Thursday, October 28, 2010

First Local Pick: Treasure Hunting

Just about everybody I know likes a house that feels like a home. That's a no-brainer. For me, this happens when a house feels lived in, tastefully nonchalant and layered with items that tell stories. Achieving this sometimes takes a lot of talent, a lot of time and a keen eye or two. Not you? I feel your pain. I tense up at the thought of sifting, shopping and hoping I'll stumble across the right thing. 

Thrifting made a brief appearance on the blog this summer, and even with the tips I've received on doing it well, I'm still hesitant to try. Something about digging through a lot of junk to find that one good -- or sort of good -- thing doesn't sound like the best way to spend a Saturday. And then I stumbled upon the Treasure Shoppe on the downtown corner of E. Pikes Peak and Wahsatch. This is 18,000 square feet of pre-sifted treasures. The Treasure Shoppe rents space to 140 vendors, or mini shoppes, and almost has the feel of an organized, upscale flea market. 

All kinds of styles are represented, so if you're looking for the perfect tea cozy to brighten up your Victorian-themed sunroom, you can probably find it there. If you want an original statement ring or necklace, there's plenty to go around. I've found a great retro chair and paired it with a delicate desk and stool, making my bedroom decoration almost complete. The shoppe is full of new, old, vintage and repurposed handbags, glassware, jewelry, artwork, furniture, and other weird, one-of-a-kind things. 

If you're scared of thrift or antique stores, don't knock this one until you try it. It can be overwhelming, but you'll quickly realize whose shoppes suit your tastes and whose don't. I'd be surprised if even the biggest skeptic left empty-handed, given their variety and knockout bargains. And if you need help finding something specific, the employees love working there and know the merchandise and the vendors well, and give excellent recommendations. 

I'd like to thank the Treasure Shoppe for making it possible to find charming things at great prices and be able to walk out the door in a good mood. It's now my top pick for both rookie and veteran thrifters.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


A letter arrived here from Denver, addressed to the previous owner of this house. There was no return address, but the envelope was thin and we could see through to the paper inside. It said three words:

It's your time.

I don't know whether to scream, cry, laugh, or run. 

First Local Pick: Java

Planet Coffee
The place to see and be seen for young, middle-class white American trendies is apparently the coffee shop. Hey, it could be worse. Any coffee shop will do, but it's better if you know the best places to perch. I confess, this post is included in the mix because I thought a coffee shop had to be included in a "local's best of" series, not because there is a particular knockout shop in town. There are several good coffee shops, but I have yet to find the spot I can't wait to get back to. That said, I decided to include my top three.

Most likely place to have a conversation about the triumph and dangers of Arminianism: Agia Sophia. Operated by the Greek Orthodox Church and located in the historic building which used to be Colorado City's city hall, this is definitely the place to come when you want to study or read. For one thing, you're surrounded by books and often listening to Gregorian chant. For another, you get subtle {but dirty} looks from the other patrons if you blab too loudly. They have the best chai latte in town and the most comfortable atmosphere.

Most likely place to spot a hipster: Jives. This place has the potential to be head and shoulders above other coffee shops in town, but it's only a few months old and is still settling into its niche. With wingback chairs, checker boards and a warm warehouse-y vibe, it has an attractive quality about it resembling that certain "pulse" that made us adore coffee shops in the first place. Jives will become the go-to place to hear live music several nights a week, and to grace Colorado Springs with your own masterpieces on Open Mic Night. It also has a killer location, right in the heart of Old Colorado City, just off Bancroft Park. I'm excited about this one.

Most likely place to feel a tad more sophisticated: Poor Richard's, or Rico's, as the locals call it. It's technically named Rico's Coffee, Chocolate and Wine Bar at Poor Richard's. Why so complicated? Because Poor Richard started four different businesses -- a bookstore, a restaurant, a toy store, and a coffee/wine bar -- all next door to each other. And now he's Rich Richard. Your drink is ordered from an actual menu, and you might as well try one of their fine chocolates to enjoy while you sip. If you don't feel like sitting at the bar, reveling in the brick wall and dark wood, or browsing the bookstore for a used treasure, you can stroll downtown on Tejon Street and do a bit of window shopping with your hot cuppa' somethin' in hand.

