The Pikes Peak region's too sprawling to intelligently divide into 11 shopping districts. Each of those districts is so big, you'll find it virtually impossible to thoroughly investigate each store. And most every place that you do investigate will sell too much stuff for you to judiciously choose the three most unique or enticing products therein.
So: It is without great intelligence, thoroughness and judiciousness that we present our 2012 Gift Guide.
In short, 11 of us recently scattered around this area to find some gift ideas that might jump-start your holiday shopping. We focused overwhelmingly on locally owned businesses, places where the money you spend will tend to be reinvested in the community. And we tried to identify items that represent three price ranges: approximately under $25; from $25 to $75; and $75-plus.
What follows are our findings, imperfect as they are. If you have other recommendations, please feel free to comment below.
Thanks, and happy shopping.
Old Colorado City
Choosing just three gifts from just three stores in Old Colorado City is like trying to pick the best chocolate from the biggest box of Godiva you can imagine. That said, I went for variety this year.
Stop 1 is Celebration Metaphysical Center (2209 W. Colorado Ave., celebrationstore.com), home of the Steampunk Tarot ($28.95). Released in May by holistic and metaphysical stalwart Llewellyn, the set was created by tarot expert Barbara Moore and artist Aly Fell, and includes a nearly 300-page manual and cards with all the cogs and cups you'd expect to come out of an alt-Victorian-era-theme. Of course, tarot's not the only thing to be found at Celebration — the shelves hold all sorts of inexpensive curiosities, from crystal necklaces to Louise L. Hay's self-help books.
Stop 2 is for the canine in your clan. At Republic of Paws (2411 W. Colorado Ave., republicofpaws.com), the Chilly Dog sweaters ($29.99 to $36.99, cost varies by size) are the hottest thing going right now. Hand-knit in bright holiday stripes or with fun-loving monkey faces, these sweaters will keep your pup warm and stylish. Also, collars and leashes (I recommend the Colorado-made Walk-e-Woo brand, $43 to $52 a set) make perfect stocking stuffers, as do bags of all-natural treats (for dogs and cats) and the rumored-to-be-indestructible goDog brand stuffed dragons and dinos.
And the final stop is Earthen Artisan House (2611 W. Colorado Ave., earthenartisanhouse.com). When I entered this store, it felt like a local Pottery Barn, but it's actually so much more. Area artists show and sell their works here — such as Nadine Sage and her 18th- and 19th-century paper collé and oil originals ($200 to $525, prices vary by size) or the less expensive belt buckles ($50). And there are surprises hidden in every nook and cranny, from fascinating antiques to cozy throws to the super-seductive Denver-produced TokyoMilk perfume. — Kirsten Akens
Northern Colorado Springs
The Shops at Briargate and Chapel Hills Mall beckon if you're looking primarily for convenience. Then there are all the options along Academy Boulevard. But my advice would be to drive around a while.
At Café Velo (11550 Ridgeline Drive, #102, cafevelobikes.com), the Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes costs $24.95. Within this guide to fueling a busy bod are more than 160 recipes that allegedly are simple to make, delicious, and sure to keep you running. The Cinnamon Almond Pancakes look amazing, and they're gluten-free and much lower in carbs than traditional pancakes.
If you've got a bit more cash to spend, consider buying someone a 30-minute Exfoli-Sea Salt Glow for $45 at the Therapy Cottage (7560 Rangewood Drive, #130, therapycottage.com). Micronized buffing beads, a loofa and apricot powder make skin shiny and very receptive to a rich body butter that offers vital nutrients and leaves you looking like a god(dess).
Finally for a high-level gift, I suggest The Winemaking Experience at Fermentations (6820 N. Academy Blvd., fermentations.biz) — great for anyone who wants to learn the basics of winemaking, or who just wants to walk away from eight weeks of class with about 30 bottles of wine. The course is split into five steps: primary fermentation, secondary fermentation, addition of clarifiers, racking the wine, and finally bottling, corking and labeling. For $85 plus the cost of the wine kit, you get the use of Fermentations' equipment and guidance, the bottles, corks, labels that you create and personalize, and shrink capsules to complement your label colors. — Kiki Lenihan
Up the Pass
Look out for the lime green façade of Pikes Peak Gourmet Popcorn Company (7935 W. U.S. Hwy. 24, Cascade, pikespeakpopcorn.com), which started in Kansas in 1925 and relocated in the early '90s. The store rotates more than 80 flavors seasonally — among them Dill Pickle, Piña Colada and Almond Pecan Crunch — leading to recognition as "the Jelly Belly of popcorn."
