Best Place to Launch a Career in Jewelry Design

Desert Gems

If you're a pirate at heart, here's the buried treasure. This gem of a store is filled to the brim with beautiful beads and charms made from semi-precious stones and metals: tiny jasper stars, wee garnet spheres, dainty silver tubes. You can browse for hours, filling a plastic tray with everything you'll need to create your wearable masterpiece. And Desert Gems' huge selection of goodies and personable, knowledgeable staff more than make up for its semi-industrial location.

Move over, Monica Lewinsky, there's a new purse designer in the biz. Denver's own Brandi Shigley is selling her "funky fresh handbags" at local stores like Decade and Miss Talulah's, as well as on her very own Web site. The twenty-something Kate Spade wannabe started her career back in the second grade; while she was supposed to be reading The Adventures of Frog and Toad, she was cutting purse designs out of scrap paper. She has since graduated to real fabric -- and how. Brandi's unique collection includes "Mini Moo," a faux-cowhide handbag; "Little Miss Boss Thang!," a more sensible choice for the working girl with its hounds-tooth pattern in dark, businesslike colors; and "Reversible Dragon Slayer," a purse that's denim on one side and '50s-vintage Asian dragon pattern on the other. She also designs custom purses to match an outfit or to accessorize special occasions like weddings. Brandi's got it in the bag.
Renee Zacher Himel took one look at a silk scarf printed with a map of Vail Mountain and got an idea. Wouldn't it look much better draped over some rugged terrain -- say, a man's nether regions? From that modest start emerged Silk Trails, a company that makes silk boxer shorts that also serve as trail maps for many of North America's most popular ski areas. Next stop: the 2002 Olympics.
You're not going to wear that, are you? What would Judie Schwartz and Evelinda Urman say? Plenty, probably: The two have been shopping buddies for years, and it shows in their sassy "Style Matters," a point-counterpoint column in the Mile HighStyle section of the Rocky Mountain News. No stylistic topic is too ticklish for these gabbing gals: They've touched on everything from Casual Fridays ("The worst thing to hit the business world since the leveraged buyout," says Urman) to tattoos to thong etiquette. The city has no finer fashion police.
If there's ever a Denver war of the roses, Buddy Rose will win, thorns down. At his House of Rose, you can pick up a bunch of 25 roses for just $12 -- a bloomin' miracle. These flowers were grown in Colorado, so they're not perfect, Buddy cautions, and they're hybridized, so you might not catch much of a scent. But at a price this low, you can afford to buy some rose cologne and spray it around the house.

Sheep, take heart. Sure, you've had a bit of a nasty run lately with all this hoof-and-mouth hubbub. But you've been giving us the wool off your backs at such a rate that you've stocked the 11,000-square-foot Showers of Flowers, the largest yarn store in Colorado. Yarns from all over the world aren't the only reason this is one baaaaaaad store; it also sponsors fashion shows and instruction in the venerable handiwork crafts. What really makes Showers of Flowers a true community resource, though, is a setup designed to make customers feel comfortable for hours. They can sit on the cozy loveseats and knit or crochet to their hearts' content, sharing projects and stories as the hooks and needles fly. There are many craft stores in the Denver area, but this one's a real purl.
Think all cleaners are the same? You might think again if you manage to maneuver your car through the Leetsdale traffic and onto the tiny wedge of parking in front of Continental Cleaners. At Continental, you'll be rewarded with quality service and a quick turnaround on even the largest dry-cleaning orders. Best of all, the place is cheap. You'll have to prepay when you drop off your items, but we guarantee you won't be hung out to dry.
A wild and untamed space overrun with stuff everywhere, Truong An supports a healthy video trade for its Asian-language constituency. But you don't have to speak Vietnamese to appreciate the place, where you can browse racks filled with satiny silk or rayon Chinese pajamas, poofy chiffon party dresses for children and dragon-lady frocks for women. The store also stocks haphazardly

arranged embroidered slippers, sparkly stickers and plastic see-through purses and trendy notebooks favored by pre-teens of any cultural background, as well as Hello Kitty and Pokémon-splashed items. Buddhas in all sizes and shapes abound, along with other Buddhist deities, live potted good-luck bamboo shoots and small red envelopes for monetary gifts at the lunar new year. A walk through the crowded aisles reveals a gold mine of teapot sets, scrolls, planters, kids' clocks and fierce dragons, carved in anything from jade to opalescent green plastic. After you're sated by all this trash and treasure, head over to the nearby Saigon Bowl for a bowl of steaming pho

Looking for a gift for that friend of yours who celebrates a mishmash of Kwanzaa, Ramadan and winter solstice? You're sure to stumble upon the perfect present, whether it's a papier-mâché fairy or a pyramid-shaped candle, by combing through the potpourri of handmade treasures at the Artisan Center -- and the ever-helpful sales staff will wrap your find in trappings selected with equal care. The shop's signature gift packaging is an understated brown box stamped with its logo and tied up with a bright bloom of silky ribbons that come in color combos to suit any occasion, from a hybrid Christmas/birthday bash to a Chinese New Year/bat mitzvah celebration. Presentation is everything, and this special service, though free, is priceless. So, l'chaim...and Feliz Navidad!

Here's a gift for bakers that takes all the guesswork out of making a pie: Littleton-based Mudworks makes colorful, hand-painted, dishwasher- and oven-safe earthenware pie dishes with recipes indelibly glazed into the edges. A wide range of available recipes includes a 1998 best-of-show-winning berry-and-rhubarb tart from the annual National Pie Baking Championships in Boulder and the Perfect Flaky & Tender Cream Cheese Pie Crust, from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible. Potter Julie Vincelette will also do custom work for folks looking for a novel way to hand down the ingredient list for their dear old Granny's best apple pie.

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