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Best New-Age Mecca
Naropa Institute
2130 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder

Dedicated to the concepts of contemplative learning, Naropa's halls have been wide open and over the edge now for twenty years. What started as a summertime hangout for venerable beat poets and followers of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, the institute has blossomed into a year-round arts, meditation and psychology mecca. The summer program may still be its strongest point, though, with celebrity faculty to burn (this year's guests include poets Amiri Baraka and Allen Ginsberg, painters Francesco Clemente and Larry Rivers, jazz master Cecil Taylor and composer Meredith Monk)--making it easy to look forward to the next twenty Naropa years.

Best Extra-Credit Project
Inferno Effects Corporation
970 Union Ave., Boulder

University of Colorado students Jeff Grantham, Johannes Laun and Steve Shattil will soon have more than a piece of sheepskin to show for their years in school: They'll have a piece of Inferno Effects Corporation--the first company founded through a class at the business school. That's where Grantham and Laun met last year and first began discussing starting a company. And they knew just what kind of company after they hooked up with engineering Ph.D. candidate Steve Shattil, who'd spent five years developing a handheld synthesizer for electric guitars that uses a radical new technology based on techniques that eliminate electromagnetic interference. After winning $1,000 in a business-plan competition, the trio incorporated Inferno in June. Says the team, "It's nice to get more than just a grade from a class."

Best Hair-Raising Invention
Alfred Natrasevschi

Think your haircut sucks? That's exactly what Alfred Natrasevschi, a Fort Collins engineer, had in mind when he patented his RoboCut, a vacuum-powered do-it-yourself barbering machine now available at a Wal-Mart near you. RoboCut uses a vacuum (it's built-in in the $189 deluxe model; you supply your own for the $79.95 standard and Pet Groomer package) to pull hair up a tube into the patented and top-secret RoboCut blades, which trim hair to a precise length; special attachments allow the home haircutter to create special styles. Something in a shag, maybe?

Best Shoe-Repair Shop
Veto's Shoe Shop
2449 W. Main St., Littleton

Veto's has been on Main Street for 65 years, 35 of them in the same storefront. Veto's gone now, but his wisecracking son delivers your nearly-brand-spanking-new shoes with a joke; the more serious grandson preserves the ambience of the shop with his collection of shoemaking figurines from around the globe. You can buy a pair of moccasins or work boots (available new and used), or you can just get your present clodhoppers patched up. Sole-search no further.

Best Nostalgic Dry Cleaners
Belaire Cleaners
1581 S. Pearl St.

Look in the window and you'll be fooled: Is it an antique store or a relic dropped off by a time machine? The windows and walls are filled with objects related to laundering--old wringer washers, metal washboards, soap boxes and advertisements. The owners started out years ago with a few pieces of their own, but enthusiastic customers got into the act and provided the rest. And the service? They'll dry-clean your delicates with care, just as you'd expect--and regulars get their suits back in a reusable bag that can be returned with the next load.

Best Collection of Washing Machines
The Warehouse of Yesteryear

History comes clean at Bob Moss's Warehouse of Yesteryear, a 2,820-square-foot shrine to the washing machine, located in the town of Clark. The 76-year-old Moss has gone through the wringer to find and restore his collection, which includes almost 100 contraptions dating from 1860 to 1935. "It's the thought process that intrigues me," Moss explains. "You can just see the advancement in the ease of the operation."

Best Old-Fashioned Dish Towels
Central Bag and Burlap
2715 Blake St.

Wash your hands of expensive, environmentally incorrect paper goods. Central Bag and Burlap carries an extensive stock of cotton flour-sack dish towels that are strong enough to stand up to any job.

Best Place to Register for Wedding Gifts
The Artisan Center
2757 E. 3rd Ave.

So you're planning on having a nontraditional wedding with a purple gown and flowery tie? Well, maybe you're also hankering for nontraditional wedding gifts. No problem; the Artisan Center, stocked with handmade household goodies, is happy to keep a wish list for you. Choose from hardy stoneware platters and stylish hand-blown goblets, woven placemats and wooden cutting boards; whatever the booty, it will beautifully express your desire to be different.

Best Place to Buy Wedding Gifts
Tuesday Morning
Eight metro locations

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