Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Aficionados maintain that African art tells stories. That's African Experiences owner Miles Forsyth's story, and he's sticking to it. Originally from South Africa, he returns to his home continent every year to visit and to hunt down merchandise, and he's been wildly successful. The walls of his shop are lined with fantastic tribal masks, as well as vibrant patterned rugs and weavings, and the exotic Zulu baskets woven in geometric earth tones are sublime. Tribe it -- you'll like it.
Denver's jailhouse certainly doesn't rock, but those bright-orange jumpsuits sure are purty. If committing a crime, getting arrested and doing time in the pokey isn't worth it for you, though, why not just pretend? Where the Buffalo Roam, a novelty shop on the 16th Street Mall, sells orange jumpsuits, T-shirts, button-up shirts and a variety of hats with the words "Property of Denver County Jail" stenciled across them. While the city's corrections director, Fred Oliva, didn't have much of a sense of humor about the grim garments, that hasn't stopped people from snatching them up (after paying, of course), says a store employee. And why not? After all, the clothes look criminally cool.
Since it opened in February, Art-N-Soul has become like a Star Wars' Mos Eisley Spaceport for Denver-area graffiti artists who appreciate the difference between a fully conceptualized work of street art and a hastily thrown-up "tag" that's all autograph and no picture. Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Mondays, Art-N-Soul is where you will find local graffiti writers showing off their sketch books and talking craft while local hip-hop maven Fly Jedi mixes beats and rings up sales behind the counter. Dominated by eye-popping wall murals by Denver writers Chase and Jehr, the shop carries a full line of graffiti-culture accoutrements. These include canvases and black books (both priced at just 50 percent over wholesale), T-shirts, underground hip-hop CDs, graffiti magazines While You Were Sleeping and Scribble, and custom-designed spray-paint caps used to adjust the width and rate of paint flow. Art-N-Soul is also one of the few retail outlets in the country to carry Belton Molotow Premium spray paint, the celebrated but hard-to-come-by German line designed by and for graffiti artists. "That's the butter stuff, right there," says Jehr. And the motto on the cans says it all: "Use for art, not vandalism."
Got gas? It's not just for dental patients anymore. Quasi-legal and relatively harmless, recreational doses of nitrous oxide are widely available hereabouts in the form of "whippits." Small aluminum cylinders of pressurized gas, whippits are sold in head shops and adult bookstores under the guise of chargers for homemade whipped-cream makers. But the price of nitrous in Denver is no laughing matter. Capitalizing on the underground nature of the product, most outlets charge an outrageous $28 to $35 for a case of 24. There are exceptions: Thankfully, the Joker has the best deal in town, at $15.99. At those prices, just say N20.
You can get reasonably priced cases of whippits (around $20) and sensibly priced whips ($30, more or less) at the Crypt. There's a bigger selection of novelties next door, but the pickin's are pretty good here, too. The rest, as they say, is up to you. Just whippit good.
Now you can wear your heart on your sleeve and your flag on your biceps -- and have something more than a permanent blemish to show for it. Last October, in the wake of September 11, the epidermis etchers at Dark Millennia Studios instigated this offer, though word from the Millennial staff is that there wasn't much of a response. The offer still stands, just like the good old American spirit: Declare your love for your nation in permanent ink, and 10 percent of the fee will go to the Red Cross or United Way in your name.
Most of the customers who frequent the Diamond Cabaret have one thing on their mind -- and it isn't shopping. The palatial skin palace boasts some of the most beautiful topless dancers in town, a quality that attracts a largely male clientele. But the club also offers a diversion for female patrons who don't fancy a lap dance: Its clothing boutique is filled with high-end women's lingerie, clothing and accessories, with a stylistic emphasis on fashions most suited to the boudoir...or the stage. Let the Diamond Cabaret help you get in touch with your inner showgirl.
The room decor inside Mon Chalet comes from the Hollywood Porno Playground school of interior design. Neon accents, water-column lights, mirrored ceilings and walls, and giant whirlpool baths are standard features in Mon Chalet's ten deluxe and semi-deluxe suites, as are king-sized beds, whether standard or octagon-shaped, firm mattress or waterbed. Optional room features include climate-control chambers (programmable sun, steam, warm breeze and rain), and specialty furnishings, including the "Love Machine," which the motel's Web site (www.mon-chalet.com) describes as "a sturdy furniture masterpiece designed for the more athletic expression of the sensual arts." Suspended over the beds in several rooms are models of "The Swing," also known as "Mon Chalet's version of the Taiwan Basket." Room rates for deluxe suites are $110 on weeknights, $145 on weekends. Semi-deluxe rooms go for $100/$125. Mon Chalet also offers four-hour quickie "matinee rates," from noon to four p.m., for $40 to $60, depending on the room. Get on up.
Fancy a shag (rug)? How about a '50s dinette set, an authentic lava lamp or a vintage flapper dress? Mod Living crams all of the above, and much more, into its understated space on East Colfax; it's a veritable museum of affordable art and furnishings for the nostalgia-minded decorator. Ranging from classic to kitschy, the tastefully cluttered store's wares are both practical and just plain fun.
Did you know that Queen Victoria had quite an impressive collection of Chinese snuff boxes? The friendly and resourceful owners of Decorables do, and they'll be happy to tell you all about it as you browse the elegant and eclectic aisles of this airy antiques gallery, which makes its home in a former East Colfax bank. And while Decorables' own display of snuff stuff doesn't quite rival that of the British Empire, the shop's cross-cultural collections -- from marble Buddha statues to Hummel figurines -- are regal in their own right. Unpretentious and accessible, Decorables is a find.
Antique Row is charming, as are many of the eclectic boutiques and specialty stores that line commercial stretches along South Broadway. But the thrill of pawing through miscellaneous merchandise is often tempered by the reality of sticker shock -- something that convinces many of us to browse rather than buy. Not so at ARC, where the price is always right and the goods are always pleasantly unpredictable. With weekly specials and perennial bargains on used clothing, housewares, books and furniture, the large store is a haven for those who appreciate a good deal, as well as a fun alternative for frugal treasure hounds. Thrift is a virtue -- and so are community-spirited stores like ARC.
It's fun trying to stump the sales staff in Peppercorn's kitchen department, but no matter what you ask for -- a kitchen scale, grilling equipment for summer, pastry bags, woks, an ice-cream maker, pots and pans, toasters, KitchenAids or shells for your coquilles St. Jacques, chances are they'll have it. They also have shelves and shelves of prepared foods that make for great gift baskets, including English teas and marmalades, German marzipan, Italian olive oils, Belgian chocolates and gourmet coffees. There's lots of bright everyday crockery, as well as a long wall filled with every current cookbook you've heard of -- and loads that you haven't. And that's just on the ground floor. Upstairs you'll find exquisite modern china, linens and gorgeous crystal glasses.