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.

Derbyville

If you've ever been to a roller derby match, you've probably wondered where the girls found all that stuff they wear: the skull-adorned knee socks and ruffled panties and tutus and booty shorts emblazoned with "Sk8 or Die." In Denver, where derby thrives with two competitive teams and a healthy following, the athletes now have the luxury of their own roller derby boutique, Derbyville, which opened about a year ago along Broadway's antique row, thanks to enterprising Rocky Mountain Rollergirl Amy Harrold, aka Pretty But Ruthless. But you sure as heck won't be shopping for antiques at Derbyville, which in addition to the aforementioned items also sells everything a roller girl could possibly need, from the skates and pads on up, as well as bout tickets and fan memorabilia.

Rakun

Rakun is possibly the sweetest little boutique to open its doors here in the last year: Housed in a tiny old cottage, the shop is run solely by entrepreneur/mother Meghan Throckmorton, and its cute sign and raccoon logo affords a bit of precious eye candy for the cars rushing by. Inside, you'll find little dresses and fun jewelry from emerging designers, all priced to appeal to a student clientele from the nearby Auraria campus, artists from the gallery district and, by whimsy, local models seeking inexpensive high-fashion looks. You might also find Throckmorton's toddler wandering in and out of this easygoing, homey house, and of course there's Throckmorton herself, young and eager to please, ready to help you find something that's perfectly you. In the summer, she opens up the back yard for First Friday open houses, and it's not unusual to find sale items waving in the breeze on a clothesline when weather permits; though the space is small, prepare to spend more than a minute soaking in the friendly ambience.

The Bookery Nook

We loved the Bookery Nook's neighborly charm from the day Shannon and Gary Piserchio opened the little bookstore. But sometimes love isn't enough: Last year, under the onslaught of a major street overhaul that tore up pavement up and down the business stretch for months, the Piserchios found their baby foundering and even considered shutting the doors for good. But with a little luck and serendipity, they opened an in-store ice-cream parlor instead, serving Liks Ice Cream in a partnership that brought customers back to the Bookery Nook and ice cream to a street where it had formerly been absent. It's a story with a happy ending.

Mod Livin'

Mavis the feline fits right in with this premier collection of sleek mid-century furniture and accessories, spread across three East Colfax Avenue showrooms. In fact, she's often lounging near the window display, demonstrating that style and comfort need not be mutually exclusive. Since the opening of a fish-and-chips place next door, Mavis seems a bit distracted, but she's still a reliable guide to furnishings that are fun, cool, mod and relaxing.

I Heart Denver Store

Since I Heart Denver is all about Denver, it follows that entrepreneur Samuel Schimek would also name his Welsh Pembroke Corgi puppy after our fair city. The middle name "Picard" we'll leave to your imagination, though one imagines that Schimek dreams of commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise in some other life. With his short legs, huge pointy ears and big black-ringed eyes, the photogenic Denver Picard Schimek, who even has his own Tumblr, is a charmer, bringing a little joy to your shopping during his in-store visits. Bark twice if you love Denver!

EvB Studio Collection

As if Marie Gibbons weren't already busy enough in her Berkeley clay studio, planning and giving workshops, promoting her work and making ceramic artworks uniquely her own, this dynamo always seems to be in mid-morph, creating change at every turn. Example A: her wide, wonderful, south-facing window. Like everything else in her studio, the window seethes with ideas boiling over into more ideas to create an ever-changing pastiche of what's going on in the artist's head. Just in the past few months, she's decorated the opening with variations on a theme, using book and magazine pages rolled into cylinders, which, when stacked, create a honeycomb effect. But sometimes she turned the cylinders into hanging paper lamps, and when she wanted to advertise a finger-puppet workshop, she posed some finished ones among the paper bundles. Gibbons just proves that talent knows no boundaries: Whatever she touches turns to gold.

Best Of Denver®

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