Buffalo Exchange Annex
It's a misnomer to call the Buffalo Exchange a vintage-clothing or thrift store. Nearly a fourth of its eclectic inventory is brand-new, cherry-picked from debut lines of contemporary streetwear that escape the notice of larger, more corporate, mall-based fashion chains (Denver's Capitol Hill location is one of 24 nationwide). If a new indie line's catching a buzz at the MAGIC fashion trade show in Las Vegas one week, it's headed for the racks at the Exchange the next. The store's bread and butter, though, is "recycled fashions," and its heavily pierced in-store buyers excel at mining the garbage bags and laundry baskets trade customers bring in. Prices are generally lower than those at consignment shops offering similarly high-caliber brands and rare finds. We've walked out of Buffalo Exchange with a classic KISS tour shirt ($100 on eBay), a mint-condition Armani pullover ($180 new) and a pair of barely used leather Skechers ($80 new), all for less than sixty bucks. The store's soundtrack is also suitably fashionable: No canned Top 40 here; just the best in edgy indie rock and electronic ambient. Herdy up.
Boss Unlimited
Tucked in the back corner of Boss Unlimited, a Kennedy-era vintage store, is an innocuous box stuffed with bolts of fabric. And what a fun box it is -- full of mid-century mod fabrics that look oh-so-fresh in the current season of Jackie O-inspired fashion. The stock is small, but it changes frequently based on what owner Cynthia Wright scouts. And for the real DIY-er, there's a valise packed with '40s and '50s patterns. Express yourself!
We don't know when, or why, it happened, but knitting is suddenly hot, with knitting groups popping up like crop circles. La Ti Da, at home in a converted Old South Pearl Street cottage, came along at just the right moment. Knitting mavens Kim Allegretti and Rita Marshall knew exactly what they were doing when they opened the combination coffeehouse, yarn store and gift shop. La Ti Da not only caters to south Denver's needle-wielding denizens by offering them a comfy place to gather, buy top-drawer yarns, learn new stitches or simply while away an afternoon; it also provides an outlet for local artisans, whose wares -- teensy sweaters and poodle dresses for babies, stunning scarves, jewelry, pillows and more -- line one homey alcove. Just the thing for a tight-knit community.
Here's a good yarn: Shellie Lubowitz of the Shivering Sheep and Coppélia's Needlepoint in Cherry Creek North so wanted to help the homeless that she organized an ongoing Sunday-afternoon knitting circle for that purpose. Participants get to knit, purl and gab while creating warm items -- gloves, scarves, hats and blankets -- for those who are exposed to the elements all winter long. Knit for the Homeless needles on through the end of April. Look for the new tradition to start up again next fall.
It's every teenager's birthright to endure the humiliating rite of passage known as the high school prom. Though formal events are a low priority for school-age youths and families living in shelters, that doesn't mean homeless teens don't want to put on a puffy dress or boutonniere and dance the night away with their peers. That's why the Denver Public Schools created the Threads program, which started out as a prom-dress bank before evolving into a full-fledged store with hygiene items and racks of donated clothing kids can purchase with vouchers. Threads has been a huge success since it opened in a local school last fall (whose location is disclosed only to those eligible for the program). The concept has been expanded to serve homeless children in elementary school, who receive vouchers they can use at local Goodwill stores. Who knew something so positive could come out of prom night?
If clothes make the man, Suits Closet can make an employed man. To help male job-seekers obtain interview-appropriate duds, the non-profit job-placement agency DenverWorks recently reopened its clothing bank to underprivileged guys seeking work. Offered by referral to clients in need of the right stuff, the program doesn't seem like much at first. But when you consider that a good suit can make the difference between landing a job and being shown the door, Suits Closet becomes one of those small steps for man and a giant step for mankind.
Turning water to wine is a tough, though handy, trick; it's pretty advanced stuff, as far as miracles go. Manos Folk Art can help you enact something slightly less flashy. The colorful import shop specializes in goods from Mexico and Latin America, where the faithful make personal appeals to saints using small, symbolic milagro trinkets. The shop's nice selection of metal milagros -- in the shape of hearts, hands, lungs and limbs, among others -- includes utilitarian Mexican designs as well as elaborate pieces from Peru and silver reproductions of vintage artifacts. The Manos staff will also direct you to local churches and shrines where you can petition the saints. Whether you want to pray or simply pump up your folk-art collection, Manos is a heavenly place to begin.
Highland resident Sandra Renteria is so concerned about Haiti, the tiny, war-torn Caribbean nation, that she's become a cheerleader for the place. Dedicated to doing something for the Haitian people, she and her husband formed the Art Creation Foundation for Children, which is based in Jacmel, Haiti, and feeds and clothes children, most of them orphans, while teaching them to make traditional crafts. Renteria's Denver shop, Indigena, specializes in Haitian art, including the children's wares, along with a smattering of better-than-average handmades from Mexico, India and other far-flung locations; Indigena boasts some of the best Oaxacan carvings we've seen in the region. "Indigena wouldn't exist if it weren't for Haiti," Renteria says. It's a small world, after all.
Marczyk Fine Foods already corners the market on gourmet goods, so we won't even start with the rundown of what they've got inside. But last year they went a step further and made the place just plain homey. "Come on over," they invited. "Sit a while. We'll cook you up a burger." And so the Friday cookout was born. The new summer tradition returns in the spring, when the evenings grow long and linger-worthy. The charcoal grill will fire up again, serving friends, customers and strangers side by side at long community tables. Don't like burgers, even when they're fashioned from the finest beef on the planet? No problem. Pick out a piece of fish inside and they'll grill that up nicely for you, too. Fridays at Marczyk's are pure urban bliss.
It's as close as we'll get to walking under the boardwalk in Denver. But, hey, strolling under the viaduct ain't bad -- especially when you're shopping in blazing mid-July heat. Weatherproofing is just one of the strategies behind the Viaduct Market, a cousin to the successful Ballpark Market bazaar. If a trial run in December is any indication, treasure hunters can expect the same quality mix already found at Ballpark: antiques, furniture, old and new clothing and jewelry, refreshments and those once-in-a-lifetime finds. So go: The Viaduct Market will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every fourth Saturday of the month from March until December. No need to flee when it rains on this flea.

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