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East shopping

Think outside (and inside) the big boxes

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Out east, where "buying local" can be a challenge, "buying creative" is no problem at all.

Everyone knows Asian Pacific Market (615 Wooten Road, #160, 573-7500) is the place for obscure produce, cheap Ataulfo mangos and 80 square feet of frozen seafood. But what about unique birthday party decorations, co-worker gifts or bridal shower finds? A Saturday morning spree turned up prettily packaged oolong-infused candied plums, gorgeous live dahlias, funky printed joss paper and Thai votive candles, and a few eye-catching kitchen tools.

For those feeding foodie aspirations on the cheap, Extreme Bargains (2727 Palmer Park Blvd., #300, 448-0757) combines the fun of gourmet shopping with the thrill of a rummage sale. You'll find deep discounts on grocery store staples as well as Mighty Leaf tea, Larabars, and blood orange bitters that make a kickass Old Fashioned.

If you're looking for other ways to keep your dollars in the local economy, Lorig's (15 N. Union Blvd., lorigscolorado.com) or Big R (14155 E. Hwy. 24, Peyton, bigronline.com) will happily sell you two-pound belt buckles and other Western wear. But you're probably going to wind up back among the Powers Boulevard chains sooner or later.

Whole Foods Market is one of the better alternatives here, since it sources its produce and many retail items from local producers. At the 3180 New Center Point site, look for Love+Toast, a blithe, breezy scent and body product line out of Boulder. And you might as well visit Cost Plus World Market (2985 New Center Point, worldmarket.com). Whether you're a candy connoisseur, an accessories maven or a home-decor hound, the part of you that likes to think you're Elizabeth Gilbert will love this place.

Just up the road, a recent trip to Costco (5885 Barnes Road, costco.com) recently turned up the mother of all bridesmaid gifts. A staffer at the liquor store, which doesn't require a Costco membership to get in, cheerfully divulged that she'd given each of her wedding party a bottle of Bitch South Australian grenache ($9). It comes in a delightfully girly pink-labeled bottle with a cheerful hearts 'n daggers motif.

If you're digging the "bitch" theme, the massive Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store (3795 Bloomington St., joann.com) is your next stop. Pick up a copy of Stitch 'N Bitch by Debbie Stoller: With patterns for holographic alien scarves as well as the obligatory seed-stitch bikini, it's guaranteed to make you love knitting no matter how young, over-the-DIY-trend or masculine you are.

You can call your friends childish, but that's probably a compliment at the Imagination Space at Citadel Mall (750 Citadel Drive East, 597-3344). The all-ages venue provides free hands-on activities ... but also sells dragon hats! And if that doesn't win your alienated bitchy friends over, well, there's always The Couture Cupcake Company (3347 Cinema Point, springscupcakes.com). Nothing says "sorry" like a tower of strawberry cheesecake cupcakes.

Other stores with East locations: Discover Goodwill retail center (2655 Waynoka Place); Independent Records & Video (3030 E. Platte Ave.); Lucy's Consignment Paradise (3373 N. Academy Blvd.).

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