Despite all the wonders of Internet shopping, there are some experiences it can't replicate. Like walking city sidewalks amid twinkling lights and cold winter winds, ducking into a warm store foyer and getting a smile from someone who's genuinely happy to serve you.
We're not loaded with traditional shopping districts in the Colorado Springs area, but the three we do have are changing all the time. And if you're like most people, you probably haven't been able to keep up with all the new stores that have arrived in the past year or so.
Here's a quick rundown of what you may have missed — and where you may want to spend some time this holiday season.
Sadly, storefront closings are racking up greater numbers this year than openings in downtown Colorado Springs. Since January we've seen lights turned off at places like LuLu and the 31-year-old Silent Woman store. And Idorü, Elgin Edwards Clothiers and the 54-year-old Bryan and Scott Jewelers are all in the midst of going-out-of-business sales (which means you might still pick up a few great deals if you hop to it — Idorü closes Dec. 5, Elgin Edwards the final week in December, and Bryan and Scott as soon as their building sells).
That said, in addition to the usual smattering of downtown stalwarts such as Terra Verde, Mountain Chalet and Sparrowhawk Gourmet Cookware, there have been three notable additions, a pair of changes you should know about, and one temporary sale that could help you fill out your holiday gift list this year.
First up, Republic of Paws (129 N. Wahsatch Ave., republicofpaws.com). The tiny but well-stocked shop, which opened in August, offers pet owners a way to pamper their furries. Owner Molly Smith says some of her best-sellers are the Planet Dog or Go Dog toys — I recommend the Go Dogs with Chew Guard for the extra-enthusiastic pups in your life — the Sherpa's Pet Trading Co.'s travel carriers and the Cloak & Dawggie winter parkas.
And aside from a bag of organic treats, what does Smith think is the perfect stocking stuffer? "Every dog can use a new collar. It's like a necklace, right?" she says, with a laugh.
Next, Ellie K Boutique (230 N. Tejon St., elliekboutique.com). Stocked with upscale women's clothes, accessories and jewelry since September, Ellie K also provides a warm and inviting environment in which to take a breather from the holiday craziness outside. You may have a hard time not shopping for yourself when you see the racks of Rock Revival and True Religion jeans and Cop-Copine clothing, but what's a holiday without one or two pre-purchased gifts for you?
And just Monday, Cottonwood Center for the Arts debuted Cottonwood on Tejon (8 S. Tejon St., cottonwoodcenterforthearts.com) which makes purchasing wares from more than 30 artists a whole lot easier. The storefront, located near the southwest corner of Pikes Peak Avenue and Tejon Street, and open seven days a week, is filled with everything from oil paintings and jewelry to stained glass and nude sculpture.
Formerly Home Lighting, the renamed At Home (624 N. Tejon St., 471-3511) has added more to its lineup than, well, lighting. What used to be a shop packed to the gills with lights and fixtures, is now a pleasantly decorated space that's added art, home accessories, a "Women on the Rocks" section (clothes, jewelry, etc.) and an aptly named "Fido's Fashion" area.
Even though Richard Skorman closed down the Conservation Hardware storefront in January, he moved a good-sized display into the front of Poor Richard's Book Store (320 N. Tejon St., poorrichards.biz). You'll find stocking stuffers for the ecologically minded members of your family, such as the Kill a Watt Meter, the Furnace Filter Whistle, and my personal favorite, the True Green Laundry Dryer Balls.
And finally, where Conservation Hardware used to be (409 N. Tejon St.), savvy shoppers will find the temporary but beloved Girls Just Want to Have Fun sale. In its third year, the sale, run by Rachel T. Wescott & Associates, Inc., offers brands such as White House Black Market, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Elie Tahari for 50 to 75 percent off their ticketed price. They haven't set a closing date yet; they'll be open until the stock runs out; according to staff, likely mid-December. — Kirsten Akens
Old Colorado City
If you can't find holiday gifts in Old Colorado City, you're not trying hard enough. In the past year, the community has welcomed a handful of new shops, and each offers unique small gifts, stocking stuffers and holiday accoutrements.
As you approach D-n-D Ranch Aromas (2616 W. Colorado Ave., #1, dndrancharomas.com), the scent of candles being made on site waft out to greet you. The shop, which relocated from South Tejon in May, offers votives, tea lights, and 6- and 8-ounce candles.
"We have over 100 fragrances," owner Michelle Duncan says, "and 31 are appropriate for winter and Christmas."
Another great-smelling stop is Organica Herb & Tea Co. (12 S. 25th St., 344-3213). Owner Clara Paulson, who opened her brick-and-mortar shop in April after running an online-only business for years, suggests giving 1-ounce tins with samples of her 500-plus varieties of tea.
