This isn’t your ordinary mall. Many malls are packed with chain stores, anchored by big-box retailers, department stores and national restaurant branches. Walk inside and you could be Anywhere, USA.
Boulder is different. While it’s true that the cost of running a thriving business in Boulder has forced many independent businesses to shut their doors, plenty still remain. And they’re truly what gives Boulder its spirit.
The city has its chains; the Twenty Ninth Street Mall is packed with them, from Macy’s to H&M.
But the pedestrian-friendly Pearl Street Mall has plenty of one-of-a-kind shops. That’s not to say the mall is chain free. Shops like Athleta, Starbucks, Billabong, Urban Outfitters, Volcom, Steve Madden, Prana and Patagonia line the brick street. But these big brands are interspersed with even more local shopping options.
Here are nine of the best local shops on and around the Pearl Street Mall.
1. Tough Luck Cowboy, 2050 Broadway
This locally owned shop should be the first stop for anyone visiting Boulder. It’s stocked with eclectic western goodies: cowboy boots, jewelry, art, gifts, home decor, furniture, clothing, antiques, bath products, studded belts, buckles, fringe, embroidery, toys, CDs, books, ornaments, you name it. Tough Luck Cowboy also features local art by Nancy Anderson and Sophy Brown.
Head here for a unique, non-kitschy Colorado souvenir or one-of-a-kind gift or to get fitted for those perfect cowboy boots you’ve always dreamed of owning. The shop owner is friendly and helpful; you’ll feel like you’re lifelong friends by the time you leave.
2. Voss Art + Home, 2037 13th St.
Voss is a store, but it feels like a museum. Everything here is so carefully handpicked and incredible that it feels like it should be part of an exhibition. Each piece could be, too. The store selects items that tell a story.
Voss calls itself a “lifestyle store.” This means everything you could ever want and never knew you wanted to decorate your home, from art to furniture and accessories, all internationally handmade. Many things here are vintage or upcycled/recycled in clever ways, which is oh-so-Boulder. You can also find hip baby items at Voss.
One of the most interesting features at Voss is its Pop Up Shop, essentially a store within the store, featuring local artists that change up every two weeks. It’s always changing and you never know what you’re going to find, which makes Voss one of the most addicting and locally inspired places to shop.
3. Two Hands Paperie, 803 Pearl St.
This is one of our favorite stores in Boulder. We could browse the shelves all day: racks of beautiful papers, hundreds of artistic journals, photo albums, stationery, cards, books, art supplies, writing tools and gifts from around the world. You can even custom design and print your own cards, stationery and invitations right on site, in the vintage printing press.
Not sure where to start? Sign up for one of the paperie’s classes. Get involved in free lectures and book signings.
This shop started as a bindery that made hand-bound books and decorative paper.
4. Savvy on Pearl, 1114 Pearl St.
Savvy is a stylish boutique on the mall that carries brand name clothes, shoes, bags and accessories, as well as locally made, Colorado-themed clothes. You will find reputable brands, as well as emerging and lesser-known lines that you can’t find anywhere else. Most stuff here is casual — so very Colorado — like flip-flops, swimming suits, Uggs, Toms and cute clothes.
Savvy has been family owned and operated for more than a decade. The store carries products for men, women and children.
5. Two Sole Sisters, 1703 Pearl St.
This shop is run by (you guessed it) two local sisters, Lindsey and Laurel Tate. It’s an independent store that carries unique shoes, bags and accessories that are fashion-forward enough to fit in in NYC. But this stylish shop is far from stuffy. It’s relaxed and warm and friendly. It has a great reputation among the locals and the combination of the atmosphere and quality products explains why.
6. Madelife, 2000 21st St.
Head east on Pearl for this store, a center for all things art. Madelife supports local artists by helping them not only sell, but also make art.
First, 75 percent of the products here are sourced from Colorado artists. We’re talking home goods, jewelry, furniture, fine arts and even herbal goodies. Madelife is a huge space, spanning 6,000 square feet of shopping, creating and exhibition space. There’s a black box theater, art gallery and sound studio.
Madelife also offers internships for artists in video, audio production, photography and graphic design. Catch live events (from concerts to theater), sign up for a workshop and make art here. You can record music and video, screen print tees, watch films and buy art right off the walls.
There’s nowhere in town like Madelife.
7. Liberty Puzzles, 1468 Pearl St.
Liberty makes classic, wooden jigsaw puzzles out of plywood. These locally made puzzles are so cute and hip, in a retro way. Every piece of every puzzle is different. These puzzles are works of art that you can play with — more than 650 different types of puzzles, in fact.
A fun element: Every puzzle features dozens of little “whimsy pieces,” which are delicate, intricate little characters and details interspersed into the bigger puzzle.
These puzzles are made right here in Boulder, and you’ll find new ones all the time.
8. Infinitely Simple, 1128 Pine St.
This is not a typical shop. Infinitely Simple is actually a social enterprise located inside the First Congregational Church, just off the mall. It provides work and training for people recovering from mental health difficulties. They design and hand-make beautiful meditation and yoga products, such as meditation cushions, yoga bolsters and eye pillows. The little shop also makes pillows, skirts and more.
We love Infinitely Simple because it provides useful wellness products while contributing to other people’s well-being too.
9. Chantique, 2020 11th St.
We can’t get enough of this store. When you walk past, you have to stop. Chantique is packed with more than 150 jaw-dropping, sparkling chandeliers, antiques to mid-century, from around the world. The owners regularly visit France and Italy in search of unique chandeliers, which they bring to Boulder for us to drool over — and if we’re lucky, take home.
You can also find fountains, old doors, paintings, furniture and sconces. This has to be Colorado’s most incredible lighting store.