Best Of 2008

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Best of 2008: Real Deals 

Editor's note: Updated for factual accuracy Oct. 24.



click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Toy Store

Little Richard's Toy Store

324 N. Tejon St., #100, 578-5848

poorrichardswebsite.com

There may be an Earth Museum, somewhere in the reaches of outer space, where aliens place dinosaur figurines and fuel-cell hydrogen-powered car models side by side. Barring that, though, I'll bet the only place you'll see the combination work so beautifully is Little Richard's. Buyer/manager Suzanne Doroski, who helped open the store back in the mid-1990s, says that all the toys she picks out are meant to inspire kids to use their imaginations. "You'll see probably the least amount of battery-operated toys in here," she notes. So whether your tot is more into re-creating past worlds or designing futuristic ones, Little Richard's will help make it happen. KW


click to enlarge CAYTON PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Cayton Photography

Antique Store

Antique Gallery

117 S. Wahsatch Ave., 633-6070

carrsantiquegallery.com

Many believe the key to business success is "location, location, location." For the Antique Gallery which moved out of the site of the old Ute Theater into a 10,000-square-foot building on Wahsatch Avenue the adage couldn't be truer. "The location here is so much more practical," says owner Jason Carr. "And, so much more comfortable," adds his wife and co-owner, Tina Carr. They don't miss the dark, drafty Ute Theater and its sloping floors, and neither do their customers. In just over a year since the move, the new building has helped the business attract more than 50 dealers and 100 consignors. "When you've got that many different dealers," says Tina, "the amount of inventory is just so varied that it really does impress the customer." JT


Adult Store

Christal's

2582 S. Academy Blvd., 393-9903

3737 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-3839

christals.com

I once knew a guy who worked in an adult store. He used to get drunk and tell us stories about the, um, liquids he had to mop off the floors and wipe off the walls of the dressing rooms at the end of the day. Ewwww. In the world of adult products, Christal's is a diamond in the yuck. The place feels more like an extra-naughty Victoria's Secret than one of those creepy places frequented by lascivious losers. Here you will find teddies, videos and all those slightly skanky toys you've wanted to try. Christal's Web site notes that its products will enhance a romantic night or "quality time spent alone." But remember, this is a nice place, so you'll have to spend your "quality time" somewhere else. JAS


Local Furniture Store

American Furniture Warehouse

2805 N. Chestnut St., 633-4220

afwonline.com

Founded in 1975, American Furniture Warehouse today stands among the leading retail furniture companies in the United States. Which begs the question: Did AFW manage to win "Best Local Furniture Store" all across the U.S.? I admire any business that can offer the largest selection of furniture nationally, and still please the locals. Of course, with headquarters in Englewood, we could argue that Colorado had AFW first. But CEO Jake Jabs was born in Montana, and we wouldn't want to take them on. Whatever the case might be, AFW just might be good enough to take "Best Canadian Furniture Store" next year. Hell, who pays attention to adjectives, anyway? KAK


National Chain Furniture Store

Furniture Row

6310-6340 Corporate Center Circle, 528-2450

furniturerow.com

Ethan Allen was a revolutionary, a guerilla, even, who aligned with American forces in the late 18th century and actually established the Republic of Vermont. Most accounts seem to suggest he was a badass. Were Allen alive to see that the store bearing his name lost out to Furniture Row in this category, he'd probably draw a musket. After all, whereas Ethan Allen's a singular store, Furniture Row has the advantage of encompassing four separate stores: Sofa Mart, Bedroom Expressions, Denver Mattress Co. and Oak Express. But really, each Furniture Row store is just so big, with such quality stuff, and blissfully low-pressure salespeople. Actually, come to think of it, Allen later switched sides and was once charged with treason so maybe even he might sneak into Sofa Mart for a lovely recliner ... KW


National Chain Book Store

Barnes & Noble

1565 Briargate Blvd., 266-9960

795 Citadel Drive East, 637-8282

barnesandnoble.com

Though some people worry about chain stores like Barnes & Noble crowding out local businesses, there's one amenity in these book-filled megastores that seems to cut against the national drive to consume: comfy chairs. Yes, sometimes there's competition to score one readers toting armloads of magazines and books may walk laps around the stores waiting for one of the overstuffed loungers to open up. But when your time comes, employees will happily leave you to long hours of page-turning, even occasionally politely asking, "Can I put those away?" Those same employees also do fine work as sleuths when customers come in knowing just what they are looking for, except for maybe a title and author. AL

