Best Of » Best of 2009 Vol. 2

Best of 2009: Shopping

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Editor's note: This document was updated on Nov. 3 to reflect the addition of Rick's Garden Center to the winner's circle in the the Garden Supply/Nursery category.


Antique Store

American Classics Marketplace (1815 N. Academy Blvd., 596-8585)

Turns out American Classics Marketplace is owned by Jake Jabs, the white-haired tiger-tamer behind the massive American Furniture Warehouse juggernaut. So it makes perfect sense that ACM spans 65,000 square feet and features antiques, collectibles and crafts from more than 400 vendors from across the country, and sometimes overseas. Its clientele is geographically diverse as well; in 8½ years there, assistant manager Bernice Leonard has seen countless local "regulars" let visiting relatives and friends in on their little big secret. The attraction for many, she says, is more ephemeral than a Shaker table: "We can take you back in time." From 10 to 6, seven days a week, no less. — KW

Florist

Platte Floral (1417 E. Platte Ave., 632-2607, plattefloral.com)

When asked what keeps customers coming back to Platte Floral, manager Jerry Flynn cites "good customer service and beautiful flowers." So if you forgot the name of your beau's favorite, fret not; Flynn says when a customer is clueless, he asks them questions about the person they're shopping for and also tries to understand the message the buyer wants to send. And Platte can custom-design any bouquet. Just remember to pass up the yellow roses, unless you're shopping for Mom. — BA

Place to Buy a Unique Gift
Store for Accessories

Terra Verde (208 N. Tejon St., 444-8621, terraverdestyle.com)

One reason owner Chris Sondermann thinks you like giving (and getting) gifts from Terra Verde: "We do a pretty amazing gift-wrap," she says, adding, "When you walk out of here, it's kind of a signature piece — people know you have a Terra Verde gift." And that gift could be anything: jewelry, shoes, clothing, bath and body products, books, baby items, furniture, rugs, scarves, gift cards ... Sondermann says the eclectic mix reflects the 17-year-old shop's broad customer base. The staff, too, represents a mix of ages and body types, Sondermann says, which makes customers feel comfortable. This downtown wonderland takes two Best Of awards this year and has been recognized in at least one category every year since voting began. — BA

Local Furniture Store
National Chain Furniture Store

American Furniture Warehouse (2805 N. Chestnut St., 633-4220, afwonline.com)

OK, the commercials are a bit cheesy, what with the animal-print ensembles and owner Jake Jabs cavorting with big cats and big blondes across plush sectionals. Still, American Furniture Warehouse earns its win. People like it for its quality, mostly American-made furniture offered at affordable prices. The giant showroom feels homey, more like a vast version of your Grammy's cluttered attic than a stuffy outlet. AFW also scores high on customer service and service in general. According to Jabs' blog, the chain gives back. In 2009, AFW donated to Easter Seals Colorado, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Toys for Tots and T.A.P.S., and held in-store bashes to benefit Children's Hospital and the American Heart Association. Recently, Jabs announced that AFW would be going green by recycling all of its cardboard and plastic, changing to energy-efficient lighting in all stores, Xeriscaping its properties, and supporting environmental organizations. — DS

Place to Buy Art

Commonwheel Artists Cooperative (102 Cañon Ave., 685-1008, commonwheel.com)

Wendy Daniels-Gillam, director of marketing and advertising for Commonwheel, claims the gallery is equally adept at fulfilling quests for expensive gifts and for affordable homestead additions. The co-op's been around for 35 years, and consistently exposes locals to the artists in their midst; it currently features work by 38 painters, jewelers, potters et al, all of whom call the Pikes Peak region home. Though there is no common thread in the art available daily at Commonwheel apart from the shared place of origin, monthly in-house shows (open to members and non-members alike) tend to revolve around a specific focus. This month's show, titled Threemendous, opens Oct. 23 and will showcase a selection of large, locally made ceramic pieces. — AM

