Asian Pacific Market (615 Wooten Road, #160, 573-7500)
I can't say for sure that the following speaks to APM's authenticity, but the phone is answered with "Ni hao," and it's borderline impossible to get a conversation going from there. What's not impossible (but seems like it should be) is finding chicken breasts for under $2 per pound, and ridiculous prices on items like shallots, ginger and garlic. This, on top of killer variety — with items like baby bok choy, mung bean sprouts and live seafood — and it's easy to see why APM's 20,000 square feet take the cake. — BC
Old Colorado City (24th Street and West Colorado Avenue, 574-1283)
Rubbing shoulders with throngs of like-minded fresh produce seekers on 24th Street off West Colorado Avenue is how thousands of residents prefer to spend their Saturday mornings in the summertime. The Old Colorado City Farmers Market has been the top dog all five years we've had this category. Not hard to figure out why, if you listen to market master Franklin Schmidt: For 25 years, it's remained true to tradition. About 28 vendors specialize in farm products, from fruits and veggies to meats, cheeses and breads. No crafters, no one-vendor dominance, just a "well-rounded market with a great ambience next to Bancroft Park." — DK
ABBA Eye Care (Multiple locations, abbaeyecare.com)
Normally I'm not one to drool over whiz-bang technology, but I happen to have the visual acuity of a myopic free-tailed bat. So when manager Alan Sindler says ABBA is committed to staying on the cutting edge of vision technology, I eagerly prick up my echolocating, mouse-like ears.
Their third-eye-sight is 20/20: Sindler says he doesn't need special glasses to see the future — special glasses are the future. "They're doing very crazy things with contacts where — have you ever seen the movie Terminator? You see vision through his eyes and it'll read the person's height and weight. We won't necessarily do that, but contact lenses will be able to provide computerized information, and the electrical charge from tears will power them." So we should be able to see like the Governator by 2020, and that's no joke. — CAS
Luisa Graff Jewelers (4663 Centennial Blvd., 260-0100, luisagraffjewelers.com)
Luisa Graff Jewelers has won this category five years in a row. "But I never take awards for granted," Graff says. "We haven't won it, we've earned it." Graff believes there's a difference between selling and serving. "We serve our guests with love," she says, "and I believe people can feel that. We've even had marriage proposals happen here in the store, and one man hired a violinist." Graff is a certified gemologist, and often travels the world to bring home the best gemstones she can find. "My promise is you'll always know what you're getting," she says, "and my staff is aligned with that goal. They are my angels, and I love them all."
Future plans: "I don't want to reveal it yet, but there's something really big on the horizon." — KK
The Leechpit (708 N. Weber St., 634-3675, leechpit.com)
"You get up early, you drive far, you fight weirdos and you dig through trash until you find the treasure at the bottom." The lives of the owners of the best vintage store in town may not be glamorous — even when one of them moonlights as a "professional rock journalist" — but Adam and Heather Leech are justifiably proud. Best Of darlings for the fifth year in a row, they are using their popularity to launch a nonprofit called Wasted Potential, dedicated to fostering local artists.
2011 according to Adam Leech: "Colorado Springs will be ground zero for the new cultural revolution. The Renaissance will begin, Baby Jesus 2.0 will be born, and the Rapture will come, but it'll be opposite ... and the rest of us can get on with our lives. And oh, I'm gonna be the mayor. I forgot. I'm gonna get elected on a write-in ballot." — CAS
Commonwheel Artists Co-op(102 Cañon Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1008, commonwheel.com)
Want a unique piece of original art by a Colorado artist? Seek out Commonwheel Artists Co-op, a fun shop that features some of its co-operative members' best works. Since 1974, this collaborative has been promoting art in the Pikes Peak region. The store is the main avenue, along with gallery events and a Labor Day art festival. A wide array of sculpture, mixed media, fibers and fabrics, jewelry, pottery, paintings, photography and other creations makes Commonwheel a must-visit on a Manitou afternoon. Artists take turns manning the counter and are on hand to chat about selections. — DK
Poor Richard's Book Store (320 N. Tejon St., 578-0012, poorrichards.biz)
Poor Richard's has grown from a tiny used bookstore to a destination location for many out-of-towners. "We're constantly improving and continually growing," says manager Marie Poole. The bookstore sells used, rare, out-of-print and collectable books; vintage children's books; first editions; and autographed copies. Oh, it buys and trades books as well. Keep an eye out for additional expansion in the future, as well as the shop getting more involved with community literary and arts events.