Writers' PICK


Place to Take a Confusing Holiday Photo

Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center

201 S. Fairview St., Woodland Park, 686-1820

rmdrc.com

You can choose to have your photo taken with one of the replica dinos inside, but for the best weird winter wonderland setting, set up the family outside this interpretive center. If you angle your camera just right, you can get the faux palm trees in the foreground and ponderosa pine and the glimmer of Pikes Peak in the background. For extra effect, wait until the lifelike palms are dusted with snow. DA


Camera Shop

Shewmaker's

7529 N. Academy Blvd., 598-6412

shewmakers.com

It's been a year of change for Shewmaker's, which closed its downtown store in September, after more than 60 years of business there. But even with only a North Academy location, one thing's stayed the same: It's your favorite camera shop, as it's been every year we've offered the category since 1994. Sales associate/consultant Jeff Chavez says it's because Shewmaker's "is the last bastion of old-school photography in Colorado Springs. We still speak the language of film." Chavez knows how helpful the associates can be, because like everyone who works there, he began his relationship with Shewmaker's as a faithful customer. But he admits there's probably another reason customers come back: "We're all really cute, too." FG


Local Store for CDs/DVDs

Independent Records

Multiple locations

beindependent.com

"Sully," manager of the downtown location on Bijou Street, offers that the independent and local spirit of Independent Records draws customers of all ages and cliques to the store. So whether your beret harmonizes with your stylish goatee and you're looking for some beatnik jazz, or you just got an "I heart Mom" tattoo on your chest and demand the fury of old Pantera as a chaser, be sure to visit the music (and video) store that's remained local since its inception back in the late 1970s. KAK


National Chain Store for CDs/DVDs

Best Buy

3150 New Center Point, 597-9519

7675 N. Academy Blvd., 593-0414

bestbuy.com

You might be tempted to write off Best Buy's victory in this category as Pyrrhic. CDs and DVDs? How very 2002. But then you remember that sometime before the end of the year, Best Buy will complete its $121 million deal to acquire Napster. The idea: To compete with iTunes as an online music retailer, and help double annual sales to $80 billion over the next five years. So you can bet that whether you're an in-and-out online shopper or the type of person who likes spending afternoons pawing through CD (or DVD) shelves, Best Buy will probably be open for business. KW


New and Used Video Games Store

GameStop

Multiple locations

gamestop.com

Finally, a video-game category. Gamers across Colorado Springs have been itching to give GameStop due credit. Without the world's largest video-game retailer in our proverbial backyard, we'd have to resort to maybe going outside, to our literal backyard, every now and again. Rest assured, GameStop offers a Web site stocked with video games and entertainment software you can order from the comfort of home. In fact, GameStop has all the bases covered: If you do choose to venture out to one of its Springs locations, you can get cash or store credit for your old games, plus all the new games and software you could possibly want. KAK


Garden Supply/Nursery

Local Landscaper/Company

Rick's Garden Center

1827 W. Uintah St., 632-8491

ricksgarden.com

or

Rick's Nursery

600 N. 18th St., 636-3085

ricksnursery.com

Every year since 2000, Indy readers en masse have written in "Rick's" for Best Garden Supply/Nursery. We've never known whether that meant Rick's Nursery, or neighboring, but separately owned, Rick's Garden Center. Hence the magic word "or" in our winners list. To compound the confusion, readers have this year voted "Rick's" as best local landscaper/company. According to their Web site, Rick's Nursery does offer landscape design and installation, so we assume they're our readers' favorite. Though Rick's Garden Center can recommend landscapers to customers, which makes them some sort of middleman in the grand scheme. So we give up; everyone's a winner. Aside from all the confusion, at least one thing's clear: If you're looking for shrubs, trees, houseplants and all related products, the Rick's duo has you covered. MS


Local Outdoor Outfitter

Mountain Chalet

226 N. Tejon St., 633-0732

mtnchalet.com

The economy may be slowing, but readers still get excited about gearing up for outdoor adventures at downtown Colorado Springs' Mountain Chalet. Manager Andrea Collins suggests it might be a bit of low-cost therapy in tricky times. "People still shop here because they still need to get out and get away," she says. Readers have given Mountain Chalet top honors in the Local Outdoor Outfitter category since it was added in 2006. Walk through the front door, conveniently facing Acacia Park, and you quickly learn why: Friendly salespeople will help you find just the hat, coat or pair of boots you're looking for. The mountains, after all, don't care that much what's happening on Wall Street. AL


