Like its residents, the small businesses of Denver are pretty cool.
They’re finding clever new ways to bring a unique, local flavour to the city’s food, retail, and services businesses.
The aptly named Mile High City is also a pioneer, sparking debate and new ways of thinking about America’s drug culture. On January 1 it became legal
to buy marijuana in Colorado without a prescription, which has inspired a growing number of cannabis-friendly companies and services.
From food trucks to barbershops, Denver’s laid-back attitude is exemplified in its small businesses.
What it is: A split personality bar/biscuit joint/pizzeria.
Why it's cool: Satisfying all your needs under one roof, Atomic Cowboy opens at 8 a.m. and starts serving 'Denver's Best Bloody Mary' until the moment they close. But from opening until 2 p.m., customers can also enjoy crazy biscuit creations made by their 'morning personality,' the Denver Biscuit Company.
Then from 11 a.m. until close they become Fat Sully's Pizza and serve ultra-large New York-style pies, while Atomic Cowboy's happy hour goes on from 4-7 p.m. Now operating from two locations in Denver, guests can enjoy all three personalities from each.
What it is: An elegant Denver hotel with its own honey bee hives on the roof.
Why it's cool: The Brown Palace Hotel has been a beloved landmark in downtown Denver since it was built in 1892. With its sky-high, cathedralesque atrium lobby and detailed architecture, the Brown Palace Hotel is best known for the bee hives on the roof that supply the honey that sweetens the hotel's baked goods served at its famous afternoon tea. The hotel also has an artesian well that supplies water for the entire hotel.
What it is: An online community for crafters.
Why it's cool: Craftsy offers step-by-step instructions and patterns for craft projects of all kinds, and sells the supplies you need to make them. They also offer online video classes, taught by expert instructors, on everything from cake-decorating to knitting to quilting, with close-up instructions in the virtual classroom and Q&A sessions with the teachers.
What it is: A beer company that uses science to make great brews.
Why it's cool: Crooked Stave 'blends science and art through creativity and passion' to make their beer. In addition to getting a glass at their taproom at the Source marketplace,
Denver residents can apply for their annual cellar reserve membership, which gets them some cool stemware glasses, members-only apparel, and access to the brews not sold in stores.
What it is: A marijuana retailer that makes customer service a priority.
Why it's cool: Established in 2009 as a medical marijuana dispensary, Denver Kush Club began also selling marijuana for recreational use beginning January 1. A line of customers was waiting on its 'opening day' to peruse their 60+ strains of the plant, as well as apparel, vaporizers and pipes, and edibles that they sell to customers with attention and discretion. Denver Kush Club prides itself on customer service, and offers customers who make them their primary center a $US35 store credit plus one $US10 eighth per month.
What it is: A bar crawl where participants ride a multi-seat bike from place to place.
Why it's cool: A group of up to 16 people can reserve their seats on the patio ride for an entirely different bar crawl experience. Guided by a Denver Patio Ride staff member, pedalers make a loop through designated bars in the neighbourhood. Having trouble finding 15 people to crawl with you? Hop on a public patio ride by yourself or with a friend or two and meet new people.
What it is: A specialty store for olive oil aficionados.
Why it's cool: Rachael Ray must love this place. With additional locations in Littleton and Aspen, EVOO Marketplace is the spot in Denver to get premium, infused, and other specialty olive oils and vinegars. Many of their products are imported from the biggest olive-producing regions in the world, but others, like some of their vinegars, jams, chutneys, and tapenades, are locally made and delicious.
What it is: A food truck that concocts odd peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Why it's cool: This big purple food truck is hard to miss and too irresistible to avoid. Hey PB&J sells grilled, gourmet peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that run from sweet to savory to spicy. Satisfy your craving for grade school lunches with the King sandwich -- made with Applewood smoked bacon, clover honey, sliced bananas, and house-made peanut butter -- or the more traditional Nutella Banana sandwich.
What it is: A simple shop that perfects the craft of making pies.
Why it's cool: Winner of CBS Denver's top apple pie award, the Humble Pie Store has perfected its sweet and savory pies with recipes like the Classic Farm Chicken Pot Pie or the Western Slope Peach. Pies are available in regular and mini sizes, and some are gluten-free.
If you prefer your apple pie through a straw, try the delicious pie shake made from a slice of Humble Pie blended with Sweet Action ice cream.
What it is: A badass print and silkscreen shop.
Why it's cool: Not only does Indyink design and print original posters, clothing, glassware, and other promotional products for individuals and businesses, it also does custom embroidery work in a variety of cool designs and images. They specialize in the alternative and the badass, creating work that everyone from hipsters to skaters are proud to sport.
What it is: A single-chair barbershop that serves just one client at a time.
Why it's cool: Located in an old Victorian building just seven blocks from the State Capitol, the exclusive Kurt's Cuts doles out service that will make you feel like the only client in the store -- which makes sense, as Kurt's serves just one client at a time. Kurt Luetjen has more than 19 years of experience as a barber, garnering a loyal customer base that raves about his personal service and reasonable prices.
What it is: A mortuary-turned-multicultural restaurant.