Local Hotel/Motel
Indoor Place to Pop the Question

The Broadmoor (1 Lake Ave., 577-5775, broadmoor.com)

If you've never been to The Broadmoor, go. Simple as that. The lush greenery greets you as you pull up to the grand stone entrance. A doorman is waiting to assist you with your every need. The dark wood of the reception desk feels warm and welcoming. The Sunday brunch is to die for. Now for the disclaimer: Being a college student, let's just say I've never really gotten the "full" Broadmoor experience. I pulled up in a dusty old truck, strolled through the luxurious halls with a group of friends and ate Sunday brunch paid for by my friend's parents. But all in all, it was a memorable experience, which is what The Broadmoor is known for. As for popping the question, I'll let you know when I get that far. — KV

Local Bed & Breakfast

Old Town GuestHouse (115 S. 26th St., 632-9194, oldtown-guesthouse.com)

Here's the key to operating the perfect bed & breakfast: You must be psychic. That seems to be the secret behind the success of Old Town GuestHouse, where assistant innkeeper Kim Abels says, "We try to meet our guests' needs before they know they have any." Old Town was built in 1996 and designed to fit in with its surroundings in Old Colorado City. But its interior is hardly old-fashioned. Each room is decorated in a different theme ("African Orchid," for example), and four of the eight rooms set guests up for romance with private hot tubs and fireplaces. — DA

Toy Store

Little Richard's Toy Store (324 N. Tejon St., 578-5848, poorrichards.biz)

Walking past Little Richard's Toy Store on a recent trip downtown with my 3-month-old son, I felt a vague twinge of apprehension. Through the shop windows, I glimpsed a panoply of stuffed animals, robots and musical toys, precisely the sorts of things the pre-baby me never dreamed of wanting. Yes, we'll be spending money there. On the bright side, I do appreciate knowing it's all good stuff: Little Richard's generally favors toys that don't need batteries and that build creativity. It's also branching into ecologically friendly toys, a nice touch in a world filled with plastic, uh, doo-doo. — AL

Pet Day Care

Camp Bow Wow (4295 Northpark Drive, 260-9247 • 1020 Ford St., 573-9247 • 18985 Base Camp Road, Monument, 632-9247 • campbowwowusa.com)

If you thought Webcams were just for making YouTube videos or hooking up in cyberspace, you thought wrong. Now when you're out for the day or night and you've got to leave Fluffy behind, you can see your little barking ball-of-love courtesy of "Camper Cams" at Camp Bow Wow. Check in online and watch your pup enjoying indoor and outdoor play yards with his fellow campers under the leadership of camp counselors trained in dog behavior and safety. Overnighters are even more pampered, with evening snacks and private "cabins." One extra plus: The camp helps local rescues by fostering adoptable dogs. — JT

New and Used Video Game Store

GameStop (Multiple locations, gamestop.com)

Since the beginning of this category, GameStop has dominated, winning every year. Sure, this is year two, but let's give credit where credit is due. A store full of new and used games for every video game system imaginable, hardware, software, controllers, remotes, Wii-motes, guidebooks, trade-ins, pre-releases and game reservations is only the beginning of this rabbit hole. GameStop then ups the ante with downloadable game content from their Web site (ooh), and a Twitter account (ahh). With so much pixilated selection, it's no wonder GameStop is our readers' vegetative-state purveyor of choice. — BC

National Chain Book Store

Barnes & Noble (795 Citadel Drive East, 637-8282 • 1565 Briargate Blvd., 266-9960 • barnesandnoble.com)

Whether they love 'em or hate 'em, Indy readers who like books know Barnes & Noble. The retailer, which started with a single small used bookstore in 1873, has grown into the largest chain of bookstores in the country. Its expansion is due in part to the vision of the bookseller's leadership, who in the early '70s realized the stores would thrive if they could reach beyond the world of bibliophiles and scholars to become "book supermarkets" that appealed to a wide range of shoppers. That philosophy is still reflected on shelves today. Not only do the stores carry new and classic book titles, but also magazines, DVDs, CDs, greeting cards and gifts like calendars, journals, book lights, pens and even edible treats. And if you can't find it in the store, check B&N's even larger inventory online. Read on. — JT

