It's not uncommon for a herd of motorcycles to be parked outside of Fallen Owl Tattoo, a hard-core, old-school ink joint smack in the middle of a nondescript Lakewood strip mall. Inside, Sublime and Metallica play while owner Adam Rose moves his needle over a customer's bicep. But both Rose and his store have softer sides: Rose, who grew up with an older sister and a single mom, focuses roughly half of his business perspective on how to provide for children in homes like his own. Among other projects, 2011 found the shop partnering with the Flobots' Youth On Record program to design skateboard decks for auction and launched a Christmas special that traded ink for toys. This is one business that gives a hoot.

Kittie Mae Millinery & Accessories

Miss Kittie Mae, aka hatmaker extraordinaire Susan Dillon, knows her craft well. But she is by no means a crafter. Dillon is an artist through and through, sculpting stunning couture headwear out of a little felt and feathers, like a millinery Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold. Though a good deal of Dillon's business is in creating one-of-a-kind, high-style wedding gear, the rest of her hats would dress up any look for a night on the town. "I just want people to come in and have fun," is her retailing credo, and it's not hard to do so when faced with the prospect of trying on so many millinery confections — cheeky hats and headpieces combining mesh, ribbons, feathers and bows. Kitty Mae also carries several lines of locally designed jewelry, scarves and clothing, but the main dish will always walk out on your head. Dillon's latest foray? Hats for men: smart newsboys and, eventually, fedoras and bowlers.

Either you get Hello Kitty or you don't. But if you do, you should be cartwheeling over rainbows just knowing about the arrival of Lollipop Gift, a Denver Pavilions newbie dedicated almost exclusively, but not quite, to the glorification of Japan's greatest contribution to the "cute" industry. Inside, the Hello Kitty well spilleth over: The morose will have to take in this store slowly, but folks already under the spell will fall willy-nilly all over its shelves of Hello Kitty stationery, candy, toiletries, toothbrush holders, plush, teacups, dolls, lunchboxes, totes and school supplies by Sanrio. There's also room for one of Hello Kitty's chief rivals, San-X's Rilakkuma (or "Relax Bear") and other cute friends of the Pacific Rim, eye-popping J-pop T-shirts, Super Mario merchandise and other pop-culture eye-junk. Word to the wise: Lock up your daughters, now.

Goldyn

Vanessa Barcus's Goldyn is something of a couture pipeline, shipping in designer styles direct from the fashion Valhallas of New York, Los Angeles and Paris. Begun as an online store, Goldyn first hosted occasional pop-up events in Denver before setting down roots as a brick-and-mortar storefront last summer in Highland's LoHi Marketplace at Olinger, much to the glee of local landlocked couture snobs dying to touch a little bit of the real thing. If your heart longs for a piece of Helmut Lang, See by Chloe, Current Elliott, Rebecca Minkoff or other comparable labels, weep no more. Check out Goldyn, and keep an eye open for Goldyn events and trunk shows.

Common Threads

We awarded the Boulder Common Threads the Best Boulder DIY Boutique of 2009 on the laurels of its unique combination of secondhand chic boutique and community-conscious sewing studio, and then called it the "boutique of the future." But although Denver's new annex, on South Pearl Street, is much smaller and comes with only the boutique element intact, it still follows that prediction, seamlessly hanging both chic new clothing and upscale secondhand from its racks, with a dollop of recycled-green pride. Other differences? The Denver store is curated with a more citified working-girl clientele in mind than in Boulder, featuring still-chic, better-brand consignment items on its carefully ministered racks. We dare you to come in and not leave with some little treasure tucked under your arm.

The Buffalo Exchange, part of a chain of upscale resale shops, isn't new or even unique to Denver, but since it's moved into its airy new Broadway location, we've had a chance to revisit its charms, which are many. With its brick walls, open-air roll-up windows on the side and round racks stashed with still-chic, pre-loved, everyday treasures, it's cheerful in a way that feeds the fire to find something perfect as well as affordable. Which you will. If you know the place, you know the prices aren't Goodwill cheap (there's one of those just down the street, if you prefer under ten bucks), but given the quality and original value of many of these garments, it's still a deal. Keeping that in mind, when you're looking for a wardrobe brightener and you need one quick, nearly everything's a pick at the Buffalo Exchange.

Thread Handmade Consignment

Walk into Thread, and you'll see why it won the Denver Best of Local Business Award given for successful marketing across the nation by the U.S. Commerce Association: Owner Ellis Ann McClung has put together an ever-changing mix of fetching hand-knit ear hats and fingerless gloves, feather earrings, stained-glass jewelry, savvy handbags in bright prints, droll handmade dolls, knitted panda dolls, skirts in fabulous fabrics and more, by depending on a healthy roster of consignment artists to keep the shop stocked. And to further good, the combined boutique and craft store also carries hand-sewn items — from aprons to computer bags — made by women participating in the Denver African Community Center's "We Made This" life-skills program for refugees. Another in this year's large crop of indie boutiques encouraging commerce on a person-to-person, local level, Thread truly hangs its heart in its hole-in-the-wall endeavors.

Fabric Bliss

Fabric Bliss rose up out of one of those corporate drone-gone-indie stories: One day, database administrator Aurora Sisneros decided to jump ship and open Fabric Bliss, a cozy, crafty place where you can choose the perfect yarn or fabric for your next project, pick up a pattern, buy a beautiful hand-sewn tote, take a class or just take advantage of the sewing studio's equipment. It's all in the mix at Fabric Bliss — a supply shop, boutique, classroom and workshop — and at your fingertips, along with all the thimbles and notions you could possibly need or want. Classes go from basic (Intro to Sewing) to whimsical (ultra-cute knitted Amigurumi animals) to practical (Pajama Pants), and at $7 an hour, sewing-studio time, which includes use of all studio machines and tools, is a deal. And Sisneros is happy to personalize by offering private lessons and private craft parties. Check it out: Fabric Bliss is just so sew!

Cherry Creek Shopping Center

Cherry Creek Shopping Center, which opened a little over twenty years ago, is, was and will always be the quintessential Colorado mall. It sways with the trends, but still boasts strong anchors (in spite of the ones — Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue — that slipped away), and it's ever-elegant and up-to-the-minute. One of the mall's strongest attractions remains the play area, which teems with children for hours on end, and its mix of stores is a beautiful balancing act that blends The Limited and Neiman Marcus, the Apple Store and Brookstone, all while fleshing things out with smaller trendy boutiques like Juicy Couture and Free People, and niche chains like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. In a word: perfect. When you want to waste an afternoon with a shopping bag and a loaded wallet, this is the place to do it.

Readers' Choice: Cherry Creek Shopping Center

Anna Newell Jones, a queen of thrift who counsels people on how to get out of debt and stay out, might just be the most brilliant fashionista in town. The evidence? Bringing the East Coast concept of the clothing swap to Denver, with help from gallery owner, local fashion maven and Handbags.com social-media princess Tran Wills. The And Then She Saved Clothing Swap is now a two-time success. Here's how it works: You bring ten high-quality garments or accessories — the kind of used clothing you might lay on someone close to you — hang it on a rack, pay a small fee to participate, and then let the swapping begin. Ideally, you, along with everyone else, will end up with ten items new to your wardrobe. Anything that's left over is donated to charity. Not only is swapping hella fun, but it's an easy way to brighten up a stale closet. This trend is just getting started, with more to come!

Best Of Denver®

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