Best of Denver®

Best Of 2021


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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Out-of-the-Box Calacas

Inez Sanchez's Missfits dolls aren't like any Día de los Muertos calacas you've ever seen. Each one-of-a-kind skeleton doll comes with a name, a story and a personality invented by the Denver artist: Head-turner Lupita, dressed to kill; Calabaza the squash woman; colorful Socorro, who lives in a house with no music; Chileta the chile contest judge; and Rosa and Valentino, a rose-killer and her gardening lover, are just a few of her characters. Look for Sanchez's wares at Día de los Muertos and holiday craft markets, monthly First Friday art fairs at the Arturo Garcia studio in Westwood, or on Etsy.
Best Free Service

Many libraries have expanded their services to include everything from social worker consultations to 3-D printers, makers' labs and comedy clubs. While these free resources are welcome, has the skill of recommending a good book been pushed to the bottom of the stacks? Not at Denver Public Library, which offers artful personalized reading lists based on online questionnaires that patrons fill out regarding their literary tastes. Librarians who specialize in reader recommendations then respond with thoughtful, handpicked lists along with explanations of their choices. The selections are dead on — and often more surprising and engaging than the picks that Google and Amazon algorithms dredge up.
Best Store on the 16th Street Mall
I Heart Denver Store
I Heart Denver Facebook

Although many storefronts remain boarded up and empty, and others have been claimed by national chains, the 16th Street Mall still has heart — thanks to the I Heart Denver Store, which continues to represent this city with pride while supporting more than 200 local artists, designers and other creatives by selling their goods. Whether you're a tourist looking for a Mile High memento or a local shopping for some hometown flair, you'll find state-centric T-shirts, honey, mugs, pins, trinkets, games, puzzles and home decor at various price points. And you'll do your shopping knowing that you're supporting not just this one store, but Denver's entire creative community. Who doesn't heart that?

500 16th St. Mall, Denver, 80202
Best Shop on Broadway

Few small businesses have a motto like "Social Impact Is Our Brand." But that's how store owner and activist Erika Righter labels Hope Tank — and it's the reason that we keep swinging around to praise her business, which isn't just another gift shop. Righter started out hyping works by local makers at affordable prices, with a promise to donate part of every sale to handpicked nonprofits. And while she's since widened her supplier list, the giving-back aspect remains. Righter also gave mural opportunities to out-of-work artists in 2020, sticks up for BIPOC businesses, supports community services and speaks up for the downtrodden. May Hope Tank always lead the way.

64 Broadway, Denver, 80203
Best Shop in RiNo

Tran Wills has earned every bit of her entrepreneurial and activist cred over the past decade or two, starting with running the FabricLab in the mid-2000s, when she was nineteen and pregnant, and then expanding to a string of fashion-related gigs, galleries and curated shops. In 2013 she struck gold with her chic, non-toxic nail salon Base Coat, which has since grown across the nation, including several locations inside Nordstrom stores. In a sweet and maybe ironic way, Wills has now been able to reclaim elements of her former creative enterprises by opening Matriarch Mercantile in RiNo, a woman-centric boutique with a gallery devoted to the female and nonbinary muralists of Babe Walls. What goes around comes around, and we are all the luckier for it.

2700 Walnut St, Denver, 80205
Best Store on East Colfax

In a world of big-box music and a never-ending onslaught of emerging retail trends, an unpretentious, classic hole-in-the-wall music store is a rare find — and that's why the Colfax Guitar Shop, right across from the Bluebird Theater, strikes all the right notes. Looking to stock up on picks and strings, or need a new capo? The store, which has been around for two decades, has you covered. Have a broken or buzzing instrument? The skilled and friendly luthiers here can fix up your old ax or build you an original custom instrument. If you don't know your pickguard from your pegs, fear not: The Guitar Shop staff welcomes everyone from novices to pros, and you can rest assured that whatever they touch will be finger-pickin' good.

