Stocked with vinyl art toys like custom MUNNY dolls, designer T-shirts, top-of-the-line spray paints and original artwork by such up-and-coming locals as Ray Young Chu, Jason Thielke and Scot Lefavor, Joy Engine feels like it should be on Colfax Avenue or Santa Fe Drive rather than off the Pearl Street Mall. But this retail boutique/art gallery also has an enlightened vibe that fits right into the People's Republic. Owner Todd Berger and his crew are branding and connecting local artists with companies like Trek and Timberland in their back-room design studio, Cypher13, and spreading the word about art happenings in Denver and Boulder on their obsessively updated blog. Who knew Boulder could be so hip?
Box-cutters were the beginning of Original Hip Hop Chocolates. Marcus, the artist and creative genius behind the concept, was pondering their significance after 9/11, contemplating how something so commonplace could be a weapon. So he made box-cutter chocolates in an attempt to face and conquer the new, frightening connotations of the item. He's since expanded his reflections to include a communion of hip-hop, with his company selling shell-toed shoes, boomboxes, turntables and brass knuckles all made from chocolate. Eat something sweet, consider the meaning behind the medium, and consume a way of life. It's esoteric, it's philosophical, and above all, it's tasty.
Novo Coffee
NOVO Coffee doesn't actually brew your cup of joe in giant iPods, but its stylized metallic coffee machines, called Clovers, resemble them. They have the same modish aura, as if they, too, promise to change the way we do things. You can find the Clovers in action at the residential complex next door to the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building. NOVO's methodology is to treat coffee like wine, serving it by varietals and preparing one cup at a time, never letting the elixirs spoil in a carafe. The operation is so cool you'll want a Clover for yourself, but considering that the machine costs more than a small car, you may want to stick with the $3 coffee.
Denver's wired caffeine addicts rejoice over the Mile High Buzz blog. The site features a growing rundown of local coffee shops, describing the decor, menu and perks like WiFi. Plus there's a handy interactive map for finding the closest latte, and a somber graveyard that lists beloved cafes like Monkey Bean that have gone the way of day-old grounds. The best stuff on the site, however, can often be found in the "comments" section, which sometimes devolves into battles royale among spastic coffee geeks over the best java drinks in the city (we've spotted a few coffee-shop owners in there, hawking their own concoctions). It's hot, steamy and energizing -- just like a great cup of joe.
Frenchman Stephan Poullier's charming store is buoyant with all things Provencal, including the Mediterranean region's distinctive sun-washed pottery, oilcloth and table linens, as well as fine French soaps and stunning glass pieces. But don't miss the candles, which are both fun and functional. Poullier not only stocks an entire spectrum of reasonably priced colored tapers and scented oil candles, but he's also got an amusing surplus of novelty candles, from sprightly floating poppies and delicious-looking petit fours to cute peas. Ambiance Provence really knows how to light your fire.
This swell little Tennyson Street boutique is piled high with lots of cozy T-shirts, jeans and designer-wear for grownups, plus adorable gifts for babes (the little kind), from teensy tees printed with jeweled-navel Buddhas and pirate ships to ultra-snuggly animal-hooded towels and Kthe Kruse puppet theaters. But the standout find is catstudio's Geography Collection: nostalgic retro tea towels, tumblers and throw pillows emblazoned or embroidered with tourist attractions from pretty much every state in the union. Picking your favorite is the hardest part of making a purchase, so be prepared to relive your travel memories while fingering the merchandise. Route 66 is back.
LambShoppe
Knitters are a unique bunch, and they stick together like a herd of, well, sheep. LambShoppe is a smartly appointed meadow where those noble knitters can network, learn, and replenish supplies from the handsome rows of rich, dark floor-to-ceiling wood shelves. Whether you're ready for a good long stitch-and-bitch, need help crocheting some bunny slippers, want to pick up an armload of skeins or just need to fuel up on a quick latte from the Latte Baa coffee bar, LambShoppe is the place.
Desert Gems, Inc.
Since its move from way-north Broadway to Lakewood, this gem of a store has become a prime gathering place for bead artists, metalsmiths, rock hounds and others interested in designing their own necklaces, earrings and whatnots. From clasps to cabochons to an astonishing variety of beads, all the jewelry-making fixings are here -- along with classes, books, a helpful staff, kitschy stone carvings, selenite wands and more. Learn the peyote stitch and go to town.
Amy Kahn delivers one helluva Big O. The rest of her "O" collection of jewelry is pretty fine, too, but that giant silver (or gold) circle floating in the middle of your chest attracts mad attention. It's simple and sleek and perfect for all occasions. Locally, Kahn is every independent shop's favorite jewelry gal, and retailers across the country have recently made her one of this city's best exports. Thanks to Kahn, you're looking good, Denver.
If fashion makes a statement, then Lee Alexander Jewelery is the exclamation point at the end. Designer Christa Rost is known for her larger-than-life gem creations, featuring everything from quartz to carnelian. Her piece de resistance, however, is the crystal quartz necklace that showcases one giant, faceted Austrian crystal pendant surrounded by crystal quartz petals. You'll never want to take it off.

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