Best Parking Meter Makeover 2011 | Smart Meters | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Finally, parking makes sense again. No need to rummage around for errant nickels, dimes and quarters to feed that annoying meter; no need to wander off to some centralized parking kiosk that, after eons, spits out a ticket to put on your dash. Now most meters downtown, in Cherry Creek North and elsewhere take credit cards (as well as old-fashioned coins, if you're the sentimental type). We know, it's not as great as free downtown parking, but beggars can't be choosers.

What's four feet tall, bears a strong resemblance to Chris "Birdman" Andersen and is always smiling — even when his innards are being ripped out and his body cavity filled with Fun Size Snickers? Birdman the piñata! And Piñateria Yasmin makes one hell of a Birdman — not to mention striking renditions of other Denver Nuggets, as well as Dora the Explorer, Buzz Lightyear, and even, if you ask nicely enough and bring a photo, your mother-in-law...whose innards you'd probably love to rip out and replace with Snickers.

Say you want to dig some post holes but you don't have your own post-hole digger. And to make matters worse, your toilet plunger is broken, your shop vacuum is in the shop and your brother never gave back that screwdriver set you lent him. Fear not, tool-less handyman or -woman. The ReSource Tool Library, a project of Boulder's Center for ReSource Conservation, has an inventory of more than 2,500 tools that can be borrowed for the cost of an annual membership ($25 for an individual, $40 for a couple, $100 for a nonprofit) plus minor tool-handling fees that range from 25 cents to $4.75 per day. And starting in April, the library will offer Tool School, a buffet of more than fifty classes in subjects like kitchen tiling, bicycle maintenance and how to build a backyard chicken coop.

Pictures of Minister Louis Farrakhan adorn the walls, and a chorus of warm chatter greets each person who enters Supreme Styles Barber Shop. There are chess tables in the foyer area, where children are usually crowded around, and couches for those who are waiting. And in addition to books, oils and incense, the shop also sells bean pies — a specialty long associated with the Nation of Islam. The shop was founded by Herman Muhammad in 1996 as a means of developing a different barbering experience, one infused with culture and community. The barbers that maintain the space offer as much rhythm and flavor as the music that's often playing throughout the shop. Whether you're looking for a haircut, a book or a strong dose of community, Supreme Styles is a cut above the rest.

Best Place to Get Hair Products and African Masks

Akente Express

Step over the threshold from Park Avenue into Akente Express, and it's likely you'll be greeted by the warm and calming presence of Ron Springer, the longtime owner of what he calls the most "complete African experience" in Denver. Springer runs Akente with the fervor and understanding of someone who has clearly found the treasure in the magic of ancient traditions. There are African masks whose refined, hand-sculpted faces speak of long-ago times amid throngs of other materials. Hair and skin-care products, especially those for African-Americans, adorn the shelves in such variety that you'd be hard-pressed not to leave with an armload of things, while incense, rare jewelry, bangles and other artwork are tucked into the store's many corners. It's a business from another time and place.

Sentiment only goes so this case, as far as William Crow, a jeweler that's been in business downtown since 1924. Other jewelers in town told us they couldn't repair an old coral necklace with a broken clasp without restringing the whole thing for several hundred dollars. William Crow's repair department, though, told us they could simply repair the clasp and add a chain guard — for less than fifty bucks. The shop has tackled other repair jobs just as helpfully...and reasonably.

The Wilson family has run a service station in Bonnie Brae since 1946 — and they've learned a thing or two during that time. Customer service, for example. After struggling to replace a flat with the spare, our operative dropped the errant tire off at Bonnie Brae Conoco, returning a few hours later to pick up a tire that had not only been repaired, but had the mag chloride sanded off the rim. And when the crew replaced the tire, they checked all the other ties for proper inflation, adding air where needed — and then fixed the balky trunk lock as they replaced the spare. Final price? Twelve bucks. That's the kind of service that makes the world go 'round.

Granted, Japanese pop fashion is an acquired taste and hard to pull off if you're not too young and bug-eyed cute beyond belief. But it's okay, too, to love it from afar, just as a phenomenon, which it is, if the phenomena in question happen to eat nothing but cupcakes and come bedecked in plastic hair ornaments, Hello Kitty paraphernalia, Victorian ruffles, hamster pajamas and samurai swords. It was all there when the Tokyo Extreme Fashion Show unfolded on a runway down the middle of Mod Livin' this winter, and if you were curious enough to have been there that night, you'll never be the same. Now, pass the cupcakes, please.

We can all thank Samuel Schimek, Brian Corrigan, the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs and, during the last year, Wendy Manning and the Denver Pavilions, for creating a shop that spoke "Denverish" in whole palettes of objects and media. The latest version of YesPleaseMore, which recently closed after an extended run at the Pavilions, changed the way we looked at downtown tourist gift shops by selling design-minded, hand-screened "Coloradical" T-shirts, laser-etched wooden dog tags by local manufacturer Omerica, repurposed clothing by Denver designers, wry Horndribbles plush toys, DVLP jeans and all manner of affordable art by Colorado artists. Falling on a rung somewhere between the Colorado Collection and the Denver Art Museum gift shop, YesPleaseMore invited shoppers to look into the city's soul, not something one usually does in a gift shop. Until it pops up again, YesPleaseMore is one beautiful memory.

OMG! During its short run earlier this year at Mod Livin', the Gimme Gimme Pillow Toast pop-up was so full to the rafters with things that were, well, so cute and ruffly and adorned with little SAD kittens and bunny ears, it was enough to make anyone who walked up the stairs into the shop-within-a-shop feel like they'd suddenly swallowed a hundred very sugary cupcakes in rapid succession. But the Japan pop emporium run by Andrew Novick and Janene Hurst had plenty of other stuff, too: non-sequitur tees and platform Mary Janes and other accoutrements of Japanese street fashion in all its many strict personae. Finally, they topped off the shop's run with an awe-inspiring fashion show that doubled as a primer of those myriad styles, and then it was over. Where will they pop up next?

Best Of Denver®

Best Of