Local Book Store
Used Book Store

Poor Richard's Book Store (320 N. Tejon St., 578-0012, poorrichards.biz)

Is this heaven? No, it's Poor Richard's. The complex taking up nearly half a block of Tejon Street is heavenly, at least to anyone who loves books, pizza, wine, classic children's toys or any combination thereof. And that's almost everyone, or at least everyone worth knowing. The complex began with the book store, the homespun Feed and Reed opened more than 30 years ago by entrepreneur Richard Skorman. That bookstore, today called Poor Richard's, has endured the onslaught of big-box chains and the Internet to attract Indy readers year in and year out. It offers thousands of titles, both new and used, along with vintage and autographed books and rare editions; tables and chairs for browsing or discussing; and easy access to Little Richard's Toy Store, Poor Richard's Restaurant and Rico's Wine Bar. — DA

Local Landscaper/Landscaping Company

Colorado Stoneworks Landscaping (2028 Woodburn St., 538-6016, springslandscaping.com)

According to Anne Campbell, one of the owners of Colorado Stoneworks, anyone can be a "Chuck in the Truck." Then she proceeds to assure me that Colorado Stoneworks is not your average landscaper. Founded in 2006 and locally owned, the company is professionally accredited and guarantees customer satisfaction. With an eye toward sustainability, it provides energy-efficient options for customers and plants new trees to make up for all the paper products it uses each year. Visit their Web site to see examples of their work, including the flagstone patio at Wines of Colorado. — JK

Fresh Flower Happy Hour
Writer's Pick

Gentry's Fine Flowers (225 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 632-0707, gentrysflowers.com)

If I could keep my house filled with fresh flowers, I'd be a happy, happy girl. As it is, I'm lucky to grab a plastic-wrapped bundle a few times a year from the grocery store when I'm feeling down. What I really should do is stop by Gentry's Fine Flowers after work more often for their fresh flower happy hour. Tuesday through Friday, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., all cut flowers are half price. And they'll wrap them up for you in tissue paper, too, making them ideal for gift-giving. Actually ... what I need to do is send this out as a hint to my husband. — KA

National Chain Outdoor Outfitter

REI (1376 E. Woodmen Road, 260-1455, rei.com)

I developed a great fondness for the wonders of REI as a young man growing up in Seattle. I'd spend entire days wandering around the store, looking at tents, sleeping bags, skis, stoves, shells, fleece ... you get the picture. REI has almost every single outdoor product known to man, and the return policy is the best in the business. Plus, if you're a member, you can earn 10 percent back on eligible purchases, which makes buying that $500 tent a little easier. — KV

Local Outdoor Outfitter

Mountain Chalet (226 N. Tejon St., 633-0732, mtnchalet.com)

Whenever my mountain-climbing friend from Santa Fe comes for a visit, one mandatory stop is Mountain Chalet. Though he's climbed in Italy, Mexico and various places closer to home, my friend's trip wouldn't be complete without dropping in to the downtown Colorado Springs store, where he knows he'll find the latest and best in climbing gear, camping equipment, clothing and footwear, not to mention books, gift cards and food. If you want to take Fido on the trail with you, he should also do his shopping there — for leashes, toys and Ruffwear Bark'n Boots. If you need something for an outdoor lifestyle, look no further than Mountain Chalet, which captures this category for its fourth year running. — PZ

Musical Instrument Store

Graner Music (4460 Barnes Road, 574-2001 • 8674 N. Union Blvd., 579-7665 • granermusic.com)

