Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Consummate party host Paul Laurie made a name for himself in Denver by throwing offbeat and engaging events in unusual spaces. Last year he landed the lease for a decommissioned synagogue that artists had converted into a house, giving Invisible City a permanent home. The private events venue — which, with its handful of bedrooms, does double duty as an Airbnb — has all the perks of a great party hall: art-deco charm, a catering kitchen and bar with no requirements about preferred vendors, and flexibility in event end time. What takes this place above and beyond, though, is that Laurie and his team are eager to create truly transportive experiences — and they know the performance artists and lighting and sound professionals to pull it off. That makes Invisible City equally popular with wedding planners and organizations like Atlas Obscura and Meow Wolf.
What you collect is your own damn business, and if you favor taxidermied snakes in jars, human skeletons, tarantula specimens, tooth pendants and stuffed bats, welcome to the Room of Lost Things, a popular First Friday stop in the Art District on Santa Fe. Not everything in the room was once alive, though, so if your taste runs instead toward creepy doll-head night-lights and planters, vintage cigarette boxes or skeleton keys, you're covered, too. Don't forget your barf bag, if you're one of those people.
Since 1992, Orrs' has been trafficking in seed beads, deer hides, porcupine quills and other craft items unique to Native American arts on Broadway, with an ever-changing audience that now includes groups as diverse as the re-enactor community and those newfangled bead artists caught up in the DIY crafting revolution. But if you're seeking a classic buffalo skull that looks like you just picked it up along the roadside in Wyoming, consider yourself part of the clientele at Orrs', where you'll often find staff decorating the window. Inquire within.
This curiosity shop has a curious sideshow: While the Learned Lemur stocks plenty of skulls and skeletons of all kinds, along with a whole collection of antique oddities and such, it also provides cleaning services for folks who've found their own treasures — from a bird on the lawn to a prized deer carcass — and want to spruce them up. It's a process that involves an army of flesh-eating beetles known as dermestids — not a pretty sight — but watching isn't a requirement, unless you want to. You can shop instead, either in the store or online: Either way, it's a clean deal.
Based on a clever model thought up by owner Cindy Gamel, Remixed steps in when you're looking for a personalized gift for that one hard-to-please person for whom you never know what to get. Gamel starts with her own curated gift baskets, often with a pop-culture twist, but you can also walk into the store and mix up your own concoction of gag gifts and nicer items on hundreds of themes, celebrating just about anything — from punk rock or Record Store Day to horror films and adult coloring books. It's the ultimate shopping spree for the hard-to-gift.
We've loved Willow for years, bestowing Best of Denver awards on the fine craft gallery in 2007 and 2008 — but now the shop has cleared out a niche to house 1876 | BASECAMP, a separate local business specializing in quality screen-printed clothing evoking the historical Colorado spirit with a modern spin. The retail concept of married Colorado natives, 1876 has everything you need to wear Colorado pride on your sleeve.
Not all Goodwills are created equal, as a visit to the 21 South Broadway branch will prove. Dedicated diggers can regularly unearth retro looks and hipster threads every bit as head-turning as those found in the vintage shops elsewhere on the road, except at drastically reduced prices, especially on half-price days. Treasures can also be found in the book section, which goes well beyond the latest James Patterson bestseller, plus box after box of unusual vinyl and a downstairs furniture, sports equipment and who-know-what-else section that's as large as plenty of other thrift stores in and of itself.
Readers' Choice: ARC Thrift Store
Among the many things that pizza entrepreneur, comedy maven, activist and 2019 Denver mayoral candidate Kayvan Khalatbari has going on is a determination to never overlook anyone, especially Denver's kicked-around homeless population. Because it's Khalatbari's opinion that the city is trying to tackle the homeless situation with force and bullying rather than compassion, he partnered last fall to collaborate with the community organization Denver Homeless Out Loud to install and maintain free lockers for the homeless at Sexy Pizza's Capitol Hill location. It's a small gesture, but one with the possibility of growth — a real attempt to do something for people who've lost their belongings again and again to sweeps and theft. One step at a time.
Readers' Choice: Denver Free Run
The Denver Flea isn't so much a market as a party to which everyone is invited — and this year's spring edition blooms with promise. The April 14-15 event boasts a new location — the Denver Rock Drill, at 1717 East 39th Avenue — as well as a slew of first-time vendors offering a fresh batch of quirky or one-of-a-kind items every few feet. And that's not to mention available fare from a battalion of food trucks, as well as brews, craft cocktails and assorted intoxicants courtesy of Great Divide and other experts on imbibing. While it's not free, a single $5 entry fee covers both days of the Flea.
Readers' Choice: The Denver Flea
Started by local visual artist Katy Zimmerman and her sister Dena, the @ZimmsVintage Instagram and Etsy-based thrift clothier feels like a secret peek into a tastefully arranged closet. The siblings use their collective eyes for fashion to do the rummaging for you, finding beautiful blazers and perfect pencil skirts for an array of sizes and body types. Katy even customizes some pieces with her visual art, so watch for modified items like her hand-painted purses to show up in the shop, because the pieces go fast. All items are brand-new or gently worn, a mix of vintage staple pieces and fresher apparel, creating an eclectic mix of work-appropriate attire and going-out clothes. The best part? @ZimmsVintage keeps its stock at a nice price point — so you can find a whole outfit from head-to-Doc Martens without breaking the bank.
James Elliott and Stephen Castillo opened their shop on South Broadway in 2008, offering an eclectic mix of gems from the past. Nestled in a bright and colorful stretch of shops, Regal Vintage carries the best trendy pieces from past eras, with fashion stretching from the 1890s to the 1990s. During one stop you might find derbys from the '20s, gold jewelry from the '70s and neon sunglasses from the '80s. The owners strive to ensure that all inventory is fun, fabulous and funky, and credit their decade of success to their connection with the community.
Goldmine, once beloved by Boulder treasure hunters, made the move to Denver last summer, setting up shop in a Broadway storefront in the Baker neighborhood. If you're a Denver-based vintage hound, congratulate yourself on your excellent luck, put on your headlight and grab your pick, because digging through this store is a vintage-miner's dream come true, full of wearable loot from multiple eras hand-selected by Goldmine's traveling buyers. Head to Broadway and stake your claims.