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Best of 2012: Shopping 

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Flower Shop

Platte Floral

(1417 E. Platte Ave., 632-2607, platteflorist.com)

If you haven't planned anything for the second week of November, consider going to Platte Floral's annual holiday open house, which business manager Jerry Flynn says draws thousands of visitors each year. This is when the perennial (sorry) Best Of winner puts on all its holiday trimmings, with decorating ideas, live music and more. Flynn adds that Platte has done this "forever" — or for at least 30 years — which is the kind of time scale you use when talking about Platte, which opened back in 1921. That longevity stems (sorry again) from Platte's commitment to buying fresh blooms straight from growers in California, Florida and Colorado, and providing products for every price point. — EA

Store for Records, CDs & DVDs

Independent Records & Video

(Multiple locations, beindependent.com)

To the outsider, it would seem nothing short of a miracle that a record store still exists. And yet, not only does Independent Records exist, but it employs upward of 90 people at its six locations from Denver to Pueblo. According to Mandy Christensen, who handles the marketing and advertising for this category's perennial winner, it's a willingness to expand in different product areas that's kept Independent afloat in an industry that ate up others years ago. "It allows us to continue selling music and being the cultural touchstone for the community," she says. "We're the one-stop shop for a lot of people, whether they want music or movies." Products with higher margins, such as smoking accessories, keep the lights on and the bills paid. "It's been a labor of love," she says. "We think it's important to have a record store in the community." — CH

Garden Supply/Nursery

Rick's Garden Center

(1827 W. Uintah St., 632-8491, ricksgarden.com)

(or) Rick's Nursery & Landscaping

(600 N. 18th St., 636-3085, ricksnursery.com)

They share the title for top garden go-to every year, despite the fact that the two places are disparate businesses, and have been since 1976. In a way it's fitting, since Rick's Garden and Rick's Nursery share a happy, symbiotic relationship. Set back-to-back on the west side, each shop sends customers to its neighbor, calling on complementary expertise. And given the recent boom in urban homesteading, or just growing your own veggies in the backyard, it only makes sense there's double the help on a local level. Because we're all in this together, right? Just see Rick's of 18th Street's "About Us" webpage: "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others," Philippians 2:4. — EA

Thrift Store
Thrift Store: Infants/Children

Arc Thrift Stores

(Multiple locations, arcthrift.com)

Sure, your thrifted clothing was once hanging in someone else's closet. But remember the Velveteen Rabbit? That shabby rabbit became real because it was loved. And once you start shopping at thrift stores, it's hard to pay full price for a pair of jeans that are stiff and missing that lived-in, loved-in, broken-in quality. The Arc, with its well-stocked aisles of secondhand threads, has won in the Thrift Store category for seven years in a row, and the Infants/Children category both years it's been offered. If that's not enough of a reason to give it a shot, "All of the money generated is to fund our mission, which is supporting the individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities," explains Erick Martinez, director of store operations. About 144 Arc employees statewide have a developmental disability, roughly 10 percent of the nonprofit's total workforce. — DM

Ethnic Market

Asian Pacific Market

(615 Wooten Road, #160, 573-7500)

A winner in this category five years in a row, Asian Pacific Market is a multicultural wonderland. The aisles are packed with Asian and Indo-European food and household goods, and even some items made in America. Among the offerings: frozen banana leaves, quail eggs and an aloe vera dessert. The produce section features exotic fruits and vegetables along with the usual finds, and entire sections are devoted to noodles, sauces and tea. As manager Jason Zhou says, "We are also wholesalers, and have a store in Denver so we can keep the prices low." Note: if you're a little tired after traveling around the world in 25,000 square feet, you can pick up a can of Red Bull at the checkout. — KK

Vintage Clothing Store

The Leechpit

(802 N. Nevada Ave., 634-3675, leechpit.com)

It's not been two years since Adam Leech's Pit moved to its current North Nevada Avenue location, closer to Colorado College and its throngs of post-ironic retro-chic hunters. Too close, perhaps — apparently Leech will be relocating again in the near future, as Colorado College doesn't intend to renew the lease on the property. It hasn't seemed to damage his confidence, though, as he notes that his store doesn't only sell clothes: "I would challenge anybody to an arm-wrestling contest who claims there's a better stock of vinyl in Colorado Springs." And Leech doesn't stop there. "I'd contend we've got Denver beat, too," he adds. "On a good day." — WM