Try filling up one of the large holiday tins (ranging from $20 to $76) with flavor combinations of your choice. New this season is "Wildfire," a spicy, red variety created in homage to this summer's unfortunate happenings. They'll even mix it fresh when you get there.
Continuing up the pass, in Woodland Park you'll find The Picket Fence (723 Gold Hill Place, Woodland Park, 687-2860), a gift shop specializing in handmade items from more than 20 Colorado craftspeople. "It's a unique mixture of things," says owner Claire Shaw, who opened the store 8½ years ago. Between the pottery, candles, woodwork, signs and other trinkets, it's a great place for stocking stuffers. The homemade soaps from SunFire, at $4.50 each and $8 for two, are a steal: I like "Rose in the Snow" best, and they are cutely wrapped.
Across the street, check out Chimayo Turquoise (414 W. Midland Ave., 687-1424) for authentic Indian jewelry. For 34 years, owner Dan Vigil has gone to Indian reservations to buy direct. His cases are filled with rings, cuffs, bracelets and necklaces, but as alluring as the items are the stories behind them.
For instance, consider his $700 Mickey Mouse necklace. Vigil explains why it's so rare: Cartoon characters like Donald Duck and other Disney icons emerged in Indian jewelry in the '70s, but once Disney confronted the jewelry makers with copyright laws, they all but disappeared. — Celine Wright
If you're looking for some inexpensive bling and want to help humanity at the same time, drop by the Prickly Pear (135 Second St., Monument, 531-7418) and see owner Carolyn Mangold's selection of Enchanted Imports beadwork. EI buys glass beads from the Czech Republic, where beads have been manufactured since the 16th century, then takes them to Guatemala, where artisans in the highlands craft the beads into bracelets, necklaces, coin purses and the like — under principles of fair trade. A red necklace caught my eye instantly ($9.50), and there's a variety of bracelets ($10 to $20) that fasten with magnetic closures.
At Finders Keepers (91 State Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake, 487-8020), owner Peggy Rima offers everything from locally made cinnamon honey to sterling silver jewelry. Her current favorite piece of the latter is a "bodacious" green necklace ($58) made with copper wire and various types of beads. The set includes earrings. I sprang for a jazzy rhinestone ring ($15) she thought was so yesterday.
A third establishment worth a look is Bella Casa (155 Second St., Monument, bellacasamonument.com), run by Linda Gerard. If you like fur but not the slaughter of animals, check out the faux mink throw ($295). Into collecting? Don't miss the wall in the back of the store where a generous selection of Sid Dickens memory blocks ($84) are found. These hand-crafted wall plaques take five people three weeks to make, and after the styles are discontinued, they appreciate in price quite nicely; Gerard says some sell on the Internet for up to $750 each. — Pam Zubeck
Finally: The answer to "Where can I buy cheese curds?"
(Outside of Tony's bar. Retail, I mean.)
And that answer is year-old Springside Cheese Shop (517 W. Fifth St., springsidecheese.com) an extension of an award-winning Oconto Falls, Wis.-based business brought to the Steel City by Keith Hintz. Hintz's father is the 40-year veteran cheesemaker who currently trucks Pantaleo Farms' green chilies from Colorado to Wisconsin, where he makes a superb Monterey Jack that he ships back west.
That item should be part of any size gift basket of cheese, like a sample one I create with Hintz's help for $25. It includes both the aforementioned curds and Pantaleo Green cheese, plus an olive cheddar, a one-year aged cheddar and a Longhorn Colby cheese. All of Springside's cheeses come from rBGH-free milk sourced from 16 small Wisconsin farms, and it also sells a nice variety of Colorado-made cheeses and some European imports.
