Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Business at the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses has been booming since medical marijuana centers were added to its task list. But director Tom Downey and his dedicated staff have done their best to make any wait pleasant. In 2011, Downey not only put a Westword rack in the waiting area, but he installed a frozen-margarita machine, too. The latter lasted only a week, but the frozen-yogurt machine he added last December has done much better. There's just one problem: Department employees are so efficient, customers barely have time to pick up their spoon and dig into the treat.
Recently relocated from northeast Denver, Masters is a serious wholesaler of art supplies, but the public is also welcome in the shop, where a helpful staff assists price-conscious artists and students seeking the best deals on canvases, wood panels, easels, paints and other essentials. Whether you buy in bulk or are just seeking the right materials for a special project, this place is a thing of beauty.
The name may be Taste of Denmark, but it's buttery goodness that you really savor here. Come in the morning and choose from a wide array of breakfast goodies: dark-brown whirls of cinnamon-heavy cinnamon rolls; almond-topped bear claws that shatter into rich, golden flakes; puffy chocolate croissants; and row after row of tender Danishes cradling pools of custard, jam or an irresistible mix of both. Cherry hand pies, with filling tucked inside large circles of shortbread, raspberry Pop-Tarts with frosting and sprinkles, and chocolate-dipped Napoleon hats stuffed with almond paste are just as tempting, making this the kind of place where you apologize profusely to the nice woman behind the counter for making her ring you up so many times, and try (in vain) to reach the car without taking bites of three different things.
Along with talent to spare, part of the secret behind the success of burlesque madams Eve and Cora Vette is in their sparkly costumes, which are put together by hand with a lot more know-how than the ordinary Joe would ever suspect. They bring the expertise of the musical-theater world into play to stitch up their come-hither looks, and now you can drop in to their Wazee Union showroom to see their custom pinup, rockabilly and burlesque wares firsthand. Don't be caught without a spare pair of pasties, girls. There's no excuse, now that VaVaVette is here.
Denver has a sweeter side, and Sugarlicious Denver does more than cater to it: It satisfies this city's sugar needs. This Cherry Creek store has an entire wall devoted to bins housing over 250 different candies and treats, including oodles and gobs of retro and hard-to-find goodies as well as nut-free and vegan delights. The collection of gift baskets and bags makes last-minute sweet-giving a no-brainer; your toughest task is deciding between fruit gummies and sours, chocolates and truffles. And don't forget to take a few fistfuls home, just for the sugar-sweet hell of it.
Coloradans had plenty of marijuana-related meetings, conferences, protests and contests to choose from over the past year. But the most haze-filled, hashed-out event was the Extract Artists Unite Secret Cup, which took place at the Oriental Theater in December. Organizers Daniel de Sailles and Selecta Nikka T managed to bring an entire community together under one smoke-filled roof, pitting thirty hash makers against each other in a grassroots contest to see who could produce the best hash and BHO. The event may change its name in 2013, but we're looking forward to attending it again.
Indie boutiques that support local artists are always hunky-dory in our book. But one that donates a portion of every purchase to a charity chosen specifically by the artist is even better. Hope Tank, which Erika Righter Ramirez opened just over a year ago, is stocked with items that are by turns useful, pretty, thoughtful and fun: one-of-a-kind kids' gifts from Wee Gallery and Nerdy Baby; gift bows made from recycled magazines by Green Rock Creations (to benefit Lifeline Puppy Rescue); Gallo en Fuego's canvas belts made from decommissioned fire hoses (supporting the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation); leather cuffs with interchangeable metal inserts with inspirational messages by Lenny and Eva; Christina Patzman's hand-sewn clothing and more. Whatever you buy, you'll walk out of Hope Tank feeling doubly blessed.
Gourmet chocolatiers Jennifer Spielman and Andrew Starr produce small batches of handmade artisan chocolates with seasonal ingredients like lavender buds, fresh mint and jasmine flowers. In the process, they not only make piles of chocolates, but collect piles of awards: Black Star's signature Saffron Rose Cream won both grand champion and best non-traditional truffle at the 2012 Colorado Chocolate Festival. Their latest creation is a smoked bourbon-grapefruit zest, bittersweet Swiss chocolate that will give Denver chocolate fans something new to love.
Behind the Denver Entertainment Art and Design Academy is a stunningly simple idea: offer affordable classes and workshops in comic-book art and lettering, monster FX, video-game character design and related subjects to aspiring entertainment artists, taught by pros who've actually worked in the industry. The practical advice is as indispensable as the skill set you'll need to be the in-demand, high-concept zombie developer of tomorrow.
Maggie & Molly's Bakery, a modest spot squeezed into a strip mall, isn't the fanciest place, but it produces the town's best coffee cake — a moist, dense, sour-cream crumb cake. Old-fashioned baked goods made from scratch are a vanishing art form in these days of pre-made, pre-packaged cakes, but Maggie & Molly's is enough to make customers forget the rise of grocery-store bakeries. You can buy a thick-cut, square slice of this delectable treat, or pick up a whole cake from the pastry case — if any are still available. Your best bet is to come early or call ahead, because these cakes go fast.
No question: Paul Budnitz's Kidrobot empire is the Valhalla of the vinyl collectible-toy universe, and that was ample reason for a certain cross-section of local pop-culturists, hungry for the latest MUNNYs and Dunnys and Labbits and such, to do a little jig when the art-toy emporium opened both an office and a retail store in Boulder. That town can now boast a rarity in common with many of the world's great cities, bringing the artist-designed sculptural limited-edition Kidrobot toys to a more sophisticated Wild West.
Bringing in lines by well-known designers like Helmut Lang, Alexander Wang and Chloe, Goldyn keeps its shelves stocked with the latest in top couture and gives Denver's high-style scene a face and a name in the international world of fashion. But it also leaves room for the little guys: Local brands Cartel Noir and The Woods get equal exposure. Goldyn also invites up-and-coming designers like Pamela Love and KORA Jewelry's Maxandra Short to Denver and holds in-store trunk shows, meet-and-greets and music-oriented cocktail hours.