Toy Store

Little Richard's Toy Store

(324 N. Tejon St., 578-3072, poorrichardsdowntown.com)

You drink microbrews, frequent farmers markets, and wear beanies spun from local, gently harvested alpaca fiber. When it comes to toys, then, why would you go mass-production? You wouldn't. You would, instead, go to Little Richard's Toy Store, the section of the Poor Richard's emporium where, as co-owner Richard Skorman puts it, "three-quarters of the customers might be under 5 years old, and laughing." Over 17 years, Skorman and company have cultivated relationships with small manufacturers and distributors who make toys that "have a purpose," and often an educational link. The place (which still makes sure to stock the classic Slinkies, Erector Sets, etc.) teems with energy and inspiration. Make sure you're signed up for the birthday club, which gets you sizable discounts once a year. — KW

IndyPick • Wall of Leggy Fashion

Zeezo's

(104 N. Tejon St., 633-2571, zeezos.com)

You may have thought, like I did, that Zeezo's was purely a costume shop — a great place for Halloween, masquerade balls and the occasional sci-fi con. Think that no more, ladies. Near the back of the store, there's a wall filled with fashion designed for your legs: fishnets in a panoply of bright colors, with back seams, or tassles; ooh-la-la French black-and-nude striped pantyhose; thigh-highs with elastic or without (bring on the garter belts!). With more than 250 styles and a range of sizes and prices, you can keep your gams — and those of us looking at them — happy year-round. — KA

Place for Eyewear

ABBA Eye Care

(Multiple locations, abbaeyecare.com)

Operations director Alan Sindler says that the first ABBA location opened some 35 years ago. We didn't dare ask whether that strengthens any connection to the '70s Swedish pop superstars. In any case, ABBA now has 14 locations in the region, including seven in the Springs (with a new storefront slated for Powers and Woodmen), three of those on local military bases. Pretty sure it adds up to a winning equation, not least because the business remains locally owned in spite of the scale. Sindler says ABBA emphasizes "high-definition" vision, with lens designs, materials and treatments all lending to clearer optics. Plus, its opticians are better-trained than even the state requires. "We try to stay in the upper stratosphere in terms of customer service." — WM

Non-Chain Store for Women's Fashions
Store for Accessories
Place to Buy a Thoughtful, Inexpensive Gift
Place to Buy a Thoughtful, Over-the-Top Gift

Terra Verde

(208 N. Tejon St., 444-8621, terraverdestyle.com)

Terra Verde can dominate these categories because it offers something for everyone, literally. Walking through the various rooms, you'll find your eyes drawn to some items that cost $10, and others that run 10 times that. For accessibility's sake, here are some top picks in the "thoughtful, inexpensive" realm: serving ware from India Handicrafts, imported French soap from Pré de Provence, or a Votivo candle (my favorite: the Bright Leaf Tobacco). Because, after all, a great gift is "something chosen with love, regardless of the price," says Karen Rivera, marketing rep for the store. — CW

Local Sports Store/Outdoor Outfitter

Mountain Chalet

(226 N. Tejon St., 633-0732, mtnchalet.com)

As compared to the big boys and bargain websites, Mountain Chalet walks softly. But it carries a big stick in Colorado Springs. Dan Foster's store has been outfitting gearheads for more than four decades with everything from carabiners to skis to tents to high-quality outerwear. The friendly and knowledgeable staff help keep people coming back, but discerning shoppers also value Mountain Chalet for its community involvement. When the Waldo Canyon Fire incinerated locals' closets this summer, the store organized multiple giveaways, passing out literally hundreds of clothing items to victims. And throughout the year(s), Mountain Chalet has helped host amazing events, ranging from the occasional adventure slide-shows and presentations to major offerings like the Banff Mountain Film Fest. — SH

Antique Store

American Classics Marketplace

(1815 N. Academy Blvd., 596-8585, americanclassicsmarketplace.com)