The effect of electronic reading devices on used-book sales: "There are a lot of people who just love the feel of a book or the smell of a book. As long as people can find a wide range of affordable books, I don't see it affecting us in any great way." — LB
Terra Verde (208 N. Tejon St., 444-8621, terraverdestyle.com)
Nothing satisfies the seasoned shopper's senses better than a journey inside Terra Verde's 6,500 square feet of downtown shopping nirvana. Whether you're seeking the latest fashion-forward finds to round out your wardrobe, a bit of tasteful home décor appropriate for the season, or a fun and funky gift for a friend, you'll find it at this independently owned destination boutique. Though this is a first-time win by Terra Verde for Over-the-Top Gift (of course, it's a first-time category), the store has come out at the top repeatedly in the Women's Fashion and Accessories categories. Once you have a look around this browser's paradise, you'll understand. And rumor has it, if you visit the store and listen closely, you'll hear shoppers quietly repeat the mantra: "want, want, want." — JT
American Classics Marketplace (1815 N. Academy Blvd., 596-8585)
"People like one-stop shops," says Shirley Adamson, longtime manager of American Classics Marketplace. "If they can't find what they want here, they aren't going to find it anywhere!" She attributes the store's popularity to great marketing by owner Jake Jabs, a friendly and helpful staff, and unique, good quality low-to-high-end products. A great location "at the hub of the city" doesn't hurt, either. "We are a mainstay and growing more and more popular all the time," Adamson says. "We have customers who bring out-of-town guests in here just to check us out." — SC
Platte Furniture (2331 E. Platte Place, 633-7309, plattefurniture.com)
When owner Dick Kelly first opened Platte Furniture on Memorial Day in 1978, it was in a 3,000-square-foot location. It's now in a space 10 times as big, but Kelly still describes Platte Furniture as a "ma and pop shop" that promises a comfortable shopping experience, excellent customer service, great selection and fair prices. While their offerings run the gamut — new furniture, gently used furniture, even 100-percent Egyptian cotton sheet sets — they're generally "above-average, unique items you can't find elsewhere." Plans for the future include another location in Colorado Springs. — SC
American Furniture Warehouse (2805 N. Chestnut St., 633-4220, afwonline.com)
OK, so American Furniture Warehouse isn't truly a national chain, since all its stores are in Colorado. But its "local delivery" includes western Kansas and Wyoming, and it will deliver virtually anywhere else (provided you buy enough furniture and pay some extra fees). Regardless, Jake Jabs' juggernaut feels more "national" than "local" to us because of its low prices and ridiculous selection. Styles run from classic to contemporary, but actually, store manager Dale Pepper says the "Colorado" style is still widely in demand. It probably needs no explanation, but just in case: It's the lodge look, with bulky, wood-framed chocolate and natural-toned pieces. "You could be moving here from the most contemporary of contemporary" cities, he says, but in Colorado, "you feel the mountains, you look at the architecture of the homes, or even the apartments, and they're not set up to be that contemporary." It's a more "down-to-earth home style." — BA
Little Richard's Toy Store (324 N. Tejon St., 578-3072, poorrichards.biz)
When they find out they're shortlisted for the Best Of issue, most local business owners greet the news with at least a touch of pleased surprise. But at Little Richard's, they just say, "OK." The suspense may have worn off after winning Indy readers' acclaim for 15 years running, but the staff has made an exact science out of picking the right toy for every child. Next time you go in, ask to be given the quiz. If nothing else, their answer may surprise you.
What the Magic 8 Ball says: "In 10 years, I think the toys are going to go more and more electronic. And that's not what we're about," says store manager Suzanne Doroski. "I'm hoping that Little Richard's is going to stay pretty much where it's at. We are what we are, and I don't really want to change that." — CAS
Rick's Garden Center (1827 W. Uintah St., 632-8491, ricksgarden.com)
Rick's Nursery and Landscaping (600 N. 18th St., 636-3085, ricksnursery.com)
Mike Estes has been watching customers flock to Rick's Garden Center, in his words, "since they invented dirt." Actually, he joined the business in 1977, and he and his wife Gail took over eight years later. They're now celebrating 25 years of ownership, standing up to the big-box store competition by focusing on inventory, customer service and expert advice.
"The previous owner always said that when times are good, people garden. And when times are bad, people garden more," Estes says. "We've been blessed with growth, even the past few years when so many places are going out of business or have heavily reduced sales."
He's also seen people flock to Rick's Nursery and Landscaping, on 18th Street just behind Rick's Garden Center. Many of those people — and lots of our voters — assume that they're part of the same business. Not so.
