Writer's Pick: Best Bargain Boon, the expansion of West Side Bargain Mart
"Almost every week," says Jim Krug, "I get a customer asking, 'How do I open up a store like this?' And I say, 'You can't — there's just not enough inventory out there.'" Luckily for local bargain-hunters, Krug got in while the getting was good. And using the connections he's made in his four years running West Side Bargain Mart, he expanded not once, but twice, in the past year. Krug now fills 12,000 square feet with not only dry goods and groceries — many of which are natural and/or organic — but also electronics, cosmetics, car-care products and much more. Through October, all clothes — which often include Calvin Klein and Columbia items — are on sale, at about 25 percent of market price. — Kirk Woundy
Best Of 2011: Antique Store
'Treasures' abound in this picker's paradise. Manager Shirley Hernandez remembers a man who came in last year and bought "a picture." He later came back to share some news with the store's employees: His "picture" had turned out to be an unsigned Picasso worth a bundle. (Hey, that's his story ...) With 145 vendor booths and prices ranging from $500 on the high end (for an antique trunk) to 25 cents (for a toy), the store aims to have something for everyone. There's a café area with free tea and coffee, and a customer request book for shoppers who are looking for something specific. Among the collectibles, clothing and kitsch, look for "mantiques": Here you'll find a booth for fellas only, stuffed with swords, tools and beer paraphernalia. — Lynn Jacobs
Best Of 2013: Place to Buy a Thoughtful, Over-the-Top Gift
Best Of 2013: Place to Buy a Thoughtful, Inexpensive Gift
Best Of 2013: Store for Accessories
Best Of 2013: Non-chain Store for Women's Fasions
Terra Verde's 1,200 scarves are just the beginning. While clothing and jewelry are the best-sellers, this perennial favorite stocks everything from leather boots to bamboo bowls and kids' toys. Inventory is always changing to appeal to the frequent shoppers who make Terra Verde their go-to for gifts both modest and marvelous. Gift-wrapping is free, and owner Chris Sondermann says, "I make sure that when someone receives a gift from Terra Verde, the presentation has a big 'wow' factor." Canine companions are welcome and may sniff out the dog bones under the counter while you're busy smelling the aromatic candles and scented soap, or admiring a pair of pink Boston terrier flannel pajamas. — Darcie Mankell
Insider Guide 2010
For 45 years, locals have found their way to Mill Outlet and its yards and yards of fabric. Hidden in the warehouse district off Fillmore Street, Mill Outlet's frills are to be found inside the building, from basic cottons to bridal silks, upholstery tweed to ticking and tassels. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and helpful — whether you're working on a quilt, a suit or a burlesque costume.
The "discount" building materials here, checked for quality upon intake, are really worth a closer look for those into do-it-yourself home repairs and updates.
Best Green Business
It's almost inevitable that Envi would win the Best Green Business title, and not just because of our color-emotion assignments. Envi, in fact, now specializes in recycled, reinvented and repurposed clothes and décor. "It's funny, because I don't think we started out trying to be green," says co-owner Marci Featherstone, "but it just kind of evolved that way." Today, Marci and her husband Garry work with nearly 40 craftspeople who create unique jewelry, affordable artwork and creative clothing, including skirts made from men's shirts. "We have three kids, so we definitely want to save our environment for them," Featherstone says. She adds: "Everybody, not only store owners, but everybody, needs to think how they can reuse something other than just throwing it in the garbage. It's amazing what you can make out of junk, really." — Edie Adelstein
Best Of 2013: Ethnic Market
The last time I wandered San Francisco's Chinatown, I felt like I'd walked into a different country. Visiting the Asian Pacific Market can have a similar effect, only instead of very crowded streets, you'll find roomy aisles and, thankfully, many English translations. Marvel over ingredients common to Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Japanese and other international cuisines, or just pick up some fish sauce, tamarind paste and rice noodles to get quickly on your way to pad Thai. There are also plenty of sweets and snacks, such as fish-flavored and kimchi crackers, green tea ice cream and durian candy. — Darcie Mankell
Best of 2013: Local Brewery
Last month, founder Mike Bristol told us that since Bristol Brewing Company expanded into Ivywild School, beer sales have jumped to 2½ times the volume for these same months in recent years. Meanwhile, his wholesale distribution has grown by 30 percent. But rather than going all Scrooge McDuck inside his golden-grain-filled, vault-like new brewhouse, Bristol and his team continue to be big philanthropists. Their Community Ales series generates roughly $60,000 annually for area nonprofit endeavors, while another $100,000-plus heads toward in-kind donations for hundreds of local events. Point being: Bristol cares about the community that cares about it, and that reciprocal lovin' is built on the back of a tremendously solid flagship beer line of lauded labels like Laughing Lab, Red Rocket and Mass Transit. — Matthew Schniper
