DENVER -- A curated group of Black-owned businesses are getting the spotlight for "Denver Boutique Week."
The event is billed as an eight-day adventure of shopping and dining. Many of those businesses struggled during the pandemic and the owners want everyone to know they are open.
One of the owners, Cassandra Allen Brown, opened Yarn Shoppe Denver nine years ago, as a way to relax. She had been dealing with the high stress of her litigation paralegal job, and was later diagnosed with lupus.
"I'm a fiber enthusiast. I love yarn," she said.
Brown's shop, on the 4th floor of the historic Colorado Building at 16th & California, is filled with all kinds — and all colors — of yarn, handmade and hand-dyed by local artisans.
Many of those artisans knit or crochet items like hats, sweaters, even baby booties.
Brown said the artisans do a lot of charity work for the community.
"We stitch up blankets and hats and scarves and mittens for the Samaritan House and the Ronald McDonald House. We do the Newborns in Need program at Denver Health. Robin, the director is just phenomenal," she said.
Under that program, the moms get care packages with hand-knitted and crocheted items when they leave the hospital with their newborns.
She said customers come from all over the world.
"Sometimes they roll in here with their luggage and they're just, 'Oh my God, I can't believe I'm here, hi!'"
She said customers are loyal because "from the moment they walk in, I want them to have an experience they've never had before," she said.
The Yarn Shoppe took a hit during the pandemic, but business is coming back.
It's the same at Vintage Handbags Denver, owned by Cassandra's husband, DeForest Brown.
He also owns Benchmark Cleaning Services, which is how he acquires vintage bags, clothes and jewelry from customers who don't quite know what to do with their grandparents, or great grandparents', old belongings.
DeForest Brown refurbishes them.
"I want you to be able to walk into this store and purchase something that you're not going to find in any mall store," he said.
Helix Bar is also taking part in Denver Boutique Week.
The owner, Kendra Anderson, scrambled to remake Bar Helix after the shutdown was lifted. She needed more space, so customers could socially distance.
"I asked my landlord if I could borrow this patio just for the summer, in order to have a chance at really saving my business," she said.
Since her bar concept didn't translate to a restaurant/bar on a patio, she needed a new concept.
"So we created Cabana X, which is now our summer long pop-up that is focused on food and drinks from all sorts of glamorous destinations, like Jamaica, Ibiza or Martha's Vineyard," she said.
She said the genesis for that concept was the strong desire she and her leadership team had to "go on a vacation," before the pandemic hit.
When they learned they'd have to be in quarantine afterwards, they dropped the vacation idea, and then later resurrected it as a concept.
She said Cabana X's new patio decor is meant to mimic what you'd see if you were on a hotel patio in a coastal vacation city.
So is the menu.
This month's theme cities are in Jamaica, Mykonos, Greece and Ibiza, Spain.
Instead of regular gyros, Cabana X at Bar Helix if offering a different take.
"We actually created a gyro-melt. It's the same flavor profile, but presented as a panini," she said.
The drink menu is also vacation-focused.
"We've got a really fun old-fashioned called the banana hammock that uses banana liquor and chocolate bitters," she said.
Cassandra Brown said she started Denver Boutique Week to allow customers to come in to all 11 businesses around Denver, and shop at businesses that they might not have known were "Black-owned" businesses.
She said shoppers can sign up for gift cards and a chance to win a $200 gift card.