National Chain Outdoor Outfitter

REI

1376 E. Woodmen Road, 260-1455

rei.com

I remember when REI's original store in Colorado was essentially a big warehouse packed with gear. My, how times have changed. The stores are now veritable theme parks for the outdoors. Though the REI in Colorado Springs is dwarfed by the flagship store in Denver, it still has plenty of stuff to pass an hour of shopping ... er, purposeful searching. Depending on the season, you'll find a solid spread of bikes or skis, enough clothing to outfit an army of sherpas, and all the gizmos to make camping trips more comfortable. Plus, REI has the guidebooks to help you get where you want to go, along with maps, GPS units and even compasses, for those who prefer to trust the Earth's magnetism instead of technology. AL


Place to Buy Skis

The Ski Shop

1422 S. Tejon St., 636-3355

theskishopinc.com

One paradox of owning a ski shop is that the better conditions are up in the mountains, the harder it is for you to get out and make some turns. Last winter was a white one, and thus Rick Uhl at The Ski Shop in Colorado Springs was busy. At least customers seem to have liked what they found. Uhl started skiing when he was 2 years old, and his parents took over what was already a family-owned business in the early 1980s. They decided to keep things simple, closing for several months each year instead of trying to claim expertise in a warm-month sport like golf. Readers apparently appreciate that Uhl has continued staying true to the sport. AL


Bike Shop

Criterium Bike Shop

6150 Corporate Drive, 599-0149

criterium-bicycles.com

There are people who ride bikes, and then there are bike people. Criterium is staffed by folks in the latter category. Many employees measure their bike-shop experience in decades, and all that tinkering gives them flexibility when it comes to maintenance requests. Nic Ponsor, Criterium's vice president, talks about helping a guy with big plans for making a pedal-powered taxi; mechanics ended up building him some custom wheels. Since Criterium salespeople don't work on commission, there's a laid-back vibe when you're looking for something new. Ponsor says the folks at Criterium love what they do, and "that keeps our attitude good." AL


Place to Buy Scooters

Sportique Scooters

523 S. Tejon St.., 442-0048

sportiquescooters.com

Sportique has dominated the local scooter scene ever since this category was added, and has just finished its biggest year ever. Think high gas prices, and a prominent new location on South Tejon Street. Of course, even without these two developments, there was good reason for Sportique's popularity the folks who work there are all avid "scooterists." While some people might consider scooters a fair-weather mode of transportation, Matt Fisher, Sportique's sales manager, rides his scooter to work pretty much any day it's not icy. Who cares about numb fingers when you're getting 80 miles to the gallon? AL


New Domestic Car Dealer

Used Car Dealer

Phil Long

Multiple locations

"Coffee's for closers," said the hyper-critical sales manager in David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. And based on the exponential growth of the Phil Long auto empire, the coffee must be flowing. A former fighter pilot, Long entered the auto business in 1945 and stuck with it until his passing in 2001. In an industry with a reputation for time-released lemons, the Long dealerships are clearly doing something right to win readers' enthusiasm and loyalty. BF


Green Business

Old Town Bike Shop

426 S. Tejon St., 475-8589

oldtownbikeshop.com

You're probably quite familiar with seeing Old Town Bike Shop cited in the Bike Shop category, but this year, it inaugurates the brand new award for Best Green Business. That's thanks to super-socially-conscious owner John Crandall, whom you may remember from your March utility bill newsletter. Or not. Well, he's invested in a 4.2-kilowatt solar panel system designed to meet 35 percent of his store's energy needs, and bought into our city's windpower option for the remainder. "Symbolically, our electricity has been 100 percent renewable since October 2007," he says, adding that his employees also recycle almost everything, from steel to batteries. Not to mention that he's selling the most efficient, fuel-saving machine ever, the bicycle. MS


National Chain Hotel/Motel

Colorado Springs Marriott

5580 Tech Center Drive, 260-1800

marriott.com

The recently renovated Colorado Springs Marriott boasts comfy beds, plasma TVs and friendly people. Beyond offering those rather typical nice-hotel amenities, though, our Marriott's done a lot to earn admiration in the past year. It's opened a legitimately good Southwestern restaurant, Zebulon's Grill and Tequileria (see "Hotel Tequileria," Appetite, March 27). It's welcomed some very cool events to its function rooms, including the Southern Colorado AIDS Project's Red Ribbon Ball and the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. And it's gone along with the Marriott executives' decision to keep adult entertainment options in its rooms, thus "disappointing" Focus on the Family. KW


