Neighborhood boutiques complement regional retail centers, offering 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 respectable number of unique boutiques flourish within Denver’s oldest neighborhoods, adding spice to the standard fare served at regional shopping malls in all seven Metro Denver counties. Work your way through my favorites, starting in the core city and radiating outwards. 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's historic core 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.
Then head to Larimer Square for one full block of distinctive shops houses in well-preserved historic buildings. At Cry Baby Ranch, 1421 Larimer Street, 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 $1,098? Pull on a pair of Liberty Boot Company's Sixties Cowgirl Boots, a knee-high expanse of smooth brown 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 cactus. 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 me feel happy and a little bit wholesome.
Twentysomethings often joke about their "little shopping problem," an irresistible urge to drop cash at American Apparel, 1512 Larimer Street. 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 in those neighboring boutiques.
paraphrase Horace Greeley, go west young shopper, to the other side of
Interstate 25, and you'll find a handful of emerging neighborhoods and
the creative entrepreneurs who thrive there. In the Highland
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 from ghetto to hip, happening place.
Head to Highlands Square for a quaint spot that is overflowing with shopping options. Check out Strut, 3611 W 32nd Avenue, 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 shoe, Mary Jane or knee-high boot.
South Pearl and South Gaylord
mamas and citizens of the world beat a path to 5 Green Boxes, 1570
South Pearl Street, 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 at 1705
South Pearl Street, carrying equally funky household accessories.
If "Fashionista" is your middle name, you won't want to miss Barbara and Company, 1067 S. Gaylord. In Barbara and Company's airy 3,000-square-foot store they find one of Denver's best collections of well merchandised, feminine clothing. Lines are trendy and international - Cop-copine from France, Equestrian Pants, Burning Torch jackets and tops, Tsesay cashmere and Sarah Pacini's sexy Belgian knits. A couple of caveats: Leave your plastic at home or expect to become very good friends with the nice folks at American Express. Items in every shade of the rainbow line the walls of this cavernous store, but they're sized for trophy wives. Larger sizes do exist, but you'll have to dig through yards of size 0s and 2s to find them.
South Colorado Boulevard
For another well-kept secret, drive southeast to South Colorado Boulevard, and turn into the most inconspicuous strip mall imaginable. Tucked inside is an institution best known for classic clothing and priceless personal service. Jack Gleason's, 2474 South Colorado Boulevard, is like an elegant lady who is too well bred to brag about her pedigree. Each customer is made to feel like a million bucks, even if she is shopping the sale rack. Expect tasteful garments that are well made, will last forever and are selected to fit a wide range of body types. Another bonus - its dressing rooms are bigger than some studio apartments.
Cherry Creek North
The shops at Cherry Creek North are in a league of their own, which is why I'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, at 264 Detroit St., for a tight selection of women's clothing, shoes, jewelry and purses from international designers. Look for Diane von Furstenberg, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Missoni, Prada, Stella McCartney and Miu Miu. Owner Max Martinez throws a mean party every year for glitterati who love to pose in his glamorous clothes. The store throws off the same tres chic vibe, with serious svelte mannequins wearing lots of short, tight black garments. If you're 20 and loaded, or just live the lifestyle, this place is for you.
Next stop is Lawrence Covell at 225 Steele Street. This Italian boutique is the main course, a little slice of paradiso in 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 Lawry'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 - until the day you drop dead.
For American designers and some classic European houses, visit Andrisen Morton Women at 270 St. Paul Street, and Andrisen Morton Men at 210 St. Paul Street. 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. An aging Cherry Creek women's boutique was for sale, with a prime corner property and a clientele heavy on socialites. The new Andrisen Morton Women was born. A standalone men's store followed shortly thereafter. Loyal customers come for the deep selection of accessible designer lines - from Ralph Lauren to Armani and Versace - as well as the bridal department.
Linda Castrone is a Colorado native, has worked at both Denver daily newspapers as a writer and editor, and co-authors two travel guides with her husband Jim - "The Insiders' Guide to Denver" and "The Insiders' Guide to Colorado's Mountains" (Globe Pequot Press). She makes regular contributions to the Denver economy by spending money at these and other stores.