In Books Unlimited's old home on University Boulevard and Evans Avenue, the cozy quarters and musty smell of yellowed pages made you want to curl up with one of the store's good books. Unfortunately, there was no space to curl up in. In its new home on Colorado Boulevard, Books Unlimited has retained its charm and gained ample browsing room -- and a parking lot. It also sports some once-forgotten treasures: While relocating 80,000 books last fall was a monumental task, the store's owners discovered many buried treasures when they finally unpacked. Limited-edition reference books, signed tomes by Isabel Allende, Oscar Hijuelos and Jay McInerney, as well as a nine-volume set of Abraham Lincoln's papers, have all been restored to their rightful spots on the shelves of the new and improved book nook.


Besides its broad selection of books, pamphlets and periodicals spanning the whole spectrum of radical and progressive issues, Breakdown really focuses on the "community" part of its name. The volunteer-run, non-profit space offers free classes and workshops, a computer lab and even a lending library, and also plays host to a variety of events such as art openings, discussions with touring leftist luminaries and showcases for acoustic and experimental music. In a political climate that's increasingly constrictive and bleak, Breakdown is a much-needed voice of dissent and celebration.


Bookish bargain hunters come to browse the new and used titles at Ichabod's Books, but they stick around to drink the coffee. The store's modest cafe counter serves straight java, baked goods and espresso drinks, including a vanilla latte that's pure perfection. On weekend afternoons, readers and loafers alike sip joe and sink into well-worn chairs that line the comfortably cramped floor. Yes, Starbucks has invaded Barnes & Noble, and Borders has its own cafe, but those superplex-style stores can't touch the loose, Left Bank vibe of Ichabod's, the literary heart of south Broadway.


Janis Frame is a pusher. For Denver book collectors, her spacious Book Buffs Ltd. is as addictive as a line of coke. You can almost hear shoppers slapping their veins and muttering, "Just one more, man," as they browse the shelves of fine first editions, limited editions and small-press releases. The store, which recently moved from the Golden Triangle to a new spot on South Pearl, boasts everything from obscure chapbooks to modern signed firsts, such as Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections -- and it's all impeccably organized and alphabetized. Each volume has its own siren song, luring readers to caress its cover, scan its pages, stroke its spine. Just one more, man.


Capitol Hill Books has always been a great place to while away an afternoon. And with the 10 percent-off card for frequent buyers, the 3,000-square-foot bookstore is habit-forming. The new travel section is just making matters worse. Because it's stocked with 4,000 travel guides, armchair travel books, memoirs, dictionaries, language books and books in other languages, there's no better place to see the world. Check the shelves regularly, because books on Thailand, Cuba, Vietnam and South America disappear quickly. But at just $5 to $6 a pop, it's suddenly affordable to go places.


A throwback to Denver's cowtown past, Lancaster's Western Wear caters to the last of the city's real cowboys and ranchers -- especially those who earn money on the rodeo circuit. Lancaster's "Rock-N-Roll Rodeo Gear" department carries all the protective duds -- from helmets and flak jackets to gloves, ropes and more -- that a bucked-up bullrider could want. Looking to ride the ring in safety and style? This is your outpost.


Craig Peña and Jay Salas have gone platinum with their line of zoot suits, dressing everyone from Snoop Dogg to David Bowie. Now they're inking deals with retailers and high-profile sports-apparel companies to market their Chingaso Gear line of Latin-inspired fight clothes. Hoodies, tees, boxing robes, prison-orange jumpsuits -- it's all on the cutting edge of the highly coveted Latin market. But just because Peña and Salas are bustin' out doesn't mean they've lost their edge. After all, you've got to know the street to make clothes for it. Stay trucha!


Brighten the bar mitzvah, or the table, with a stop at Aharon's Books, where the massive selection includes everything from Kabbalah texts to a Yiddish version of The Cat in the Hat. A stop for

cooks as well as readers, Aharon's carries all the accoutrements of a kosher kitchen, including challah covers, matzoh boxes and baking pans marked "parve," "dairy" or "meat." There are also mezuzahs for the home, jewelry for women, black hats for men, and kippot for everyone. For serving Denver's Jewish community for six years, we say mazel tov to Aharon's!


Mile High Comics' flagship store is home to the usual players in the comic-book universe: Marvel, DC, Dark Horse. But there's so much more to Mile High, a twelve-year-old-boy's wet dream of a store. Rows of glass cases in the 11,000-square-foot space hold Aliens, Iron Maiden and Futurama figurines while the shelves and walls are lined with graphic novels, manga and movie posters. Three days a week, guys come ready to role-play during epic tournaments of the popular game of Magic. Males dominate the clientele, but female sci-fi goddesses are also in the house, albeit in fictional form: Posters and paraphernalia honoring Agent Scully, Xena and Queen Amidala are abundant. C'mon, get geeky.


Science may never fully explain why certain women go gaga for the simplest things -- a slender notebook from China, say, or a small, distressed-looking birdhouse. A cornucopia of feminine kitsch, Miss Talulah's is such a woman's treasure trove -- a fun, arty adventure of a store in the burgeoning Ballpark neighborhood. Handmade soaps, folk-art chandeliers, vintage poster art from the Orient and handmade pillows are scattered among the nooks and crannies of the small shop; many of the display pieces are for sale, too. It's a dense, dainty place for the girl who has everything...but still really needs a set of antique beaded candlestick holders.


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