Local Bed & Breakfast

Lennox House Bed & Breakfast

1339 N. Nevada Ave., 471-9265

lennoxhouse.com

"Home away from home" is a worthy motto for any bed and breakfast. Lennox House takes that seriously, as it serves mostly families of Colorado College students and staff. "My entire family runs our B&B," says manager Debbie Beck. "It's a family serving other families." Lennox House is a classic Queen Anne Victorian home built in 1891, and its bedrooms have seasonal themes: "Spring Haven," "Summer Escape," "Winter Hideaway" and "Autumn Retreat." And its Falcon's Nest apartment is especially popular among families with small children. "We are one of the only B&Bs in the city that caters to children," Beck notes. DA


Local Hotel/Motel

Indoor Place to Pop the Question

The Broadmoor

1 Lake Ave., 634-7711

broadmoor.com

To any local mom-and-pop owner who just hurled a little front-desk bell to the lobby floor: We understand. For the second year in a row, The Broadmoor takes this "Local" category, even though the resort is owned by a very well-to-do family conglomerate out of Oklahoma City. Fair? Not really. But The Broadmoor sure deserves some love. I mean, think of all the touching "I do" moments that unfold inside its ornate walls. No? Well, the U.S. Senior Open it hosted this year brought in millions of dollars from golf-loving spenders and we can expect millions more over the next year or two, as people who watched on TV decide to check out the Springs in person. And that should help everybody, right? Right? Um, Mom? Pop? KW


Friendly Art Gallery

Dero 72 Studios & Gallery

934 Manitou Ave., #103, 685-DERO (3376)

jermainerogers.com

It's easy to get intimidated walking into the gallery of Jermaine Rogers, pre-eminent contemporary poster artist and screen print master. His space in Manitou's renovated Spa Building is chic (by way of armchairs and rugs) and immaculate (by way of meticulous inventory). But then you meet Jermaine, who's actually there a lot of the time, and his gallery assistants, and they welcome you warmly. You then browse the framed posters, the matted posters and even the miniature prints sold for pocket change. In no time, you've got the back story on that Mars Volta poster, or Jermaine's insight on the Warhol/van Gogh painting he's working on. You walk out of the place a half hour later and find yourself saying, "Wasn't that nice?" LA


Local Book Store

Used Book Store

Poor Richard's Bookstore

320 N. Tejon St., 578-0012

poorrichardswebsite.com

In an age when local bookstores are disappearing and bookselling is moving online, Poor Richard's Bookstore continues to thrive. Its secret? "We have a good selection of both new and used books, but to tell you the truth, I think it's really about community," says Kelly Patterson, the store's general manager. The bookshop is just one quarter of the Poor Richard's complex that combines a restaurant, a toy store, books and a wine and coffee bar. "People come to eat or to go to the toy store, and then they wander over here, and we all feed off of each other," explains Patterson. "I think that makes it a more interesting place to come down to. It's not just a used bookstore, it's a scene. We're known as a place where people can come and meet others of like mind." JT


Organic Groceries on the Cheap

Community Foods

56 Park Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1314

If the sight of dented boxes and damaged labels at Community Foods shocks you, remember: It's what's on the inside that counts. Community Foods sells slightly damaged organic and natural groceries, stuff that's not pretty enough to line the shelves at Whole Foods but is still perfectly edible and incredibly cheap. The charming little store smells of herbs and dried grains, and even if you can't find the product you're looking for, you're sure to find something: organic mung beans and orzo rosamarina for $1.50; natural pet food at 50 cents to 75 cents a can; organic cereals for $2. Just beware, weekend shoppers, the religious tribe that runs the place keeps Sabbath on Saturday. The store closes at 3 p.m. on Friday and doesn't reopen until Sunday morning. JAS


click to enlarge JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley

Art Gallery

Place to Buy Art

Edifice Gallery

325 N. Tejon St., 963-2031

edificegallery.com

When Edifice opened in February, it was because Jason Herzog and Richard Arnot, like many artists, felt a niche was missing in the community. Herzog, a portrait fine artist and Web developer, says they (along with former Springs resident Mike Sebastian) wanted to create not only a gallery space, but also an artists' resource. So they've offered Sunday portfolio reviews and one-on-one advice on the ins and outs of publishing, printing and marketing all free. Arnot, a graffiti and clothing artist, founded the Nocturnal Mockery urban arts series four years ago, giving the duo a "good launching pad" (Herzog's words), with a wide network of unique local artists who produce some of the most outstanding work around. Gifts start at a few bucks, shirts at around $20, and original art ranges usually from $50 to $500. Clearly, readers have taken note of just how necessary Edifice has already become. MS