The store's layout and feel is reminiscent of a winery's tasting room, and indeed sampling is encouraged. Make it the first stop on a Pueblo gift-buying circuit so you'll have sustenance and snacks for the road, which next leads you to the heart of downtown and LastLeaf Custom Print & Design (213 S. Union Ave., lastleafprinting.com).
If you visited famed rock poster artist Jermaine Rogers' Dero 72 Studios & Gallery when it was open in Manitou Springs, then two-year-old LastLeaf will feel familiar, as it's the creative hub for 28-year-old up-and-coming graphic designer and custom illustrator Mathias Valdez. Pueblo-born and -raised, Valdez produces gorgeous silkscreen prints for the likes of national acts like Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Andrew Bird, The Fray and Lucero, as well as local bands like The Haunted Windchimes (member Inaiah Lujan assists at the shop), the Charlie Milo Trio and Grant Sabin.
All posters are numbered and limited, and therefore highly collectable. The yellow variant of "The Bear" art print to which I'm drawn ($30), limited to 20 copies and also bearing 15 blue variants, was originally created for the Fairy Tale Origins: The Art of Interpretation Sangre de Cristo exhibit. Though this one may be sold out by the time you shop, a wide variety of other posters are on display.
And on that note, if you're the type who prefers one-of-a-kind artwork, you're better off heading up the street to Cup & Bowl Ceramic Art Studio and Gallery (116 Midway Ave., cupandbowl.org), which is perhaps best likened to another Manitou Springs art gallery (this one still quite alive), Commonwheel Artists Co-op.
Cup & Bowl doesn't have quite as large a display space — really it's just a room in a converted house now rented as studio space — but shelves teem with plates, vases, cups and other unique pieces. Co-owner and contributing artist Linda Cates provides a quick tour and assists with an examination of a captivating sculpture by member artist Rick Morris. The rusty bronze-hued work ($125), like all of Morris', is untitled, but depicts one globulous head with multiple faces as a base to a partial bust of a man gazing skyward. Again, should this one be sold prior to your visit, plenty of alluring gift options await you. — Matthew Schniper
It should be no surprise to find an online subculture around Metal Typers, but it still kind of is. These machines, mostly wooden, can stamp up to 32 characters on small, sheriff's-badge-looking tokens that feel not quite like metal and not quite like plastic; not exactly the sexiest game in town.
But someone writing at mattsdadtom.wordpress.com explains: "These super fantastic machines were found from the 1940s until the late 1980s in amusement parks and on boardwalks. You would drop your money in the slot and turn the handle on the front on the machine to the desired letters or number to make your very own stamped token."
And the cost to manipulate that mean, green front that looks like a combination clock and rotary telephone? One dollar, if you do it at the Manitou Springs Arcade (900 Manitou Ave., 685-9815). Sure, you can buy the whole shebang on eBay for $99, but rolling into the Skee-ball room and squeezing past kids clutching tickets and teens clutching each other, all to make a text-based memory, is something better not tried at home.
For that we turn, as with almost everything kitchen-related, to the Germans — specifically, to a 159-year-old manufacturing company called Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik AG, better known as WMF. Technically, it's owned by an American private-equity firm, but that hasn't affected its ability to churn out eye-catchingly clean pieces of kitchenware, like the stainless-steel salt and pepper shakers at Whickerbill (742 Manitou Ave., 685-1540). Essentially two skinny cylinders marked "S" and "P," the $26 pair comes set in a dark square of bamboo. A thought from one user, though: "Since the holes are on the front from which the spice flows, you have to hold it sideways to shake the salt or pepper from the tube."
So if you're upset by such horizontal delivery vehicles, we've got something you'll probably buy, move once, and never budge again: an $800, chrome-plated metal heating-stove from Ruxton's Trading Post (22 Ruxton Ave., ruxtons.com). There's a couple units there, starting at around $300, but the one we've got for you, with its gleaming coiled accents, looks like an elaborate tureen, or a suit of Roman armor. Stamped with the words "Advance Oak, Fred C Voss, Denver Colo," this baby's maybe 120 years old, says co-owner Mike Graham — who sells them on consignment for a refurbisher near Walsenburg — and burns wood like a champ, though it may be too pretty for even that.
