Go for: Kitchen supplies from serveware to citrus zesters to an ever-changing selection of sophisticated but fun home decor—all with a special focus on fair-trade items and products made in the United States.
5280 Pick: This honest dessert server from Georgia-based Mud Pie ($19.99) will get your guests smiling even before they’ve tasted your famous cheesecake.
We hate to break it to you, but with another Halloween in the books, Thanksgiving is officially right around the corner: Only a few weeks stand between you and your kitchen’s longest day of the year. Luckily, Centennial home store Compleat Lifestyles has everything you need to make sure your hosting duties go off without a hitch. The store has been serving south Denver for more than three decades, but its collection of kitchen gear and home decor is worth a visit no matter where you live. Rows of cookware, serving dishes, and china have you covered on the basics, while a massive gadget wall with products like garlic choppers and pineapple corers introduces you to all the cooking supplies you never knew you needed.
However, as its recent name change suggests—the store was known as Compleat Gourmet and Gifts under its original owners—your kitchen isn’t the only room this shop can outfit. From candle holders and wall hangings to a massive collection of ornaments and holiday decor, there’s a lot to love at Compleat Lifestyles. Owner Connie Stevinson talked us through it all.
5280: How did you get started with Compleat Lifestyles?
Connie Stevinson: The store was started 31 years ago, and I started shopping here in 1984, not long after it came into existence. And then I actually went to Rwanda in 2009 and met some women who had been widowed in the genocide who were doing a training project and weaving baskets for Macy’s. I ended up talking to the owner of the training center and found out that they wanted to find more markets in the States. So I agreed to help them do that and started going to trade shows and wholesaling their Rwandan handicrafts.
Through that, I met the owners of Compleat Gourmet, and they started buying the baskets. In 2011, I heard through the grapevine that [owners Barb Trexler and Joan Dennen] were going to retire and liquidate the store. And I thought, We can’t have that—another small business that’s been around for a long time going out of business. So I contacted them and I bought the store in September 2011.
What does Compleat Lifestyles have that you can’t get at the big-box stores or at other shops in the area?
We go to the trade and gift shows two or three times a year—to New York City, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas—looking for what’s new and fun and cutting-edge. I have the flexibility to bring in and try these new things that a big corporate outfit doesn’t. They don’t take risks. I can. We also have a large selection of fair-trade items as well as a selection of Colorado-made things. Whenever I vacation in Colorado, I seek out art galleries and look for things that are made here in Colorado [in order to] support artisans. So it’s a combination: looking for what’s fresh and new in the gift market, as well as focusing on things that benefit local artisans.
What does Compleat Lifestyles have to offer for shoppers who don’t live in the southern suburbs and would have to make a trip to stop in?
We have such a unique mix of products. People get tired of going to the mall where they can’t find parking (we have free parking), and they get tired of going to the big-box stores where you can hardly find a person to help you, let alone someone who knows what they’re really talking about. We have personal service. I like to think of us as the Cheers of the [shopping] scene: Where everybody knows your name. Really, we are a one-stop shopping place that’s not the mall and doesn’t have the big crowds. In a mall, you see the same things over and over, whereas here, we have things that I know no one else has.
Who would be the ideal Compleat Lifestyles customer?
Husbands! For sure. We do a gift registry, so the, you know, discerning wife will give some hints and help out her struggling spouse who doesn’t know what to get her, or the kids who don’t know what to get Mom for the holidays. We have something for everyone, but our sweet spot is probably Mom.
What’s your pick from the store for the must-have product to be a successful Thanksgiving host or hostess?
I would probably say some pieces of Beatriz Ball serveware (pictured above). It’s oven to table, it’s beautiful, and it comes in a lot of different sizes. It dresses up your table but doesn’t have to dirty more than one dish. I think it’s important to try and keep the work of Thanksgiving down to a minimum so you can really enjoy your family. So [the biggest must-haves are] serving pieces that are functional, beautiful, and versatile.
What’s next for Compleat Lifestyles?
I really focus on making the experience for my customer the best that it can be. I want to be known as an experiential place…we do tastings, we do classes. We’re going to do a party-planning class, and we’ve done a travel class. We do charity events at night. I’m very big on giving back, and I really want to plug in to the community and partner with other small businesses and other people doing really good work, because I think it’s a great platform for making the consumer aware that their dollars make a difference.
That’s why our tagline is, “Shop to make a difference.” Because when you shop with us, you’re making a difference in your local economy by shopping with a small business; you’re making a difference in the charity groups that we, in turn, support; you’re making a difference in terms of buying USA-made and fair-trade goods. My mission is to educate people on the power of their dollars and what they can do to make a difference.
Bonus: There’s never been a better time to check out Compleat Lifestyles than at its Holiday Open House this weekend, November 6–8; all ornaments will be 20 percent off.
Compleat Lifestyles Gourmet & Gifts, 7592 S. University Blvd., Centennial, 303-290-9222, compleatlifestyles.com
Compleat Lifestyles Home Accents, 7562 S. University Blvd., Centennial, 303-290-9222, compleatlifestyles.com