While it's a frequent winner of the Antique Store award, a more fitting description of American Classics Marketplace might be Best Collection of Different Stores Under the Same Roof. "We have around 300 vendors in 65,000 square feet," says assistant manager Steven Brookshire. It can take hours to see it all, since there's something fascinating around every corner, up and down every aisle, and from floor to ceiling. And they're not just antiques. You get old mixed with new, and purely decorative with still-very-useful. Come to think of it, this one could also be a contender for Best Place to Go if You're Bored — it's a sure cure of that. — KK

IndyPick • Place to Find Snazzy Storage Containers

Old West Cigar Co.

(229 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-0211, smokeme.com)

The nearest Container Store is in Denver, and you fancy yourself a recycler, anyway. So the next time you're needing to store some pens, jewelry or note cards, or creatively pack a birthday gift for Pop, drop by Old West Cigar Co. No, I'm not kidding. Just inside the door, and sometimes on a table outside in good weather, the shop owners sell empty cigar boxes for $5 each. It's a small racket as compared to the more than 100 varieties of stogies for sale in the cedar humidor, and the tastings and other events that unfold in the leather-couched smoking lounge, but it's a sweet one. Top your visit off with a bubble gum cigar, and it's even sweeter. — KA

Non-Chain Bookstore
Used Bookstore

Poor Richard's Bookstore

(320 N. Tejon St., 578-0012, poorrichardsdowntown.com)

Sure, there are reliable favorites: A New York Times bestseller is likely to please, or you could go for the latest in self-help. (Gluten-free, anyone?) But book-buying, like most everything, follows trends. Poor Richard's Bookstore understands this, and is there to help. With more than 120 categories, there is literally something for any reading taste. The "dysfunctional family genre" is popular this year, according to manager Marie Poole, and also, novels by authors like Chuck Palahniuk and Jonathan Franzen, which offer "social commentary in a less offensive form." After all, that's what books are for! — CW

Musical Instruments Store

Meeker Music

(113 E. Bijou St., 471-8940; 3604 Hartsel Drive, 534-9919; 6330 S. Hwy. 85/87, 391-8922; meekermusic.com)

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell proposes that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve greatness at a particular skill. In music, to put in the practice time you need an instrument, and family-owned and -operated Meeker Music has been selling and renting band and orchestral instruments for 37 years. The local business serves students of all ages, from elementary school kids to adult retirees in New Horizon groups, offering not just equipment but private music lessons, sheet music and instrument repairs. Ken Hamman, co-owner and manager, says you can depend on Meeker for "pretty much everything but acoustic pianos." — DM

IndyPick • Way to Boost a Teen's Self-Esteem While Shopping

Promises Thrift Store

(4360 Montebello Drive, #200, 266-0106, cochildrenofpromise.com)

I'd always been curious about this little boutique that appeared the size of a broom closet. So I went in one day and found that the Teens With Promise-run Promises Thrift Store is much bigger than it looks. I also found a fabulous pair of brand-name, red peep-toes. They turned out to hurt my toes terribly, but I'm not the least bit upset, as the $8 I paid goes to a terrific cause — helping teens stay in school. Teens With Promise provides kids with clothes for little to nothing through the thrift shop, and uses money from sales to help students get the things they need to stay in school, including learning materials. If it can help some of the 20 percent of teens in our community who drop out before graduation, well, I'm up for giving another pair of peep-toes a shot. — PZ

Non-Chain Furniture Store

Platte Furniture

(2331 E. Platte Place, 633-7309, plattefurniture.com)

The whole staff loves going to Cripple Creek "as much as possible." Chris looks like Mr. Clean and can quote from any movie. Tish "smiles at mean people." And Will, the ladies man, tends to get clumsy around glass. We know these details, and more, because this is what you get at plattefurniture.com under "About us." It speaks to the down-to-earth-ness of Platte's self-proclaimed "ma and pop shop" operation, which opened in 1978 and has grown ever since. A past winner, Platte has probably earned the voters' love for its selection of both new and used furniture. But it's hard to overestimate the importance of talking about Goof Off with Heather, and Taco Bell with Lloyd. — EA

