Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Flowers, port-a-potties and statues of dudes on horses aren't the only things that sprout from the ground in Civic Center Park. Thanks to the efforts of Transition Denver, the park is now home to a seasonal garden, where organic vegetables are planted, harvested and enjoyed by the public. Even better, some of the food winds up in the pantries of local organizations that work with Denver's homeless. The use of public spaces for urban gardening is an intriguing trend that's catching on in cities across the country, viewed as a potential solution to problems like hunger and poor nutrition. Plus, it's just darn cool to think of carrots, peppers and tomatoes growing down the street from the library and art museum. We're glad the City of Denver was plucky enough to agree.
There's nothing like shopping at a farmers' market, but come winter, most of them pack it away. Not James and Irina Bertini, whose venture, Denver Urban Homesteading, runs year-round, every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The market features fresh foods from within a 100-mile radius (or at least from somewhere in Colorado), including everything from raw honey and goat's milk to heritage turkeys, hand-canned sauerkraut and grass-fed buffalo meat. Plus, the Bertinis started a Community Wine Project, in conjunction with the Infinite Monkey Theorem winery, to allow backyard vintners to grow grapes and bottle wine under the DUH label. Now, that's thinking — and drinking — locally.
A collaborative think tank bringing private and public factions together in the interest of creating and growing a local economy through the promotion of local foods, Grow Local Colorado starts with its founding sponsors: the Living Earth Center, Transition Denver, the Mile High Business Alliance and Denver Botanic Gardens. But from there, it spreads to include every one of us. Anyone who's ever thought of growing backyard produce to sell at micro-markets or to restaurants, or just anyone who'd like to find that kind of food to buy and eat in the first place, will benefit from this group, which helps put gardeners in contact with projects and lists classes in sustainable growing practices. This is networking on a brave new level. From lowly grassroots, great ideas will grow.
For a good while, Jessica LeRoux, aka the Cheesecake Lady, was everybody's best friend in the local pre-concert tailgating scene. Strolling through parking lots with her crazy hat and wavy hair, she offered up specially infused heavenly treats at unbeatable prices. The medical marijuana boom has allowed her to go mainstream, though, and LeRoux has opened a commercial kitchen where she bakes a variety of cannabis cheesecakes and chocolates that are sold at dispensaries around the state with her signature "Twirling Hippy Confections" logo. And not only are these some of the best edibles around, but LeRoux has made a habit of organizing fundraisers for indigent patients. That's right: You can have your cannabis cheesecake and eat it, too.
Littleton artists Tom Sarmo, Teresa Brooks and Ruth Fiege threw open their studio doors last fall, and you won't find a more whimsical shop anywhere. Although it first and foremost displays the trio's eclectic clay works, shadowboxes and illustrations, along with some art by other locals, Sk3tchbook's most discerning features would be the curiosities it bears: vintage radios, religious art, old books, bottles and tins, machines and tubes and all manner of dumpster finds, which not only spiff up the place in an unusual way, but make you want to come back again and again.
When things get tough, the tough start saving, and the stuff of garage and estate sales, the Goodwill store and the slightly higher-end consignment stores begins to look a whole lot better to folks looking for a change in wardrobe or home design. The little enclave at the intersection of Hampden and Chambers Road in Aurora goes a long way toward making the hunt simpler. Three secondhand palaces, including Leta's Loot (303-617-5668) for furniture and home decor, Little Tykes Trading Post (720-870-7191) for all things ten-and-under, and Celine's Designer Resale Boutique (303-680-5544) for razzle-dazzle resale rags, nestle side by side on the southwest corner, offering one-stop shopping for discerning bargain hunters.
Denver's alley-scavenging and dumpster-diving economies have boomed as the economy has swooned. Leave a pile of rusty scrap out behind your house and it's gone in a day. A bicycle in need of serious work won't last an hour. And divers commonly fish cans and bottles from dumpsters, as well as all kinds of other trash and treasure. The city frowns on scavenging — primarily because of liability issues — but proponents argue that it opens a divine path for junk to be reincarnated instead of suffering eternal purgatory in a stinky landfill. That said, the best alley to scavenge in Denver runs between the businesses of Broadway and the houses of Acoma Street south of Evans. The product is downscale but diverse; you might find half-drunk cans of beer from a dive bar, bad works of art from a basement apartment, or even a bag of day-old jelly doughnuts.
Lock up your daughters: It's here! American Girl, which opened earlier this week at Park Meadows, has finally made it to town, and threatens to swallow whole, slavering ten-year-old girls alive. The American Girls website warns you to set aside a whole day for a visit here, which might include a thorough perusal of the line's novelized historical dolls, look-alike dolls or Bitty Baby dolls, shopping for doll and child matching outfits, flipping through American Girl books, making an American Girl craft or even getting your doll coiffed in the Doll Hair Salon. For doll's sake, you can even buy it a pony or get its ears pierced. Buy American!
Because "it's never too early to start reading to kids," the Denver Public Library has extended its popular storytime offerings to include a language-enrichment program for infants from six months to two years old. There are rhymes, games and music on hand for these early bloomers at the main library and select branches, with some fare tailored to "pre-walkers" and other, weightier readings reserved for "early walkers." One baby per adult, please — and sorry, no drop-off service.
Body Photage is head and shoulders above those mall glamour-shot businesses. These are real art portraits, tastefully — and artistically — done to show the human body, your human body, off to its very best advantage. Husband-and-wife team Sherry Whitney and Darrell Pierson run an incredibly professional operation, listening to your ideas and then making suggestions — complete with accessories — of their own. If you care enough to look your very best, call Body Photage.
Darla Scott, the Queen of Steam for Broomhall Brothers Mechanical Contractors, knows steam boilers from their Hartford Loops on up, and she's as comfortable in a discussion of steam-boiler theory as she is with a wrench in her hand. To know steam boilers, of course, is to love them. And Scott does, both the residential and commercial breed. One of her favorites is a grand old boiler in a building near 20th and York; she sends a Christmas card to it every year. But then, our pal in Bonnie Brae whose boiler was saved by Scott feels pretty sentimental about her, too: He has her picture in his basement.
Walter and Christie Isenberg are best known for bringing Denver hotels back from the dead. But last year, the Isenbergs unveiled a development of a very different flavor when they opened Tiri's Market: a former parking lot that has been transformed into a pocket Eden, with raised beds and pergolas dripping with vines, all of it inspired by Michelle Obama's garden on the White House lawn. Fresh herbs, flowers and vegetables grown on the site are sold every Wednesday at an adjoining farmers' market. Some of the green stuff is planted by homeless youth from Urban Peak, who keep what they grow. Here's hoping the Isenbergs will green some of the city's other empty lots.