Best Of 2013: Local Microbrew to Drink in Summer
It's easy enough to understand Colorado Springs' all-consuming desire for Beehive. Bristol Brewing Company's epic session beer incorporates local honey into a light grain bill, making for one of the easiest-drinking beers around. Beehive is easily paired to perfection, but it's also ideal for consuming alone on said hot summer day, when a "lawnmower" beer is called for and that wisp of pollen in the air inspires cravings of bee-borne, liquid goodness.— Matthew Schniper
Best Of 2013: Local Microbrew to Drink in Winter
A cold, refreshing beer on a summer day? A no-brainer. But even the warm-weather lovers among us can agree that one of the best things about winter is the release of Bristol's Winter Warlock. The dark oatmeal stout brings a certain brand of comfort at even the most blustery of times. It's great in the bottle, but we're anxiously awaiting the perfect snowy day to wrap our hands around a glass and watch the snow fall from within the cozy confines of the Ivywild School, new home to Bristol's brewing operations. — Laura Eurich
Best Of 2013: Diner
Best Of 2013: Green Chili
Best Of 2013: Late-Night Dining
The only Colorado roadside attraction to be featured in a Zippy the Pinhead comic strip, King's Chef has grown considerably from its humble origins in the mobile-home-sized, purple-painted castle on East Costilla Street. With two current locations, it's swept the Diner, Green Chili and Late-Night Dining categories for the last five years, thanks to calories-be-damned comfort foods like "The Grump," a massive mound that incorporates nearly all your most cherished breakfast staples. (Just add coffee!) Be sure not to skimp on the green chili, which is sold at Whole Foods but still made by hand at the Bijou Street location. Owner Gary Geiser also brags to us about his restaurant's new line of non-GMO and locally sourced ingredients. Best of all, King's Chef's weekend night-owl hours mean clubgoers can appease their appetites until 4:30 a.m. without ever having to set foot in a Denny's. —Bill Forman
Pretty much everything you've ever wanted a diner to be, at all hours, with consistency. A perennial Indy Best Of dominator for a green chili featured on the Food Network and Travel Channel and sold in Whole Foods Market. Get The Thing or The Grump in the a.m., a Reuben at lunch.
Best Of 2010: Bartender
It takes me several days to track Dave Baumgartner. When I finally give up on reaching him by phone, I try another trick: stopping by the Rocket Room unannounced. I am greeted by the lovely and somehow motherly bartender Daniella Conner, who is wearing a red satin bustier and talks about Dave in glowing terms, her wide eyes all a-glisten.
"He's so humble," she tells me. "He listens to everyone, he has an awful lot of patience."
A guy leaned over the bar with a Miller High Life posed in front of him occasionally chips in. "He's a kick," the anonymous guy says, his voice slightly drowsy.
I, however, am not convinced that a warm personality is all it takes to be voted best bartender. There must be more to the story. I prod Conner until she gives in. "The ladies," she says, finally, "love Dave B."
In a few minutes, with Conner's help, I have Dave on the phone. I warm him up with the usual, "Why are you so popular?" "How do you connect with your customers?"
Dave plays the humble card, answering with unassuming retorts like, "That's a good question, I'm kind of mystified by that myself," and "I try to remember [people's] names, and if you can remember what they drink that's pretty impressive."
Dave is good. Real good. He acts as though he has no idea that it's his babehood that's elevated him to the top. Instead, Dave talks about the future of the bar. The Rocket Room is shutting down at the end of October unless someone buys the business.
"I kind of want to stay at the Rocket Room," he says. "This is just kind of where my heart is."
The good news is, Dave, along with all his hunkiness, is planning to stay in town and keep bartending, even if the Rocket disappears. —J. Adrian Stanley
So do you feel thirsty, punk? Well, do ya? Then head to the Rocket Room, where you can slake your thirst for both cheap booze and great music in true punk-rock style. Colorado Springs' best live ThrashabillyAmericanaGarageRock venue books tons of underground touring bands you can tell your grandkids about someday. There's also a Stooges-stocked jukebox well worth your care and feeding.
Happy hour: Wednesday-Saturday, 3-7 p.m.
The goods: $5 pitchers; $3.50 pints of Pinstripe and Arrogant Bastard; $3.50 Jameson; $3 wells
Come here if you are: "Not lame and into supporting your local businesses."
Best Of 2013: Local Venue for Live Music
Perhaps it's just standard stage-speak, but it seems to me that touring acts who play the Black Sheep — and the Sheep excels at bringing them here, from Son Volt to Capital Cities to KRS-One — more often than not take a moment to say how much they've enjoyed visiting not only the Springs, but this particular all-ages, live-music venue. And as funky a sparse, brick-walled location as this is on Platte Avenue, there's something kind of magical about a place where the bands regularly drip as much sweat as their madly gyrating fans. Mad props to general manager Chris Huffine and his whole crew for their eighth consecutive Best Of award. — Kirsten Akens