You can tell a lot about a town by its stores. As the saying goes, where your money is, your heart is.
Boulder’s heart will always be just a little offbeat.
People talk about “old Boulder,” and that’s what the “Keep Boulder Weird” bumper stickers want to protect.
You can keep Boulder weird by visiting Boulder’s weirdest shops. We’ve got dog bakeries, rare-book stores, an “enlightened” smoke shop and old-school glass shops. Buy rare crystals, a hand-painted David Bowie mask, a new pet snake, a stack of old table legs and a deck of tarot cards. Many of these interesting shops have been around for decades and are Boulder staples. All of them carry unique, only-in-Boulder gifts and nontraditional souvenir options.
Here are 13 of Boulder’s most interesting shops.
1. The Amazing Garage Sale, 4919 N. Broadway
This warehouse in north Boulder is a treasure trove of surprises. You never know what you’re going to find in this funky consignment store. Vintage furniture, art and random decor are a given. If you’re lucky you’ll score original vintage art. How about a hand-painted David Bowie mask? Check. Art Deco mannequin? Obvs. The best thing is this shop is cleverly curated so everything is something you just have to have. You never know what you will find here. It’s always changing up.
2. Crystal Dragon, 3330 Arapahoe Ave.
This shop calls itself “Boulder, the way it used to be.” Crystal Dragon opened in 1994 on the Pearl Street Mall but moved to its current location due to rent increases. It’s worth the drive (plus, it’s next to Jimmy John’s, so you can get a sandwich) if you’re looking for hand-blown glass and all kinds of pipes, but also crystals, tapestries, candles, clothes, jewelry and tarot cards.
Call it a hippie shop; it’s got hemp products, tie-dye, rocks and sage. This is what Boulder used to be known for. Even if you don’t like to swathe yourself in hemp, Crystal Dragon has a fantastic selection of greeting cards. Bonus: Ask about intuitive card readings from one of the staff while you’re shopping.
3. Boulder Hazmat, 1901 63rd St.
This isn’t exactly a store but it’s an unexpected place to get home goods and art supplies. Many people don’t realize anyone can stop by the Boulder Hazardous Waste Department and get tons of free home improvement stuff. People donate their unwanted house paint, spray paint, cleaning supplies and more, and you can just pick it up, put it in your cart, weigh it and walk out. Repaint your entire house for free. Get spray paint to redo furniture. Leave with art supplies and no money out of your pocket. Not to mention, you’re helping the environment by reusing.
4. Beat Book Shop, 1200 Pearl St.
Boulder is known for its beat poetry ties, and the Beat Book Shop taps into that culture. This funky shop sells used books, CDs and records, some rare. You’ll find other random stuff and collectibles for sale, too. The shop itself feels exactly how you’d expect for an antique bookstore: It’s small, crowded, dim and a scavenger hunt. The Beat Book Shop has been open since 1990. It holds weekly poetry readings at a nearby coffee shop, the Laughing Goat. Snap, snap.
5. Classic Facets, 942 Pearl St.
Classic Facets is not your ordinary jewelry store. It carries rare and vintage jewelry: costume, estate and also fine jewelry. It even carried a collection of Hollywood star Mae West’s real jewelry, complete with her DNA on them and papers to prove it all.
Head here for one-of-a-kind jewelry, all with a story, and finely curated to assure you will want every last thing. This shop has an international reputation for its antiques: more than 20,000 pieces from consignors in 10 countries. It’s been a Boulder store for more than three decades.
6. Aqua Imports, 2690 28th St. Unit C.
Come here if you want to buy a snail. Maybe you’re looking for a snake. A coral. A frog. A spider?
Aqua Imports sells exotic reptiles, fish, amphibians, arachnids and even insects. This shop is interesting to walk through, even if you don’t have space in your suitcase for a new eight-legged pet. It is lined with more than 200 fresh-water tanks and more than 2,000 gallons of saltwater aquariums. It claims to have the largest selection of “livestock” in the area, plus all of the related supplies.
Aqua Imports has been operating in Boulder since 1989.
