Smiley Branch Library
"Free toys." There might not be a better combination of words in the English language (and that includes "open bar"). Just the thought of such an extravagance sends children — and their parents — into paroxysms of delight. Amazingly, such a thing actually exists, courtesy of the Denver Toy Library at the Denver Public Library's Smiley branch. Three times a week, the volunteer operation in the library's basement unlocks its stash of hundreds of toys, games and puzzles geared to ages zero to eight, as it's done for more than two decades, and the place turns into a romper room. Thankfully, you can check out three toys and take them home with you. Now, about that open bar...
Walking into DisRespectacles is a little like entering the Twilight Zone. Spooky glass eyeballs and vintage optometry equipment dot the room; you half-expect a depraved old doctor to appear holding a pair of bloody tongs. In reality, though, the staff is friendly and eager to help you navigate the wide selection, which includes everything from rhinestone-studded Elton John peepers to your ubiquitous black square specs. The store, which boasts two New York locations, has been featured in a number of national magazines, outfitting celebrities such as Lauren Bush and Chris Kattan. Best of all, DisRespectacles' retro appeal goes beyond the decor, with dozens of vintage glasses culled from collectors. It's a vision to behold.
Unity
Here's where you'll find sexy, swingy, swanky modern clothes for the skinny in you: slinky graphic tees, contemporary artisan looks, fabulous hippie bags, recycled masterpieces and even menswear and ultra-cute urban baby gear, all neatly hung around this little neighborhood shop in a house. But behind the pretty prêt-à-porter, there's another angle to the place, which is lit by energy-efficient bulbs and strives to carry lines that give back to the community by donating to charities or by using sustainable materials. Every purchase leaves the store in recycled wrappings, and that's an idea we can really dig: Unity is one clean, green machine.
Revolution Cleaners
Did you ever stop to ponder what causes that icky dry-cleaning smell? The main chemical culprit is perchloroethylene, a central-nervous-system depressant and carcinogen known to cause skin irritation, dizziness, headache, confusion, nausea, liver and kidney damage, unconsciousness and death. Now, that's something we all want next to our skin, right? Revolution Cleaners wants to change the way we dry-clean our clothes: In place of the perilous perc, Revolution uses reclaimed, toxin-free liquid CO2, a chemical that's easier on the environment, your body, your nose and even your clothes. The cleaner also uses hemp laundry bags and wind energy in its stores and fills up its delivery vans with biodiesel. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "Every generation needs a new revolution." The shoe fits, and so will your sweaters.
Everybody's got a gimmick, it seems, and you might just dismiss this as another one. But Clean Air Lawn Care really does seem to care, in all-electric spades: The Fort Collins-based company, which boasts franchises in Denver, Boulder and across the nation, sticks to the plan by using low-emission equipment, including electric mowers and gardening gadgets, as well as biodiesel trucks fitted with mobile solar panels for recharging equipment in the field. And to compensate for emissions it can't help, the service goes the extra mile by purchasing carbon offsets from partner company Juice Energy. What goes around comes around.
SuperTarget
Let's be honest about the reason we hate grocery shopping: It's people. They're blocking the soup, cutting in line at the deli and shouting into cell phones while their kids come dangerously close to flipping carts over on themselves. Anyone who has ever shopped at the Glendale SuperTarget on a weekend knows this scenario well. But there's another, lesser-known SuperTarget that's a near-replica of its Glendale counterpart — except it's totally deserted. Once you get over that initial shock, you realize that in the SuperTarget at Northfield Stapleton, you've stumbled into your own personal grocery store. No one in line at the deli, almost no sound except for the buzzing of the freezer cases and a handful of other shoppers wearing wide smiles of amazement.
Not only can artsy types Tran and Josh Wills turn out a mighty fine screenprint, but they can sure run a business. The Fabric Lab, an eclectic shop featuring locally designed clothing, accessories and handbags, is going strong at 3105 East Colfax, has sparked a couture renaissance along this once-stagnant strip. There's the Big Hairy Monster hair salon; the Willses' new cupcake and design emporium, the Shoppe; Jen Garner's Neopolitan gallery; and the urban vinyl store Plastic Chapel. And just up the street, at 2907 East Colfax, is Newspeak, a tattoo, apparel and art-supply business dreamed up by the folks at Indy Ink clothing store and Brave New World tattoo parlor; next door, Bad Kitty Salon proffers killer hairstyles and local art. Recently, the proprietors of these like-minded businesses have started throwing art-based block parties on the second Saturday of each month. Here comes the neighborhood.
Patricia Branstead, the master printer, papermaker, book artist and teacher of all paper-related skills under the sun, opened Kozo Fine Art Materials just so those of you who can spend an entire day in a paper shop would have something to do. The swinging poster frames in Kozo display an amazing array of handmade papers, from delicate, translucent white-on-white patterned Japanese Hakusen papers and semi-transparent Thai mulberry sheets to bark-pulp Nepali Lokta papers that come crinkled, tie-dyed, or embedded with leaves and flowers. Branstead offers $10-a-packet scrap assortments if you're having trouble confining yourself to just one pattern; the general art-supply section of the store also offers Charbonnel inks, printing plates, papermaking kits, gifts and much more. Set aside a day — or a week — to leaf through Kozo's stock.
For parents with small children, there's nothing as precious as a good babysitter. A commodity rarer than diamonds, they are coveted, fought over tooth and nail and meted out as special favors; if the kids actually like them, they're locked away like a Fort Knox treasure. But if your best gal pals are hoarding theirs and the perfect au pair doesn't conveniently live next door, what's an R&R-deprived parent to do? Log on to MommyMixer and sign up for the next local event, that's what. The national phenomenon, which debuted last year in Denver, is a speed-matching mixer, usually offered at a boutique (with discounted shopping on the side), where moms and dads and potential night-out nannies can meet, greet and strike up a working relationship.
San Francisco's loss is Denver's gain: When Jil Cappuccio packed up her vintage Singer Featherweight sewing machine to move here, she brought a whole new flavor to the fashion scene. We especially like Jil's easy-going menswear — untucked, swingin' Neal Cassady shirts for guys and tiki prints for little boys (Jil has two boys of her own) — but she clearly understands the needs of the common woman. Her arsenal of real-women's apparel includes loose, boxy, impeccably lined and tailored jackets in fun prints; equally well-stitched, lined market bags; trademark shifts that can be worn jumper style over jeans in the winter and by themselves in the summer; A-line skirts with patch packets; and singular coats like you wouldn't believe, sewn in fake fur, wool houndstooth and other off-the-wall fabrics. She also carries clothes by a shortlist of other local designers (Lele Knitwear's folkloric separates, modern originals by Garden Girl, and sweetly restructured sweaters and blouses by Kirsten Coplans, embellished with huge buttons and contrasting rickrack), all of which fits together in a pretty patchwork in Jil's tiny nook off Colfax.

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