This store's name says it all. Here you'll find everything from geeky school-band instruments (and a host of instructors expert in their use) to pro gear that would do Van Halen proud. What you won't find is superstore attitude. According to Gary Patterson, who owns the business with four of his family members, "90 percent of our customers walk in and say, 'Man, I went over to such-and-such and couldn't get one person to help me. And when they did, they just wanted to sell me something more expensive than I needed because they work on commission.'" By contrast, Universal focuses on selling what its customers need and sticking to their budgets.

Best Place to Sample Soundbites From Area Artists

Twist & Shout

Twist & Shout
Ken Hamblin III
Though larger than most independents, Twist & Shout is a community-spirited music retailer. Owner Paul Epstein is an active member of the Colorado Music Association and even occasionally appears on cable-access television to talk about his favorite bands. No surprise, then, that Epstein's store would reflect his support of local music. Many of the CDs that are distributed through Twist are placed in the Local Listening Post, where customers can strap on a pair of headphones, click around a digital menu and hear tracks from as many as ten artists. With a roster that changes monthly, the Listening Post is a smart way to keep up with the music being made by the people in your neighborhood.

Guitar Center
Those who despise discordance would be wise to stick to Guitar Center's acoustic room, where the quiet people dwell among the mandolins. Out on the main floor, a dizzying number of guitars and amplifiers are available for the strumming, squealing and soloing pleasures of aspiring wankers from all walks of life. Go on, grab that Gibson and plug away. Instruments are for playing, and no one's going to stop you from trying out whatever ax strikes your fancy. Just remember some simple etiquette -- speed metal is okay, but "Stairway" is verboten -- and you and the Guitar Center staff will get along just fine. As George Harrison once said, "Don't want no wah-wah."

Anna Woneis, owner of the American Fabric Upholstery Goods Company, is happy to give visitors a tour of her place, which involves room after room of vintage fabric, much of it from the still-trendy 1970s. Although some the patterns should have been impeached with Nixon, many of the old-timey fabrics are, well, timeless. The store has large selections of vinyls, tweeds, tapestries, cottons, and velvety fabrics, all reasonably priced, as well as a substantial inventory of upholstering equipment. Sofa, so good.

B-D Company, a venerable upholstery supply shop, has a number of solutions for restoring old vinyl, cloth, plastic and even leather furniture to something like new -- magic sprays, dyes and cleaners that are hard to find, accompanied by expert advice. Don't give up on that ottoman; put it in your auto, man, and give it Last Hope rather than last rites.
For the busy traveler, there is nothing more irritating than cheap luggage, the junk with wheels that fall off. Now you can buy durable, expensive luggage at cheap-luggage prices. The Samsonite Company Store unloads high-quality luggage for up to 50 percent off retail prices. They stock luggage that is barely blemished, merchandise that has been discontinued, and stuff that didn't sell from last year. With all the money you save, you can splurge on additional discounted wares such as CD cases, shaving kits, daytimers and wallets.
There are a lot of places around town that offer scratch 'n' dent appliances at a discount, but the Sears Outlet Store has a consistent selection that never seems to dwindle. And even if the front of that stainless-steel fridge has a wee scratch on it, the warranty still applies. Some of the appliances aren't even marred; they just happen to be last year's floor sample or demo. Let's move that fridge.
Spending two grand on a PC that needs an upgrade before you even get it out of the box just doesn't compute. Visiting the Surplus Computer Store in Littleton, home to an army of discounted new, used, and off-lease computers and accessories, is a better use of gigabytes. It would take a giant Palm Pilot to keep

track of all the CD-writer drives, DVD players, digital cameras, flat-screen and extra-large monitors here. And don't worry about repair: The company has a standard surplus warranty of ninety days, and many of the new products still have their factory warranties. Maybe it's time to cache in.

Obsolescence is a genetic computer disease. It often costs more to fix or upgrade an old computer than to just buy a new one, which is the reason computer monitors have been piling up in landfills across the nation. These days, you must dispose of your monitor properly; you can't just kick it to the curb anymore. PC Brokers in Littleton accepts most monitors and other computer components at no charge, allowing you to upgrade without degrading the environment.

Last summer, it seemed like the biggest threat to personal privacy was the surreptitious use of cookies and Web bugs by data aggregators to track our unsuspecting travels through the Internet. To give consumers a fighting chance by revealing exactly when we were being "bugged," the technical team at the Privacy Foundation, based at the University of Denver, released the free Bugnosis program. Installed on your PC, Bugnosis warns you whenever it detects a Web bug that could be sending personal information about you, your computer and/or your surfing habits to a third party, who could be doing who-knows-what with it. Although the software is available online, it isn't Mac compatible yet -- but don't bug them about it.

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