Blue Sky Collective
There used to be a typical antique mall jammed into this warehouse-like West Colfax building, but that was before Jen Schafer and her Blue Sky Books and Media took it over. Now it's a diamond in the rough: Essentially a community gathering place in progress, it's not only home to Schafer's sprawling used bookstore, which donates a percentage of all sales to Doctors Without Borders, but it also offers basement space to KGNU's Trust the Dust non-profit used CD and vinyl record store and Skull Gate Games, a haven for role-playing gamers looking for more of the same. Upstairs, there are artist studios, a gallery and a dance studio; until this month, the Free Boutique clothing exchange also held forth in part of the space, and the Holistic Business Center, an organization giving workshops for small business owners, is in the process of setting up an office. But Schafer is also trying to show it off as place to hang out without spending a lot of money, by encouraging artists, musicians, authors and poets to perform, meet, jam and otherwise make use of the space in a community-building way.
Made in a small kitchen in Wheat Ridge, Bonnie's line of natural salves and ointments are good for the aches and pains of an active life. They take the sting out of climbers' skinned knees and split thumbs, soothe sunburns and sore muscles and help repair cracked lips and feet. Tree resins, shea butter, arnica, comfrey root and Colorado sunflower oil are among the secret ingredients that go into Bonnie's expanding product line, which includes a climbers' salve, lip butter and the essential Pain Eraser. Distribution is a bit erratic — at present, the products can be found in spots ranging from a couple of Army surplus stores to the Colorado Mountain Club gift shop to an Ace Hardware store in Edgewater — but look for the Bonnie's brand to become as common as Burt's Bees as the word gets out about these locally produced healing marvels.
Laurie Hessemer has lived in a lot of places, but when she decided to mine her background in green building supplies, she chose Colorado. Paint, she reasoned, is an affordable home-improvement commodity, especially for people who decide to stay and fix up their homes instead of selling, and that's how she conceived of New Era, the only store in the metro area that specializes in paint products that are free of those polluting volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The cost for consumers, she says, is competitive with other types of paint, but here's what you will live without if you switch: paint odor and toxic fumes. Plus, VOC-frees come in a rainbow of hues and can be custom tinted. New Era is painting the town green.
Mouthfuls
Deb Dempsey and Tonya Payne have created a place where the eats are all natural, unprocessed and delish. New restaurant, you might ask? Not exactly: Mouthfuls is where Berkeley Park denizens and their pets try out a smorgasbord of doggie munchies, from hand-baked cookies and scrumptious training treats to bags of chow from makers like California Natural, Candidae and Nature's Variety Raw Frozen Diets. Canine or feline, pets all inhale the store's exclusive dehydrated chicken chunks, and the toy selection would fill many a doghouse with hours of indestructible fun.
Nejashi Textiles And Gifts
The maxis are coming, the maxis are coming! Maybe not, but if you do find yourself hiding your legs underneath one in the coming seasons, have you thought about what to wear over it? Truthfully, the ankle-length coats at this Ethiopian boutique that caters to Muslims would do just as well over a mini when the fall breezes start to blow, and the price is right. Some coats are mighty trendy, such as the hip denim dusters that will keep you snug and stylish, and the shop's wide-leg jeans, tunic sweaters and embroidered caftans are well crafted and often stunning. What a way to make an entrance!
Talulah Jones
What is Re-Ment? It's a Japanese phenomenon, a company that manufactures Puchi Petites plastic miniatures, which resemble those fake food models used by Japanese restaurants to entice customers, only in diminutive form. There are dozens of sets to choose from, including $5 blind boxes. But beware: Puchi Petites are seriously addictive, and you'll find that if you buy the Seafood Surprise packet, with its tiny red plastic lobster, you might soon catch yourself coveting Healthy Happy Bagels or All American Apple Pie. It's childish. It's weird. It's cute. And if you want it, go straight to Talulah Jones.
Stressful work environment? Bad breakup? Some days simply beg to be killed off with a bourbon, a beer and an old Western movie. Happily, you can get all three at Watson's, which has held down the corner of Ninth and Lincoln since the 1950s. The store started selling old Westerns — which are prominently on display above the counter — on DVD a couple of years ago. Priced at $7.99 each, they are popular around the holidays and on Father's Day, as well as with some regulars, one of whom has bought every title. Examples include: Apache Rose (1947), with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans; Abilene Town (1946), with Randolph Scott and Lloyd Bridges; Randy Rides Alone (1934), with John Wayne; and Tulsa (1949), with Susan Hayward and Robert Preston. Giddyup!
A & B Bowling Supply Co.
Move over, Hollywood stars: At A & B Bowling Supply, the red carpet is reserved for practice bowls. The plush runner is not there to look good; it's laid out so bowlers can learn the proper handling of their balls. This is the place to go when you need custom drilling while you wait. Be sure to ask for Neil Mortenson; he's sharp as a pin, throwing down bowling wisdom in the form of epigrams. He keeps his finger(s and a thumb) on the pulse of the bowling world and can poetically let you know how the Sarge-Easter Grip helps to stimulate a really high rev rate, as well as how to get spinners to hook into winners. Customers who deal with Neil insist their averages are better, and happily return to purchase trophies and shirts with lettering. It's a place with service to spare.
Caboodle
Caboodle isn't much to look at from the outside: The plain-looking storefront in an unlikely strip mall doesn't attract a lot of attention. But in a way, that matches owner Marlene Nuechterlein's intention to provide stay-at-home mompreneurs, local crafters and out-of-basement businesses an outlet where their locally made and often-recycled wares can be appreciated. Some standouts include Teatulia teas, all-natural soy candles by Evergreen Candleworks, spirit totems by Kit's Wild Women, Best of Denver-winning Baggy-Shirts shopping bags and the Peekaru vest, which fits over mom and baby when using a soft baby carrier in winter; you'll also find knitted items, hand-dyed silk scarves, quilts, CDs, glasswork, natural soaps, cards and many other gift items to choose from. And lately, Nuechterlein has added a series of DIY workshops where folks can also share their talents with their neighbors.
Scribbles Paper
For many urbanites living in the wi-fi world, letter-writing may seem as quaint and useless as butter churning or mustache waxing. At Scribbles, you'll want to leave the soulless world of texting and emoticons at the door. The shop is filled with wedding invitations, stationery and artist-made greeting cards. The baby books are so awesome that many customers decide to make babies just to be able to justify their purchases. A comfy sofa next to a sunny window is provided at the wrapping area at the back of the shop, to allow clients a tranquil space to make the enlightened choices needed for today's gift-wrapping protocols. The staff is graciously helpful and never pushy. It's hard to leave Scribbles without wishing to live in the glamorous days of penmanship instead of this impersonal life in Helvetica.

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