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.

5 Green Boxes Big Store

Charlotte Elich, the powerhouse muse behind 5 Green Boxes, seems to have been born putting things together in a pleasing way, and her sensibilities are in full swing when she tackles her window displays each season. Elich is a genius of dreamy whimsy, blowing up vintage clip art into mystical creatures "riding" a rusted bicycle and long-dead Victorian ladies who grasp big red hearts at Valentine's Day. At Christmastime, a herd of deer might be found traveling through, and at Halloween, tutu-clad muertas might dance a clacking jig. Plus, her affinity for turning unlikely objects — pink rubber gloves, perhaps — into something funny and engaging is masterful. No matter what she comes up with, the purpose of drawing people inside always seems to be served.

Debuting this month, Denver Public Library's ambitious Creating Communities project is nothing less than the creation of a vast virtual storehouse of info on Denver's neighborhoods and quirks, consisting of thousand of digitized photographs, assessor records, city directories, maps and more — all readily accessible to folks interested in uncovering the history of their block or their town. One section, myDENVER, invites participants to upload their own photos, reminiscences and research inquiries.

SEWN

It feels as if friends and colleagues Jil Cappuccio and Kirsten Coplans, both talented seamstress/upcyclers, have been working toward opening SEWN together for a long time; the two have been recognized in the local retail fashion scene as a team for some time, sharing craft-show booths and pop-up boutiques to sell their wares. And once they discovered how well their particular lines go together, they merchandised them as mix-and-match partners, easily accessorized with one of Jil's whimsical tapestry bags or their shared passion: an array of vintage Frye or cowboy boots. Since then, they've worked pieces by other designers into the mix. But this kismet goes even further than that when you consider the neighborhood shift that allowed Cappuccio and Coplans to hang the SEWN shingle over their door at 18 South Broadway, former home of Fancy Tiger Clothing, which moved up the street. As a result, SEWN, which opened at the end of January, not only ups the overall vibe of the street, but also brings a new level of cozy comfort by offering clothing that's original and trendy without being the least bit pretentious or body-conscious. Welcome to the neighborhood.

Readers' Choice: Fancy Tiger

Marczyk's Fine Foods

Almost a decade after the first Marczyk Fine Foods opened in Uptown, the same crew opened a second store last summer at the corner of Colfax Avenue and Fairfax Street, in a circa 1925 building that had once been a Safeway, then a hardware store. The stunning renovation has already won awards: The structure was stripped to reveal its arching wooden ceiling and seems bigger than the original store, although it's actually a bit smaller. Like the first Marczyk, it features a small liquor store — the 875-square-foot Fairfax Wine and Spirits, which has the original oak floors — but the rest of the space is devoted to a full deli with market-prepared meals, fresh meat and seafood counters, and sparkling displays of fresh produce and specialty items. Just as impressive as the interior, though, is how the store has revitalized this stretch of Colfax. Outdoor seating by the parking lot encourages shoppers to sit and enjoy their purchases — as well as all the sights of Denver's colorful main street.

Readers' Choice: Tattered Cover

H&M

We're all for shopping local, but there is and long has been a demand among city-dwellers for stylish and affordable garments of the sort sold by the Swedish-owned department store H&M, which was, after all, the Holy Grail for thousands of Denver fashionistas before the retailer opened last year in the downtown mall. So let's celebrate that, too. H&M brings a certain savoir faire to our civic image and keeps folks with little cash looking like a million bucks to the rest of the world.

Readers' Choice: H&M

Best Of Denver®

Best Of