"Yeah, they're beautiful all redone," says Graham in a phone interview. "And when I met this person that restores those, he's been at it for a long time. And I've seen some other restored stoves, but it's a real dramatic difference when you look at about 90 of 'em, and 12 of them are restored and the rest of them aren't."
And good news, luminosity lovers: As of this writing, Graham hasn't sold it yet — but time's ticking.
"You know, it's a seasonal thing: When fall comes, people buy 'em and put 'em in their garage, or their workshop, or something like that — those kind of lower-end cheaper ones," he says. "These, you know, somebody might use these to heat with. But I wouldn't be surprised if they just buy 'em to put in a corner of a room." — Bryce Crawford
This area overflows with "experience gifts" — wonderful because they cannot be left to collect dust in the corner of the shed.
First stop is Old School Bakery (located in the Blue Star, 1645 S. Tejon St., 632-1086, though eventually destined for the Ivywild School), where for $2 a pop you can buy beautiful cupcakes handcrafted by executive pastry chef Alicia Prescott. The pretty little bundles are sprinkled with chocolate shavings and wrapped in brown waxed paper. Order any flavor you want, but red velvet is the standard for a reason. You'll need to order your cupcakes at least two days in advance, then pick them up at the shop, where they come packaged in a brown box with ribbon. Prescott is also making pecan sticky buns, cinnamon buns, and a Christmas season-exclusive red velvet yule log. Again, you'll need to order in advance.
If you'd prefer to give a lower-calorie gift, both SalonSeven (622 S. Tejon St., salon7.biz) and J. Gregory Salon (1701 S. Tejon St., jgregorysalon.com) offer gift cards in any amount. Around $60 should buy your loved one most services at either hip beauty spot. At SalonSeven, for instance, a cut costs between $40 and $60; women's haircuts at J. Gregory start at $44. SalonSeven tends to focus on hair, though it does offer facial waxing. J. Gregory also offers a few other services including nails, facial waxing and makeup.
For those who want to be a hero this holiday season, consider heading over to the trendy new studio Playoga (1626 S. Tejon St., playogastudio.com). For $120, you can buy a gift certificate for 12 classes. Many classes at Playoga hold only three to eight people, which means your loved one will get plenty of one-on-one attention while trying to twist into a graceful pretzel. Owner Becca Roodhuyzen says Playoga is also different because students take their classes with a single teacher, who selects moves that he or she feels are most important to the practice.
Interested but can't quite afford the $120 price tag? Roodhuyzen says she's offering five classes for $60 during the holiday season. — J. Adrian Stanley
As of this writing, Tejon Street shopkeepers look likely to get their big gift this year: a panhandling ban for the area bordered by Boulder Street to the north, Cucharras Street to the south, Nevada Avenue to the east and Cascade Avenue to the west. So for now, let's put that 12-square-block core (and legal and moral arguments) aside to highlight three places in less-discussed outskirts of the downtown area.
You could literally spend hours at the Treasure Shoppe (324 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 465-1692), which offers that most rare of shopping experiences: a place where employees just leave you alone. Wandering through dozens of dealers' enclaves, I stopped longest at a vinyl collection in the northwest part of the store. Among the records that even the Leechpit (always another worthy downtown shopping stop, at 802 N. Nevada Ave.) would be proud to call its own are Roxy Music's Siren and Isaac Hayes' Chocolate Chip. But a true gem is The Story of Star Wars, a 1977 release that took the film and basically put a shortened version of it onto vinyl (sound effects included). This was the closest thing you could get to a home movie in those days, and you can find them selling for $30 or so on eBay today. But at the Shoppe, it's just $3, like most of the records.
Taking the downtown boundary toward its northernmost end is the Bon Shopping Center, the much-loved, '50s-era strip-mall that in October welcomed Bon Pet Supply (2312 N. Wahsatch Ave., 465-2143). The store's grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 1, but it's already outfitted most of its nearly 2,000 square feet with items for all kinds of animals. (It also sells a surprising number of stuffed dogs, if you're into the lowest-maintenance "pet" ownership.) Just past the Holly Madison Lucky Pet display, manager Amanda Morton will happily sell you an Outward Hound Pet-a-Roo dog backpack ($25.99, small), which is actually more of a frontpack — you wear it like a BabyBjörn. Now your friend with the miniature pinscher can take his pup to Barr Trail for hours, just like all those German shepherd owners. Or to the coffee shop for a latte. You know, whatever.
