I am one out of 1.63 million, daily commuters into New York City. We rely on a mass transit system relying on us masses. We never fail to disappoint, rest assured we’ll be poked, pushed, prodded, waiting, pushing, waiting, strange man is staring, strange woman accosting, strange smell from the strange man, until finally we immerse into the crowded and dirty city, but smiling widely and screaming “I love New York!” Well, we aren’t all smiling and screaming, but it is true that somehow the struggle pays debt to the experience and whether dog sled, hover craft or mass transit relied, it is all worth it. I have evolved to the City life, but I still love being removed from it. Not just removed, but landed in a place where the sun is shining, the fields are vast (-ly different from a park bench in Union Square), the grass is green and the cowboys are not just figments of a romantic ideation. Where does such a place exist? Look towards the Western skies and affordable housing – you will see it clearly, Colorado.
The sun appears to shine brighter in Colorado and nights feel cool and crisp, even in summer. When sun sets, air is dry and the sky reveals a spectrum of stars brighter than the Empire State Building’s LED Light Show on Independence Day. (fun fact – the Empire State Buildings LED Tower lights have 16.7 Million different color possibilities.)
I’ve been to Denver every year for the past 7, skipping one or two here or there. Some of my favorite scenes are the small and provincial mining towns leading up into the mountains. You can still see remnants of old Mining equipment and buildings in tact off the highway and if you dare to stop in, you’re bound to arrive at a vintage or antique shop worth your time exploring.
Morrison, Colorado is a short drive to Downtown Denver, at the base of Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre and so secluded by The Hogback Rock Formation that it feel more like one of the old mountain towns than a suburb of downtown. The city is over 100 years old and known for it’s quaint and kichey shops, including “El-Mercado”- Morrison’s longest running business to date.
Hidden behind a sprawling veil of tree branches, it’s easy to miss the store sign; hand painted white lettering on blue wooden panels spell out “EL-MERCADO ANTIQUES”. Wagon wheels, horse shoes, empty mason jars and antique pinwheels stored on the front porch of the shop were not as easy to miss! I didn’t see the store sign at first, but knew pretty quickly that I had to stop in.
Some of the highlights: 19th Century Typewriters, Moose Antler Chandeliers (although I morally protest, they were really cool), Real cowboy boots! Old Child’s sleigh from 1940s and an abundance of local Art from a Mid-Century Photographer, Art Gore. Speaking of Art Gore, I had already taken a particular interest in his work, framed and signed by the artist sitting solitary at this shop. His work consists of curated scenes made to appear as though moments in simpler times – cowboy boots resting at a window sill or bundled wild flowers placed on a 19th century table. I bought all of them that I could afford.
I mustered the courage to ask the shop owner if I could take a portrait photo of her. Linnie Curran, who opened the store back in 1968, happily agreed. As we conversated, her relation to Art Gore (the Photographer I decided to “discover” at her shop )began to unfold. He owned an Art studio on that same road in Morrison for almost 20 years. She continued to describe where some of the photos were shot, some at Red Rocks and the one I had in hand was set up at the creek behind her store. Art Gore, passed away almost 10 years ago, but I was happy to appreciate the simple joy in his photos and encouraged that she could still talk about him and his work.
I finally collected my treasures and prepared to pay whatever price they required. I stared down at the photographs by Art Gore, shamelessly desperate for them and looking uncertain on what I could actually afford becase I wanted them all. She offered advice as I pondered, “The frame alone is worth that price, you won’t find them anywhere else” she persisted. A real renaissance lady, business savvy too. The friendly story teller, antique collector, savvy business woman and art-eye rang me up herself on the old tim-ey cash register which may or may not have been an antique itself.
Linnie Curran is still owner and on location each day, pricing any picture, bottle, horseback riding saddle, cowboy hat or local celebrity photographer’s art. They don’t have an official website so, please take the time to inquire within.