Best Place to Find Stocking Stuffers Year-Round

H. R. Meininger

Artists must celebrate the coolest Christmases around. If they don't, they're not buying their paint at the right place. Meininger's, long known as one of the city's best-equipped art-supply stores, also carries compelling little items that make opening up old socks a tradition worth keeping. Although the inventory changes frequently, shoppers can glom onto such marvels as Elvis magnets, pens with the shape (and texture) of slugs, bendable alien figurines, miniature chattering teeth, temporary tattoos, cowboy cutouts and dancing skeletons. And if the alien-autopsy toy doesn't capture your imagination, you can always load up your basket with paint sets, modeling clay or pens filled with glitter paint.

Organized annually by the eclectica palace on South Pearl Street, Manorisms and Blackbird of Evergreen, this craft fair is a rarity of the holiday season. Of a manageable size and offering handmades and gifts -- vintage linens, fragrant pots of paperwhites, one-of-a-kind children's clothing, sensuously scented candles, folk art, imports and more, all chosen thoughtfully with the overall show's presentation in mind -- Gifts for Yule is also beautiful, with spacious vendor booths engaged in a friendly, write-in competition for the title of "Best Display."

Since moving down the street from an isolated corner to more compact and socialized digs, this shop has added a singular and eccentric brand of color to South Pearl Street's already charming retail community. Bold hues of green or pink (or whatever color best defines the season at hand) command the corner storefront's picture windows: For instance, orange brooms, green shoes and striped socks for Halloween; three-foot chocolate bunnies, geese lamps and jaunty bedsprings announcing "spring" for Easter. One brief window sporting party hats made from folded paper and gift-wrapping materials even had to be dismantled because a customer bought the hats for her child's birthday party. Of course, the real point is to get people inside the store, but it does put a whole new participatory spin on the fine art of window-shopping.

Best Place to Buy and Then Smoke Exotic Cigarettes

Paris on the Platte

Paris on the Platte is Denver's best approximation of a European-style cafe, the kind of place people go to eat baguettes, drink strong coffee, read, write -- and smoke heartily. Like the city it's named after (where travelers are free to light up immediately after stepping off a plane), Paris on the Platte is one of those increasingly rare places where those who indulge in a taste for nicotine can do so without inviting disapproving stares. In fact, the activity is almost encouraged: The adjoining bookstore features cigarettes from around the world (in addition to new and used books and assorted oddities) packaged in colorful, shimmering boxes. With its window seats, friendly staff, great music and yummy food, Paris on the Platte is an ideal place to while away the hours -- and the ashes.

Best New-CD Store -- Underground-Music Variety

Wax Trax

If you're looking for something out of the ordinary or want to pick the brain of someone who eats, drinks and breathes music, Wax Trax is still the bee's knees. The store's stock czars make sure that just about every new, intriguing, indescribable or curious release is on hand, be it imported or independently released, and the rest of the staff is capable of pointing adventurous customers in very interesting directions.
Of course, locals know that Wax Trax isn't a single store, but a several-headed music hydra -- and the branch dedicated to used product shouldn't be overlooked. The space is crammed with oodles of previously owned treasures: CDs and LPs from a wide range of eras, as well as stacks upon stacks of 45s available on the cheap. A great way to go forward into the past.
An annex to the original Twist & Shout (recently named Retailer of the Year by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers), conveniently located on the other side of the street, Underground stocks a potpourri of musical accessories, including new and used stereo equipment, cartridges, and clothing intended to bring out your inner raver. But it's built around two rooms filled with vinyl -- one jammed with new and old LPs from every conceivable genre, the other overflowing with the newest and hottest dance jams. No wonder DJs from all over the state make the store their one-stop shopping place.

Best Place for Used Vinyl and Knowledgeable Grouches

Jerry's Record Exchange

Don't ask for the time at Jerry's. There's a big clock on the back wall, buddy, and it ticks for thee. Musical questions, however, are permissible, as long as they don't waste time and aren't stoopid. Otherwise, browse to your heart's content in the tiny catacombs of vinylus obscurus and used CDs. There's everything from Biota to Bertolt Brecht, opera to avant-garde. Dirty East Colfax never felt better. If anyone asks, tell 'em Captain Beefheart sent you.

Remember that Anne Geddes photo of her signature babies planted in acres upon acres of terra-cotta pots? Now imagine the picture without any babies. That's what Jackalope looks like -- a vast expanse of planters and pots in all shapes and sizes, stretching almost as far as the eye can see. The second outlet of a Santa Fe-based store, this Jackalope imports clay goods directly from Mexico and passes the savings on to shoppers. Short of shopping south of the border, this is your best bet for buys on glazed pots, goat-shaped planters and freestanding clay fireplaces. When we feel like going to pot, we head to Jackalope.

Best Place for Vintage-Vinyl Fiends to Score a Fix

Don's Discs

Forget CDs. Don Radke, proprietor of Don's Discs, has more used records than he has time to clean, sort and stock. He stopped keeping count years ago, but Radke figures that more than a million separate slabs of vinyl inhabit his increasingly cluttered space in Thornton. While many a local has bought and sold his record collection here since the doors opened in 1982, Don's has garnered something of an international reputation in the time since, so it's not uncommon for European and Asian record fetishists to come to town and clog the shop's aisles for days at a time.

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