Best Politically Correct Gift Wrap 2001 | The Artisan Center | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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.
One of the leading reasons cats and dogs become guests of animal shelters is "bad behavior," or at least behavior their companion people can't deal with. To help owners solve pet problems before they require the final solution, the Dumb Friends League, with funding from several national organizations, operates this 24-hour automated help line. Perplexed humans can leave a message explaining their animal's antics and receive a prompt response from specially trained staff and volunteers.

This is not your father's hardware store. One of only two such stores in the country, the new Ace Hardware in Highlands Ranch is targeted squarely at women and young adults. The emphasis here is on hands-on, in-store instruction on home repair and improvement and the little, everyday things you need to take care of a house. A coffee kiosk, bistro tables and kid-friendly amenities help keep the store focused on its desired demographic.
Now your mutt can look as classy as any of those kennel-club types. All it takes is the talented brushwork of Jack Atkinson, pet portrait artist extraordinare. From your photos, Jack can create a masterpiece in color ($125) or a black-and-white drawing ($75) that captures the special spirit of your best friend.

Born in Boulder in 1995, the family-owned Little Mountain is what's known in the retail world as a super-specialty store, in this case specializing in miniature camping, outdoor and sports gear, from child carriers and joggers to hiking boots and skiwear. And without even thinking about it, you know it has immediate appeal for outdoorsy Boulderites with disposable incomes and blossoming families. However, it's really just good customer service that keeps the endeavor afloat (so buoyantly, in fact, that a third store is being penciled in for the Denver area in 2002): While parents shop, for instance, kids are entertained by such amenities as a Lego table in the Boulder store or a TV at FlatIron Crossing. But the stores are also known for their particularly large, well-equipped bathrooms -- an important consideration for parents toting kids around a shopping mall.

It's no secret: This is where the rich kids -- or at least their discriminating parents -- shop, from the day the kids are born and ready to be swaddled in heirloom-quality crocheted blankets, linen and lace. And as they grow older, they can continue to wrap themselves in luxury courtesy of Hollyhocks: The little girls will be adorned in simple classics, from creamy French cotton underwear underneath, to Lilly Pulitzer shifts and pink gingham-lined iridescent Florence Eiseman raincoats on top; and the little boys will wear perfect-little-man suits with tiny ties decorated with race cars, or playworthy overalls appliquéd with chenille trucks. What the heck. You're only young once.

Scene to Screen is the only bookstore in Denver that specializes in theater and film and caters to students and performers alike. The shop carries more than 5,000 scripts, but if you still can't find what you're looking for, owners Jacque and Joe Riala are more than happy to order it for you. Open six days a week, except during Denver Center productions.
The Music Stand is enough to make any music lover burst into song. Although the store's tucked away in Longmont, it also has a catalogue. In person or online, you're bound to find the perfect music-related gift item, from miniature instrument keepsakes to keyboard-embroidered socks, a handcrafted music cabinet or that collection of Broadway show tunes you know they've been coveting.

Author! Author! Every time a writer comes to read at the Tattered Cover, Denver photographer Gary Isaacs snaps a portrait -- and his collected works create an impressive wall of fame at the original store.

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