Steve's Snappin' Dogs
Cassandra Kotnik
Colfax Avenue is hot -- hot dog! You may have seen Steve and Linda Ballas before, in their popular, dog-slinging pooch coach at farmers' markets and other outdoor events around town, or at the Corporate Deli, which they used to run downtown. (And here's food for thought: Linda is the daughter of Blinky the Clown.) Now the couple has staked a permanent claim on Colfax at Steve's Snappin' Dogs, a sleek, diner-style enterprise in a renovated gas station. Here you can pick up Steve's trademark all-meat, no-filler Thumann's dogs, shipped in from Jersey, along with a side of chili fries, coleslaw or the unexpectedly yummy, crispy-puffy deep-fried green beans. That's it, in a bun, with mustard.
Like a true traveler, Ivy Morgan's Cargo comes and goes, sometimes packing up in the night and leaving an empty space behind. And now Cargo has returned, this time to a funky South Broadway storefront, but it's selling the same sort of reasonably priced Nepalese, Thai and Indian imports as before, including a great selection of quality incense and those cute, lucky-penis charms that everyone should have stashed in a drawer. Morgan has also brought back her fabulous graphic T-shirts boasting Asian floral designs, geishas and bodhisattvas that go so well with Cargo's brocade jeans, burnout velvet tops and quilted-satin swing coats. Welcome back.
You could write a book on what the Tattered Cover and its principled owner, Joyce Meskis, have meant not just to Denver, but to lovers of literature and free speech everywhere. That book begins in Cherry Creek North, where a pre-Meskis Tattered got its start in a little cubbyhole in 1972. Under Meskis, it kept moving to bigger and better locations -- the biggest and best the old Neusteter's department store on First Avenue, a five-story building that she filled with an astounding inventory of books, incredibly knowledgeable clerks, an ever-rotating array of authors who lectured in the basement, and even a restaurant on top -- the Fourth Story. But Cherry Creek has changed, and the Tattered Cover -- which added locations in LoDo a decade ago and more recently in Highlands Ranch -- is moving on. In June, it will open another store on East Colfax Avenue, in the old Lowenstein Theater that will soon be home to a movie theater and Twist & Shout, too. That will close the book on Cherry Creek, at least for now. You don't know what you've got 'til it's almost gone...
Installation Shoe Gallery
Often the hottest-selling items at Satellite Boardshop weren't the skates and snowboards, but the shoes. So owners Raul Pinto and J.G. Mazzotta opened a second Boulder store devoted entirely to street footwear, particularly special-release shoes by Adidas, Nike, I-Path and Vans. Though the location they chose has been a killing field for a bunch of boutiques over the decades, Installation has emerged an unexpected winner. And it's fitting that the art gallery/shoe store's most recent show was an exhibit by elusive San Francisco graffiti artist Bigfoot.
The Colorado Collection is a hard-to-find sanctuary in a land of cheap, tacky souvenirs. Before the locally owned boutique took off with DIA in 1995, the Colorado Collection was located downtown, and owner/goldsmith Lauren Wahlstrom sold her work out of the shop. Wahlstrom has since passed away, but her family still owns and runs this store specializing in unique, original jewelry, such as the earrings that Breckenridge artist Denise Bloch makes with her own hand-blown glass beads. And even if you're not looking to spend any money, the store's friendly employees are a joy to chat with. Be warned: Layovers pass quickly here, so don't miss your flight.
New urbanism, you're looking good! And in Belmar, the classy development that took over the former home of Villa Italia, Ricochet could be the main reason why. This great, girly store got its start on South Gaylord, then pioneered Lakewood's new-urbanist outpost, making the area safe for cool greeting cards, fun accessories and little gewgaws you can't live without.
Creative impulses abound in the 'burbs. For proof, just take a walk down Littleton's Main Street, a century-old strip now filling with chic shops, good restaurants and upscale services. Inspired by what you see? Step around the corner to CreARTive, a bungalow staffed by artists and filled with work spaces. This two-year-old enterprise features studios dedicated to artistic endeavors ranging from candle-making to pottery to mosaics, where you can indulge your inner Picasso alone or en masse. Book an aesthetically pleasing baby shower today -- wouldn't Junior just love some tie-dyed diapers? Littleton, you're looking good.
Even when Denver was a wild frontier town, it had a public library, and bookstores remain a major hallmark of civilization in the area. Even as big chains gobble up much of the market across the country, niche stores hold on tight to the hearts, minds and wallets of loyal customers. Over the past two years, Misty Hills Books has become an intrinsic part of Olde Town Arvada. Like most independent bookstores, it's about much more than books. It's about a comfortable place to relax, to browse through not just books, but other oddball fare -- canned haggis, anyone? -- and feel like a part of the community.
West Side Books & Curios
West Side Books has been a part of the Highland community since before "community" became a buzzword. The expansive used-book store feels like walking into a friend's old-school loft, with its concrete floors, rough walls and high ceilings. There are chairs and carpets everywhere, and the books themselves are housed on a mishmash of shelving that appears to have come from every corner of the planet. The general-fiction selection shows depth and breadth, and there are more than a few gems in the rare-books section. The real specialties, though, are children's literature, illustrated books and Western Americana. There are also jazz nights, literary readings and a host of other well-organized "community" events. So come in, sit down and stay a while.
Aveda Institute Denver
The Aveda Institute is like the Vassar of beauty schools, and its rigorous fifty-week program turns out students ready to coif the most fashionable heads around. Until then, the grasshoppers charge a mere $12 for a haircut, which includes a shampoo, wash and style, and facials can be had for $30. The Institute opened last year in Media Play's old space in the Denver Dry Goods building -- giving a new-millennium facelift to what was once the crown jewel of downtown's redevelopment.

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