Place to Buy Skis

The Ski Shop

(1422 S. Tejon St., 636-3355, theskishopinc.com)

Lining the walls of The Ski Shop are decades' worth of old ski boots, labeled by date. You can start back in the days when boots looked like modified, leather walking shoes, and move through the introduction of buckles and plastic. This trip sort of echoes the history of The Ski Shop itself, which just celebrated its 60-year anniversary. The Uhl family bought The Ski Shop in the '80s, and son Rick Uhl took over in 2002. Rick added snowboards — much to the dismay of his father, Wolfgang — but otherwise, he kept the business almost exactly the same. It's still the type of store where a family can walk in, and leave entirely outfitted for a day on the slopes. "I hear every day that we seem to ask the right questions to get people in the right gear," says Rick. "Once we get the equipment right once, they keep coming back." The shop is filled with trusted classics like Obermeyer, Smith, Rossignol and Solomon. Uhl says he approaches each brand as a "10-year investment," continuing to stock only products he knows will stick around, and steering clear of "boutique brands." So what's to come in the next 60 years? "I see my two kids running the store, with their kids running around underneath, and them coming to visit me at my ski condo in Vail," says Uhl, with a smile. — CW

Place to Buy Skateboards
Place to Buy Snowboards

Blindside

(600 S. 21st St., #150, 636-1554, blindsidecolorado.net)

I grew up a skier. So when I walked into Blindside, I told owner Jon Easdon to tell me why I should try snowboarding. His reply? "I'm not going to do that. You go to the mountain for the same reason I do." Call it passion, and know it runs deep at Blindside. The store, which moved to a bigger location across 21st Street in April, delivers the highest-quality boards from smaller brands. "As a shop, we ride everything we bring in," says Easdon, and that includes the skateboards. So you can be sure you're buying quality goods. Also, check out the $20 ski and snowboard tunes: That's a steal! — CW

Bike Shop

Old Town Bike Shop

(426 S. Tejon St., 475-8589, oldtownbikeshop.com)

For Old Town owner John Crandall, offering quality products and service is only the foundation on top of which he's built his business since opening in 1976. "The ability to work the business into a lot of areas of community involvement, particularly environmentally, is a perfect match with bicycles," he says, adding that the shop recycles "almost everything," from paper to metal. It also has a solar array. But while the sun giveth, it also taketh away: Crandall mentions an early snowmelt, along with the Waldo Canyon Fire, as challenges for the bike-shop community in the past year. At least Crandall need not worry about staffing challenges: His bike technicians average 20 years' experience. — WM

Place to Buy Motorcycles

Apex Sports

(327 S. Weber St., 475-2437, apexsportsinc.com)

The musky scent of new leather hits your nose. Your adrenaline skyrockets. Your heart begins to pound. Upon entering family-owned and -operated Apex Sports, at least two of the aforementioned sensations are bound to kick in. Apex has been a staple for local motorcycle enthusiasts since opening in 1960, and in addition to the annual Pikes Peak Supercross, sponsors a number of events throughout each year. Just FYI, top sellers today are mostly Hondas, says general manager Mike Stokes; check out the 2013 Tri-tone Honda 250. — KL

New Domestic Car Dealer
Service at a Dealership

Phil Long Ford

(1212 Motor City Drive, 888/524-1984; 1565 Auto Mall Loop, 266-3301; phillong.com)

When I call, I'm told someone will get back to me promptly. Four minutes later, Bud McFadden, assistant to the service director at the Auto Mall Loop location, dials me up. The formula for success, which has made Phil Long top New Domestic Car Dealer yearly since 2006, is really quite simple, he says: "We do take care of the customer." Naturally, the company has guidelines for seeing to customers' needs, but it also boasts low worker turnover. "Mark Riese has been with this dealership 35 years," McFadden says. "He has a huge following of devoted customers, as do our other service reps." By the way, to accommodate busy schedules, Phil Long initiated the "quick lane," where customers can get their vehicles serviced while they wait in a comfy lounge with free wireless. — PZ

New Foreign Car Dealer

Heuberger Motors

(1080 Motor City Drive, 475-1920, heubergermotors.com)