So there you have it: my top picks for studying, jamming, and feeling cultured. I tend to judge a coffee shop's greatness based on whether or not I would travel from another town to go there. Denver has some places that meet this criteria, but I'm afraid Colorado Springs still has some growing to do. We're making great strides, and I have a lot of faith. These three are all worth a shot, and I'd love to hear your impressions!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First Local Pick: Threads

Ladies, let's get one thing straight. We like to have fun. We also like the freedom to be original and stylish at the same time. And to eat the occasional piece of chocolate. My favorite local clothing boutique covers all the bases. Eve's Revolution not only has a fantastic staff who remember your name and your friends' names, but they are walking advertisements -- the kind that make you want to buy what they sell and listen to their style opinions. I'm not quite to the point where I'd say I feel like family, but I do feel like the girl next door.

Taste is a critical element when it comes to boutiques, and Eve, the shop owner, has winning taste and incorporates styles from current trendsetters. She regularly goes to market in Los Angeles and comes home with well-chosen new pieces that are put on the floor with high-quality consignment items. If you prefer subtle or bold, trendy or timeless, shoes or bags, coats or dresses, jewels or jeans, it's all there. And if it's not there this time, visit again soon.

Coming here from L.A., I was expecting sky-high prices. Everything in the store is fairly priced, and if you time it right, you'll find deals worth shouting from the rooftops.

Pampering her customers is a priority. She throws parties several times throughout the year and even hires a local catering company to bring food into the shop for the day. These days are always fun, a great way to meet other locals and see what's new for the season. Her next event, Rendezvous on the Avenue, is this Saturday from 10-6. Be prepared for a packed house, because word has traveled and people want the Revolution. Keep up to speed on events on their facebook page, or sign up to be on their email list.

One of the most attractive things about this shop is that it is constantly promoting other local businesses, even those similar to their own. It's all in the spirit of celebrating what local businesses collectively bring to a community, and because they believe in that, they promote others who work to give Colorado Springs a unique flavor.

The shop is a delicate old house with industrial flair on the inside thanks to Eve's husband, an industrial engineer extraordinaire. It's worth a poke, and while you're there, congratulate Eve on ten successful years in business!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

First Local Pick: Eats

How would you like your favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner spot to be the very same place? Yes? Then pack your bags and head!!... as long as the final destination is Adam's Mountain Cafe in Manitou Springs.

Adam, you've done it. You've single-handedly created the best food and ambience for all three meals and everything in between, right there in your little mountain cafe. Okay, so it wasn't Adam. It was Greg Adams who started this beautiful thing in 1984, the very year before I entered this great, wide world. The restaurant has moved around but is now planted {hopefully forevermore} in the historic Spa Building.

Adam's Mountain Cafe maintains the highest standards for every dish. As part of the Slow Food movement, you can count on a leisurely meal, local, original food with outstanding taste, and service that assumes you want to linger. These people take their restaurant seriously, and have even included the Slow Food International Manifesto on their homepage. They want you to eat like snails crawl. Sllloow. Savoring every bite.

My favorite meal there is the Fresh Pear and Pecan Salad, topped with a heaping portion of the best Colorado goat cheese to be found. To drink, a cold glass of fresh lemonade. On a summer evening, I prefer to eat on the patio next to the creek and watch the mountain shadows creep their way down Manitou Avenue. When it's too cold for the patio, the dining room vibe is just right. I wouldn't change a thing about it. Antique, mismatched chairs, high ceilings and Persian rugs all add to the style, and if you're there on a Tuesday or Thursday evening, you'll enjoy a tasteful serenade by local musicians.

