Best Of :: Shopping & Services
What could be more Boulder than an eco-friendly department store? Ellie's covers all the bases: There are green building materials, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, recycled copy paper, non-toxic cleaners, organic cotton sheets, just about everything compostable (from paper plates to trash bags) and even electric scooters. The green mega-market, an offshoot of manufacturer Eco-Products, which has been making biodegradable items in Boulder for nearly twenty years, is founder Steve Savage's dream come true and could easily become your green pasture, as well.
There's a lot to recommend about Gimme Anime, but integrity is the foremost reason to feed your cultish obsession for Japanese animation, comics, serial graphic novels and accessories there. Owners Roger Morse and Emily Morse-Lee run a strictly bootleg-free business and stand by the quality of the stock, both new and consigned, that they put on the shelves of their Aurora strip-mall shop. But it's also an encyclopedic go-to for the very best stuff around, decked out with locally made fan art, where they'll gladly bend over backwards for you with special-ordering and wish-list services. Plus, the store offers a Gimme Manga frequent-buyer's card that will net you a free Fruits Basket (or other serial comic) for every nine that you buy and will provide meeting space for fellow mangamaniacs. That's not just retail; that's community.
Common Threads is a combination high-end used-clothing consignment boutique, local-product gift shop and creative lab, where you can learn to repurpose your newly purchased secondhand rags or send your kid to a spring-break sewing camp. Designed also with a dual purpose — to serve at-risk girls from Boulder's AIM House with special programs and to cater to the public at large — its all about the woman-to-woman experience (though guys are certainly welcome) with a green tinge, offering everything from a mentoring helping hand and a friendly stitch-and-bitch atmosphere. Believe it: This is the boutique of the future.
Anna Bé is exactly what you always imagined a wedding-dress shop would look like: a charming boutique with exposed brick walls and four neat rows of simple, elegant designer dresses; one massive pedestal before a three-tiered mirror; and not another bride in sight. Adorable, never-pushy co-owner Anna is only concerned with you. She'll bring you and your friends champagne and stay out of your way while you try on the first few dresses. Then she'll casually hang a dress outside your door and suggest you give it a try. It looked plain on the hanger, but on you, it's absolutely perfect.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. In a perilous economy, lots of people look to precious metals and collectable coins, but there are plenty of weirdos in the field as well as professionals. We like Dave Eichenberger's shop because the folks there are friendly, well-versed in the eccentricities of coin collecting, never intimidating and eminently fair, both in what they sell and what they pay for old coins and jewelry. Dave dispenses good advice for collectors, can spot a three-legged buffalo nickel in a pile of mere spenders, and can perform a quick assay to let you know if Grandpa's ring is real gold or 99 percent pure ersatz. And that's what you want from professionals these days: a quick winnowing of the chaff from the golden wheat.
So the photography nut on your gift list has asked for a stack of hardcover photo books by people with names like Lee Friedlander, Alfred Stieglitz and Annie Leibovitz. Don't know where to turn? Camera Obscura Gallery has plenty of fine art; in fact, the gallery and store claims to have the biggest selection of photography books in Colorado. Plus, they'll let you peruse the books before you buy them. Spend an afternoon there flipping through some of the best photos ever — then solve your gift-buying problems in a flash.
You know Le Bakery Sensual for its naked-lady cakes, giant penis icing designs and inappropriately hilarious desserts. But the erotic party shop and bakery also lets customers put their money where their mouths are: On Fridays, shoppers get 10 percent off their order if they flash the sales staff. Welcome to the naked city.
Colorado hair stylist Lauren Rennells is a lady with a past, boasting an extensive career of styling for film and photography shoots, and it's in the past that she found the inspiration for Vintage Hairstyling, a picture-perfect manual on how to create retro looks, from pageboys and pompadours to victory rolls and finger waves. In spite of the vintage spin of her book, Rennells takes full advantage of modern tools to create a hair primer that's not just glamorous, but also easy to use. The days of Veronica Lake, Betty Grable and Ava Gardner (to name a few) are finally back at your fingertips.
Forget pastels and frills: Brian and Melissa Ball of Rock the Cradle think that babies are cute all on their own and don't need any help from their clothes. Yet they also agree that even babies deserve to make a fashion statement — one that leans toward the same organic natural fabrics, edgy contemporary graphics and local and independent vendors that their parents favor. Stop and shop, but when you visit, be sure take advantage of the DIY T-shirt bar, where you can pick a blank onesie and customize it with an iron-on transfer, right there in the store. Call it fashion in the moment, mini-sized.
Babysitter's Nightmare, a junior division of the longstanding goth and punk-wear shop FashioNation, does all it can to live up to its name, in screamin' black, red and leopard skin. But you do have to admit it's kinda cute, and the clothing tends to be well-made and clever. For girls, you can choose from zippered jumpers that go great with a black "Spoiled Rotten" black tee, striped leggings or skinny pants, vinyl soft high-heeled booties by Heelarious, leopard-print apron onesies for petite pinups, and black-cat Mary Janes; boys will look tough in garage jumpsuits, mini Vans-style slip-ons and "Future Pirate" or "Kid Vicious" T-shirts, riding on a retro trike. They're never too young to be street.
Sooner or later, everyone has to deal with that pile of neglected memories in an outdated format gathering dust in the attic or garage. Whether it's a stack of fading VHS tapes from the 1980s, home movies from the 1950s or a mélange of slides and snapshots that span generations, Steve Dalbec's home studio, the local franchise of a national digitalizing service, is the place to go. Dalbec can convert a range of old formats, including 16-millimeter movies, to DVD or computer files; he can clean up and edit scratchy images of ancient baptisms and graduations; and he'll produce handsome DVD "albums" of your cherished (if seldom-seen) family odyssey, complete with searchable menus and titles. The rates are competitive with other transfer services around town, with an added bonus: free pick-up and delivery by courier.
LoDo's redevelopment continues at a staggering pace, but every new building means one less parking lot, and without them, finding a place to leave the car gets harder and more expensive. There's still one asphalt oasis among this wasteland of meters, however: Wewatta Street right behind Union Station. This stretch of two-hour free parking is hardly ever full, and it's a short walk from here to just about anywhere in the Central Platte Valley or LoDo. Be warned, though: Once Union Station's long-awaited redevelopment begins this year, these spots will surely go the way of nickel-fed parking meters.