We've always admired the way the Pavilions management has been willing to stick its neck out by offering space to such indie enterprises as Cali & Mo, which launched its first store there five or so years ago. That practice, paired with a strong commitment to a core group of appealing national retailers, from the Gap to Forever 21, has kept the large holes left by the departing Virgin and Nike stores from bringing the whole place down. And in the last year or two, the Pavilions seems to be solidifying, rocking it on the strength of its Forever 21 superstore and the entry of H&M (which just added a new in-store Marni shoe shop) into the game. The Pavilions knows its place. It's not overwhelmingly large, and it has something for everyone, including a movie theater, a book store and a bowling alley. The mall also plays host to the annual Downtown Denver Arts Festival over Memorial Day weekend, as well as a number of offbeat events, such as last fall's Project Runway-style Cut 'n Sew: Yves Saint Laurent Challenge for local designers. Lastly, we simply love that the Denver Pavilions is downtown, adding its urban flavor to the 16th Street Mall experience.

Readers' Choice: Pearl Street Mall, Boulder

I Heart Denver Store

We heart the I Heart Denver Store, for several reasons. Reason one: It supports the community in the most basic of "buy local" ways, by featuring only Colorado-made merchandise. In turn, this is not your average "local" merchandise; items range from hand-screen-printed T-shirts or stationery to original works of art and locally designed furniture and clothing. Reason two: It supports local artists, not only by providing a showcase, but by giving them a bigger cut of the profit. Reason three: It might just be the friendliest store in town, coming and going, with bend-over-backwards customer service and a savvy understanding of its clientele. Plus, owner Samuel Schimek, an artist/designer himself who cut his retailing teeth with I Heart Denver's city-sponsored predecessor, YesPleaseMore, really gets his role as a totally 21st-century retailer. For a while, he even provided space for the Denver Design Incubator program, which recently moved to bigger digs. I Heart Denver rocks the joint, making downtown Denver a better place to shop.

Readers' Choice: Farmers' markets

Best Place to Recycle Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

RAFT

RAFT Colorado

Find yourself with stuff that's too good for the trash but not fit for charitable donation? RAFT (Resource Area For Teaching) will take it! The recycling/reuse center takes almost anything — packing materials, office supplies, cloth, even those pesky CD jewel cases that haven't had a home or purpose for a while now. The nonprofit, which provides creative teaching ideas, a shared space and workshops for Colorado educators, repurposes the materials and sells them to teachers at little or no cost in the form of teaching tools; last year, RAFT diverted 17,500 cubic feet of waste from landfills in Colorado. Now, those are standards we can learn from.

When Denver's political and educational leaders teamed up to create a campus several decades ago for three institutions of higher learning just south of downtown, they also set about obliterating a long-established, mostly Hispanic working-class neighborhood. The move has stirred strong feelings over the years, but it also prompted a scholarship program to allow people who lived in the historic Auraria community between 1955 and 1973 (and their children and grandchildren) to attend the University of Colorado Denver, the Community College of Denver and Metropolitan State College of Denver — and start making some history of their own.

Operation ReScrap caters to Front Range crafters, encouraging them to "de-stash" their overflowing supply boxes by sharing with others of the same ilk. To that end, ReScrap periodically hosts one-day Stash Bash events — kind of a crafters' garage sale — where you can either rent a table to sell or consign your overflow for a fee (the next one is at Zappy Dots Boutique, Operation ReScrap's Longmont craft store/home base, on April 28); this summer, a more comprehensive Operation ReScrap event is planned. Both concepts offer an opportunity to pull those dusty bins full of ribbons, fabric, yarn, buttons and needles out from under the bed, get organized by deciding what you really need and what's just there filling space, then get rid of the discards. In this, the age of rescrapping, recycling, upcycling and repurposing, it's an idea whose time has come.

Readers' Choice: Waste Management

Revampt

Cherry Creek North may seem like one of the city's most frivolous shopping districts, but sensible efforts at being green abide here, too. Every hand-picked item in Revampt has been repurposed into something useful and even fun, from old fencing and barn wood transformed into sturdy furniture to purses made out of tires and jewelry crafted from bits of machinery. Savvy patrons know that home decor doesn't have to consume fresh resources; sometimes what's truly stylish is also what's truly smart.

The best thing to come out of the massive pine-beetle attack on Colorado's forests is the swarm of start-up companies devising practical uses for the dead trees. Industrial designers Robyn Meier and Mark Veljkovich have one of the most attractive product lines, one that comprises elegant benches, mirrors, tables, chairs, stools and lamps, many with distinctive laser-cut designs. The pair has even devised beetle-kill pine jewelry. Who knew that dead wood could add so much life to the party?

It's been a while since Denver had a local outlet for radical and revolutionary expression, much less one with couches and free tea. In conjunction with the equally savvy P&L Printing Press, the Infoshop added its name to the collective of organizations centered at the 27 Social Centre in March and has already launched a series of weighty plans. Along with hundreds of zines, books, DVDs and other social-political resources, the Infoshop opens its doors to concerts, local artists and regular literary discussions. In a world of "beardy white guys" postulating on anarchism, store manager Zoe Williams hopes the store will broach political discussion through a greater diversity of genders, races and outlets. Separated by content, the store's resources include even children's material for the young political activist.

MegaFauna

When it opened last spring, a door away from the Meadowlark, MegaFauna announced itself to be "a soapbox for those who have grown weary of the corporate brand." And to its credit, the crew of local cheerleaders behind the RiNo boutique have stuck to their guns by showcasing Denver designers, artists and screen-printers. Dreamed up (with help from the Meadowlark's Loy Merck, who owns the building) by Rob Bell and John McCaskill of DeRailed Ink, a small T-shirt studio, the store is casual in vibe and in particular specializes in reasonably priced hand-run posters and clothing (including DeRailed Ink's in-house screened Broncos tees). Also represented are unique Denver designers — clothing by Havea Lolo and beautiful repurposed furniture and lamp shades by Jeanne Connolly's Vintage Renewal — plus jewelry and JammyPack speaker bags. Given its location, MegaFauna strives to be something like a general store of old, only one that sells something slightly different from bulk flour and yards of calico. Instead, it provides essential art and design for a new generation of urban dwellers.

New Culture Boutique

To keep a vintage store in Denver these days, you almost can't be uniquely vintage. It's a mix-and-match age on the street, where hip fashion adventurers like to blend locally designed pieces with secondhand gold to create a complete look. And to its credit, New Culture, a side trip of the local New Culture men's magazine, caters to both men and women, vending upscale designer looks for both genders. Whether you're looking for a smart, retro Calvin Klein sport coat or some to-die-for, up-to-the-minute denim, it's a great place to go and play dress-up while you decide whether you can afford the coolest togs. And not to worry: The prices go in all directions here, so you're sure to find something saucy within range.

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