When thinking about shopping at locally owned stores, many downtown and west-side residents tend to dismiss the east side. And snap judgments are understandable, given the Powers Boulevard corridor's notoriety as Chain Store City.
After all, there you can find Hobby Lobby, Bed Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, Kohl's, JC Penney, Lowe's, Costco, Ross, Target, Pier 1 Imports, Party City, PetSmart, Petco, Staples and on and on.
But the east side also offers little shops, locally owned, that provide alternatives. For instance: While the biggest craft-supply stores like Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, and Michaels have a looming presence, why not try Ruth's Stitchery (4440 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., ruthsstitchery.com) instead?
You can score plants, bulbs and fertilizer from the mega-retailers, such as the one that starts with W, but why not go to home-owned places like Phelan Gardens (4955 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., phelangardens.com) and Harding Nursery (721 N. Powers Blvd., hardingnursery.com)? Both create a world of their own.
Harding Nursery was started by Bill Harding with a few evergreen trees in 1957. Now, the main nursery covers 12 acres and features everything from tiny ceramic birds to yard art, wind chimes, glazed pots and other decorative pieces as well as a vast expanse of trees, shrubs and other plants. A cast aluminum buck that stands at least six feet high can be yours for $425. Open year-round, Harding teaches free classes in such topics as vegetable gardening, perennial gardening and Xeriscaping. Phelan Gardens, too, has history, dating to 1981, and goes well beyond greenhouses to offer landscaping help, gardening advice and décor galore.
For those with a penchant for recycling, the east side offers a goodly share of secondhand stores, starting with Arc Thrift Store (4402 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., arcthrift.com) and its perpetual churn of housewares, knick-knacks, clothing and other goods. There's also Goodwill Retail Center East (2655 Waynoka Place, discovermygoodwill.org), Salvation Army Family Store (3955 Tutt Blvd., salvationarmy.org) and Encore Consignment Shop (2218 E. Pikes Peak Ave., encoreconsigners.com), where the merchandise is "Always Affordable, Always in Style." Independent Records & Video (3030 E. Platte Ave., beindependent.com) sells both new and used media.
For a step back in time, check out the mother of all antique stores, American Classics Marketplace (1815 N. Academy Blvd., americanclassicsmarketplace.com). This place, filled by 300-plus vendors, is crammed with stuff: rhinestone jewelry, Christmas decorations, furniture, dishes, doilies, books and even toys, such as a vintage Tonka fire engine that was an eye-catcher.
Farther north by a few blocks you'll find Laura Lee's Teas (2367 N. Academy Blvd., lauraleesteas.com), which stocks more than a hundred teas and dozens of coffees. Nearly next door is Bridal Elegance (2415 N. Academy Blvd., bridal-elegance.com), celebrating 30-plus years in business, and Frank's All Billiards Pro Shop (2417 N. Academy Blvd., franksallbilliards.com), which has been taking aim since 1976.
Speaking of billiards, the east side is rich in sporting goods options, including old standbys such as Dick's and Big 5. But if you're a runner who's interested in personal attention, try Boulder Running Company (3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., boulderrunningcompany.com), where a special treadmill helps the staff analyze your stride and the shoes have names like Boston, Glide and Pegasus. Conversely, let loose your inner biker at Wild Side Biker Stuff & Apparel (3609 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., wildsidebikerstuff.com), where Cody and Michelle Christensen are just setting up shop with a complete line of leather jackets, vests, pants and boots.
On Powers proper, in the belly of the big-box beast, you can wander into Wildflower Florist and Gifts (2916 N. Powers Blvd., wildflowercolospgs.com), a family-owned business that just celebrated 20 years in Colorado Springs. There, find a selection of vases, candles and other odds and ends, including plant picks for 59 cents each. Nearby is Moretti Jewelers (2860 N. Powers Blvd., morettijewelers.com), which has been around since 1981 and prides itself on an old-school approach to jewelry-making.
And finally, if you're looking for adventure of the Walter Mitty variety, try navigating the crowded aisles stacked with new and used books at Hooked on Books (3918 Maizeland Road, 596-1621).