Heading back toward the city center, you'll find Meininger (201 S. Weber St., 578-8070), the art supply store with Front Range roots dating back to 1881. For under $10 here, you can buy a Make Your Own Comic Book pack; for under $15, a Food & Fold after-dinner origami set. Or, go big and drop $110.99 for DeltaSand's indoor Sandcastle Set. The sand itself (1.6 gallons) is a fairly magical compound that supposedly never dries out; employee Terry Fabian says it proved true when the store left a display out for about a year for customers to play with. The set comes with an expandable sandbox, a "brickmaker" and other molds. Plus you can buy additional sand, in all different colors, for about $22.
One more artsy thing to consider: Colorado College's Worner Campus Center hosts the school's annual arts and crafts sale this weekend: 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, and 10 to 5 Saturday and Sunday. With student artists and professionals selling handmade wares, and some money going to CC's Arts and Crafts Program, it's another excellent way to buy local. — Kirk Woundy
From the food court to the big-name chain stores to the teenagers wandering aimlessly in packs, there's nothing like the all-American, generic mall experience during the holidays. But if you're a dedicated local-only shopper, don't write off the Citadel too soon. There are a number of interesting gifts and shops hidden among the mall's generic offerings.
For one, there is the family-owned Wishing Well Glass Blowers. Tucked into a corner on the third floor, nearly every item packing the shelves in this seasonal shop was created during the off-season by the store's glass-blowing artisans. And among the rows and rows of glass angels, dragons, crucifixes and the like, you will find tiny glass dinosaurs. The perfect size and price-point ($15 to $18) for a stocking stuffer (but maybe too fragile to be a literal stocking stuffer), these fearsome Tyrannosaurus rexes and not-so-fearsome Brontosauruses come in red, green or purple and are mounted on agate or mirror.
While on the third floor, stroll to the locally revered Imagination Celebration. This nonprofit boasts a wide variety of kids' activities, from the multiple tinkering stations for blooming artists and electrical engineers, to the reading room and wall space for art exhibits. Here you'll also find fun, imaginative hats, such as the limited edition Dragon Hat ($25). Created by locally owned hat maker Elope, the oversized, colorful and floppy hat is based on a design by local illustrator Michael Hague. A great gift for the young-at-heart and cold-of-head.
Now that we've exhausted the third floor, let's head down to the first floor, giving us the opportunity to stop by the food court for a tasty Orange Julius.
On the first floor is the dark and Blade Runner-brooding Lucky's Electronics (luckyselectronics.com). Catering to the raver-set, Lucky (the owner) offers an abundant variety of the-future-is-now electroluminescent badges. These paper-thin, battery-powered doodads are approximately the size of a DVD box, and Velcro to the front of a T-shirt ($29).
Why would you want one? Because the designs on these badges, from sports team logos to demonic faces, change intensity of lighting, as well as color and pattern, based on the beat of whatever music might be playing. For a night out at the clubs, Lucky assures us that this is a great conversation-starter with the ladies.
For the more adventurous raver on your shopping list, consider gifting the electroluminescent car headrest cover ($89) — Lucky and company will size it for you, custom. — Chet Hardin
Try as I might, I was unable to locate any original Warhol paintings for sale in these neighborhoods. Now it could be that I didn't try hard enough, or it might also be that the iconoclastic art icon's original works have gotten a bit pricey. His 1962 "32 Soup Cans," for instance, has fetched a cool $15 million.
So it's a pretty safe bet that the highest pop-art-style-per-penny ratio in anyone's holiday stocking this year will be the Andy Warhol Limited Edition Campbell's Soup Can (75 cents). Released in September to commemorate the aforementioned work's 50th anniversary, they're still at the Target (335 N. Academy Blvd., 596-6220) just south of Platte Avenue.
