We gave Laurie Hessemer an award five years ago, when she ran New Era Paint in Lakewood; now she's back with Casa Verde, a paint emporium that's 100 percent environmentally responsible, a plus in these health-conscious times. Specializing in green building products that ensure safer homes for families, Casa Verde stocks only predominantly VOC-free, non-toxic house paints in a rainbow of colors, along with plaster, stains and sealants that will all have you breathing easy.

Best Place to Furnish the Upcycled Home

Stina

A lamp made from a stack of old books. A suitcase repurposed as a side table. A vintage TV upcycled as another, with a glass case for storage. These are just a few of the ways Kristine Hatanaka of Stina fancies up her vintage finds for a second life. Other pieces she simply refinishes or sells as is, and the shop also displays new art by locals and such new items as bath products and knitted accessories. Whether you're actively looking for funky repurposed furnishings or just hope to happen upon something completely different, Stina is your place.

Go Green Warehouse is a home handyperson's dream, neatly packed with new, secondhand and reclaimed building materials, tools and appliances. The home-improvement store also offers gently used furniture at a nice price and everything the do-it-yourselfer might need for an indoor or outdoor beautification project. But it isn't just Go Green's emphasis on recycling that makes it special; the renovation superstore is also a nonprofit, doing business as the Veterans Entrepreneurial Trust, an organization that provides financial backing to other nonprofit veteran ventures. Check out Go Green Warehouse's stock year-round — inventory rotates with each season, offering everything from gardening supplies to snow shovels — and know that each purchase you make benefits a growing community.

You've gotta have a niche to keep your business alive in this mean old retail world, and Treelotta's is quilting, but not that old-lady quilting of yesteryear. On the heels of the crafting renaissance, quilting's become hip, not stolid, and Treelotta's got the modern printed fabrics, along with the know-how, to bring the craft full circle into the 21st century. Offering classes for all ages, as well as equipment rentals — a favorite is the shop's long-arm quilter — and weekly sewing nights (rent or bring your own machine) where you can stitch and bitch with others of your needle-nutty ilk, this is one fabric store that takes life one block at a time.

It's not that everyone in the world really needs a monster to love, but the story of this father-and-sons cottage business seals the deal. Ray Tollison and his twin boys, Ben and Sam, have teamed up to cut, stuff and sew up their own line of adorable fabric-and-felt monsters, and they do so with intent: For every Monster to Love sold, an equally adorable twin monster is automatically donated to a child in need somewhere in the Third World. Love is real, even when it comes by way of a huggable creature; kudos to the Tollisons for their crafty and philanthropic venture.

"Friends. Mountains. Love. Radness." That's the credo of Adam Sikorski's Coloradical, which he started as a line of Colorado-centric hand-stenciled T-shirts four years ago, and a recurring theme in his Coloradical merchandise, which more often than not includes images of snowcapped peaks, sunshine and the joys of living in the woods. In those few short years, as he's added new designs, hats and other printed goods, it's morphed into such a solid business that Sikorski was able to open his own retail shop, which doubles as a workspace, last fall on East Colfax Avenue. Coloradical's success no doubt has something to do with the easygoing message it delivers.

The rollout of the state's brand-new "brand" last year, frequently mistaken for a triangular green hazmat sign, has made us all appreciate the continuing surge in popularity of the Colorado state flag and its simple elegance. And what better way to wrap yourself — or at least your noggin — in the flag than with a well-knit beanie, handmade right here in Colorado by Coloradans? Colorado Beanies are a new product line from the folks at Olde Man Granola; these brain-warmers are available online and at various stores from Lone Tree to Silverthorne that specialize in civic pride.

I Heart Denver Store

Samuel Schimek's I Heart Denver perennially makes our Best of Denver list because Schimek rocks a retail model like no other, merchandising all-Colorado-made goods like art on the wall — which, at IHD, it often is. The artists and designers represented on the shop's shelves receive a generous 70 percent profit from sales of their work, and locals and out-of-towners alike can go home with Denver curios that are neither junky nor trite. It's a bold way to do business in a downtown mall, and kudos go equally to Schimek's sharp eye for fun Colorado-made merchandise and the Denver Pavilions for supporting the retail of the future.

Starlet the boutique has been a part of the Highlands Square landscape for years, and the more recent South Broadway edition has become a Baker staple. But the Highland store's Shoe Closet, a space within the space that has its own entrance, is still a novelty that hasn't worn off, stocking its hidden shelves seasonally with the cutest secret kicks ever. It's spring, ladies: Time to go open-toe, and you'll find just what you need at Starlet.

Located next door to the craft boutique Rakun, Niche has become exactly what its name implies, bringing a fun mix of vintage clothing and furniture, knickknacks and more to the teeming gallery district on Santa Fe Drive. And along with the old, Niche weaves in a thread of the new and near-new, such as patterned winter beanies repurposed from sweaters and beautifully patchworked wool-and-flannel Mama's Mittens. Rakun and Niche Market are the one-two punch on the north end of the Santa Fe drag.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of