7. The Lighthouse Bookstore, 1201 Pearl St.
Here’s another interesting bookstore in Boulder. The Lighthouse Bookstore sells books, but with a spiritual emphasis. You can find religious texts and metaphysical items like statues, incense, tarot cards, pendulums, sage and jewelry. You know, New Agey stuff.
Lighthouse used to be part of a chain (15 stores opened across the country over the years) but Boulder’s is the only one still in business. It has been around since 1986.
You may also be able to get psychic readings here.
As one Yelp reviewer named Alexis N. described it, “Personally, I think that the Lighthouse has been around as long as it has (about 30 years) because it contains the beating heart of Pearl Street’s unapologetic weirdness in its narrow aisles. It’s more than just a curiosity; sometimes, it’s just downright weird.”
8. PC’s Pantry, 2828 30th St.
Only in Boulder can you shop at a dog and cat bakery. PC’s Pantry is a pet store with a bakery and deli inside, serving up handmade treats, meatloaves and food made with human-grade, natural ingredients. No salt, sugar or preservatives added.
Not even to the animal birthday cakes. Yup. You can order different-sized “bark-day” cakes in various flavors (beef, salmon, turkey, liver, chicken).
PC’s also serves as a “general store” for your domestic pet needs, such as leashes, dog clothes, toys and collars. Naturally, your pets can shop with you. Maybe they’ll get a bag of free treats at the checkout.
9. Buddha’s and Goudha’s, 2009 13th St.
This is an “enlightened smoke shop.” That’s how Buddha’s and Goudha’s describes itself.
This small downtown smoke shop sells locally made products like smoking paraphernalia and pipes. It also sells hula hoops.
And hookahs. And incense, vapes, LED products and clothes.
Although the shop is quaint, it carries products from more than 200 manufacturers. Its location gives it easy access, too, across from the courthouse.
10. Shoes and Brews, 63 S. Pratt Parkway, Longmont
Head to Longmont for this unusual combo: a nanobrewery and shoe store in one.
At Shoes and Brews, you can shop for running shoes, go on free fun runs and then tip a brew. When visiting, request the 800-Meter Road Challenge: The faster you run 800 meters, the cheaper your beer is.
11. Art Parts Creative Reuse Center, 2870 Bluff St.
Art Parts brings together Boulder’s love of the environment and art. People donate their unwanted creative supplies and you can buy them massively discounted.
You’ll find gently used or unwanted everythings: instrument parts, antique coins, wine corks, dog tags, table legs. Plus the expected suspects: yarn, fabric, paints, markers.
Art Parts is a nonprofit founded in 2011.
Where else can you buy a bucket of Art Deco table legs?
12. Rocketman, 4461 Broadway
Oh, Rocketman. This is Boulder’s old-school head shop in north Boulder. It sells the usual: pipes, papers, posters and paraphernalia. But not just regular pipes. Shoppers love its selection of scientific and artistic glass pipes. Slightly less expected, Rocketman also sells skateboards, dub albums, glass sculptures, massage oil, carved wooden products and more.
What really makes this shop unique, though, is its atmosphere. It’s known for being super chill, friendly and as laid back as possible. Come in, stay and shop a while. The space is clean. The prices are reasonable. The staff is helpful.
13. Kathi’s Krystals, 4636 Almond Lane, Gunbarrel
Head just a bit outside of Boulder proper to Gunbarrel for Kathi’s Krystals. This shop sells all kinds of unique, quality stones from around the world: worry stones, rare minerals, medallions, emu eggs and more. The shop buys from Russia, Pakistan, The Congo and more.
Kathi’s Krystals is owned by a husband-wife duo.
Another unusual feature you might notice: The shop’s website links to a book about the card game, Spades (not something you’d expect to find on the site for a stone store). That’s the book written by one of the co-owners, Jack, and incidentally how the couple met. The woman, Kathi, bought his book. And they’ve been married since 2004. Maybe the book is good luck.
Call before you visit because you can only get in by appointment, adding to the mysterious allure.