When you walk into Graner Music, you're likely to see as many kids as adults. They might be waiting for a lesson, picking out the instrument they'll play in the school band, or just trying to hit that ever-elusive high note on the violin. For owner Michael Baker, this is exactly what a music store should be. "My passion is making sure that every kid who wants to make music has the tools to do that," Baker says. The store, packed with instruments ranging from drums to trombones, caters to all musicians but is built on the premise that everyone should have the opportunity to play. For Baker, it's not a business, but a relationship. The gift of music, as he sees it, "is something that a child might have their entire life. Our goal is to be a piece of that gift." — JK

Bargain Boon
Writer's Pick

The expansion of West Side Bargain Mart (3135 W. Colorado Ave., 685-4500)

"Almost every week," says Jim Krug, "I get a customer asking, 'How do I open up a store like this?' And I say, 'You can't — there's just not enough inventory out there.'" Luckily for local bargain-hunters, Krug got in while the getting was good. And using the connections he's made in his four years running West Side Bargain Mart, he expanded not once, but twice, in the past year. Krug now fills 12,000 square feet with not only dry goods and groceries — many of which are natural and/or organic — but also electronics, cosmetics, car-care products and much more. Through October, all clothes — which often include Calvin Klein and Columbia items — are on sale, at about 25 percent of market price. — KW

Garden Supply/Nursery

Rick's Garden Center (1827 W. Uintah St., 632-8491, ricksgarden.com)

or

Rick's Nursery (600 N. 18th St., 636-3085, ricksnursery.com)

Your average Best Of category has one winner, recognized for doing what it does better than any other. Luckily for seekers of shrubbery and lovers of laurels, two vendors of greenery goodness have earned our readers’ prestigious attention. It could be because they share a first name, though they’re actually separate businesses. It could be because both can boast of serving the community for more than 50 years. It’s also possible that it’s because both locations rival Cheyenne Cañon for their assortments of seeds, ground cover and perennials. Personally, I think it’s because we at the Indy have no idea who you’re trying to vote for. Whatever the answer may be, for help growing something green, visit a Rick’s near you. — BC

Place to Buy Motorcycles

Apex Sports (327 S. Weber St., 475-2437, apexsportsinc.com)

Early each morning, the folks at Apex Sports roll some impressive motorcycles and sports vehicles out into their parking lot, and each evening they roll most of them back. But in between, the shop buzzes with a loyal client base built up over nearly 50 years — 2010 marks Apex's golden anniversary. People come for parts, accessories, clothing and, of course, full lines of Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, KTM and Triumph bikes. You can also get yourself a shiny new sidecar, which is much cooler than your Burley Honey Bee bicycle trailer will ever be. — BF

Place to Buy Skateboards
Place to Buy Snowboards

Blindside (293 S. 21st St., 636-1554, blindsidecolorado.com)

In the 15 minutes I was in Blindside, three people walked in, and owner Jon Easdon knew them all. One wanted to show Easdon his new knee brace for the upcoming snowboard season. "Yup," Easdon said, "That's exactly what I've got." To say that Blindside is a business would not be untrue, but it wouldn't be correct, either. "We're in it for the love," says Easdon. "We go for that long-term relationship." With the most extensive supply of local brands in the city, fair prices and an undying commitment to every skater and rider, the shop is really more of a skate-and-ride community center than anything else. "We're here because we love it," says Easdon, and it's the attitude that makes the store. — JK

Place to Buy Skis

The Ski Shop (1422 S. Tejon St., 636-3355, theskishopinc.com)

"So many shops have forgotten how to thank customers for their service," Ski Shop owner Rick Uhl says. "Here, we take the time." The Ski Shop has been a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts since it first opened in 1952. Uhl's family bought the business in the early 1980s. "I turned my first screw in 1985," he says, veritably glowing with enthusiasm. Customers come to the Ski Shop every season for this kind of passion, but they also know this is the spot for the best equipment. "We have an incredible rapport with the [ski and snowboard] companies. When new stuff comes out, we don't have to carry their entire line. We can pick only the very best gear for our customers." — CB

Bike Shop

Old Town Bike Shop (426 S. Tejon St., 475-8589, oldtownbikeshop.com)