Admittedly, there's nothing local about this gift idea, but it's a can of art history for 75 cents, and some profit will reportedly go to the endowment of the Andy Warhol Foundation, which promotes the visual arts. Labels come in four Warhol-style color combinations, and include an illustrated Andy on the back accompanied by a word balloon containing one of four well-known Warholisms. (P.S.: There's also tomato soup inside, presumably, but it'd be kind of wasteful to open them unless you're in zombie-apocalypse lockdown mode.)
Moving into the higher investment arena, the anime fanatic on your gift list will no doubt appreciate your paying a visit to Rainy Day Anime (2350 S. Academy Blvd., rainydayanime.com). Located in an unassuming strip mall, it's packed with eye-catching manga comics — including most volumes of Battle Royale, whose premise fully anticipated The Hunger Games — as well as action figures, costumes, paintings and animation cells.
There are lots of gifts to choose from, but my pick would have to be from the selection of licensed messenger bags. While I'm personally fond of the relatively subdued Cowboy Bebop one, I'm guessing that the more popular would be the Paranoia Agent messenger bag ($39.99), which features the Tsukiko Sagi and Shonen Bat characters from Satoshi Kon's darkly popular TV series.
And finally, for the highest rollers among you — two puns intended — there's the Jump Start High Output Grow Light System ($99.98). According to the folks at Spencer's Lawn and Garden Center (4720 Center Valley Drive, Fountain, 392-2726), it's got more uses than the one that most immediately comes to mind after seeing all those headlines about Colorado becoming the new Amsterdam. Folks in this part of town, I'm told, are more likely to use them to grow garden herbs and lettuce. Good to know! — Bill Forman
Not many people in our part of the world dote on the burning acidity and pleasing brininess of good kimchi, but you know what? More should.
So this gift is as much for the cause as it is for the cook. For $24.99, you can outfit your pampered chef with a special kimchi fermentation vessel from Asiana Market (5740 N. Carefree Circle, 570-9732). Like others of its kin, this heavy, squat earthenware pot lets the germy goodness happen undisturbed. And thanks to the heavy lid that rests on the top, it won't explode once the gases start building up inside. The pot can also be used for preserving or fermenting other foods, like soybean paste, hot pepper paste and rice wine, according to Korean cooking site maangchi.com.
I'd recommend taking a good look around the family-owned Asiana as well, where you can pick up other cooking supplies like stainless steel chopsticks, or bulk items like an 8½-pound tub of Huy Fong Foods' chili garlic sauce (also under $25!).
Perhaps your giftee's tastes sway more athletic than culinary. In that case, think about a Sky Sox six-game weekend pack ($60 per seat, tinyurl.com/6uamu4c). This plan offers lower box seats to the six biggest games of the season, like Opening Day, the Independence Day Extravaganza and Used Car Giveaway Night. It's the proverbial gift that keeps on giving (especially if there's a car thrown in there). And it's quality Triple-A baseball: The 2012 Sox finished No. 2 in the Pacific Coast League's North Division, with a final record of 75-69.
Now, this last item may be in something of a niche market, but a nice pipe from Stag Tobacconist (4109 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 633-0669) goes a long way for a budding enthusiast or a seasoned smoker.
(Let's get two things out of the way first: Yes, smoking is bad for you. No, we're talking tobacco, not weed.)
The Indy asked Stag employee Steve (who asked we do not print his last name, though he goes by "The Pipe God") for a nice pipe among Stag's formidable collection and wide price range. He selected a Stanwell Night/Day series pipe ($128), a fine bent, or curved, specimen made from briar wood. Briar, he explains, is a burl from the roots of the heath tree that develops a tight wood grain, which makes for fine puffing by way of its fire-retardant properties and moisture absorption. A good pipe like this one, Steve says, will not only burn its contents well, but last you a lifetime.
"Don't go too cheap on your first pipe," he says. "Like anything else, you get what you pay for."
As far as choosing your pipe, breaking it in and packing it, Stag's website, stagtobacconist.com, offers a plethora of tips, but the staff also invites you to drop in and ask questions. They carry, after all, about 275 different kinds of pipe tobacco, and a huge humidor devoted to more than 1,200 different kinds of cigars. — Edie Adelstein