Best Store Anywhere on Broadway 2002 | ARC Thrift Store | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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.

Best Store on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall


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.
Diamond Lil's is a porn shop and proud of it -- as evidenced by the enthusiastic lighted sign that invites the curious and carnal-minded alike inside. Located in a historic building that began as Kopper's Hotel and Saloon in 1899, Diamond Lil's happens to be the only remaining porn shop downtown -- but it's gone above and beyond the call of duty with its excellent restoration work. And while the merchandise is of the traditional sex-toys-and-videos variety, the store's live-performance gallery sets Diamond Lil's apart as a true rarity, as well as a throwback to the era of voyeuristic antiquity. Through the looking glass, you can openly gawk as Lil's adult "dancers" writhe and wriggle for your viewing pleasure. Some might say Lil's itself is a historic treasure.

The 16th Street Mall is a shopper's paradise -- that is, if you're in the market for some overpriced, faux-Native American souvenirs or maybe a nice wig. For those who actually live and work downtown, there's no beating Walgreens for sheer practicality, economy and reliability, not to mention great people-watching. Housed in a vintage building in the heart of downtown, the store -- which has been there for fifty years -- draws a cross-strata of humanity united by a shared drugstore dependence. Where else can you fill a prescription, develop film, catch up on some magazine reading and buy actual groceries, as well as the latest near-the-register novelties, all during your lunch break? Walgreens hawks the stuff of life in a lively part of town.
Chinese medicine has become increasingly popular the last few years, and the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine is your one-stop shop for alternatives to Western health care. When the acupuncturist upstairs prescribes Chinese herbs, you'll be able to find them at the school's pharmacy, an alternate universe of remedies and potions that have been used in China for centuries. The names alone will transport you to the back streets of Hong Kong: Heavenly Emperor's Formula, Two Immortals Blend and Bluegreen Dragon Formula are just a handful of the hundreds of different kinds of herbs in stock. With every variety of ginseng imaginable and things you never imagined you'd need (Tiger Balm for sore muscles and "bone tonic" for aching joints), this is the best place in town to get your qi gong goin' on.
Change is good. While Apothecary Tinctura has already earned a reputation for having an ocean of potions (just kidding about those lizard lips), the shop's move from its Congress Park location to a new 6th Avenue spot added some zing to its yang. But you'll still find the necessary ingredients to make yourown holistic remedies or face masks, and the folks there, as always, are eager to share their knowledge of mixology. Come bask in this sunny space as you save a little face.

Peace of Mind, Body & Soul owner Mary Beal calls her place a "self-improvement and self-care boutique." And such improvement and care comes easy with the offerings at Peace of Mind. In addition to on-premises massages and psychic readings, you'll find incense, candles, aromatic oils, crystals, wind chimes and fairy figurines. An assortment of knowing tomes on the subjects of astrology, feng shui, reiki, chakra healing and contemporary Christianity round out the inventory. Walk out a new, improved you.

We guarantee that Indulgences won't rub you the wrong way. Unlike those hoity-toity spas that make you feel like you should shower before you enter, Indulgences is down-to-earth, even boisterous. The owner is friendly, the employees are friendly, the other customers are friendly. And one of the friendliest amenities here is a couples' massage. Usually a very private, personal activity, a massage is a completely different experience when your beloved is lying right alongside, getting pummeled, rubbed and stroked at the same time. Double your pleasure, double your fun.
Offering up to three massage chairs and occasional live music, the Feature Park Entrance almost makes FlatIron's "retail resort" designation believable. "The massage has been really popular," says mall marketing director Chris Stallman. So has an aqua-massage kiosk (located near the food court), which layers patrons with plastic before spraying them down with soothing water. "People are getting more interested in taking care of themselves, and it's kind of a quick fix that they can do really easily," Stallman says. If only our bank accounts were so easily restored.

Cargo's merchandise appeals to browsers who share an affinity for far-off lands: East Indian and Tibetan artifacts are among the most popular items. And even if you adhere to a monk-like budget, you needn't leave the store empty-handed. Because Cargo's owners know that a spiritual quest doesn't have to break the bank, inexpensive items abound in their new Highland location, from handmade stationery and calendars to prayer flags. Our favorite cheapo option? The baskets full of small, square prayer stones, each engraved with an image of the Buddha. They're so reasonably priced, you may want to pick up a couple of handfuls. Just remember that desire leads to suffering

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