The north side offers plenty of opportunity to exercise your good taste and your pocketbook at the same time.
I'm reluctant to divulge this, my secret weapon against showing up giftless to last-minute birthday parties, but Retrospect Dry Goods (251 Front St., #8, Monument, retrodrygoods.com) is too good not to share. With Mad Men-esque dresses, Star Trek memorabilia, nostalgia-inducing candy and soda, and old-school-cool tchotchkes of every description, there's almost no one who wouldn't get a grin out of a present from the past.
Just a few doors down, the newly opened Keepsakes Unlimited (251 Front St., #12, 487-1647) offers the real thing: Vintage comic books vie for space with lovely old textiles, blue glass Mason jars and slightly terrifying kitchen implements from the days of yore.
As for the future, Historic Monument also now offers a destination for your favorite oenophile or home brew enthusiast. Longtime north side favorite High Country Home & Garden (243 Washington St., highcountryhg.com) is becoming Hi Country Homebrew, following the owners' passion for home wine- and beer-making. The nursery and garden center is gone, though you can still snap up some killer deals on remaining garden supplies, but the space will be a fully operational winery by November, with grapes sourced from California and Colorado.
Speaking of a new winery, I can't help but think of the most gorgeous birthday gift I received last year: a set of tumblers from local upcycling company Wine Punts (winepunts.com). Never has drinking your wine straight from the bottle looked so elegant. The Springs-based company (run by a former Independent employee) sells its wares directly from its website.
Just down the street from Hi Country Homebrew is Margo's on the Alley (253 Washington St., margosonthealley.com), housed in one of the quirky, tiny cottages that dot the historic side of town. The venue suits its well-curated mix of vintage and faux-vintage home décor, women's apparel and gifts. For a chic hostess gift, choose a selection of the pretty soy candles in tall glass tumblers, which come in scents like Moroccan spice and fresh-cut grass.
Back on Front Street, the Bead Corner (251 Front St., beadcorneronline.com) is a gold mine for those looking for exclusive high-quality focal pieces and other beading supplies, or a ready-made gift that comes with free good karma. The shop is a hub for three different supported employment programs for adults with developmental disabilities, who make and sell their work under the FLY Program label in the retail portion of the space along with other local jewelry artists. It also offers crafting help and free classes.
A few steps away, Frog on a Limb Primitives (341 Front St., frogonalimb.com/in_monument) provides another chance to do some socially conscious consumption, offering locally sourced gifts, décor and food with a log-cabin-folksy vibe. Frog is also behind the Shop Local Monument page on Facebook (facebook.com/ShopLocalMonument), a trove of non-chain retail options in the 80132 ZIP code. Speaking of log cabins, Black Forest's Table Rock Llamas Fiber Arts (6520 Shoup Road, tablerockllamas.com) seems to come straight out of a frontier trading post, with rich-dyed Paraguayan skeins and bundles of raw buffalo wool.
Personally, I'd rather make a steal than a shawl. So wild horses couldn't keep me away from the April 13 opening of the Sephora store, the cult beauty chain's first local location, at the Promenade Shops at Briargate (1885 Briargate Pkwy., thepromenadeshopsatbriargate.com). The Promenade Shops make a strong alternative to the venerable Chapel Hills Mall (1710 Briargate Blvd., chapelhillsmall.com), with wide sidewalks, sunny storefronts, outdoor speakers blasting peppy music, and the locally owned, fashion-forward Lucy & Louise Atelier (635-2077).
The north side Discover Goodwill Southern and Western Colorado retail store (1070 Kelly Johnson Blvd., goodwill-colosprings.org) offers more for those who prefer the thrill of the hunt and bang-for-the-buck over shiny presentation. It might not be local and it certainly takes the quirk factor out of thrift shopping, but nothing can steal the satisfaction of a gorgeous $5 find.
Over on the Nevada corridor, among the chains in University Village (5201 N. Nevada Ave., uvcshopping.com), you can also find some great bargains at XS Threadz (xsthreadz.com), a family-owned and -operated secondhand shop for name-brand clothing.
If you have to have it new, there are still other options that won't break the bank. The Academy corridor offers plenty, including the fun Chef Sugar's (6942 N. Academy Blvd., chefsugar.com) for those who like their gifts edible rather than wearable. One of the best-kept secrets in the outdoor gear world is the new GoLite (7160 N. Academy Blvd., golite.com) store. The Boulder-based company sells high-performance gear that's "lite on the planet."
We can't miss mentioning one of the newest spots to open on the north end, cafe velo (11550 Ridgeline Drive, #102, cafevelobikes.com). As half the name indicates, this shop features bicycles — road, triathlon and endurance MTB — cycling accessories, and mechanics on staff to care for your bikes. The other half of the name refers to the in-house coffee shop. One tune-up and a latte, please!
Other stores with North locations: Arc Thrift Store (4402 Austin Bluffs Pkwy.); Christal's (3737 Austin Bluffs Pkwy.); Colorado Running Company (9275 N. Union Blvd., #120); Costco (5050 N. Nevada Ave.); Meeker Music (3604 Hartsel Drive); Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage (7690 N. Academy Blvd.); Veda Salon & Spa (7443 N. Academy Blvd.; 5182 N. Nevada Ave.); Wag N' Wash (1234 E. Woodmen Road); Whole Foods Market (7635 N. Academy Blvd.).