that's been going strong for more than twenty years; it opened this spot conveniently located next to the Ogden Theatre in 2013.
9. Capitol Hill Books
300 East Colfax
Capitol Hill Books is a retail time capsule, a space crammed with great used books that are looked after by a knowledgable staff. Embracing the eclectic culture of Colfax, this shop's windows are plastered with posters and pop-culture ephemera (including a Humphrey Bogart cut-out) beckoning to passersby. Its trademark "red carts" of discounted books regularly sit outside the store; a portion of those markdown sales go to various local nonprofits. Operating with a true community spirit, Capitol Hill Books welcomes teachers with a 10 percent discount, and its "Bibliomaniac" program gives frequent book buyers a 10 percent discount on used books for a whole year, once you make $100 in purchases.
8. Colfax Guitar Shop
3220 East Colfax Avenue
Opened in 1998 by world-class luthier Scott Baxendale, since 2010 the Colfax Guitar Shop has been carried on in the trusted hands of owner Dave Dougherty, aided by fellow luthier Christian Phillips. This down-to-earth repair shop and guitar store offers expert vintage instrument rehabilitation and full-service care of broken equipment. The workshop's small sales floor carries beautiful guitars of all styles as well as strings, capos and other necessities. Centrally located among many of the city's music venues, Colfax Guitar Shop is a go-to for touring musicians needing emergency repairs, local bands looking for expert handiwork, and players of all levels desiring the kind of skilled service and craftsmanship this place provides.
7. Herbs & Arts
2015 East Colfax
Hippies, fairies, witches and healers know: Herbs & Arts is the place to go for all your metaphysical needs. The average Joan can find hand-blended teas and tinctures for ailments, ceremonial candles, astrology guidebooks and crystals here, too. The staffers at Herbs & Arts make many of the products carried in the shop, including bath salts and incense, which are carefully infused with some of the more than 100 essential oils stocked here and then blessed before hitting the shelves. The nurturing, spiritual retail environment is also home to various classes and events, inviting community members to come in and learn more about themselves and the world around them through such subjects as reading tarot and cultivating Qi.
6. Mod Livin'
5327 East Colfax
Not your mother's funky, retro furniture shop, Mod Livin' blends the vintage with the brand-new, and is one of the best home-decor retailers in the city. The 10,000-square-foot showroom puts an emphasis on mid-century-modern styles while offering an extensive collection of innovative brands like Blu Dot, Nuevo Living and Gus Modern. This place has something special for every room in the house, from the bathroom to the bedroom, kitchen to office, as well as light fixtures and decorative objects. Unlike the throwaway items you'll find at other home-goods stores, Mod Livin's pieces are comfortable, stylish and timeless, chosen to weather both heavy use and changing tastes.
Keep reading for five more stores on East Colfax Avenue.
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3301 East Colfax
Whether you're in need of special clothing or a particular flower essence for a ritual gathering or you just want to stock up on crystals and gems, Spirit Ways has you covered. This wonderfully witchy store's inventory of incense, sage, oracle cards, glass art and locally made candles fulfills the wishes of all types of spiritually inclined souls. It's a space of wonder and magick that also has healers on hand and tarot, psychic and intuitive readers available by appointment. Learn the ways of tarot reading yourself or take a seasonal meditational workshop at Spirit Ways — a metaphysical store with a lot to offer every person on the metaphysical plane.
4. Tattered Cover Colfax
2526 East Colfax
Every great city has its own venerable independent bookstore, and Denver has been lucky to have the Tattered Cover filling that role since 1971. Though it is now a local chain with outposts in Union Station as well as DIA, the retailer manages to maintain its magic in every location it opens. The Colfax store opened in 2006 inside the former Lowenstein Theater; with comfy nooks and crannies and special seating sprinkled throughout the multi-level biblioplex, this Tattered Cover welcomes customers not only to browse, but to stay a while. Famous authors and writers on the rise fill the merchant's calendar with signings and readings, too, but it's the bookstore's calm and inviting feel that makes Tattered Cover a cultural landmark.
3. Two-Wheel Feel
3217 East Colfax
A rare tale of Denver's recent growth resulting in a happy ending for an old store, Two-Wheel Feel is the work of good neighbors. This bike shop is housed in the former Collins' Bicycles location, a store that had been on Colfax — and in the Collins family — since 1934. Coffee purveyors Scott and Malissa Spero of Hooked on Colfax fame found out that their business neighbor to the east had fallen ill — so they snapped up the cycling shop and gave it a new life while honoring the Collins legacy. A neat and tidy renovation kept the charm of the decades-old business, but brought with it an inventory of new and used bikes, cycling accessories and an on-site repair shop. In a bustling city like Denver, Two-Wheel Feel is the wheel thing.
2. Twist & Shout Records
2508 East Colfax
Twist & Shout manages to be all things to all music lovers, a record store to end all record stores. It's Denver's premier destination record shop for visitors, while also a trusted source of encyclopedic offerings for local expert collectors desiring fresh inventory daily. New and used vinyl, CDs and cassette tapes are Twist's primary offerings, but the store also carries an excellent selection of music-history books and artist biographies, concert and comedy DVDs and Blu-Ray, and general pop-culture-related collectables. Twist & Shout is also known for its in-store performances, which give fans an opportunity to see favorite international artists play in an intimate setting. More than a retail store, Twist & Shout helps music junkies find the records they didn't even know they were looking for while creating the kind of environment where shoppers want to spend hours.
1. Studio Colfax
2481 East Colfax
The fascinating mix of artisan wares inside Studio Colfax seems to perfectly mirror the eclectic style of the avenue outside. Surprises abound in this shop of delights, which stocks its shelves with beautifully embroidered purses, delicious chocolate, handmade bar soap and wooden toys. Limited-run clothing, locally produced artwork and small batches of products ensure that you'll find something new on each visit to the store, run by sisters Rebecca and Sarah Tischler and their friends Sara Bruce and Marguerite Specht. With its ever-changing and affordable inventory of handmade goods and functional art, Studio Colfax is the kind of shop that can make you look like the best gift-giver ever — but just try getting out the door without buying something cool for yourself.
What's your favorite store on Colfax Avenue? Vote now in the Best of Denver 2016 Readers' Poll.