Step up to a custom look in your little log cabin with a handcrafted spiral or curved stairway from StairMeister, a Boulder company that has carved out a niche business by offering replacement stairways for the standard steps included in most log-home kits. Tad and Kimberly Horning's shop off U.S. 36 turns out the designer staircases, which run between $3,000 and $20,000, for delivery to all fifty states.

Denver's Home Improvement Thrift Store is a fabulous community resource on many levels. It recycles usable building materials not accepted by regular thrift stores, so it's good for the environment. It sells building materials (everything including the kitchen sink) for up to 70 percent less than even big-box discounters, so it's good for your remodeling budget. Bud's Warehouse also provides job-training opportunities for individuals struggling with drug and alcohol addiction or prison records, employing the formerly unemployable and helping them get on with life, so it's good for society, too. Stop by the warehouse, in the historic 1881 Colorado Ironworks building (five blocks north of Coors Field), and say hi to Bud.
A sharp tool is a safe tool. The guys at Schlosser Tool & Machinery have been keeping Denver woodworkers sawing safely for more than half a century. Bring your old hand blades -- saws, chisels, augers, anything but power tools -- to the service department and get them spiffed up for a whole new lifetime of service. It's a sharp idea.

Back when Denver really was a dusty old cowtown, the Jurenka clan came to town to clean up -- or at least give its good citizens the tools to do it. You might think that the venerable Eze Mop Company hasn't changed much since its founding more than fifty years ago, but you're wrong, pard. Second-generation owner David Jurenka can sell you any kind of brush, scrubber, duster, broom or mop known to man, including the one he makes himself, the eponymous Eze Mop. He has pails and cleaning products, too, as well as washtubs, cloths and anything else you need to keep your space spotless.

Ka-ching! Now that the city's cramming parking meters along every possible inch of asphalt downtown, why not cut yourself in on the action? A batch of Denver's old, obsolete parking meters have found quarter at Mike Kaplan's booth in the Antique Center. Fork over $22.50 and one of them can be yours -- ready to plant in front of your office or your home, or to take with you so that you can transform a "loading only" spot into a metered mecca whenever the need arises.

Best New Use for the Old DIA Toll Plaza

Parking

It may be one of the first airport amenities specifically designed for cell-phone users: In light of the security changes at Denver International Airport that eliminated the 45-minute free parking spots in the passenger pickup area, airport officials have designated the old toll-plaza area (torn down last year when the booths were relocated closer to the airport) as a new free 45-minute parking lot. (Of course, people have been using the area illegally for a while, despite signs that warn motorists against stopping.) Since the seventy-space lot is four miles from the terminal, however, arriving passengers have to use their cell phones -- or a pay phone -- to call friends, relatives or associates who are waiting in the lot with their cell phones. Still, it's a creative, and helpful, use for the old space. Ring up a winner.

Best Denver Invention That Immobilized the World

The Denver Boot

Back in the early '50s, some Denver cops were bemoaning the problems involved with towing cars -- and an inventor friend, Frank Marugg, shouldered the task of coming up with a better way to handle parking scofflaws. Enter the Denver Boot, the now-notorious clamp that paralyzes the front tire of an offending auto until its owner pays up (or gives up on the car altogether). Although Denver was the first city to use Marugg's masterpiece, it's since spread around the world.

In the big picture, a CashKey may seem like relatively small change -- but it can certainly change the lives of those who always have trouble finding a quarter (much less eight quarters) to feed Denver's ever-hungry parking meters. A $15 deposit nets you a programmable key from the Denver Department of Public Works; you buy $5 increments of parking that are loaded into the key. (The limit is a hundred bucks a shot.) And then you're good to go, and stop: Every time you insert the key in a meter, 25 cents is deducted; when you run out, you can just reload. The CashKey is available at five city locations (check out www.denvergov.org for addresses and payment information); it may be coming to a few more convenient spots, too.

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