Best Highbrow Junk and Eclectica 2014 | Curating the Cool | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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Our favorite stores share one thing in common — that they are not common in the least, and Curating the Cool might be the most unusual of them all. That's because the (obviously) curated consignment shop and dumpster-diver's paradise is the ultimate curiosity shop, a mash-up of new and old, including original artwork, oddities, clothing, homemade preserves and body scrubs, antiques and any kind of rare collectible your heart could desire, all mixed up in an ever-changing order.

Antiques dealer Eron Johnson had spring fever early last year, and the Valverde Bazaar was the serendipitous result, a gathering of a select group of creative friends — and their creative friends — for an outdoor market like no other in the metro area. Modeled after London's Portobello Road, where, Johnson recalls, "you never knew what you'd see in the next booth," Valverde is a beautiful blend of quality vintage goods and antiques, high-end flea-market chic, open-air art show and craft fair, all put together with an eye for unique and well-made merchandise. The only problem? Growing pains. Look for the market to divide and multiply in 2014; the first date is May 17.

The best thrift stores are geographically removed from the gaggles of hipsters who peck otherwise decent shops into oblivion, and the ARC Thrift Store on Cortez is just such a place. Here you'll sift through endless racks of well-organized clothes, much of it fashionable; neatly arranged furniture; shelves of books you might actually want to read; and row after deep row of smartly arranged tchotchkes, cookware, picture frames and more. One of the best things about this ARC is that while you're there, you can put together a care package for a faraway friend and walk to the conveniently located U.S. Post Office next door and send it off.

The wayback model at Cedar & Hyde is the general store, which was once the hub of every whistle-stop, where folks went to buy everything from barrel pickles and lengths of muslin to big-city bonnets and sacks of flour. But nothing's outdated at this shop, which sisters Christie and Poss Lambert call a "modern-day mercantile." The Lamberts start by catering to every member of the family in a neat shop with a rustic feel, stocking clothing for kids, men and women, including sturdy jeans, and things for the home, from sweet handcrafted bronze garden foxes to wooden bangles, jars of artisan pickles from the Real Dill, beard oil and ikat cloth napkins. And it works.

Ken Hamblin III

The record store isn't dead — it's alive and well, and Twist & Shout has the legacy to prove it. This Denver institution has moved around the city a few times since its 1988 birth, but several key elements remain — notably, a dedication to stocking shelves with rare and radio-friendly cuts, and a healthy selection of music-related books and band merch. Twist is also known for its deep connection to the local music scene, running an efficient consignment system for up-and-coming-bands and employing many an area musician over the decades. Weekly specials give music fans a chance to purchase limited-edition releases, and the shop's commitment to in-store performances proves that Twist & Shout has its finger on the pulse of the people.

While their iconic craft and clothing stores didn't singlehandedly bring the bustle back to Broadway, Matthew Brown and jaime Jennings's Fancy Tiger mini-empire certainly led the way. The couple saw the potential of the Baker shopping district and ran with it, and both stores have grown comfortably into the rhythm of the street. Brown's clothing-and-accesories boutique exudes a hipsterish elegance and sense of design that can't be copied, while the craft shop spearheaded Denver's whole handmade scene with fabulous fabrics, books and notions, as well as classes and crafter nights that have helped build a strong, arty community.

Part of South Broadway's appeal is its length: Cut up into one distinct shopping oasis after another, all the way south to Englewood, it's an urban silk road of industry and quirky businesses that one could easily spend a full week exploring from end to end. Baker is a jewel box of singular shops — Lowbrow, Fancy Tiger, Buffalo Exchange, Ironwood and Sewn among them — while farther down the drag, Antique Row offers its garage-sale flavor and fabulous finds. Other groupings pop up toward the outskirts of the city, where you'll fine shops like the Concoctory hackerspace, craft and fabric store Treelotta, Angelo's CDs & More and the time-honored veteran Kolacny Music. Give your regards to Broadway.

The Tattered Cover started a new chapter this year when it gave up a floor in LoDo and moved most of its offices to the Colfax location. But there's still plenty to love in this store, a true oasis on the edge of the 16th Street Mall. The setting alone — a turn-of-the-last-century warehouse building with high ceilings, big windows and creaky wooden floors — is reason enough to stop in. But the Tattered Cover gives you plenty of reasons to stay for hours, with a still-substantial collection of new books, a friendly staff that will help you locate anything you can't find, and lots of cushy seating where you can enjoy magazines and snacks from the newsstand and coffee shop. With many independent stores closing the book on the business, the Tattered Cover is a true treasure. And come this summer, we'll have another gem: a satellite TC location just a block away, in Denver's revived Union Station.

A Capitol Hill staple, Kilgore offers a fabulous, neighborhood-friendly selection of used books for the best prices. The titles are hand-picked by owners Luke Janes and Dan Stafford, who specialize in offbeat fiction by the likes of Kerouac, Bukowski, Vonnegut and Palahniuk, as well as a wide range of tomes on philosophy, the occult, metaphysics and science fiction. Kilgore is also the place to find all manner of independent comics and zines from local artists.

Year after year, the Boulder Book Store stands out as a must-stop shop for anyone meandering the Pearl Street Mall. An intriguing layout makes browsers feel like they're in an old library, while the endless selection — books line every wall, table and empty space — could waylay a shopper for hours. There's just something about climbing the shop's steep, creaky stairs to the top floor, rounding a corner and picking out the perfect book from a floor-to-ceiling shelf that no amount of online ordering can match.

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