Best Store on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall

Atmosphere

The Pearl Street Mall may be close to wholesale commercialization, but in the trendy West End neighborhood adjacent to the shopping mecca, there's still an independent flavor in the air. That holds true for nearby Atmosphere, a loft-looking "lifestyle" store that combines furniture, fashion accessories and baby clothes. The swank amalgam includes Mueller refrigerators from Germany (available in 200 colors), retro diaper bags, playful Offi birch furnishings for children, furniture upholstered in '50s-era fabrics, and tons more stuff that might be right at home in these stainless-steel modern times.
When David Bolduc, owner of the Boulder Book Store on the Pearl Street Mall, decided last year that he wanted to promote local shopping, he imported a slogan from Austin, Texas, which has had a successful "Weird" campaign going for years. But that's really no competition: Can Austin be one-tenth as weird as Boulder? Bolduc printed up 10,000 bumperstickers that say "Keep Boulder Weird: Support Local Businesses," which he hands out gratis. He also sells hats, T-shirts and mugs with the message.

Best New Store on Broadway (Since March 2004)

Chielle

Wendy Marlow, Alisa Dowell and Sara Thurston -- better know as DJ Sara T -- made big alterations to Denver's fashion scene this year by giving South Broadway staple Sugar an extreme makeover. The result: Chielle. The name is a combination of Thurston's and Dowell's dogs' names, but it also adds up to the very clever "girl energy": "Chi" means "energy" in Chinese, and "elle" translates to "she" in French. The new shop features designs by locals along with national brands, and the prices are a steal, with bright-colored leather cuffs for spring at just $15, rings galore at $10 and shoes for under $50. If only all makeovers were this good.
Indigena Gallery has really come into its own since moving to a charming little house on Tennyson Street last year. Once constrained in a smaller, darker, harder-to-find space, Sandra Renteria's Haiti-centric, Fair-Trade marketplace and gallery has stretched out physically and psychically to fill the sunny, brightly painted rooms. The merchandise is always changing, but regular staples are whimsical Haitian folk-art paintings, sequined vodou flags and metal sculptures hammered out of drum lids. In April, Renteria will load up on beads and handmade textiles from all over the globe, as well as functional Moroccan cookware known as tagines. Later this year, she'll refocus with a show of paintings by respected Haitian artist Turgo Bastien.
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!

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