Best Of :: Shopping & Services
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.
For local musician Martina Grbac, there is life after Matson Jones: Although she still works on musical projects, Grbac's newest vision is eyeLAB, a sliding-scale optical service that provides eyeglasses to artists and other uninsured people who typically can't afford a nice pair. By nature a labor of love, eyeLAB is a one-woman deal, and the sliding-scale concept is unique, but Grbac hopes to pair with charitable organizations in the future so she can dispense free eyewear to the most indigent customers. Give her a visit, whether or not you can afford the smart new frames.
Public bikes and public art ought to go hand in hand, and at this stylin' RiNo B-cycle station, one of fifty in the city, they do. Colorado sculptor Christopher Hecker's untitled urban-art assemblage, built from recycled car hoods and emblazoned with the word "Bike," is the perfect advertisement for B-cycle, especially in an arts district: Not only does it repurpose a dinosaur automobile, but it encourages B-cycle patrons to trade in their metal for pedals.
As sugar addicts and cheapskates already know, it's a scientific fact that candy canes and butterscotch pillows taste exactly the same whether they're intact or broken into pieces. The only difference? The price. In the Oops Room at the Hammond's Candies factory, thrifty five-year-olds (and grown-ass men who love caramel marshmallows and saving money) can get their candy fix for less by buying the factory's fractured goods. At Hammond's, Denver's 91-year-old candy company, even the mistakes are delicious.
The Queen Anne has everything you'd expect from a good downtown Denver B&B. Within reasonable walking distance of the 16th Street Mall and other urban attractions, its side-by-side Victorian houses open up to reveal old-style hospitality, served in lovely old rooms, some of which sport vaulted ceilings or city views. But it also runs on a streak of modernism: Proprietor Milan Doshi, a trained chef, dishes out lovely breakfasts based on locavore principles (there's a big garden in back in the summer, where guests can dine outdoors), and green and eco-friendly standards are observed throughout the inn, right down to the organic linens and low-flow toilets. To top it off, the Queen Anne also features a series of super-urban rooms decorated by an edgy stable of local artists and designers. For visitors hoping for a real city experience, it's an excellent launching pad.
Will he start? Won't he start? It doesn't matter. Denver Broncos (backup?) quarterback, underwear salesman and clean-living phenomenon Tim Tebow has sold a lot of No. 15 jerseys since the team drafted him in April 2010; in fact, his jersey has consistently been one of the NFL's top sellers. But jerseys are expensive, which gave Daniella Grieve, of Lombardi's Embroidery in Arvada, an idea: Bring her your old Brandon Marshall (remember him?) No. 15 jersey, and she'll replace the former Broncos wide receiver's name with Tebow's for $25. It's a bargain for Denver fans and a good way to make sure that Tebow groupies keep their shirts on.
Little-known fact: Thanks to Colorado's complicated and unusual taxi laws, our cab companies can charge different meter rates, something that's impossible in most U.S. locales. Here's how those different rates stack up in Denver: Metro Taxi and Yellow Cab charge an estimated $2.25 a mile, while Union Cab clocks in at $2. Freedom Cabs, however, prides itself as being the cheapest of the bunch, at $1.80 per mile. So call Freedom the next time you need a ride: Those purple cabs could save you some green.
If you haven't been to Mile High Flea Market — or the Flea at Mile High Marketplace, as it calls itself — lately, then you're missing out on some prime people-watching, headed up by guys with cut-off T-shirts and ponytails guzzling beers alongside Rascal-riding grandmas hunting for deals. But the next-best reason to go might be the piles of electronics available for purchase on the market's far west side. A vintage 1970s Kenwood receiver for $20? A pair of waist-high Technics speakers for $40? These deals are hot. Just don't forget to ask the "salesman" to plug in your pick to make sure it works.
The lines at the Truffle, especially during the holidays, can be downright maddening, to the point where you seriously want to "cut the cheese," in hopes that everyone will scatter to the sidewalk, leaving you and your scent alone in the petite confines of the shop. Of course, most of us are too polite to do that, and truth be told, it would take a lot more than a little wind for customers of this deservedly ballyhooed cheese shop to lose their place in line. That's because owners Karin and Rob Lawler sell some of the best European, American and local artisan cheeses in the country, including hard-to-procure varieties from France, Austria and Switzerland. The shop emphasizes unparalleled customer service, too, allowing customers to taste, taste and taste some more, never rushing anyone through the process. And they wrap their cheeses the right way — in waxed paper — before packaging them up in sturdy brown paper bags emblazoned with a pig.
Here's a store that celebrates the Rubenesque, the zaftig, the pleasantly plump and brick-house ladies of our fair city in a way that few others do — by offering clothes big enough yet beautiful enough to make a large gal feel good about herself. The sizes at Buxom (which says it all in a word) begin at twelve and are styled as much for women who are especially curvy as they are for women who are heavy. Be proud — and go buy yourself something nice to wear.
Are you Colorado proud? Show it by wearing a replica of the state flag on a wool tuk or beanie, hand-crocheted by Emily Marshall of Aspen-based Free Time Goods. Marshall uses wool sheared from sheep that are sustainably raised in Colorado. And while she offers other colorful designs, the flag hats ($55-$65) will make you one with the sun and the sky, the snow and the land.
Behind local screen printer Adam Sikorski's take on the Colorado flag, one can grok the mountain skyline we enjoy every day in Denver, the city's sunny bike paths and greenways, the food-truck parties and the freewheeling downtown life. It's all there in one simple emblem — and that's Coloradical!