Neighborhood boutiques complement regional retail centers, offering the latest fashions, elegant accessories, one-of-a-kind gifts and plenty of service.
Cherry Creek Shopping Center always places among Denver’s top 10 attractions, but it isn’t the only retail game in town. A number of unique boutiques flourish in The Mile High City, adding spice to the standard fare offered at regional shopping malls in all seven Metro Denver counties. Work your way through these local favorites, starting Downtown and radiating outwards through some of Denver's oldest neighborhoods. Each has enough one-of-a-kind shopping opportunities to qualify as an outing, especially when combined with a little sightseeing and a quick meal at a nearby bistro.
Start Downtown at Rockmount Ranch Wear. This landmark at 1626 Wazee Street has been making Western wear in Denver since before the streets were paved, and it has survived because a well-made Western shirt is always a joy to find. Fans will do anything to get one with a little pizzazz — just ask Ralph Lauren, Sting, John Travolta or any of the other celebrities who venture into Denver's old warehouse district for Rhinestone Cowboy couture served up Rockmount style.
Next, head to Larimer Square for one full block of distinctive shops housed in well-preserved historic buildings. At Cry Baby Ranch, you'll find a young, hip version of the West, with gear in all price ranges that shares nothing more than a nostalgic country theme. Got $1,300? Pull on a pair of Liberty Boot Company's Sixties Cowgirl Boots, a knee-high expanse of smooth black leather covered with hand-stitched white flower cutouts. If $5 is more in line with your budget, consider a box of Cowboy Adhesive Bandages, 15 Texas-size strips decorated with images of horseshoes and cacti. It's easy to kill an hour or two browsing the books, furniture, hats, boots, t-shirts, accessories and clothing for men, women and children. Just being in the store makes us feel happy and a little bit wholesome.
Twentysomethings often joke about their "little shopping problem," including an irresistible urge to drop cash at American Apparel. Part of the appeal is the garments' comfort factor, with most made from cotton knits so thin they feel like vapor. Other attractions: They're made in the U.S. by relatively well-paid workers, yet prices can be a tenth of what you'll pay for similar togs in neighboring boutiques.
To paraphrase Horace Greeley, go west young shopper, to the other side of Interstate 25, where you'll find a handful of emerging neighborhoods and the creative entrepreneurs who thrive there. In the Highlands neighborhood, home of Denver's early-day Little Italy, budding businesses are germinating in century-old buildings that had lain dormant for years. As businesses reach a critical mass, the landscape is changing into a hip, happening place.
Head to Highlands Square, a quaint spot that's overflowing with shopping options, and check out Strut, which carries shoes, shoes and more shoes. Its merchandise is targeted to the young artistic pioneers who can afford to pay several hundred dollars for the perfect imported ballet flat, strappy wedge sandal or ankle bootie.
Now that you've got your walking shoes, stroll down to LoHi for a visit to Inspyre Boutique, where you'll find style-forward and budget-conscious fashion and accessories, all at under $100. That's right — nothing in the store costs more than a cool $100.
South Pearl and South Gaylord
Yoga mamas and citizens of the world beat a path to 5 Green Boxes in the South Pearl district. It stocks hard-to-find trinkets like Chinese paper wallets and patterned Hot Sox, along with queen-of-the-rodeo belt buckles and an ever-changing collection of handmade, natural-fiber blouses, skirts and drawstring pants. A furniture store by the same name has been added a block away, carrying equally funky household accessories.
If "Fashionista" is your middle name, you won't want to miss Barbara & Company. In Barbara & Company's airy, 3,000-square-foot store, you'll find one of Denver's best collections of well-merchandised, feminine clothing. Lines are trendy and international — funky patterns from Aventures des Toiles in Paris, pants from Equestrian Designs, Burning Torch jackets and tops, casual wear from Michael Stars and Sarah Pacini's sexy Belgian knits. Items in every shade of the rainbow line the walls of this cavernous store.
Cherry Creek North
The shops at Cherry Creek North are in a league of their own, which is why we've saved them for last. You'll need a full day to explore the boutiques that cover more than 20 city blocks. Start with MAX for a tight selection of women's clothing, shoes, jewelry and purses from international designers. Look for Dries Van Noten, Chloe, Isabel Marant, Nina Ricci, Proenza Schouler, Saint Laurent and Thakoon. Owner Max Martinez throws a mean party every year for the glitterati who love to pose in his glamorous clothes. The store throws off the same tres chic vibe, with seriously svelte mannequins wearing lots of short, tight black garments.
Next stop is Lawrence Covell. This Italian boutique is the main course, a little slice of paradiso at the core of trendy Cherry Creek North. Cathy and Lawrence Covell have operated the men's and women's store for decades, raising their son on buying trips to the old country. Now he's running the store with them, stepping with ease into his father's Italian loafers. Tailored jackets, trousers and skirts in the world's most luscious fabrics line the walls. Expect to pay for the luxury, but plan to wear the garments — and feel like Lauren Bacall and Bogey as you do — forever.
For fine men's clothing from American designers and classic European houses, visit Andrisen Morton. Dave Morton and Craig Andrisen had been outfitting Denver bankers and lawyers for years from their shop in the heart of Downtown's Financial District when an opportunity came along to snag a storefront in posh Cherry Creek. Loyal customers come for the deep selection of accessible designer lines.