With the economy trying to recover from a half-decade of hardship, little is better for your community than shopping local. Downtown Colorado Springs has a wide variety of native shops supplying everything you'll ever need, and certainly plenty that you just want. Whatever the case, here are a few great spots to stimulate the creative mind, caffeinate the weary body, and lighten the fattened wallet.
When you go looking for an instrument at Tejon Street Music (330 N. Tejon St., tejonstreetmusic.com) you'll see an acoustic smorgasbord of handcrafted delectables. I'm talking ukuleles, guitars, mandolins, banjos ... all adding to the sweet smell of wooden instruments in a humidified room. The store has been in the Ramsey family for more than 35 years, and at any given time is home to around 150 acoustic instruments.
If you're not ready to buy an instrument, just take a short walk over to Meeker Music (113 E. Bijou St., meekermusic.com), where you can rent an array of orchestral and band instruments until you're committed to sticking with one (or more) of them. Don't hesitate to dive into the sheet music, either.
Rather just listen than play? Independent Records & Video (123 E. Bijou St., beindependent.com) has all sorts of vinyl, CDs and movies. If somehow you don't find what you're looking for here, head to the Leechpit (802 N. Nevada Ave., leechpit.com), where former Indy music columnist Adam Leech vows to "Keep Colorado Springs Lame" with a ramshackle of vinyl records, vintage clothing, geeky figurines, hobo nickels and who the hell knows what else. Finally, don't forsake other secondhand and antique stores in this area, including the Treasure Shoppe (324 E. Pikes Peak Ave., treasureshoppecs.com) and the Antique Gallery(117 S. Wahsatch Ave., 633-6070).
Switching art forms for a moment, Meininger Art Supply (201 S. Weber St., meininger.com) teems with more than 80,000 items covering every form of visual art you can think of. The online store somehow offers even more.
Artistic and unique in different ways is Zeezo's (104 N. Tejon St., zeezos.com), a year-round costume shop and Springs staple since 1974. Owners Mark and Jessica Modeer will be more than happy to help you pick out a costume for that Halloween party in April.
If the occasion is more formal, Rutledge's (102 N. Tejon St., rutledges.com) has several of the most renowned custom made Italian and American men's clothing collections, including hats from Robert Graham, and Oxford Clothes' handmade suits from its shop in Chicago.
Ladies can look to Terra Verde(208 N. Tejon St., terraverdestyle.com), a perennial winner in the Indy's Best Of poll for fashion and accessories. It's also taken top spots in both the Over-the-Top and Inexpensive gifts categories — think bamboo toy motorcycles for the kids, Library of Flowers lotion for your sister, and Circa Asia bowls for your chef uncle — which they'll wrap, free, for you.
Prefer your clothes and accoutrements with a vintage vibe? Try Sabi(330 N. Institute St., 471-4237). With its local-art-lined walls (and openings every second Friday of the month), this shop features well-priced funky and fine resale items, along with steampunk and retro oddities. As much a nod to bygone eras as current "rethinking" is a section of the store dedicated to Anna's Apothecary, a local company that uses Front Range herbs to produce natural and organic remedies for what ails you.
A more recent triumph of local ingenuity can be found at CJ's Unique Boutique (107 N. Tejon St., cjsuniqueboutique.com). Just a few years after her homemade diaper cream went from word-of-mouth phenomenon to international retail product, CJ Miller got to set up shop in her hometown. CJ's all-natural "BUTTer" is still the thing, but the boutique itself now sells clothing, hats and other "stuff you can't find anywhere else."
Clothing is about the only thing you won't find in spades at the Poor Richard's emporium (320-324½ N. Tejon St., poorrichardsdowntown.com), which includes Rico's Café and Wine Bar, Little Richard's Toystore, Poor Richard's Bookstore and Poor Richard's Restaurant. Former vice mayor and enduring local celebrity Richard Skorman composed this arrangement of storefronts, beginning with a bookstore that went on to sell pizza, 35 years ago. The hip-looking crowds will attest: It's as cool as it sounds.
Our city's put down dozens of miles of new bike lanes in recent years, and new pedalers will be amply rewarded here. As Ernest Hemingway said, "It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them."
To score a bike downtown, go to Old Town Bike Shop (426 S. Tejon St., oldtownbikeshop.com). You'll get good deals, and assistance from an informative staff of fellow bikers. It's the place with the penny-farthing out front.
As long as you're heading south on Tejon, don't miss Mountain Equipment Recyclers(1005 S. Tejon St., merecyclers.com), for the gently used and wonderfully priced stuff you'll need to hike, hitch, board, ski or ride. For new equipment, head back north a mile or so to one of Colorado's oldest outdoor equipment shops, Mountain Chalet(226 N. Tejon St., mtnchalet.com).
Since we're talking about physical activity, it's time to talk refreshments. Downtown Fine Spirits and Wines (103 S. Wahsatch Ave., dtnfspiritsandwines.com), opened a few months ago, and boasts a huge selection of craft beers from around the country, as well as most of the native Colorado brews. A wine-tasting room is in the works. Don't forget to give Vintages Wine & Spirits (9 S. Tejon St., vintageswines.com) a look, too. It's a small store, but they have a quality selection, and use the space in a creative fashion.
Other specialty consumables can be had at the newly expanded Old West Cigar Company (225 E. Pikes Peak Ave., smokeme.com), which stocks more than 100 premium and boutique cigar brands; the Candy Bar (124 N. Tejon St., 434-7325) and Pikes Peak Chocolate (125½ N. Tejon St., pikespeakchocolate.com), both of which offer a giant assortment of all kinds of candy, treats and toys; Venice Olive Oil Co. (109 N. Tejon St., veniceoliveoil.com), which brags 23 different kinds of flavor-infused and extra virgin olive oils, as well as 25 balsamic vinegars; and Savory Spice Shop(110 N. Tejon St., savoryspiceshop.com), where hand-mixed spice blends and extracts abound.
Of course once you've got those oils and spices on hand, you'll need a way to use them. The 34-year-old Sparrow Hawk Gourmet Cookware (120 N. Tejon St., sparrowhawkcookware.com) bills itself as a "toystore for foodies," and we'd agree — it's a panoply of color and variety that feeds every professional and wanna-be chef's cravings. If you get lost among the tightly stacked shelves, just give a holler for Koda. The owner's furry "whoodle" will be happy to herd you and your items straight to the register.