3220 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80206
Best Store on West Colfax

Hosting a production of Cats? A toga party? A Renaissance festival? Maybe you've been roped into a comic con cosplay date or a Revolutionary War re-enactment. Whatever the case, theater geeks and Halloween freaks alike love Disguises: A Costume Superstore, where you can buy or rent outfits for any occasion. With over 100,000 costumes crammed into 16,000 square feet, the shop's experts have you covered. Disguises also offers a wide selection of makeup, wigs and props, and whether you need to escape the dreariness of your life by playing a little dress-up or are looking to outfit yourself for your next social gathering, there's no better place to do it.

9797 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood, 80215
Best Store in Cherry Creek

For 38 years, the women who own Show of Hands have been creating what they call a "happy place" at the adorable boutique, offering a variety of handmade goods by artists from around the country — with many from Colorado in the mix. The selection of jewelry, greeting cards, sculptures, holiday decorations, posters, photographs, planters and more — available at a wide range of prices for shoppers of any means — makes Show of Hands a one-stop shop for gift buyers. But the kindness, good humor and generosity of the staff are what inspire us to drop by even when there's nothing on our shopping list...and we never leave empty-handed.

250 Columbine St., Denver, 80206
Best Store at Denver International Airport

Yes, you overpacked, and you realize your two carry-ons just aren't going to cut it with your airline. Not to worry: Topo Designs will send you off in style. The company got its start when Jedd Rose was looking for more functional outdoor gear, bought a sewing machine and started making packs in his Fort Collins basement, while Mark Hansen began marketing the design. Today they've expanded their lines to include clothing and accessories, and have grown into two outlets at Denver International Airport beyond the flagship store at 2500 Larimer Street; you can also order online. But hang out at one of the airport shops long enough, and you'll need to grab one of their big bags (lifetime guarantee!) to fit everything you've suddenly decided you can't live without.

8500 Pena Blvd., Denver, 80249
Best Adult Store
Jessica Christie Photography

In 2017, Tory Johnson and Rose Kalasz opened Awakening in RiNo, with the goal of inspiring sex positivity and selling non-toxic, eco-friendly sex toys. Since then, they've opened a second location on Broadway, and have earned a reputation as a safe, gender-inclusive business that empowers people to not only have better orgasms, but better conversations about their sexuality. The shop researches all the items it sells to make sure they are safe for the body and the earth, and the employees behind the counter know what they're talking about. Stop blushing and go discover yourself.

2936 Larimer St., Denver, 80205
Best Old-School Collective

An economic oasis in a neighborhood caught between its working-class Chicano roots and creeping gentrification, RISE Westwood is as grassroots as it gets. You'll find a range of food-related enterprises co-existing side by side, from the community-driven Westwood Food Coop and Mujeres Emprendedoras (a worker-owned, woman-powered co-op offering financial opportunities and job training) to cafe-style retailers like Cultura Chocolate, Cabrona Coffee and Kahlo's, all of which band together for community events and outdoor markets. When RISE says it wants to give Denver a taste of the neighborhood, it really means it.
3738 Morrison Rd., Denver, 80219
Best New Moves by the Tattered Cover
Tattered Cover Book Store

Through many moves, new stores, new markets and constant upsizing and downsizing, the Tattered Cover has always managed to retain its hallmark cozy familiarity. And exciting things are happening again. After the independent chain was purchased in December, owners David Back and Kwame Spearman brought in entrepreneur Clara Villarosa, who once nurtured the Hue-Man Experience bookstore in Five Points, to curate a new Black lit division. Plans are also under way to open a children's book store this summer at Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, and to bring to fruition a new TC branch in Westminster. And coming soon: the new LoDo store at McGregor Square by Coors Field. Welcome to the 21st century!

Four metro locations (LoDo store closed for a move)
2526 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80206

Best Out-of-the-Box Calacas: Missfits Dolls

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