"The original business actually split in 1976," Estes says. "The original Rickners, the husband ran the nursery and the wife had the garden center. He wanted to retire, but she didn't. She leased out the nursery, ironically to a guy named Rick. We eventually took over the garden center."
He adds, "We're definitely separate, and there is a difference. They are good folks, and actually, if someone comes to us and they need a tree or a shrub, we'll say, 'Maybe you should go see those folks.' But we want to make the distinction because we have no control over what recommendations they might make, and their advice might not be the same as ours."
Chuck Reed, the owner of Rick's Nursery and Landscaping, confirms that the two businesses share much more than a peaceful coexistence.
"We've always felt like we're actually working together since the 1970s and, in a way, portraying ourselves as one business," Reed says. "Everybody in town seems to think it's just Rick's, and we really do have the same philosophy of trying to provide the best service and best products that we can. Anytime I see recognition for Rick's, I assume that most people really mean all of us — upstairs and downstairs."
Trends in tilling: "In the early '80s when the economy was in a funk, people did more vegetable planning, fruit trees, things like that," Estes says. "We're seeing a repeat of that the past couple of years because people want more control of what goes into their food. We've sold thousands of tomato plants, and we've seen a 30 to 50 percent increase in vegetable seeds." — Ralph Routon
Platte Floral (1417 E. Platte Ave., 632-2607, plattefloral.com)
For the sixth year in a row, you've voted Platte Floral your go-to anniversary/birthday/"I'm sorry"/just because flower shop. Naturally, it offers a beautiful array of fresh fleurs in chilled cases, but also many thoughtful alternatives to the bouquet. Green plant baskets and several varieties of potted flowers are striking; my favorite are the tall, potted white and purple phalaenopsis orchids that, in the store, surround a large stone fountain. If the recipient can't be trusted to keep a plant alive, but still would appreciate something that'll last, consider the home and holiday decor, outdoor furniture or lawn furnishings. Really, this is much more than just a place to pick up roses. — BA
Mountain Chalet (226 N. Tejon St., 633-0732, mtnchalet.com)
Does Mountain Chalet need any introduction when it's won this category hands-down for the last five years? This cozy, comforting local store is a hotspot for seasoned adventure-seekers as well as those newbies wanting advice and all kinds of outdoor gear (including some of the most stylish winter hats sold anywhere). Turns out friendly service, great gear and competitive prices do lead to happy customers. Who would have thought? — SW
Independent Records & Video (Multiple locations, beindependent.com)
When I pulled into Independent Records late on a weekday night, there was no seeing into the store from the outside — all the windows were plastered in posters of rappers in saggy pants and pouty-lipped pop singers. It was one of those discouraging nights when everything — buildings, streets, people — appears in shades of grey. So the inside of the store was a bit shocking. All those rainbow rows of CDs and records, the sound of music thumping, teenagers with pierced everythings strolling around in tank tops. Toward the back, a few boys were breakdancing. I stopped and watched them, their legs spinning round and round. I was hypnotized, transported back to my 14-year-old self, my heart thumping with that excitement that always came with being in the record store. It was a relief to know that places like this still exist. Indy Records has been around since 1978. It's never lost in this category. And even though progress has swallowed most peers, these stores are still here. Still making 14-year-olds (and slightly older people) feel cool. — JAS
Savory Spice Shop (110 N. Tejon St., 633-8803, savoryspiceshop.com)
In 2004, Mike and Janet Johnston were driven by a love of cooking to open the first Savory Spice Shop in Denver. Now six short years later, they've opened four more retail outlets, built a thriving Internet business, and begun offering franchise opportunities. The store in Colorado Springs is one of those franchises, which opened last fall thanks to local owners Dick and Mary Frieg. Entering the shop feels a bit like stepping into a magical storybook apothecary. The walls are lined with cases holding a dizzying array of neatly arranged jars, each carefully labeled and containing a different colorful ingredient. For a moment you'd almost expect to hear someone request a little eye of newt as the shopkeepers encourage the curious to smell and taste the wares. But it's an altogether different kind of special ingredient these shoppers seek (and find) here, as they hope to achieve not the power of a strong potion, but the magic of a perfectly prepared recipe. — JT
Blindside (293 S. 21st St., 636-1554, blindsidecolorado.net)
When Jon Easdon opened Blindside in the winter of 2007, he had some definite ideas about how he wanted to run his own small shop. After 18 years working professionally with skateboards, snowboards and skis, in manufacturing and in large and small stores, Easdon wanted to do things differently. "I wanted to keep it personal, and keep the heart and soul in it," he says. "I own the store, and I'm here. I take the time to work with people. And I do all the tune-ups myself, which takes so much time it's not really cost-effective. But it's super important." So what about moving to a bigger store in the future? "I'll just have to play it by ear," he says, laughing. "I don't want to bite off more than I can chew." — KK
The Ski Shop (1422 S. Tejon St., 636-3355, theskishopinc.com)
"Everyone always asks me how a small business in south Colorado Springs can compete with the big-box stores," says Rick Uhl, the owner of The Ski Shop. "I tell them that's easy: We are very passionate about the sport." Uhl's wife Debbie and his brother Scott work with him, and he considers it a family business — though he also credits managers Kevin and Carolyn Kinney, who have been with The Ski Shop since the mid-'80s. "It's not about the quick buck," Uhl says. "We'd rather make a friend by steering them toward the perfect piece of equipment they can use for many years to come."
