JCRS is best known as the home of Denver's venerable tourist trap, Casa Bonita, but that's only the beginning of the low-rent excitement. Where else in town can you find a Save-A-Lot grocery store, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar discount stores and an ARC Thrift Store -- not to mention a post office and a place hawking discount video games? Imagine all the essentials of life in one place: food, clothing, cotton swabs, stamps, waterfall divers, Donkey Kong. It's the kind of one-stop paradise Colfax was meant to be.
Octopus Car Wash
Mag chloride still stuck to your car? Dog slobber on the windows and fur on the seats? Maybe a spilled Big Gulp left sticky spots on the console. For just $6.99, Octopus Car Wash will have you in, washed, waxed and on your way. For the more deluxe treatment -- which you'll want for that pet hair -- you'll still get out for less than $20. Just be sure to tip.
Colorado Springs has way too few activists, but Adam Leech, who owns Leechpit, a punk-inspired vintage music and clothing store, is one of the strong. He made his message clear last December by setting loose a small army of store regulars with signs and fliers declaring "Corporate Gifts Suck! Please Buy Local!" In a blog posted shortly thereafter, Leech noted that his infantrymen suffered two death threats at Wal-Mart, were asked to leave the Chapel Hills Mall by four security guards and lasted only six minutes at the Citadel before getting booted. But Leech is upbeat about the whole thing: "We had ten people a day calling about it, and for a shop like us, that's priceless."
Buffalo Exchange Annex
Finding time to give back to the community is hard, especially when you're a hipster. Between kickball games, fixing your scooter and hating on local bands getting press, there's hardly enough time in the day to perform punk-rock karaoke, let alone give back to the less fortunate. And even if you do find the time, it's not like you have the money. (Do you have any idea how much a pack of Parliaments runs?) Buffalo Exchange, purveyor of fine hipster wares, solves this dilemma with its Tokens for Bags program. Purchase an item, and the clerk will ask if you want it bagged. Say no, and you'll be rewarded with a five-cent token that you can donate to one of three charities. The company has raised $240,000 since it implemented the program in stores across the nation in 1994. So forgo the plastic, hipsters, then go back to your condescension feeling proud.
Federal Heating
A Statue of Liberty has carried a torch for Federal Boulevard since the early '80s. Bob Ramsour, the late owner of Federal
Heating, loved building metal figures, and over the years, a collection of his creations, including an Uncle Sam and a skiing tin man, have adorned the neighborhood. But Lady Liberty, constructed using 250 pounds of galvanized sheet metal, remains his masterpiece. She's survived a beheading and the ravages of weather far better than even Ramsour might have hoped. May she continue to watch over Federal commuters for many years to come.
A dancing portrait of Bob Marley stares down from the Caribbean Marketplace, marking the spot where the streets of Jamaica meet the streets of Denver. Bob's smiling face and swinging dreadlocks welcome visitors to the tiny shop. Colfax is a concrete jungle, but it's nice to have a little Rasta watching over the strip.
In Hawaii, flower leis are used to celebrate everything from pre-school graduations to parole-board hearings. But while islanders can buy leis from the local Wal-Mart, here at 5,280 feet the fragrant tropical necklaces are hard to come by. So praise Pele for Little Grass Shack, which sells everything from fresh, single-strand leis and kukui-nut wristbands to Maile vine braids and the Christina Lei, composed of 1,000 tightly woven orchid petals. Maile Inagaki runs the company out of her home but delivers all over the metro area. Just say "Aloha!"
Heaven Sent Me
Heaven Sent Me is the de rigueur destination for Pride weekend, but it's also open year-round for all your GLBT needs. Owner George Blackert has assembled scads of multi-hued cards, gifts, magazines, bumperstickers, flags, clothing, jewelry and boy toys, all of which burst forth from every corner of the store. Just be sure to stop shopping long enough to pet George's sweet store puppies, Sasha and Talia. And if you live too far to take the Yellow Brick Road to South Broadway (or you're just a big pillow queen), Heaven Sent Me offers convenient online shopping at www.heavensentme.com.
Trooper groupies will love this place -- if they can find it, tucked inside the state patrol's training academy. The shop offers CSP-branded T-shirts, polos, fleeces, mugs, golf tees, stuffed bears -- even a miniature patrol car for Junior. Our personal favorite: the CSP dashboard notepad, suitable for writing down excuses while waiting for the officer to check your registration and write that speeding ticket.
A++ Boutique De Force
At A++ Boutique de Force, six local fashion- and design-forward businesses join forces to present a powerhouse showroom on Belmar's artsy Block 7. Collectible sneakers rub shoelaces with vinyl toys, costume jewelry and mod tees while fine art and prints create a backdrop for trying on the best that Denver clothing designers have to offer. Give thanks to Gimme Gimme Pillow Toast, the Fabric Lab, Kundenkarte, Plastic Chapel and the 400 for bringing urban cool to the suburbs. A++!

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