Nestled just off Tennyson along 44th Street is a strip of new shops that bring a dose of high style to the Berkeley neighborhood. Anchored by the 1920 landmark Oriental Theater, this stretch of storefronts—known as the Stuart Street Shops—has become a haven for independent boutiques that carry high-quality, well-priced beauty products, clothing, accessories, and home décor. Most of these stores are female-owned, giving locals yet another reason to shop here. (Don’t miss the Sidewalk Sale, happening August 2–4.) Here, a look inside four stores that now call Berkeley home.
Queen City Optical Provisions
To the east of the Oriental Theater, you’ll find the just-opened Queen City Optical Provisions. Co-owners Scott Trainer and Dr. Eric Toppen have created a warm industrial space that gives clients the opportunity to shop for chic eyewear in a sophisticated environment, but without the fussiness of a high-end designer boutique. The duo only carry independent eyewear brands—such as Garrett Leight California Optical, Jacques Marie Mage, and Vuarnet—which all but guarantees that you’ll find unique, finely crafted specs that suit your style. Need an updated prescription before getting some glasses? Not to worry. You can schedule an eye exam with Dr. Toppen five days a week. Or feel free to stop by—he even takes walk-ins. Queen City Optical Provisions, 4321 W. 44th Ave., 303-353-4007
Miller Lane Mercantile
Next door to QCOP is the tranquil, light-filled space of Miller Lane Mercantile. With a finely edited selection of home accessories, bath and beauty products, as well as jewelry and accessories, owner Calli Nicoletti Swofford focuses on small-scale, artisan-crafted items (think ceramics by Denver’s own Fenway Clayworks and densely textured wool pillows by Minna). Shoppers will also find jewelry like delicate, minimalist hoop earrings and pendant necklaces by Lafayette’s Thalken, Bembien’s handwoven rattan bags (perfect for summer parties), and exotic scented moisturizers by clean beauty favorite the Body Stone. Miller Lane Mercantile, 4315 W. 44th Ave., 720-328-5091
Just one storefront over, you’ll find Dona Forta, which means “Strong Woman” in Italian. The shop is owned by Liana Hill, former director of retail for Denver’s own Topo Designs, Dona Forta is all about offering high-quality fashion with timeless style. The clothing and accessories Hill has curated feature brands that address ethical fashion in some way—whether through limited production runs, working with indigenous craftsmen, utilizing sustainable materials, etc. Look for hand-block printed kimonos by Emerson Fry, hemp tees and tanks by Jungmaven, and Mercado Global’s cotton clutches, which are made in Guatemala by master weavers. In addition, Hill offers her own in-house collection under the Dona Forta label, all handmade by one woman in New York City. Her clean-lined silhouettes are cut to celebrate the female form without being overly body conscious or clingy. My favorite is her sleek cotton sateen jumpsuit with an elegantly cut neckline that can be worn year-around by layering a thin turtleneck or tee underneath during cooler months. Dona Forta, 4309 W. 44th Ave., 720-682-4775
For those who’ve been mourning last year’s closing of Blush—the casual contemporary boutique last seen in Larimer Square—it’s time to rejoice, as owners Christy and Casey Rosen have found a new home at the Stuart Street Shops. With a move to this northern Denver ‘hood, the mother–daughter team have also redesigned the store, replacing their former bright-white aesthetic with dramatic slate gray walls to serve as a counterpoint to their sharply focused clothing edit. They’ve also updated their signature mix of casual staples, statement pieces, up-to-date denim, and chic, tasteful accessories. Brands that made the move with Blush include breezy dresses by Sanctuary, delicate tops by Closed, and Chan Luu jewelry and scarves, while new additions include denim by Amo and linen bags by Totem Salvaged. Blush, 4305 W. 44th Ave., 720-639-2576