click to enlarge JEREMY EYMAN
  • Jeremy Eyman

Florist

Platte Floral

1417 E. Platte Ave., 632-2607

plattefloral.com

Locally owned Platte Floral has been servicing our need for flowers and foliage for more than 70 years. From teenage prom roses to 40th anniversary bouquets, Platte's designers will arrange whatever you're buying with design savvy and flair. And if an extensive selection of flowers, unique or otherwise, isn't what you need, be sure to stop by and check out its creative gifts, such as the best-selling "teddy bear in a suit" a gift sure to impress grandmas and grandpas everywhere. KAK


click to enlarge JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley

New Foreign Car Dealer

Heuberger Motors

1080 Motor City Drive, 475-1920

heubergermotors.com

Imagine a car dealership with a complimentary latte bar in its waiting room. With high-speed Internet access, CD listening stations, TV with wireless headphones, and video games to occupy you while you wait for your oil change. Imagine this world and a showroom filled with shiny new Subarus. It's a world you want to live in, isn't it? That's the world of Heuberger Motors, perennial winner in this category. Accolades are nothing new for Heuberger, the largest-volume Subaru dealer in the country. But these folks keep trying to impress us anyway this year, they even sponsored the Starlight Spectacular, a popular nighttime bike ride that benefits the worthy Trails and Open Space Coalition. DA


click to enlarge L'AURA MONTGOMERY
  • L'Aura Montgomery

Mechanic

Aspen Auto Clinic

1619 N. Union Blvd., 634-4257

4401 Mark Dabling Blvd., 227-1315

aspenautoclinic.com

Taking my car in for service is not my favorite thing to do. But after chatting with Aspen Auto Clinic's service manager Will Cranston, I may have to change my tune (and my mechanic). The locally owned shop has two locations, each with a plush waiting room stocked with snacks and soda. Most anything you'd need done on your car (except body work or transmission rebuilds), they do. Cranston says people choose to come to Aspen because they "see what kind of ship we run and they like it." He trains his workers to treat every customer as if he or she was their own mom or dad, adding, "We won't just take your money and run." Thumbs up to that. KA


click to enlarge JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley

Pet Day Care

Camp Bow Wow

4295 Northpark Drive, 260-WAGS (9247)

1020 Ford St., 573-WAGS (9247)

campbowwow.com

So you're working late or you're headed out of town and can't be home to take Zeus out to potty. What do you do with that lonely lap dog? Our readers say take him to doggie day care, specifically Camp Bow Wow. While you're busy, you can get by guilt-free, knowing that your dog is being supervised by trained "camp counselors" and making friends with other dogs while enjoying the camp's indoor-outdoor play yards, "spacious cabins," "comfy cots" and "bedtime campfire tasty treats." What? No horseback riding? JT


click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Musical Instrument Store

Graner Music

4460 Barnes Road, 574-2001

8674 N. Union Blvd., 579-7665

granermusic.com

Want to get your kid started on a pastime that doesn't involve video games, petty larceny or gunplay? Graner's has a vast array of band instruments that can be rented or purchased, as well as an equally impressive number of teachers to get things rolling. General manager Randy Baker touts Graner as the largest full-line musical instrument dealer in Southern Colorado. For those who spent too much time in their school band pretending to play the notes, there's also a solid selection of guitars, keyboards, amps and more. "We hide them from the band kids," says Baker with a laugh, "but we've got them here." BF


click to enlarge CAYTON PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Cayton Photography

Place for a Wedding

Hillside Gardens & Nursery

1006 S. Institute St., 520-9463

hillsidegardens.net

Though Hillside Gardens primarily sells plants, the nursery also specializes in small, elegant weddings of up to 250 people, complete with fountain, gazebo, bridal cottage and bar. "We started getting requests for weddings in our second year of business, so we thought we should offer them," says Hillside proprietor Larry Ash, with a genial laugh. Ash believes his acres hidden away in the city's midsection are popular with lovers because of the beautiful outdoor setting and mountain views. After seeing Hillside on a perfect autumn day, I'm convinced everyone should get married here. DS


click to enlarge JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley

Place to Buy Motorcycles

Pikes Peak Harley-Davidson

5867 N. Nevada Ave., 278-2301

Colorado Springs Harley-Davidson

2180 Victor Place, 591-7594

Yes, most bikes get around 50 mpg, but this is not what makes Harley riders so loyal. It's more the wind in their hair, the turned heads every time they drive by, and that classic Harley growl they give off while heading down the highway. Readers didn't discriminate between the two Springs locations, and it's probably just as well they've got the same owner, and either store will set you up with a machine that'll look sweet with a black leather jacket. AA

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