Best Of :: Shopping & Services
For 42 years, the non-profit SCORE has offered free confidential counseling and low-cost workshops for entrepreneurs trying to start, operate or rescue a small business. The Denver chapter (there are offices in Longmont and Steamboat Springs, too) has more than eighty counselors -- mostly working or retired executives -- whose tips on financing, marketing, accounting and fine-tuning business plans come from years of happy (and sometimes bitter) experience. That's a lot of expertise for no money down.
One February day, would-be customers of the Boulder Arts and Crafts Cooperative encountered this sign on the entrance: "We will be closed Tuesday, 2/21, for Feng Shui adjustments." Where there's a will, there's a shui.
If you only go to a church service once a year, make it the Colorado Council of Churches' Easter Sunrise at Red Rocks. For 58 years, Denverites have been hauling their blankets, parkas, umbrellas and Thermoses up a huge sandstone hill to find religion in the world's most beautiful amphitheatre. Choirs, gospel singers, preachers, drummers, dancers and string players have all taken the stage to welcome spring and let the Spirit move them. But it's hard to beat the opening act of the sun rising over the plains, illuminating the park's giant red-rock flanks.
There's nothing worse than lugging around RTD bus schedules: The right one is never at hand, and when you do find it, hiding at the bottom of a bag, it's crumpled and expired by months. Time to go paperless with RTD's wireless services. At rtd-denver.com, you can download the schedule viewer onto any PDA, then synch regularly to keep data current and find out exactly when the next bus or light-rail train will arrive, or locate the best route to get somewhere. Now, that's door-to-door service.
The combination of high-density apartment buildings in Capitol Hill and the high number of homeless, indigent and cracked-out folks who roam the corridors around East Colfax Avenue creates at least one harmonious, if accidental, civic service: free trash pickup. The City of Denver restricts depositing large items in alley dumpsters, but Colfax crackheads are happy to retrieve old mattresses, broken bikes, busted fishing poles, spent refrigerators and unwanted Nagel prints -- usually within five minutes of the item's being set out on a sidewalk or in an alley. Like ants cleaning a discarded chicken carcass, the Colfax trash brigade sweeps the city clean.
In addition to its once-a-year, door-to-door hazardous-waste pickup service, Denver also has a drop-off facility, the Household Hazardous Waste Swap Shop, where you can take up to 125 pounds of oil-based or latex paint, moth balls, solvents, hobby supplies, fluorescent tubes, car batteries -- whatever eligible toxic materials you have lying around the garage -- for free recycling and/or disposal, by appointment only. And while you're there, go ahead and peruse other people's discarded paint pots and aerosol cans for any stuff you want. Ultimately, Denver's waste-management program wants residents to reduce the hazardous materials they use, but as long as they're still here, the pickin's are free.
Nearly every hospital in the area has volunteers on site to assist patients in any way possible. But Sky Ridge takes this service to a new level: Rather than just a handful of volunteers at the facility, there's a veritable legion of them, and they're consistently the nicest, kindest, best-informed and most accommodating helpers imaginable.
Taki's has long been a favorite among bargain-minded Denverites seeking great, healthy food at stunningly low prices; this Colfax mainstay even has free delivery. In keeping with that Japanese-flavored generosity, Taki's began offering free WiFi to customers in 2005. So now you can cruise myspace.com while slurping up spicy ginger miso or download iTunes over a barbecued tofu steak. Arigato, Taki-san.
The new Hyatt Regency by the convention center is pretty fly. But while rooms can be pricey, anyone with a laptop and ten bucks can spend 24 hours in the lap of this luxury hotel, thanks to its T-Mobile Hot Spot. Settle into a cushy chair in the spectacular lobby or bar area, hold your cell phone just right as you hammer away on Gmail, and the staff will think you're someone really, really important. Log on.
Denver Maps puts Google Maps to shame. Not only can you get aerial photos, but you can ask the online mapper to show Denver City Council districts, police stations, golf courses, future streets, a Wastewater Management Platmap Index, Enterprise Zones, schools, polling places, bike paths and more -- all layered on one map. There's also a list of every neighborhood organization associated with a particular address, complete with contact e-mails and phone numbers, personal-property records, and a neighborhood map for figuring out the ever-confusing boundaries of Five Points or deciding where Highland becomes Sloan's Lake. Take that, Google!
Small businesses hatch and grow at the Microbusiness Development Center, a one-stop non-profit business resource that helps low-income entrepreneurs through micro-loans, skills programs, a computer lab and general boosterism. Clients who've gotten a jump start from the organization include a seamstress, importers of African merchandise, a gelato-maker, a 24-hour personal receptionist, numerous caterers and even the maker of a squeeze-free juice-box holder for toddlers. With a recent move to a new facility come bigger and better plans for MBD's future: The group hopes to add a fully equipped commercial kitchen for startups, community centers for small-business and youth entrepreneurs, a library and more.