Why it's cool: Housed inside a stylish, expansive room that used to be Olinger Mortuary, this small-plate-style restaurant is anything but a ghost town. Its knowledgeable waitstaff and chef-owner Justin Cucci set out to connect people through the diversity of food and culture. The result is an eclectic menu of 'global street food,' representing regional specialties in multiple continents. For a little worldliness, try the Mongolian BBQ duck bun, or shishito peppers paired with cheddar curds and an orange-habanero jam.
What it is: America's first certified organic online grocer.
Why it's cool: Like Peapod or FreshDirect, Mile High Organics lets you pick your produce online and chill out on the couch while they arrange it to be delivered to your door. But unlike other online grocers, MHO is 100% organic and GMO-free -- the first certified organic online grocer in the U.S.
MHO also tries to support local and sustainable food businesses whenever possible, and stocks many specialty food and household items so you can do all your shopping in one place.
What it is: A tour guide company that centres on marijuana-themed activities.
Why it's cool: My 420 Tours, the first devoted marijuana-themed tour operator in the U.S., arranges outings for participants to experience Colorado's renowned tourist attractions while high. Already 4,000 people have signed up for tours, which include visits with pot growers, chefs who cook with tobacco, and some of the dozens of shops in and around Denver where it's now legal for anyone 21 or older to buy marijuana without a prescription.
What it is: A pink truck that spins new versions of traditional food cart creations.
Why it's cool: These aren't your standard food cart hot dogs and burgers -- at Pink Tank inventions like 'The F-bomb' (a hot dog with scrambled eggs, thick-cut bacon, cheddar cheese, and caramel-maple syrup on a French toast bun) are what you'll be getting. Pink Tank hopes to optimise the ultimate eating experience, which is partly where their truck comes in. The pink and black monster sports their mohawked robot logo, and throws flames more than five feet up in the air.
What it is: A brand new pizzeria offshoot of Chipotle.
Why it's cool: A partnership between restaurant chain Chipotle and founders Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson and Bobby Stuckey, Pizzeria Locale applies the fast-casual formula of the Tex-Mex giant to a pizzeria. Since its opening in May, it's been a big hit with the locals. Customers order their own personal pizzas at the counter, choosing their own toppings or selecting a pre-set pizza from a menu. The 11-inch pies are cooked in less than two minutes in a high-temperature pizza oven.
What it is: A new, modern handmade tie and bowtie maker.
Why it's cool: Launched in spring of 2013, Primary makes its ties and bowties with quality fabrics and puts tons of thought and consideration into even the most minuscule details of the products, which are available on its website. It aims for a modern yet elegant look that brings style back into traditional office attire.
What it is: An indoor, no-snow-needed training center for skiers and snowboarders.
Why it's cool: On its synthetic foam 'snow' cliffs with 10-foot drops and multiple drop-in platforms, Progresh offers classes and group activities for those looking to shred during the off-season. Customers who just want to wing it can ski or board on their own. The training center's best feature is perhaps the Progresh airbag, the first indoor action sports airbag in the country, which absorbs impacts and feels like 'landing on a cloud.'
What it is: A bar that doubles as an entertainment emporium.
Why it's cool: This cavernous bar, gastro-diner, coffee house, and entertainment and private party venue is open 'til 2 a.m. daily. Sip at a classic cocktail punch bowl while challenging your friends to bowling, shuffleboard, or video gaming. Apparently, it's also a great place to call it quits with your significant other -- Denver Westward voted Punch Bowl the Best Breakup Restaurant of 2013.
What it is: A sustainable breakfast and lunch-only restaurant.
Why it's cool: Snooze gives 'green eggs and ham' new meaning. This retro-future-style diner recycles and composts more than 90% of its waste, works with farmers to create dishes from 'real' food, and established partnerships with local government to improve efficiency. This sustainable eatery serves farm raised, free range, and local food products, and imports organic coffee from Guatemala every week.
What it is: A vintage arcade and bar.
Why it's cool: Opening its doors for business in 2011, this 'barcade' packs the basement space nearly every night of the week, enticing gamers and foodies alike. The 1Up offers more than 45 classic arcade-style games as well as Skee-Ball, pinball, and sets of giant Jenga, and serves 14 beers from taps custom built into a classic arcade game.
The 1Up recently added 22 meticulously restored Donkey Kong machines to its collection, in anticipation of hosting its third annual 'Kong Off,' the Donkey Kong world championship.
What it is: An urban winery that represents a counter-culture in winemaking.
Why it's cool: This pretension-less winery does away with the vineyard location, rolling hills, and tasting room covered in granite and marble. Operated by one self-described 'mad scientist' working out of a back alley in the RiNo Art District, the 'Wine Lab' provides tastings and a vending machine that dispenses cans of wine, for the more eager wino.
What it is: A kooky magic and novelty shop.
Why it's cool: Inside the walls of the castle-like magic shop, visitors find a hands-on play environment full of games, puzzles, magic tricks, and costumes. It's a kitschy store perfect for gifts, but it's also a place that a kid (or a grown-up) could go and play for hours on end. And many days they can, as the shop hosts different game nights nearly seven days a week.
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