Bookworms are always looking for a new place to gnaw, and the Book Stack, run by DU's Women's Library Association for the benefit of that school's venerable Penrose Library, is a great place to dig in. It's a repository of cheap, cast-off books: hardbacks, paperbacks, children's books, collectibles and more, some of which have already been dog-eared, and others that are just waiting to have their pages ruffled. Open Wednesdays from 9 to noon and Saturdays from 10 to 2, the volunteer-managed store isn't the biggest or snootiest used bookstore around, but it's certainly one of the nicest.

Sue Lubeck's store's been around the block. But now, thankfully, it's actually beginning to wrap itself around the block. A recent expansion will allow Lubeck to better accommodate educators who meet at Bookies without compromising her already crowded retail space, which spills over with wonderful things for and about kids, providing hours of browsing of the most excellent kind. Whether you're looking for Harry Potter or something more obscure, you're more than likely to come across it. But if you don't, Lubeck's steadfast, customer-service-oriented staff will help you get it as quickly as possible. It's the little things that count.

This is a place you either love -- or you just don't get. But be forewarned: Don't come in here without a healthy imagination and a love for the beautiful and unusual. Five Green Boxes changes its whole look with every season, segueing as grandly and organically as nature herself, dressing in new hues and unfolding with unexpected whimsies. But some things remain the same: Central to the gift, gewgaw and home design emporium's raison d'être are such regular features as an in-store design team that whips together one-of-a-kind felt patchwork chairs and other household embellishments, what must be the town's most creative gift-wrapping service, and a fabulous mixture of contemporary craft, antique showpieces, kitsch and flea-market chic. And it all falls under the umbrella of a sky-wide price range that allows you to splurge on a singular, once-in-a-lifetime investment or just take home a little trinket for a pocketful of clinking change.

There's more to Judaica than a nine-armed candelabra and a six-pointed star. With that in mind, the Boulder Arts & Crafts Cooperative has a sharp eye for artful things Jewish: seder plates, Shabbat candles, dreidels, tallitim, mezuzahs, menorahs and more, all sporting the human touch of an artisan. Hand-forged metals, stoneware and clay are only a few of the mediums represented year-round in the co-op's supply of Judaic wares, but holiday time is when the displays really shine, expanding to include such items as fine-art paintings by Deborah Kanegis. Try it -- you'll like it.

The signs decorating the warehousey building on the corner of West 38th Avenue and Osage Street in northwest Denver bilingually advertise everything from 14k gold jewelry, pagers and stereos to ropa and the joyería inside. But more than anything, it's the business's name -- against a logo bearing the colors of the Mexican flag -- that says it all: This is Ameri-Mart, brother, and all you need to be happy in this country is lots of stuff. Muscle shirts, mustard-colored jeans, packages of socks for two bucks, christening and communion dresses and Fruit of the Loom briefs. An entire aisle of shoes, 50 percent off. Kenwood and Bose speakers and subwoofers. Video games and Pokémon cards. Cleaning supplies, paper towels and trash bags. Monster squirt guns and brown dolls. Chairs, sofas and a "surprise" back room full of antiquey furniture, "Tiffany" lamps, gilded mirrors, faux elephant-tusk carvings and bronze deer and dolphin statues. Small appliances and Jesus candles. Dried chiles, freeze-dried coffee, corn husks and 25-pound bags of pinto beans for $9.50. Co-owner Mark Reichert says he and his partners "wanted to open a store that combined all the things we found other businesses in the area doing," but he swears that unlike that notorious, wholly American creation known as Wal-Mart, he's not trying to put nearby small businesses out. "I thought about that, but I think people like to come where they have a lot of choices. We have clothing, but that doesn't hurt the other clothing stores around here. People like to shop," he says. And when they run out of money, there's a Western Union at the front counter.

Remember the Saturday Night Live skit with Mike Myers wearing a kilt while screaming at customers "If it's not Scottish, it's crap"? Well, Frank and Sheryl Campbell, the owners of Thistle & Shamrock, which carries Scottish and Irish goods, don't greet customers with quite the same hostility, but they are passionate about their merchandise -- from souvenir-type gifts like plaid mugs, shamrock socks and shortbread cookies to serious items like kilts, claddagh rings, wool sweaters and vests and bagpipes. They can even order your family's very own tartan directly from a Scottish woolen mill. One thing that's sure to make a shopper kick up his heels, though, is an Aran sweater. The patterns, distinctive of certain Irish villages and knitters, were used at one time to help identify where a dead fisherman came from. Traditionally knit on Aran island, they're now manufactured all over. A machine-knit sweater costs $85, and a hand-knit one will run you $225. Not bad for a little taste of the old country.

Ivy Morgan is a traveler, and her little Sixth Avenue nook is a telling repository. Stuffed to the rafters with trinkets and clothing from such exotic climes as Nepal, Indonesia and Thailand, Cargo has wonderful novelties: Chinese Feng Shui compasses, temple candles, singing bowls and thangka prints and tapestries used by traveling monks to teach Buddhist stories. But for mass appeal, you can't go wrong with one of her imported T-shirts: Splashed from seam to seam with geishas, bodhisattvas, dragons, samurai warriors, anime characters and more, the body-hugging gear will open eyes and make you feel like you've been there and back.
Alice Monroney works out of an ordinary storefront, but what goes on inside is extraordinary. Her lush tapestry travel and passport bags, backpacks, flap bags, totes and cosmetic bags are made of fabrics adorned with everything from flora and fauna to the sun, moon and stars. Monroney finishes them herself with unique, handcrafted buttons, saucy tassels, moiré lining and braided loops and shoulder straps. Then they're shipped off to shops from Maine to Hawaii and all points between. If you like, you can log on to www.alicetapestries.com and she'll ship one right to your doorstep.

Kris and Lewis Butler know kids. Take note of the typical, screaming two-year-old behind the counter and you'll have no question about that. But they also know parents, and the evidence of that is in the snappy inventory of new and used children's clothes they carry in their narrow Gaylord Street shop. At Beez Kneez, you'll find pricey new duds, including such brand names as Tender Buttons, Chicken Noodle and Just Kiddin', which specializes in reversible dresses and rompers in bright prints, right alongside the recycled ones at bargain prices, including cheery plaid or poppy-print party frocks with big collars. There are also sturdy shorts, T-shirts, leggings and overalls, which often sell for $10 or less. Throw in some novelties -- wooden-bead "watches" with movable hands, elastic bracelets, hair ornaments, dragon hats and more -- and you're done shopping for the rest of the season.
The store policy says it all: Once Upon a Child will buy back your purchases when your kids outgrow them, a touch that makes a trip to Fort Collins worth the drive. Bargain-hunters will find everything they need here: slightly used V-Tech toys, cute stuffed animals, strollers, cribs, bassinets, bath toys, new overstuffed rocking chairs and a huge inventory of used clothing, both high- and low-end and befitting any season or occasion. Throw in a staff that obviously enjoys and knows the minds of children, and you'll be in a good enough mood to endure the ride home.

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