Best Urban Funk in a Mall 2004 | Urban Outfitters | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Cherry Creek got a much-needed boost of flava with Urban Outfitters, a welcome outpost of urbanity in the shopping center's rarefied air. The only store in the mall to display its goods in plywood crates, the chain retailer is both outlandish and practical. A pop-up version of the Kama Sutra sits next to a book on how to build an outdoor shed; rugs made of shredded T-shirts share space with teapot lamps and Snoop Dogg action figures. Urban Outfitters is a relatively inexpensive and fun place to find a book of vintage Playboy centerfolds, Day-Glo jewelry and a T-shirt collection that's worth a visit on its own; one top features a pig bearing flowers and pleading, "Please don't eat me...I love you." We'll oink to that.

The Far East Center is more of a vicarious travel experience than a shopping mall -- an exotic otherworld seated at the corner of Federal Boulevard and Alameda Avenue. The double-decker complex boasts a Vietnamese bakery, a couple of hair and nail salons and two well-stocked Asian grocery stores that traffic in fresh, live fish, cookware, tea and spices. At Truong An, you'll find unique and affordable gifts such as bamboo plants, paper lanterns and cute Korean stationery. The center's always-packed parking lot's a pickle, but the prices are right and the offerings endlessly interesting. And when the shopping weakens your knees, there's plenty to eat: We'll take the Far East noodle joints over the food court any day. Celebrate the Year of the Monkey: Go East.

Artist Lauri Lynnxe Murphy and collector Barbara Pooler recently changed the location of Pod from a spot within the Andenken Gallery to new digs on Santa Fe Drive, in a space that once housed the ILK Gallery as well as Murphy's own studio. But Pod's purpose remains the same: to support artists by selling the one-of-a-kind things they make. And what things they are! Pod swells with Murphy's own Sugarpuss bags made of recycled fur coats and wig hair; Chinese-print brocade bustiers; beadwork; small framed works; tiny signed prints sold in vending-machine eggs; and a huge selection of local Squid Works comics. Overhead flies a creepy-cute brigade of ceiling-hung angels, complete with felted human hair and tea-stained teeth. (According to Murphy, they're made by a Danish artist who smuggles them into the States.) Pod may soon expand further into the storefront space and offer workshops and other activities; in the meantime, it's a place where you can shop without feeling vacuously shallow about it. It's for art, after all.

The Tattered Cover revolves around language. So why is it so hard to find words to adequately praise it? Not content to simply be the region's finest bookstore, the Denver landmark became a symbol of our times in 2000, when owner Joyce Meskis refused to turn over buyer info to police, a move that made her a hero among booksellers and civil libertarians alike. On a less grand scale, her stores are comfy, community-oriented and pleasantly stuffed with a vast stock of new and used titles. The LoDo store's activity calendar is exhaustive, as well, with near-nightly readings by authors both obscure and internationally known. But wait -- there's more! The store's coffee is yummy and cheap! And this year, the TC began carrying parking-meter keys, available for purchase in any amount -- which makes so much sense, we wonder why every LoDo business doesn't do it. Then again, if every business operated like the Tattered Cover, we'd never run out of interesting things to look at, think about, participate in, discuss, admire and, yes, buy. And what fun would that be?

Best Store in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center


Chain-store, shmain-store. Complain all you like, but if you're gonna shop at the mall, you'd better get used to it. Anthropologie -- the frou-frou Parisian-style sister of the trendy, all-American Urban Outfitters across the way -- helps take away the sting of homogeneity. The boutique takes modern retro dressing to the edge by reviving the studied detail of old clothes: the memorable colors, vintage prints, unique trims and ornamentation such as pleats, eyelet and lace. The ultra-soft modern fabrics stretch, cling, cohere and gracefully follow the figure (assuming you still have one). A true concept store, Anthropologie also stocks accessories and home decor to match its clothes, so load up your shopping bags and take home a perfectly coordinated lifestyle.

Opened in October 2001, Colorado Mills has yet to catch the retail fire its developers had hoped for. We don't quite understand why. It's an easy distance outside of town -- the "scenic" route along Colfax provides a bonus driving tour of Lakewood's finest dive bars -- and its ninety shops are a manageable mix of upscale, stylish and practical, with good deals in every one. (Slightly less scenic but more direct routes along Sixth Avenue and C-470 provide easy access for those in a hurry.) There's a food court with ample seating, a family fun center and, best of all, a Super Target. True, the Outlets in Castle Rock have eight more stores, and bargain shopping at Loveland's outpost of outlets is a tad more picturesque. But Colorado Mills has something its competitors don't: an As Seen on TV store!
Tran Wills loves Colfax, and Colfax loves her. After just five months in business, the 22-year-old's subterranean shop, the Fabric Lab, is already busting at the seams with the confections of twenty local designers. The Colfax T-shirts, featuring a trs-hip '70s beatbox, are becoming a cultural icon, but Wills also consigns gorgeous couture pieces as well as bags and simple, beaded jewelry. Located below the hip hair-styling salon Hairspray, the eclectic store is a work in progress. But Wills is helping bring life to the once-tired strip -- and Denver's once-tired fashion scene.

Herbs & Arts operates on the belief that the power to heal comes from within -- the self and the earth -- not from over-the-counter drugs or expensive prescription meds. Smelling of incense and other aromatics, the funky shop on East Colfax peddles tarot decks, books, crystals and ceremonials for use in Wiccan and pagan prayer. There's also an extensive book collection; where else will you find volumes on fairy folklore? But the real magic happens behind the counter, where dynamic staffers mix up their own blends of potions and powders to cure whatever ails you, from a hangover to anxiety to withdrawal from tobacco. (The signature "I Quit Smoking and Now I'm Nuts" herb tea is a popular item for those kicking the habit.) They've got herbs to boost the immune system and oil diffusers to calm the nerves, all for far less than the cost of a bottle of aspirin. A stop here is a good starting point for those on the path to homeopathy.

Best Store on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall


The art of Andean weaving so inspired Boulder designer Nicole Linton that she left behind a stack of careers as a Spanish teacher, jewelry designer and decorators' liaison to become a decorator herself. The result was Linton's unique line of woven alpaca pillows and rugs, all distinguished by their bold geometric patterns and colors. Later, she opened e'bella on the Pearl Street Mall. While Linton's bright textiles form the store's centerpiece, the companion pieces -- from candy-colored plates to textured, hand-knit snowball handbags -- provide perfect counterpoints. E'bella is a lovely place to go when you want to put together a warm, modern look for your home.
The Colorado Mills Super Target covers more ground than a few small towns in rural Colorado. You could live comfortably inside the uberstore if you really had to -- subsisting on groceries, watching TV, snuggling up with fancy bedding. It wouldn't be such a bad life. True, Target's a huge-ass chain. But we love it anyway, partly because the company emphasizes stocking American-made goods and enjoys a reputation as a progressive employer. And its recent move to hire A-list designers was pure genius, resulting in an ever-expanding line of budget designer clothes, linens, appliances, furniture and cosmetics. When do we move in?

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