Other unexpected small gifts could come from Kathleen McFadden's Range Gallery (2428 W. Colorado Ave., longshotphotography.com). McFadden, of course, displays the large, Americana-style photographs she's renowned for, but she also offers cards and prints of her film-based work.
"The cards are $3.50, the mat and frame cost $25," says McFadden, who moved the gallery from Manitou Springs in May. "So for $28.50, you get a little piece of art to hang on the wall."
Domino (10 S. 25th St., domino80904.com) is another store offering products — "salvaged décor and modern wares," to be precise — that will add color and personality to your home. Some of it is holiday-centric, like disco ball ornaments and recycled products including laser-cut cardboard trees. But in their chic space, accented with local art, Jason and LauraAnne Martin sell random homewares ranging from clocks to Kidrobot toys, and even offer design consulting services to customers.
Just around the corner at A Call to Life (2502 W. Colorado Ave., acalltolife.com), owner Laura Thompson says business has been brisk since the boutique opened in August. Maybe because "women just love cute, fun little hats," to say nothing of red and green stockings.
"In this economy, a lot of women have chosen to — instead of updating their wardrobe with whole new outfits, they buy accessories," she says.
If you're buying for a foodie, consider a basket (or plate) of treats from Gotta' Love It! Kitchen (2521 W. Colorado Ave.). Items range from tiny festive cupcakes and giant cookies to scone mixes and gourmet sausages.
And finally, a couple fair trade options. Green Field (2423 3/4 W. Colorado Ave., green-field.us), which opened in April, offers goods such as ornaments, jewelry, purses, toys, and stone and wood carvings, all at surprisingly reasonable prices.
Just a block away, Yobel Market (2528B W. Colorado Ave., yobelmarket.com) may be the only store around that sells both bracelets and bricks — the latter which are for sale to help build a school in Uganda. Donavan Kennedy and Sarah Ray stock their store with fair-trade products from 14 nations, mainly in Asia and Africa. They've also built a website that's a great introduction to the fair-trade concept, and a gateway into getting involved with furthering the cause. — Rhonda Van Pelt
Tina Felker can make a $3 bouquet, or a huge assortment of yellow and orange flowers that comes with a "Happy Birthday" balloon the size of a large TV. But the family-run Manitou Floral (1007 Manitou Ave., 635-4026, fabfloral.com) is more than a flower shop.
A stop in to the two-month-old location reveals wonders acquired by Tina's husband, Kevin, at various hotel and estate sales. Vintage gold and pearl jewelry, Betty Boop collectibles, Christmas ornaments and a collection of antique record players are only some of the collectibles to be discovered.
And if you want to get artsy for an especially thoughtful gift, Manitou's only florist also sells flowers by the stem, so you can design your own bouquet or use the flowers to create a unique keepsake.
Moving to flowers that aren't flowers: Carrie Dunlap opened Notes in Bloom (by appointment, 617½ Manitou Ave., 303/910-0027, notesinbloom.com) last May after about two years of creating intricate paper flower bouquets out of her home for family, friends and word-of-mouth clients.
"It started with doing them for my mom's wedding," and detachable centerpieces that doubled as favors, Dunlap says. "The keepable blossoms pull off, so when you're done with the arrangement they can be turned into something else." One woman used the blossoms on her baby arrangement to make a mobile for the baby's crib, for instance.
Dunlap will create holiday place-settings, party favors and bouquets designed around gifts you bring her. Local incentive: If you bring an item purchased locally for embellishment, you get 10 percent off, and $1 off for each stem returned.
Speaking of handmade crafts, artisan olive oil "isn't just for foodies," says an employee at The Olive Tap (906 Manitou Ave., #103, 358-9329, theolivetap.com), open since May. "It's for anybody that likes cooking, anybody that likes good quality."
About two dozen mini-kegs of olive oil line both sides of a counter, each with a description card and stack of tasting cups. The shelves underneath hold the empty glass bottles that employees can fill for you, should you choose a worthy nectar, and an array of sample-friendly balsamic vinegars lines the opposite wall. Fresh olive samples sit at the ready; small appetizer and dipping dishes are stacked in sets; and if you can't find what you want amid gift baskets of oils, vinegars, dips and dishes, you can buy spices, marinades, soup mixes and blue cheese-stuffed green olives à la carte.
And finally, for those who are less interested in crafts than crampons: Mountain High Sportswear (956 Manitou Ave., 344-9357) carries Columbia and North Face clothing, hiking shoes, water bottles, eco-friendly Haiku handbags and more. You'll also find some tourist trinkets, but assistant manager Janet Frank says the outfit wants to cater to locals: "They don't have to go to the east side [of Colorado Springs] anymore to get outdoor wear." — Bree Abel