Best Record Store in a Bar 2016 | Bowman's Vinyl and Lounge | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Music and liquor have a long history together, so it's not that big of a stretch to think that a record store in a bar might be a good idea. Of course it is! Longtime bartender Darin Bowman saw the beauty in that and took a chance on it by opening Bowman's Vinyl and Lounge on South Broadway late last year, creating an instant hangout for experienced album-flippers and lounge lizards alike. With a bar in front and a selection of used and new vinyl — with listening stations — in the back, Bowman's is also branching out as a live-music venue, aiming to bring the connection full circle. It's the best of both worlds: Drop in and give it a spin.

Peter Isakovic — aka the Lodo Drum Guy — runs a small but mighty instrument operation out of his loft in downtown Denver. Don't let the name fool you, though: While Isakovic does have plenty of drum kits in stock, he also carries a constantly rotating selection of guitars, amps and more. This not-so-secret, appointments-only home shop is the ideal place for both first-time players and longtime musicians to find exactly what they're looking for. Lodo Drum Guy's "test drive and swap" policy allows musicians to bring back an instrument post-purchase and trade it in for another, so no need to worry about buyer's remorse: Isakovic's got the Denver music scene's back.

Clothes, shoes and accessories, small household appliances, bicycles: Whatever you need, Peak Thrift has probably got it. And even if you don't come up with a good bargain, you'll know you're making a good impact on the community. Started by Urban Peak, a program that provides services to youth experiencing homelessness, Peak uses the thrift-store model to offer employment and other opportunities for the young people it serves, teaching sufficiency to at-risk teens and young adults. But Peak Thrift, near the intersection of 49th and Pecos, comes through for the consumer, too, offering a wide selection of current styles and gently used home goods. The friendly and knowledgeable staff, bright and airy sales floor and eclectic rotating stock make Peak Thrift a thrifting destination — and a place to see the youth of Denver flourish.
Readers' choice: Buffalo Exchange

Once upon a time, there was Nest — a children's clothing store that opened in 2010 along the busy Sixth Avenue retail strip near Cherry Creek — and it was good. Owner Caroline Evascu not only has a flair for picking out ultra-cute, sturdy kids' wear, but she plies her trade with a helping of community spirit, accepting in-store donations of gently used baby clothing for WeeCycle and offering weekly giveaways from the store's popular and exclusive Tea Collection. Last year, Evascu took her empire up a level with a move down the street to a larger space, where she also opened a tween-sized counterpart to Nest in an adjacent building just around the corner; more recently, she put the finishing touches on Firebird, a Montessori-flavored toy and book shop a block away that offers classes for the little ones in your life. Inside Firebird, there's even a micro-business called Elevated Scraps that makes fabric mobiles, soft sculpture and banners perfect for kids' rooms and parties. Word is Evascu has yet another concept up her sleeve for the original Nest space — more on that in the future — and, pssst: The original Nest also has a store in Boulder.

2940 E. 6th Ave.
585 Milwaukee St.
2800 E. 6th Ave.

Best Place to Outfit the Alternative Family


FashioNation has been bringing alternative style to the Mile High City since 1987, consistently sticking to its mission of presenting unique attire at affordable prices. One of the first independent retailers in the country to carry Doc Martens, as well as one of the area's early vendors of Manic Panic hair dye, FashioNation has stayed one step ahead of the mainstream curve. The spacious South Broadway store is well stocked with bullet belts, kitten heels and leather jackets for adults, but its secret weapon is the wild apparel available for kids and babies. In-store offshoot Babysitter's Nightmare carries the coolest diaper bags in town, along with tutus, mini-Mary Janes and onesies for wee ones. Since the store's inception, owners Paul and Pam Italiano have maintained creative control of FashioNation's inventory, picking out every platform boot and military jacket that makes it onto the rack.

1594 S. Broadway
Courtesy David Bywater

Another new business that recently popped up in Five Points, Station fits the neighborhood like a glove: Offering a blend of streetwear on its racks and street art on its walls, the boutique and gallery brings a new vibe to Welton Street that has appeal for the neighborhood's hip-hop and artist communities alike. Owner David Bywater proudly stocks clothing brands new to Denver, including one-of-a-kind artist T-shirts and caps, as well as art books, collectible toys and spray paint, and he hosts monthly art openings featuring scads of street artists with local and international cred, from Colorado native 84pages to London's Mr. Penfold. Hop on your skateboard and fly on over.

Ily and Iley opened in April 2015 in lower Highland, raising the bar for boutique shopping in Denver. Co-owners and stylists Ilyse Mark and Bailey Lemak began their business after running into each other in Miami and New York; luckily for us, they decided to settle in Denver. In addition to two floors full of fashion, Ily and Iley carries a unique range of specialty jewelry, accessories, plants and home decor, as well as a selection of vintage pieces handpicked by the owners. The result is a lifestyle store that reflects the pair's ongoing romance with modernity, bohemian flair and timeless style.

2525 15th St.

This sister act run by Laurel and Lindsey Tate has long been the reigning shoe palace on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall (it won our Best Store on the Pearl Street Mall award in 2009), but the feet of D-town's most discerning shoe freaks have been cheering loudly since the pair opened an outpost on South Gaylord Street last summer. Their secret? The Tates don't think high-end shoes in luscious colors with trendy styling should hurt. It takes a good eye — and a little science — to pick out a shoe that looks good and is good for you, too. Now Denver fashionistas have a go-to for that.

Candles for rituals, crystals and herbs for healing, tarot decks and astrology guidebooks — whatever you need to enhance your spiritual practice, Goddess Isis Books & Gifts has got it. Reiki masters and plant-medicine specialists feel at home in this metaphysical marketplace, but the average soul looking to explore the world of the divine can find tools and guidance at the all-inclusive magick shop, too. More than just a retail store for ceremonial goods, Goddess Isis is also a learning and event center. Take part in a Friday-night séance or introduce yourself to paganism through a Wicca 101 class. Whatever your field of sacred interest, this humble temple has a full calendar of events and educational opportunities to serve the community.

Anyone who's frequented the Tennyson Street retail district in Berkeley over the past ten or fifteen years knows that the strip has seen many changes. Several rounds ago, a boutique called Silvana L'Amour, a shop of global curiosities and girly things owned by worldly Denverite Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt graced Tennyson before disappearing along with so many other businesses that have come and gone from the street. But Vukadin-Hoitt hasn't given up: She recently returned to Tennyson with Silvana Mondo, an art gallery and home-decor display room that once again reflects her unique intercontinental view of arts and culture. It's the place to find killims and folk carvings, tribal jewelry and antique furniture from around the world — and, for a lark, a chance to have your future told in the patterns left in the bottom of a cup by Turkish coffee grounds, by appointment. Vukadin-Hoitt is a woman of great taste and many talents.

4420 Tennyson St.

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