The joint venture of a Denver designer and a Chicago marketing strategist, Grow's greatest appeal is its wonderful simplicity -- the colorful, comfortable all-cotton daywear is durable, cute and easy to care for. Though the clothing, gently emblazoned with Verity Freebern's graphics, is available in Denver and Boulder at Applause and Rocky Mountain Kids and nationally in catalogues, Grow can also be purchased online at an incredibly user-friendly Web site. Once you've logged on, all you have to do is choose from a standard selection of styles, colors and designs (which include the popular "Sweet Pea" and "Little Monster"), mixing and matching in nearly endless, genderless configurations in sizes from 3 months to 6X/7. Whether you're sending something off quickly for a gift or ordering for your own little sweet pea, this is one alternative that really grows on you.

Don't be frightened: When you first walk into Gumballs after picking your way through a jungle of plastic trikes, wagons and other yard toys parked in front, it's a little bit frightening, like entering the remains of a trailer park ravaged by spring tornadoes. But step lightly over the shoes piled up in the aisles, and be brave: The stuff's there, at least what's in season, from frilly Easter dresses to swimsuits and leotards for little water babies and dancers. It's all used, accepted on a straight fifty-fifty consignment deal, and though it's tightly packed on the racks, there are plenty of clean and pressed treasures to be unearthed. Such as: sweet frocks from Baby Lulu and Biobottoms, an entire rack of secondhand Gymboree duds, Disney videos and a painted wooden Babar rocker that could be the centerpiece of any well-appointed nursery, all at prices well below what you'd pay for them new.

Best Place to Get a Trophy (or Huge Gavel) for Scoring Well

Colorado Badge and Trophy

Happen to be, say, an organizer of a stock show in need of official-looking "Participant" ribbons? Or need to impress a suddenly retiring Supreme Court justice with an engraved gavel bigger than his ego? Try Colorado Badge and Trophy, which since 1906 has been supplying the hardware that makes all those meaningful and inspirational moments in life last. From the tiny ribbons (about 30 cents apiece) to a big, honking walnut gavel ($450), you can get awards and promotions for just about everyone.

A division of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Voice Center is the only voice research laboratory in the world associated with a major performing arts organization. But the staff works with people throughout the community, not just professional actors. In addition to conducting research into everything speech-related, assisting Parkinson's patients and helping injured voices recover, the center offers an ongoing series of free public workshops that focus on presentation skills and enhancing voice production through posture and body awareness.

This family-owned company in the Highland neighborhood has brought new life to old books since 1929. Not only will Denver Bookbinding recover old volumes and bind new manuscripts, but it can also create custom-designed journals and blank books. Since 1972, the shop has been run by the daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of founder Axel Erslund; no doubt the family has a pretty sizeable scrapbook of its own.

When you buy used books, you never know what you're going to find. The staff at Capitol Hill Books has been finding things tucked away in used books for at least two decades, and the store's Ephemera Wall of Fame is an entertaining, sometimes poignant display of long-forgotten news clippings, ticket stubs, prayer cards, photos, postcards, pressed flowers and the like. If it makes a good bookmark, it will eventually find its way to Capitol Hill.

Best Party Product -- Professional Division

Party Mitt

It's tough to shmooze and booze with a buffet plate in your hand. The Party Mitt lets you hold drinks and snacks in one hand while grinnin' and grippin' with the other. Made of disposable plastic with a thumb-shaped recess that works for lefties or righties, the Mitt is the answer to a hungry partyer's prayers. Sadly, so far it's available only to caterers, at 35 cents apiece with a minimum order of 100.

Good things come in small packages. For a real taste of Denver's changing scene, visit a tiny enclave just north of St. Joseph's Hospital. Spearheaded by West City Perk, a combination coffee joint and garage-sale-cum-antique-boutique, this row of shops is still home to less trendy businesses as well, including an old-fashioned barber shop where the neighborhood folks continue to get haircuts and trade tales. But West City Perk, its newly opened adjunct deli and its compatible tenant to the west, a garden-themed shabby-chic nook called Loganberry's, give the block an updated look -- albeit a lived-in one that's not too ritzy or glitzy for the surrounding neighborhood. Stop and shop.
Want to tie up your kids for a couple of hours? Bead It is a real pearl, an entertaining oasis in the suburban wasteland of expensive, pre-packaged fun. The array of artistic beading possibilities is so intriguing, in fact, that adults are likely to take on their own projects, too. With a private room available for birthday parties -- as well as a package deal for those who'd like to keep the little ones busy beading at home -- Bead It delivers the goods. You just have to string them along.

Self-confessed compulsive collector Judy White says she ran out of room for all the objets and jewelry she'd amassed in her own quarters, so she decided to share the wealth: The result is Eccentricals, an antiques emporium flaunting "the best of all decades" and doing so with an unfettered lack of reserve that's totally refreshing. Part jungle safari and part trip down the Yellow Brick Road, a wander through Eccentricals unearths all manner of campy treasures: tiger portraits, an old set of Heller anodized aluminum pitcher and glasses, etched flamingo mirrors and trays, black leopard lamps, Dior lipsticks and gallon bottles of Chanel No. 5 -- you name it. There are amazing handbags: Hand-painted wooden ones decorated with cardinals or roses, Lucite totes and shimmery silk purses, beaded bags and even Kristin Easthope's lunchboxes hand-painted with tropical babes and devil women. But the crowning glory of the place is the jewelry, both old and new: stunning rhinestone collars that drip across the bust like Christmas lights, dice necklaces, jangly charm bracelets, art-deco treasures, Indian silver and much more, all judiciously arranged in glass cases that snake around the store, which is draped with burnout velvet Buddha scarves and the like.

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