The coming ski season: "I never try to predict snow. If the meteorologists are only right half of the time, I won't even come close." — KK
Old Town Bike Shop (426 S. Tejon St., 475-8589, oldtownbikeshop.com)
Lots of people want to mess around with bikes all day. But there's a science to identifying people who can do that and work well with human beings. John Crandall has it down. "It has ranged from hiring somebody I've known for 10 years as a customer," says the Old Town Bike Shop owner, "to one man I hired from a 10-minute phone conversation." OK, so that was totally out of character, but it's worked — five years later, the guy's still there, and so is Old Town's reputation for stellar customer service. Crandall, of course, has been the face of the shop since he opened it in 1976, and is happy to report that there's news beyond his ongoing recovery from multiple surgeries after a 2009 car-bike accident: Old Town is now carrying Trek bikes in addition to its Pivots, Cannondales, Breezers and more.
What's en route: "I think we'll see more electric bicycles, and part of that has to do with the aging population." — KW
Crafty Laine Fabric Boutique & Sewing Lounge
(273 Washington St., Monument, 375-3961, craftylaine.com)
Fellow sewers, be warned! Monument's new Crafty Laine Fabric Boutique & Sewing Lounge could be either the best thing to come to town for us all, or the worst. Best, because the cute shoppe-in-a-house offers top-quality fabrics at reasonable prices from designers like Amy Butler; fun patterns from Izzy & Ivy and Grand Revival; and inexpensive classes for tweens, teens and adults all month long. Worst, because if you're like me, you already have too many projects on the burner and a much-too-large fabric stash. — KA
Apex Sports (327 S. Weber St., 475-2437, apexsportsinc.com)
Inhale the strong smell of rubber that's itching to meet the road. Admire 200 shiny new and pampered used motorcycles, scooters and all-terrain vehicles on-site (with hundreds more tucked into a nearby warehouse). Try on the right outfit, and imagine yourself living the open-road dream. Now do you know why Apex Sports is celebrating its 50th anniversary under the same family ownership? This bike dealer has it all, from sales to service to parts to a gallery of road gear and clothing. Friendly staff with plenty of experience on the floor and the highway help buyers find the best fit. General manager Mike Stokes hopes banks loosen their grip on lending in upcoming months, so even more riders can get some seat action. "Mid-sized bikes will continue to be popular because of fuel costs," he says. "People want to buy; they just need to be able to get the financing." — DK
Sportique Scooters (1834 E. Platte Ave. — as of Oct. 26, 442-0048, sportiquescooters.com)
Jarrod Stuhlsatz has worked at Sportique Scooters since 2003, so he's seen Sportique win this category every year since we introduced it in '05. Could be one reason why he went all in and bought the store a couple months ago ... but, OK, there are some bigger factors at work there, as well. "We've seen interest picking up over the last few years, and not just due to gas prices," he says. "It's about conserving fuel to help the environment, too — these scooters average 80 miles a gallon, and the emissions are much less than a car. We all like our big vehicles, especially in ice and snow, but we don't always need them. Our goal is to help replace the large wheels on the road with smaller ones."
