Neat Market

The Neat Market Vegan Shop-Up pops up monthly at HoodLAB, adjacent to the Nooch Vegan Market in RiNo. Hosted by the vegan advocacy group Plants & Animals Denver, which also throws the monthly vegan dinner event called Chomp!, Neat is the by-product of an aggressive campaign to raise awareness of the charms of a plant-based diet. And rest assured, this campaign isn't shoving anything in anyone's face. The market's tables are laden with homegrown, handmade and lovingly arranged small-batch foodstuffs both hot and cold, baked goods, cheeses and healthy snacks, and it's not uncommon to find vegan-friendly food trucks and a ready-made community of like-minded thinkers investigating the possibilities of meatless cuisine. Even if you're not ready to chuck all animal products off your table, this is food that looks and tastes good, and you're bound to be back for more.

Dave Krieger got his start as a print journalist; he was best known in these parts as a daily sports columnist. So when he started co-hosting KOA's afternoon-drive show with longtimer Dave Logan, listeners may have wondered if his low-key style would wear well. Wonder no more: Krieger brings an uncommon intelligence to sports chat of every stripe, and when events dictate a turn toward straight news, he makes the transition seamlessly. As a bonus, his blog posts for the KOA website are typically better than a lot of what passes for quality sportswriting in daily newspapers these days.

The Prom Dress Exchange was created more than a decade ago as a prom-dress drive serving just a few high-school students. But a few years ago, Laura Bauer became president of the organization and has since turned it into a full-fledged nonprofit that reaches hundreds of kids. Bauer and fellow volunteers spend the year collecting and storing gently used prom gowns and accessories, many of them donated, in preparation for a one-day blowout of affordable formalwear each March; they also collect jackets, slacks, belts and shoes for the boys. With just $10 and a student ID, prom-goers can score a full outfit for the big night, plus on-site tailoring. Sounds like a reason to dance!

Z Art Dept.

Tish Gance, who knows the ins and outs of sewing backward and forward, figured she had something to share. So she opened HISS Studio (Happiness Is Simple Sewing) inside, of all places, Z Art Department, the unique modernist gallery on Speer run by Randy Roberts. Classes are small, with one-on-one instruction for sewers of all skill levels; machines are provided, and for the most basic workshops, so are the needles, thread and fabric (more advanced students must purchase materials from a supply list). And the only thing you take away from a class is knowledge and a completed project, as Gance sells only her expertise and time.

As befits the mascot of a quiet purveyor of Rolexes and fine jewelry in Cherry Creek North, Buster Brown doesn't go out of his way to impress. The 65-pound shar-pei is cordial but a bit reserved; his greeting is low-key, with no hint of any high-pressure sales tactics. Just looking? Buster doesn't mind. His kind of customer can recognize true quality without making a lot of fuss.

Ever get a hankering to open up a coloring book and go at it with a box of crayons? Got the gift for glitter? If so, Lowbrow is the place for you. Ladies Fancywork Society yarnbombers Lauren Seip and Tymla Welch came out of the anonymous street-artist closet to open the Broadway shop — which proffers a little bit of everything, from scented markers and glitter to DIY craft books and collectible vinyl toys — for a reason: "Art isn't just confined to museums," they proclaim on their Facebook page. In defense of that attitude, they also host inexpensive workshops that focus on making anyone an artist, on and off the streets: classes in screenprinting using household products, graffiti-writing, wheat-pasting, book art and, in cooperation with the Denver Zine Library, zine-making. Lowbrow also doubles as a gallery for — you guessed it — lowbrow and graffiti art; you could say it's a gallery that sometimes colors outside the lines.

Colfax Avenue boasts many obvious retail charms, from perennial favorites like the Tattered Cover and Twist & Shout to a revolving ragtag revue of cupcake bakeries, comic-book stores, coffeehouses and stores that sell collectible toys. But on down the road to the east, in downtown Aurora, the Collection Studio brings new life to a building donated by Troy Gladwell of Medici Communities. The consignment gallery, run by the Aurora Arts District (which shares the space), benefits both the non-profit organization and the Colorado artists who show work there, bringing a much-needed cultural edge to the Aurora corridor.

Tenn Street Coffee & Books

Every neighborhood needs a cozy place where people can meet and kick back over coffee, and the multi-tasking Tenn Street — stocked with Dazbog java, Bluepoint pastries, Udi's sandwiches and other notable treats — fills the bill. When the weather's nice, the street-side patio bustles with chatting friends and folks with their noses buried in books or the Internet; inside, there's a sweet and well-curated used-book store. Folksy live music is also an option at Tenn Street on weekends and selected weeknights, and so is art: The coffee shop hosts monthly curated and interestingly themed gallery shows with a focus on artists of every stature — young, seasoned, local, international, high-profile and emerging.

I Heart Denver Store

I Heart Denver (and its predecessor, the city-backed pop-up, YesPleaseMore) is simply the smartest Colorado curio shop in all of the state, with the slickest design, the cleverest merchandising and the best-quality memorabilia that any tourist — or local — could purchase to remember Denver by. The shop even has one of the most lovable store mascots to roam the Denver retail world: the charming corgi Denver Picard Schimek, who's been immortalized for I Heart Denver in locally made felting kits, stuffed animals, cards and buttons. And Denver's dad, Samuel Schimek, is the man behind it all. A designer himself, Schimek scouts the city for the hippest creatives, stocking the store with their imaginative jewelry and handmades, Denver-centric tees, reasonably priced artworks and prints, hand-printed stationery, beetle-kill furniture, keychains and mugs. No wonder Schimek received the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts Create Award, given to "an outstanding, for-profit creative business that has made a significant impact on Colorado's creative economy," earlier this month. Thanks, I Heart Denver, for rising above the lowest common denominator of downtown shopping and challenging shoppers with new ideas and merchandise.

You don't have to be a teen to appreciate this pretty hole-in-the-wall boutique on the far southern edge of the West Wash Park neighborhood, but if you are, it's guaranteed you'll like its style, which is less cookie-cutter, with a hand-curated selection of clothing all priced under $100. There's a vintage vibe in the look here, but not overwhelmingly so: Twirl's flippy, polka-dotted minis, put-together tops and go-with accessories are hip and sweet, dressed up or down, making the store a great place to go with a friend (or a whole shopping party, as Twirl suggests) for an afternoon of shopping.

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