Shop owners no longer merchandise their shelves; they curate them. And Lon McGowen of Boulder's LON Little Shop might just be the most particular curator of them all. He's got a knack for making a tiny closet of a space look somehow airy, using a cocktail of spare, smart design and a handpicked selection of perfect items to make it so: One-buck French throwaway pens and pencils, colorful plastic KeepCups from Australia, easy gold jewelry, linen kitchen towels, herringbone baseball caps and anything else that says "hipper-than-thou" without being loud about it. There are also a few ingenious LON store-label items tucked into the mix, such as the magnificent LON Little Speaker, a two-inch-square wireless cube you can take with you wherever you go. All of this plus McGowen's secret retail coup — affordable prices! — make LON Little Shop a must-stop when strolling the Pearl Street Mall district.

What is a maker? It's a relevant question in these times, when everyone wants to be a creative and has access to the tools — from a basic laptop to a sewing machine — to do it. The Concoctory was concocted to help define the art of making, and it does so in a variety of ways — beginning with its role as a DIY supply shop for craft kits, electronics parts, tech toys, soldering irons and 3-D printing services, and amping it up as a hackerspace that you can join for a minimal monthly fee that includes 24-hour access to a variety of tools and equipment. The Concoctory also hosts weekly open-house hack nights and workshops addressing everything from lock-picking to working with Arduino technology. Stop thinking, start making: The Concoctory is the perfect place to start.

There is so much stuff in the world that doesn't rot away overnight. The planet is overflowing with it, and landfills can't hold any more. But Spacecraft, which calls itself a "creative reuse store," has found a niche in rescuing at least a tiny portion of usable junk for upcycling by crafters and artists. Think of it as a craft-supply thrift store that also offers classes for all ages; a membership in the volunteer-run concern will get you extra perks like first pick of new items and a free class every month. Spacecraft also invites environmentally concerned companies to trade in their office junk for a free artifact handcrafted from their donated detritus of pen caps and tape-dispenser rings. The shop won't take all of your expendables — there's a detailed list of what they do and don't accept — but in terms of helping to clean up the world, it's a step in the right direction.

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.

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