Sportique's future: "We're moving to a bigger store in October, near Union and Platte. With expanding sales, we need more space!" — KK
Yobel Market (2528 W. Colorado Ave., 433-1318, yobelmarket.com)
Earlier this year, Yobel founders Sarah Ray and Donavan Kennedy opened an Old Colorado City storefront for their fair-trade craft business, which had previously exhibited only at local holiday markets and the like. The expansion is significant for them and the nine "people groups" in eight countries from which they buy goods. (Learn more about the groups and shop online at yobelmarket.com.) Ray and Kennedy regularly travel internationally to meet with partner groups, as well as to forge new craft contacts. Each dollar spent in their store on artistic, handcrafted jewelry and clothing (as well as chocolate, coffee and more) directly helps impoverished communities. Cheers to Yobel for providing truly socially conscious shopping. — MS
Phil Long Ford (1212 Motor City Drive, 888/424-6136; 1565 Auto Mall Loop, 266-3308, myphillong.com)
Fords are on more car-buyers' minds these days, and in Colorado Springs, Phil Long Ford is the place to go to bring home that new GT Mustang, Fiesta or the ever-popular F-150 truck. It could be the fact that Ford Motor Co. didn't take a bailout from the feds, like the other two domestic automakers. Or it could be Phil Long's 65-year history in town as a privately owned company. But most likely, the reason locals favor Phil Long Ford is a combination of having the cars people want to drive, along with a good reputation, good service and good deals, says Dan Jonuska, who heads the dealership in Motor City. "The perception of Ford is very strong," he says, "and our sales are up 115 percent this year over last year." — DK
Heuberger Subaru (1080 Motor City Drive, 475-1920, cheapsubaru.com)
We've had this category for six years. Heuberger has won it every time. But there's another honor that distinguishes Heuberger from other local car dealers, foreign or domestic. For the past four years, Heuberger has been the top-selling Subaru dealership in America. And it's not just about Coloradans buying Outbacks, Foresters and Imprezas, either. Because of its sales volume, Heuberger can mark its prices down low enough to attract customers from many other states. General sales manager Robert Ieans' plate is so full, with so many sales, he can't even take a deep breath to talk about what lies ahead. Definitely not a case of being No. 1 and suddenly turning lazy. Heuberger wants to continue those streaks as long as possible. — RR
Gearonimo Sports Equipment (2727 Palmer Park Blvd., 465-2450, gearonimosports.com)
Gearonimo is like a Play It Again Sports for the mountain crowd. Where PIAS focuses more on team sports equipment, generally, Gearonimo specializes in high-quality, used mountain gear like tents and backpacks at bargain prices. Owner and office-space-renter-by-day Pete Youngwerth launched the concept in late May, partly inspired by a friend's business in Portland, Ore. He also identified a local need for affordable mountain and snow gear for folks who can't just slap a new North Face item on the credit card. Think snowboards valued at more than $400 on sale for $150. You'll also find climbing and backpacking equipment, bikes, canoes and a few of the items PIAS carries, too. The added bonus to shopping at both and saving money is the fact that you're recycling and reusing someone's out-grown or seldom-used items that otherwise might languish in a basement, attic or — gasp — landfill. Buy, sell for cash or store credit, or put it on consignment. All hail the Gearonimo. — MS
Compleat Games and Hobbies
(326 N. Tejon St., 473-1116; 7862 N. Academy Blvd., 344-9475; compleatgamer.com)
If your heart starts beating faster at the thought of playing Magic: The Gathering, or trying your hand in a biannual model-building contest, Compleat Games and Hobbies is definitely the place for you. Compleat is gamer, geek and nerd heaven, with events almost every night of the week. John Goodwin, co-owner and avid gamer, encourages new gamers to try the Dungeons & Dragons: Encounters night for a short introduction to a role-playing game that, unlike many games, actually encourages human interaction. (Short for the gaming world means an hour and a half, in this case.) Those of you looking for a less intense gaming experience can explore the family games or puzzles sections, take chess lessons, or go to the weekly family game night. — LB
Chain championsCongratulations to these big businesses that locals love:
King Soopers (Multiple locations, kingsoopers.com)
Whole Foods Market (3180 New Center Point, 622-1099; 7635 N. Academy Blvd., 531-9999; wholefoodsmarket.com)
Kohl's (Multiple locations, kohls.com)
DSW (7639 N. Academy Blvd., 264-8007, dsw.com)
Arc Thrift Stores (1830 W. Uintah St., 473-0502; 2780 S. Academy Blvd., 391-7717; 4402 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 522-1203, arcthrift.com)
Barnes & Noble (795 Citadel Drive East, 637-8282; 1565 Briargate Blvd., 266-9960,barnesandnoble.com)
Best Buy (3150 New Center Point, 597-9519; 7675 N. Academy Blvd., 593-0414, bestbuy.com)
GameStop (Multiple locations, gamestop.com)
Apple Store (1685 Briargate Pkwy., #315, 522-4460, apple.com/retail/briargate)
CarMax(4010 Tutt Blvd., 313-4860,carmax.com)