It's been a tough year for Old Town Bike Shop owner John Crandall. Back in May, a car hit him during a bike ride, leaving him with a broken femur, wrist and shoulder. His lengthy recovery got longer when a stumble damaged his knee and pushed back the time when he'll mount his bike again. But in spite of all that, and of a difficult economy that has slowed bike sales everywhere, business at Old Town is going strong. "The employees stepped up wonderfully," says Crandall, who's now back in the shop several afternoons a week to join them in offering a selection of quality bikes, top-notch repairs and expert advice. — AL

Place to Buy Scooters

Sportique Scooters (523 S. Tejon St., 442-0048, sportiquescooters.com)

About $2,400 will buy you a zippy little scooter at Sportique. These babies — they're so freaking cute, I gotta call them babies — get 70 to 90 mpg, park anywhere, and fly you through city traffic. J.B. Penner, one of Sportique's owners, seems awed by the store's 11-year success and fifth Best Of win. She laughs and says, "We were just a bunch of scooter riders when we started this place. We had nowhere to buy scoots or parts, or to get them worked on. We thought we could open a store that did all that and get more people to ride." The store now has multiple Colorado locations and a groovy Web site that boasts a forum for Zen and the Art of Scooter Maintenance types, plus a picture gallery for enthusiasts. — DS

New Domestic Car Dealer
Used Car Dealer

Phil Long (1212 Motor City Drive, 888/424-6136 • 1565 Auto Mall Loop, 266-3308 • myphillong.com)

Since the main category here is Best New Domestic Car Dealer, and the winner is Phil Long for the fifth time (and the fourth in five years), we're going to take a leap here and give the accolades to Phil Long Ford with its two locations, Motor City and Chapel Hills. As someone who's purchased two new Fords there myself, I can confirm that the dealership does its best to make sure customers don't feel overwhelmed by how big the operation is. It makes you feel comfortable, and doesn't try to push you into something you can't afford. And Phil Long wins the Best Used Car Dealer for good reason: When you sell so many new cars, your "pre-owned" inventory usually is strong as well. — RR

New Foreign Car Dealer

Heuberger Motors (1080 Motor City Drive, 475-1920, heubergermotors.com)

When you explore Heuberger Motors in "Motor City," it gradually becomes clear that this super-high-volume Subaru dealer actually makes up a good chunk of the neighborhood, filling hillside lots with sleek, all-wheel-drive wonders. It also becomes obvious why this dealership has been a favorite of readers five years in a row. The showroom at Heuberger is lively and fun, which certainly has something to do with the barista on hand who ensures you browse fully caffeinated. Plus, the sales folks back their big smiles with a pretty good pitch: Subarus are ideal cars for cruising Colorado's winter playground. — AL

Mechanic

Import Specialty Auto (2348 E. Boulder St., 633-3075, isarepair.com)

Most everyone thinks they're a mechanic. And, sure, you can probably tell the difference between a crescent wrench and a torque wrench. But could you replace a mass airflow sensor blindfolded, with one arm tied behind your back? Import Specialty Auto's three mechanics probably could, but they'd never chance it; they care too much for the Volvos, Volkswagens and Audis they service. And for the people who own them. "We develop a long-term relationship with our customers," says ISA's Kevin Jones. "We also have expertise in import cars, rather than trying to work on all the cars out there." So chances are, when you get your car back from these guys, you'll truly be on your way. And you can let your own wrenches lie. — KAK

National Chain Hotel/Motel

Marriott (5580 Tech Center Drive, 260-1800, marriott.com)

Our Marriott not only offers a great view of the Rockies, but also many high-caliber amenities, including guest rooms equipped with dual-screen plasma TVs; a 7,000 square-foot ballroom perfect for meetings, weddings and reunions; Southwestern dining at Zebulon's Grill and Tequileria; a complimentary shuttle service; and easy access to hiking at Garden of the Gods and Ute Valley Park. The only downside to this: no pets allowed. But I don't see them appreciating all the luxury, anyway. — KAK

