2028 East Colfax,
Bus directions: catch the 15 at Lawrence and 17th Streets or take the 20 from Market Street Station down 17th Avenue
NOTE: BIxa has closed. That location now houses a medical marijuana dispensary.
Friday was serendipitous: the week before Christmas had been cold, snowy; I was stir-crazy. But Friday was warm enough to walk around without a coat in the early afternoon.
I started out at Bixa, a small shop at Colfax and Vine in what used to be the red-light district of Denver. Colfax still has its gritty parts but has cleaned itself up enormously since I moved here in the late 1980s.
The first item that caught my eye in Bixa was a clock made from recycled computer parts, and I asked Charles, who owns the store with his partner Darrel, “Did Carol Baum make that clock?”
I met Carol when we were planning Artful ReCreations for Eco-Cycle; she was one of the featured artists. So I felt right at home in Bixa, with its rugs braided from grocery store bags and its colorful purses fashioned from candy wrappers into all shapes and sizes. Charles said the staff generally don’t recognize the candy wrappers the purses are made from; he thinks they come from other countries.
Bixa is Artful ReCreations 24/7 and then some.
My favorite items in the stores were those made by a Denver artist using acupuncture needles: necklaces, earrings, little storage boxes. I almost bought the creation below, whose silver patterns resemble embroidery but are actually needles coaxed into various shapes.
I bought some organic, fair trade Assam tea there, and had a long discussion with Charles about green teas with that toasted flavor—you know what I mean? I love that flavor. And about Intelligent Nutrients, Horst Rechelbacher’s new company. He founded Aveda back in the day and decided to start up a new cosmetics company after he saw what Estee Lauder did to his baby. Motto: “Everything we put in and on our bodies must be nutritious and safe.” So Intelligent Nutrients products use “organic food ingredients.”
You bought some “organic” lotion? Sorry, there is no organic standard for cosmetics in the United States. “Organic” means something only when you’re talking about food—which makes Rechelbacher’s solution ingenious, I guess.
If I had wanted, I could have stayed until closing talking to Charles. He knows a lot more than I do about recycled and organic products.
But I had to get a move on. I said good-bye to Valentina, the shop mascot; snapped a picture of SAME Café (So All May Eat), which closes at 2 pm most days (open all day Saturday); and headed to the African and American Trading Company, just a block west of City Park.
African and American Trading Company
2217 East 21st Avenue
Uptown/City Park West, Denver
303-377-3770 (not a direct line to the store, but you can call to get hours)
Bus directions: take the 20 from Market Street Station
I walked in, and a voice greeted me from among the shelves of baskets and dolls. John Henderson was sitting in the back corner of the small shop, talking with his friend Harold Brewer. I introduced myself, and the second wonderful conversation of my Friday began.
Mr. Henderson is an importer of goods from Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Iceland, and England. For thirty years he’s been indulging his “hobby” because he likes to meet interesting people. He told me all about his trip to South Africa, the gold miners (both men and women) who descend 11,000 feet into the earth to do their job, the times he was mistaken for a Zulu, and the South Africans who were so excited to meet American blacks because they’d only seen them in the movies.
When he found out I was from Kansas City (he’s from Wichita), he told me about the restaurant on the Country Club Plaza he visited in 1951. They wanted to serve him in their kitchen, but he said he wasn’t that hungry.
What struck me first were the tiny Zulu baskets, some of them called “oops” baskets, for “out of the ordinary production system,” and made by girls who are learning basket weaving so that they can make a living when they’re grown up. The baskets are made by hand from Ilala palm and bark and grasses and natural dyes. Some baskets are woven so tightly they can hold beer. Women do most of the weaving in the Zulu Kingdom, as far as I could tell, but men now weave baskets from telephone wire; the one I saw in the store was bright orange and blue.
I really wanted to take home some of the dolls below (those with woolen capes are initiation dolls for girls), but I settled for 3 baskets.
I told Mr. Henderson my review would appear on December 23rd. If I’ve gotten anything wrong, I hope his friend with the Internet connection will leave a comment here correcting it.
The African and American Trading Company will be open until 6 on the 23rd and from 8 am to noon on Christmas Eve.