The original Five Green Boxes was a wonder, the store you wanted to move into and

never leave. At least, never leave without an overloaded shopping bag. But then proprietors Charlotte Elich and Carrie Vadas closed up shop and relocated down the street to a smaller location that could only fit smaller merchandise. Deep down, though, they knew it wasn't enough. They missed their original, home-oriented concept. This year they brought back the spacious old store, dubbing it Five Green BoxesŠUnpacked. The little store is still there, with its goofy plastic shoes and silken scarves in watercolor hues, but now the big store is there for the big stuff: daffodil lamps, summer patio lanterns, butter-yellow garden furniture and a floor full of rescued chairs and ottomans that have been reupholstered in hand-dyed, boiled-wool artisan designs. It's the best of both worlds.

Best New Store on Colfax Avenue (Since March 2004)

ArmAzem Bookstore & Cafe

Owners Mauricio Vieira and Blair Dunn started waving the Brazilian flag proudly from their Colfax Avenue outpost, ArmAzem Bookstore and & Cafe, last March. Since then, the shop has developed a loyal following of book enthusiasts and Colfax-lovers, thanks to its well-culled selection of novels and nonfiction, free wi-fi, Portuguese discussion groups (armazem is Portuguese for "general store") and a sidewalk patio that offers prime people-watching. Fiercely local and eclectic, ArmAzem is the epitome of the New Colfax.
Denver Book Mall
The Denver Book Mall has more than two dozen booksellers all housed in a big, bright storefront on Broadway's book row. So whether bibliophiles are looking for a rare first edition or a pulp novel to kill some time with, there's a good chance they'll find it. For a near-perfect chance of scoring, go in search of a Colorado author's latest release or vintage, hard-to-find tome. The back of the shop is packed full of novels by Greeley-based sci-fi wonder-gal Connie Willis, as well as a host of John Dunning's cop-turned-book-dealer mysteries. But if you're not ready for an earful about our local scribes, don't open your mouth: Each proprietor is a fount of non-stop literary information and intrigue.

Best Bookstore for Readers Who Have Time (and Life) on Their Hands

Denver Book Fair

In the digital age, people don't browse anymore; they use their browsers to search databases. For vintage browsing, though, this is the place -- and not just for well-thumbed paperbacks. There are stacks and stacks of old magazines: muscle mags, guns, golf, aviation, decorating, a Life from the week your favorite baby boomer was born, Architectural Digest, Oui and, of course, a collection of National Geographic that stretches back to the early 1900s. Students of the twentieth century, breathe in the pulpy atmosphere, and leave your laptops behind.
There's a special ambience about the Ross-Broadway Branch Library, a certain feeling that if you close your eyes, you might open them to find Frank Lloyd Wright (reputedly the inspiration for Ayn Rand's Fountainhead character, Howard Roark). The Ross-Broadway branch was built in 1951 in the Prairie School style that Wright popularized, and it featured stunning woodwork, stained-glass windowpanes, made-to-order reading benches and bespoke burgundy benches. After more than fifty years in service, the library was getting a little tattered around the edges, but recent renovations restored some woodwork and window glass, added fixtures and counters, and modified the entryway for easier access for the disabled. The worn, frame-banging entry doors were finally replaced with sturdy, silent hardwood ones in a repro-Wright style. So silent are they now that, if you listen closely, you can almost catch the faint echo of Gary Cooper's voice giving a Roark soliloquy.
Lots of organizations have child-friendly websites, but the DPL's section for kids is downright chummy. The site offers a monster-truckload of homework resources (including access to the library's interactive ask-a-librarian feature, Smarty Pants); quick links to other sites designed with kids in mind, such as the Colorado Virtual Library for Kids; info on how to read aloud to a dog for the popular Paws-to-Read program; a second-by-second countdown to the release of the new Harry Potter novel this summer; and even an opportunity to write book reviews and post them online. Shazam!
Face it: Most elementary-school field trips provide less practical information than the average episode of Fear Factor. Not so at Young AmeriTowne, a daylong, hands-on event specifically designed to teach fifth and sixth graders something about the grownup world around them. Students must interview for positions in the mini-community's government and business sectors, then hold their own on the job, running TV or radio stations, putting out a newspaper, acting as judges, police officers, or even mayor. The program, run under the auspices of the Young Americans Center for Financial Education, has become so popular that a new branch recently opened in Belmar to supplement the original base in Cherry Creek. That's great, since nearly every kid who visits Young AmeriTowne actually learns something along the way. What a concept.
Calm down, Doors fans: The Jim Morrison behind LocatingMe.com isn't that Jim Morrison. He's a Conifer resident whose website helps track down loved ones in case of an emergency -- whether they're sitting at home or sailing the high seas. Families who pay the $29 sign-up fee receive cards listing standard contact data, as well as a password to the site, where they can input new numbers and travel itineraries. Also included are private pages where clients can store information about their driver's licenses and passports, in case they're stolen. For people constantly on the go, LocatingMe.com provides a 24-hour-a-day link to loved ones. Talk about an open-door policy.
Parking tickets are loathsome no matter how you pay them. But now they're slightly less painful, thanks to denvergov.org, the city's well-designed, easy-to-navigate digital hub. Computer-savvy motorists can erase vehicular debts and challenge tickets, all from their desktops. The site also makes municipal life run a little more smoothly -- and saves you a trip to the Webb building -- by offering everything from weather reports and City Council information to zoning maps and building-permit forms. The map section is of special interest to Denver-philes, thanks to cool, interactive images taken from planes flying above the city. Welcome to the City Beautiful.
The unsung Office of Employee Assistance provides city employees and their families with short-term counseling, referrals and other help in dealing with a host of workplace and personal issues -- everything from stress and anger management to relationship or substance-abuse problems, grief and financial losses, even the terror of being laid off. It's all confidential and free of charge, and the professional staff is friendly, committed and amazingly unbureaucratic.

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