Local Bed & Breakfast

Old Town GuestHouse (115 S. 26th St., 632-9194, oldtown-guesthouse.com)

Here's the key to operating the perfect bed & breakfast: You must be psychic. That seems to be the secret behind the success of Old Town GuestHouse, where assistant innkeeper Kim Abels says, "We try to meet our guests' needs before they know they have any." Old Town was built in 1996 and designed to fit in with its surroundings in Old Colorado City. But its interior is hardly old-fashioned. Each room is decorated in a different theme ("African Orchid," for example), and four of the eight rooms set guests up for romance with private hot tubs and fireplaces. — DA

Green Business

Envi (12 S. 25th St., 352-7818, envi.biz)

It's almost inevitable that Envi would win the Best Green Business title, and not just because of our color-emotion assignments. Envi, in fact, now specializes in recycled, reinvented and repurposed clothes and décor. "It's funny, because I don't think we started out trying to be green," says co-owner Marci Featherstone, "but it just kind of evolved that way." Today, Marci and her husband Garry work with nearly 40 craftspeople who create unique jewelry, affordable artwork and creative clothing, including skirts made from men's shirts. "We have three kids, so we definitely want to save our environment for them," Featherstone says. She adds: "Everybody, not only store owners, but everybody, needs to think how they can reuse something other than just throwing it in the garbage. It's amazing what you can make out of junk, really." — EA

Place to Get Lost in (Full-Price) Yarn
Writer's Pick

Table Rock Llamas Fiber Arts Studio & the DyeWorks (6520 Shoup Road, Black Forest, 495-7747, tablerockllamas.com)

Enter Table Rock Llamas Fiber Arts Studio & the DyeWorks and, if you're a fiber craft freak of any sort, you're in paradise. Baskets of hand-dyed-on-site wools in all colors of the rainbow, hangings of lusciously soft hanks, stacks of how-to books and patterns, dye kits, wheels and looms. Table Rock has it all at decent prices for your purchasing pleasure, plus a second building out back designated for classes that range from cabling and felting to wool dyeing with natural extracts and silk spinning. No llamas on site, but plenty of yarn to pet. — KA

Place to Get Lost in (Discount) Yarn
Writer's Pick

Yarn Outlet (416 S. Eighth St., 227-3665)

Walking out of the Yarn Outlet without something to add to your stash is next to impossible. The one-year-old strip-mall shop sports floor-to-ceiling shelves and plastic bins filled to the brim with overstock, past seasons' styles and remains — all at prices up to 70 percent off the originals. The store also stocks a small collection of needles, hooks and other notions at reduced prices. Make the Yarn Outlet a regular stop when project shopping; your wallet will thank you for it. And on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m., or Mondays from 10:30 a.m. to noon, drop by for the store's open knit (and/or crochet) sessions to meet and hang out with others who have similar yarn obsessions. — KA

National Chain Store for CDs/DVDs
Computer Repair

Best Buy (3150 New Center Point, 597-9519 • 7675 N. Academy Blvd., 593-0414 • bestbuy.com)

When the first solo album in two decades from Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley was released last month, I was torn between camping overnight outside Wal-Mart (whose exclusive edition included a temporary tattoo!) or Best Buy (which got dibs on the version printed on silver stock, à la Kiss' Double Platinum album). So I just stayed home. But it's interesting to note that artists are still bowing to the blue-and-yellow behemoth and its big-box brethren, entities that were once expected to run real record stores out of business. (The Internet, of course, beat them to the punch.) Best Buy's entertainment focus means you can actually find a deeper catalog than just the latest Mariah Carey and True Blood discs sufficient for the Wal-Marts of the World. Another advantage: At Best Buy, you can also get your iTunes-laden laptop, or even your iPod, serviced by the crack technicians of the much-loved Geek Squad. Lastly, and as importantly, you can look really stupid playing The Beatles: Rock Band in front of a bunch of strangers. — BF

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