Heuberger Motors' popularity has revved high among Indy readers since the days of Crocodile Dundee hawking Outbacks. The dealership simply has what southern Coloradans want — full-time all-wheel-drive Subarus. "We're very fortunate to have a great product," says John Adams, director of business development. "Subarus are fuel-efficient, capable, roomy and technologically advanced." This is the fifth consecutive year Heuberger has sold more new Subarus than any other dealer in the United States. "Last year we ended right at 3,000. This year, we're looking for over 3,000," Adams says. The high sales volume means there's plenty of inventory, and vehicles are priced attractively. Off the lot, community involvement also is important to the family-owned business, Adams says, because "if you're not supportive of the community, then you're just selling a product." — DK

Used Car Dealer (tie)

Perkins Motor Company

(1205 Motor City Drive, 800/906-8340, perkinsmotors.com)

CarMax

(4010 Tutt Blvd., 313-4860, carmax.com)

The only first-place tie in this year's Best Of voting goes to Perkins Motor Company and CarMax, for Used Car Dealer. Each dealership has its unique selling points — for instance, Perkins has been doing its thing in southern Colorado for more than 50 years, while CarMax is a national brand listed on the Fortune 500 list — but they also have some important things in common. For instance, both dealerships have earned A-plus ratings from the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau. And for those who involuntarily recoil at the term "used car salesman," no matter how many reassurances you get: Both businesses have excellent websites where, on a recent morning, you could peruse more than 200 cars all by your lonesome. — KW

IndyPick • Place to Get Stuck on Cacti

Manitou Cactus

(1 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9234, manitoucottonclub.com)

Adjacent to (and with the same owners as) The Cotton Club, a women's fashion store, Manitou Cactus is a sharp surprise on Ruxton Avenue. The light-filled room is lined with cacti and succulents of all species and sizes, many originating from a greenhouse in Buena Vista. On shelves above and below sit an array of pots, ready for planting, and bustling between both shops is owner Sharman Treweeke, who is happy to answer any questions you may have about plant care. "What potting soil should I use?" "Can I get three of these in one pot?" "How do I not kill it?" All legitimate. — KA

Place to Buy Scooters

Sportique Scooters

(1834 E. Platte Ave., 442-0048, sportiquescooters.com)

Yes, yes, scooters used to be for hipsters and Europeans. But listen, that's a ragged stereotype. The world has changed, and scooters have changed along with it. Sportique sales and marketing manager Jon Duvall says scooters come in all sizes these days, even "maxis" that can hit the interstate with panniers for a cross-country trip. A great range of people are interested in scooters, too, from senior citizens to recent high school grads. While often derided as "the small brother of the motorcycle," the scooter has some major differences. Unlike a motorcycle, you don't need a special license to drive it. A smaller scooter costs about $2,600, will hit max speeds of around 35 mph, and will get 60 to 80 miles per gallon of gas. "What a lot of consumers are finding is they're actually saving money and having more reliable transportation through the scooter," Duvall says. Not surprising, then, that Sportique's business is good these days — so good, in fact, that several Sportique locations have popped up around the state. (The others have different owners, but are under a licensing agreement.) — JAS


Chain Champs

Kudos to some bigger businesses that locals love:


Grocery Store

King Soopers

(Multiple locations, kingsoopers.com)


Natural Foods Store

Whole Foods Market

(3180 New Center Point, 622-1099; 7635 N. Academy Blvd., 531-9999; wholefoodsmarket.com)


Gourmet/Spice Market

Penzeys Spices

(7431 N. Academy Blvd., 590-7771; 2010 Southgate Road, 475-7877; penzeys.com)


National Chain Store for Women's Fashions

Kohl's

(Multiple locations, kohls.com)


Jewelry Store

Jared, The Galleria of Jewelry

(1720 E. Woodmen Road, 262-0701; jared.com)


Computer Store

Apple Store

(1685 Briargate Parkway, #315, 522-4460; apple.com)


New & Used Video Games Store

GameStop

(Multiple locations, gamestop.com)


  • Where you go to blow your hard-earned cash.

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