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Whether you’re hunting for a special something for your mother, a birthday present or a treat for you, Denver’s shops have you covered. As this year’s Best of Denver edition proves, this city’s loaded with gift shops, record stores, non-toxic beauty supplies, sex toys and so much more. So take out your pocketbook and let’s go shopping.
Best Store on the 16th Street Mall
I Heart Denver Store
500 16th Street Mall
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?
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.
Tran Wills is the owner of Matriarch Mercantile.
Best Shop in RiNo
2700 Walnut Street
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.
Best Store on East Colfax
Colfax Guitar Shop
3220 East Colfax Avenue
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.
Best Store on West Colfax
Disguises: A Costume Superstore
9797 West Colfax Avenue
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.
Best Store in Cherry Creek
Show of Hands
210 Clayton Street
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.
Best Store at Denver International Airport
8500 Peña Boulevard
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.
Best Adult Store
2936 Larimer Street
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.
Best Record Store
Twist & Shout
2508 East Colfax Avenue
The lines winding out of Twist & Shout are proof that this Colfax Avenue record shop has earned its reputation as a must-stop spot for vinyl, CDs, DVDs and music ephemera. The store has an amazing selection of new and used albums, along with a staff that knows how to help you find what you’re looking for and discover up-and-coming and obscure artists. As pandemic restrictions loosen, we’re looking forward to seeing Twist & Shout bring back some of its intimate live-music performances from international and local acts alike — and in the meantime, we’re happy to see the shop continue its long tradition of supporting local musicians by keeping their albums on the racks.
The Market has been transformed into Larimer Records Cafe.
Best Record Store in a Restaurant
Larimer Records Cafe
1445 Larimer Street
The bones of the beloved Market, which stood at this Larimer Square address for decades, are still present in a ghostly way, right down to the familiar tiled entryway. And just as the Market was a gathering place for the entire city, Josh Sampson’s Larimer Records Cafe serves a similar function, with an updated millennial shtick: It’s a bustling, relaxed meeting place for coffee and food, but it’s also a vinyl store, complete with listening stations, rotating themed music brunches and nights with live DJs, and drinks with names like Sympathy for the Devil, Ring of Fire and Walk on the Wild Side. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Try Garage Sale, just across Larimer.
Best Vintage Store in a Bar
Garage Sale Vintage
1460 Larimer Street
Hanging out with a cocktail while you shop is becoming a trend, as is vinyl collecting, and Garage Sale is proof that the combo works. The mashup of vintage clothing, vinyl albums and a classic Wild Turkey Old-Fashioned or Manhattan sipped indoors or on the open-street patio make this a sweet place to chill, day or night. Planning a Denver staycation? This should be your first stop.
Best Religious Products and Skateboard Gear
12500 West 58th Avenue, Arvada
Somehow, the weird combination of religious swag and skateboard gear at the Retro works. In fact, it might be the best place for traditional grandparents and skateboard kids to meet in the middle — just as Latino religious images, from sacred hearts to la Virgen de Guadalupe, cross over into youth culture as board-deck decorations, jewelry, apparel, art and stickers. Try it — you might like it, too.
Herbs & Arts offers magical supplies galore.
Best Witchy Store
Herbs & Arts
2015 East Colfax Avenue
If you’re looking to take a journey through the witchier side of life, head to Herbs & Arts. Breathe in the incense, shop for candles, beef up your tarot deck collection, have a consultation with a store herbalist, and explore your existence through a psychic or astrological reading on the spot. If you’re planning to dive into the esoteric arts, there are also classes for the curious and plenty of books to read. This shop is filled with a playful, positive energy and all the tools you need to make magic.
Best Game Store
Let your inner geek run wild at the Wizard’s Chest, a glorious shop filled with board, card and role-playing games, costumes and more. Open since 1983 but a relative newcomer to Broadway, the store boasts a playful interior and exterior designed by immersive-arts wizard Lonnie Hanzon. Whether you’re looking for the latest in Dungeons & Dragons fun, robotics kits, a new wig, or a rattler for the toddler in your life, the Wizard’s Chest will put you under its spell. The shop is currently offering a mix of online, curbside and limited in-person business; the real magic happens in the coming months, when it will get back to hosting gaming events and allowing 100 percent hands-on fun.
Be a Good Person team, from left: Darian Simon, Necos Jackson and Julian Donaldson.
Best Streetwear Line
Be a Good Person
1350 27th Street
Be a Good Person, founded by Darian Simon and Julian Donaldson in 2015 to spread a message of positivity, has become an iconic Denver brand that uses hoodies, T-shirts, sweats and accessories to encourage people to be, well, good. In an age of social strife, online smackdowns, violence and general pessimism, the slogan, brand name and philosophy behind Be a Good Person is as relevant as can be. Each season, the company puts out a signature line sporting cheerful, all-caps lettering; along the way, it does its share of philanthropic work with nonprofits like the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Best Running Store
Berkeley Park Running Company
4568 Tennyson Street
When Chris Sullivan opened the nationally celebrated Berkeley Park Running Company, he decided to upend the standard of the traditional shopping-mall running store. Instead, he launched a small shop on Tennyson Street with a great selection of trail- and road-running gear and beers, and in the process created a community hub for lovers of the sport. The shop hosts book signings, community runs (followed by a brew and snacks) and plenty of other gatherings. It’s developed a reputation for first-rate customer service and honest staffers whose priority is keeping people engaged in the sport — even if that means they won’t be making a sale. But that type of service makes loyal customers for life.
21 South Broadway
Scavenging for dream items should never be restricted to one particular thrift shop; part of the fun is going on the hunt. But when we have to limit our expeditions to just one spot, the Goodwill outlet at Broadway and Archer Place always seems to have what we’re looking for, from dishware to fashion-forward jackets, ski and backpacking gear, dresses, shoes and more. There’s also plenty of kitsch and art to browse — but if you’ve banned yourself from any more shopping sprees, this is also a convenient spot to drop off secondhand items.
What are your favorite shops in town? Let us know at [email protected].
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