The restaurant is in the heart of downtown Manitou, so a post-meal walk is always an interesting one. I often connect with my inner child at the Penny Arcade next door (yes! a good laugh for only a penny!), but there are art galleries, clothing and jewelry boutiques, shops just for chocolate, ice cream and coffee all along the Avenue. And did I mention that Manitou is at the base of a mountain? I don't know what more a person could want, really. Adam's is a great blend of city and mountain, so if you like both, you'll love it here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

First Local Pick: Home Sweet Home

The first spot that makes a place feel like home is... well... home. So that's my first "locals" topic. I've moved again. Yep. This one's on the West side -- the best side -- and is perfectly quaint. I walk and bike places now, enjoy a peaceful pace, and catch myself gawking at the mountains when I should be driving to work.

I climb the creaky wooden stairs and open the front door, which is itself a black, geometric delight. The inside is light and airy with dark wood beams across the ceiling. My favorite part of the house is actually the outside: the porch and the tiny balcony. Both look out over the valley, covered in overgrown trees and speckled with old houses and slow cars. It's the valley of the eternal lazy afternoon. Beyond the valley is the ever-changing Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods and Red Rocks Open Space. I can see it all from our little spot, and somehow never tire of looking at it.

It has become my writing nook and reading corner, and is just right for a cup of hot tea (tea kettle coming soon in the mail!). It's my new secret place. I know that's cheating because it's my house, but it's still my secret place. I'd tell you where it is and invite you for tea once my kettle arrives, but then it wouldn't be a secret.

The reason these four little walls made it onto this blog as a favorite local pick is that I feel alive and free here. Even though most people in my neighborhood are of the vintage stock, that means it's anything but "keeping up with the Joneses." It's a place you can simply be and appreciate what's around you for what it is, young or old, stylish or not. Personality abounds, and I breathe a deep sigh of relief when I arrive at this place and call it home.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Can Everywhere Be Home?

For a country as individualist as America, we sure do labor and strive for "sameness." I've written about suburban housing, but here I want to ask questions about what we're giving up to support suburban businesses.

Over lunch a couple weeks ago, several friends announced that a favorite restaurant from back home was opening soon in Colorado. Their excitement was contagious, but as they described their favorite meals, I realized that this restaurant would no longer be associated only with home. Every time they eat there, it will be less a reminder of another place and more a part of their life here in Colorado.

I crave a piece of coconut cake from Aroma Cafe and fondly remember the originality and class at Gjelina, but I don't wish those places were also in Colorado Springs. They are some of the things I anticipate in a visit to California. They are some of the things that make the California experience what it is. If I could get the same things here, California wouldn't seem so special, and neither would those places.

Think of your favorite place to be and then think of all the reasons why. It's most likely your favorite place because it doesn't stir a single emotion in you and inspires you to do absolutely nothing. No?

When consistency and convenience are at the top of the list, the chain idea is a good one. When an unusual, memorable experience is at the top, chains are a bad idea. The second tends to be at the top of my list more frequently than the first. I'm not suggesting doing business only at local places, but when given the choice, wouldn't you rather have the experience over the convenience?

And I have to say, I've made friends at all my favorite local places. I have yet to make a friend at a chain store or restaurant. I don't snarl at chain employees (although maybe I should), but their employers have a different feel and purpose: Get 'em in, get 'em out, don't care who ya are, just don't hold up the line. I've never walked into Wal-Mart and been delighted to do so. Some people must prefer this method because big box stores keep showing up.

Chains have a way of sucking culture right out of a perfectly decent town. I don't want to get off the plane in Kalamazoo and wonder if I accidentally flew to Salem. People go bananas in a place that is void of expression. It's what we were made for.

For all you Colorado Springs dwellers, my next few posts will highlight some of my favorite spots around town, and maybe give the out-of-towners some motivation to visit!