In Manitou, new places open up pretty routinely, especially during summer. Some stay and become permanent fixtures; others can't hack the almost tourist-free winter, and when summer comes again, are long gone. Here's hoping Sugar Magnolia's, which opened its doors about three months ago, becomes a permanent fixture.
Just off of Manitou Avenue at the bottom of Ruxton, Sugar Magnolia's serves shaved ice, Italian sodas, iced coffee toddies, floats and Ann and Mann's ice cream. They also have a small but generously, not to mention eccentrically, stocked candy section and a nice selection of trail mixes and popcorn.
But the best, most unique aspect of Sugar Magnolia's, aside from the kitschy, vintage knickknacks and old Grateful Dead album covers lining the walls, is the back of the store, equipped with a stellar magazine selection and a comfy couch. You can find everything from Relix and High Times, to MAD Magazine and The Funny Times (one of the best comics publications around) to Rolling Stone, Backpacker, Mother Jones, People and Time.
Sugar Magnolia's serves great, high-octane, iced coffee, brewed to double strength and then chilled in a glass container in the fridge -- proper procedure compared to those joints around town that just pour hot coffee into a cup of ice giving you lukewarm, brown water.
The shaved ice is available in 28 flavors. On one scorching afternoon, in search of shaved-ice relief, I tried a concoction called Udder Ice: shaved ice, any flavor, on a scoop of ice cream. Highly recommended is the dreamsicle-flavored ice on a plain old scoop of vanilla. Takes you right back to being 6.
Finally, Sugar Magnolia's seems to have a sense of what it means to be a local business supporting other locals: Their coffee comes from Boulder Street Coffee Roasters (also for sale by the half-pound and full-pound), they sell CDs from local bands, carry local publications and, as mentioned above, serve Ann and Mann's excellent Colorado-made ice cream.
For Deadheads, just the name Sugar Magnolia is sure to elicit a happy Pavlovian, response. But you don't have to know or even like the Dead to appreciate the store and its offerings. I'm sure the Southern-accented family of five in there the other afternoon had little knowledge of Grateful Dead lore. They were simply appreciating the ice cream, the friendly, neighborhood ambiance and everything delightful about Sugar Magnolia's.
-- Suzanne Becker