Earlier this year, Phoenix New Times celebrated the cream of the crop with our 36th annual Best of Phoenix edition. Here are our top picks for shopping in metro Phoenix.
Best Beauty Supply Store: Citrine Natural Beauty Bar
Have you looked at the ingredients in your skincare products lately? How about the makeup? Between the lead, the coal tar, the animal testing, and the hard-to-pronounce chemicals, most skin-deep beauty rituals are enough to make your skin crawl. Fortunately, there's a place that caters to eco-friendly cosmetics. Citrine Natural Beauty Bar is bringing the green revolution to Phoenix one makeup brush at a time. With luxury brands like REN, Tata Harper, May Lindstrom, Coola, Kjaer Weis, and Jane Iredale, Citrine carries hard-to-find designer brands with even harder-to-find philosophies. By providing products that are all-natural, organic, dermatologist-tested, and cruelty-free, Citrine Beauty Bar breaks away from the belief that beauty is pain.
Best Costume Store: Easley's Fun Shop
We can't be the only ones who start plotting our Halloween costumes come November 1. And we're sure this makes the good folks at Easley's very happy. The bright yellow building off McDowell is home to rooms and rooms of costuming goodies from full-on Maleficent and Captain America costumes to glue-on noses and a mind-boggling array of wigs. More elaborate still are its rental costumes, should you decide on being a human-size hot dog but feel unprepared to commit to such a purchase. Of course, Easley's caters to last-minute dresser-uppers, too, with an array of animal ears and costumes ready by the bag.
Best Men's Boutique: HUB
Gentlemen, take note. HUB owner Jennifer Mumford has quite the eye for style. And she curates her Central Phoenix boutique with pieces that'll have you turning heads -- in a good way. Mumford seeks out up-and-coming designers from around the globe to feature in the light-filled shop, where you'll find pieces by WRK, Zanerobe, and Naked and Famous. With a killer denim selection from Diesel, Nudie, and APC and accessories to boot (including Red Wing boots), you'll be set from head to toe.
Best Bike Shop: Slippery Pig Bicycles
We'll fess up to a smidgen of bias on this one -- Slippery Pig, our favorite bike shop, is right next to one of our favorite hangouts, Lux. But the Pig's a superstar in its own right -- it's no customer hog, mooching off walk-over traffic from the busy cafe. About 10 years ago, the bike store came into new ownership and stopped selling classic bikes (remember Casey's Classics?) and started selling the sort that cyclists drool over. Though smaller than some other Valley shops, the interior's laid out in East Coast, pack-it-in style, complete with repair shop in the back. Specialized brand bikes are in heavy supply, but that's not a bad thing. We saw numerous mountain bikes priced at more than three grand -- and looking like they're worth every penny. A decent array of fixies, snow bikes, hybrids, and cruisers complements the high-end mountain and road bikes that make up most of the stock. A manager tells us they sometimes take bicycles to sell on consignment, meaning you should keep an eye out for a good deal on a fancy used bike. It also rents bikes and carries a fine selection of bike apparel, gear, and parts. If we weren't so amped on coffee every time we go in, we'd browse all day.
Best Art Supply Store: Arizona Art Supply
Arizona Art Supply has been a staple in the Phoenix art community since the '50s, and that's no accident. Besides their high quality products, it's their consideration for their community that sets this locally owned art supply destination apart. Not only do they support local artist groups, but they also patrol their social media and Yelp page like hawks, addressing customers' concerns and ensuring they will look into the issue. We can get on board with that kind of customer service.
Plus all of their employees are either working artists or have a BFA or MFA. No matter what your question, chances are someone working in the store will know what you're talking about and have an answer. Though the Phoenix location is still our favorite (which may or may not be due to the kids' section), Arizona Art Supply also has locations in Tempe, Scottsdale, Sun City, and Tucson.
Best Running Store: Road Runner Sports Scottsdale
The first thing you need to do before taking up running is get yourself a good pair of shoes fitted to your running style. At Road Runner Sports, the staff will put you on a treadmill and observe how your feet hit the ground to diagnose whether you overpronate, underpronate, or have a neutral foot strike. Then the fun of picking out shoes begins. Good running shoes can be pricey, so keep an eye out for special deals on "endangered" shoes being replaced with newer models. Plus, if you or someone in your family has a VIP membership, you'll get an extra 10 percent off and a 90-day trial period to test out your new wheels.
Best Audiophile Equipment: Arizona Hi-Fi
Lots of ink has been spilled about the "vinyl renaissance," but the truth is, if you're playing your wax on a cheap all-in-one turntable/stereo combo, you might as well be listening on your laptop speakers. That's where Arizona Hi-Fi comes in, offering primo turntables, tube-driven amplifiers, headphones, and more. It's gear for the kind of folks who think of music as an investment, more than just an accessory, and it's right next to Stinkweeds, where there's plenty of high-quality titles to try out on your swanky new turntable and speakers.
Best Bookstore: Changing Hands Bookstore
Call us shallow or impossibly snotty -- we always judge a book by its cover and a city by its bookstore. Portland has Powell's, New York's got The Strand, even Venice Beach has an amazing independent bookstore, Small World Books, right on the main drag between the T-shirt shops and the henna stands. But when it comes to our town, things have been awkward: For many years, the city of Phoenix really didn't have a bookstore, not a legit indie with new titles and author events. Finally, the day came -- in late May, to be exact -- and we learned we are not alone in our sentiments, as eager customers flooded the new Changing Hands, housed in a gorgeous space in a development called The Newton in the space formerly occupied by the legendary restaurant Beefeaters. And with that, Phoenix had arrived. Tempe remains lucky as ever -- the East Valley outpost of CHB is still running strong and the bookstore will continue to host events all over town.
Best Comic Book Shop: All About Books and Comics
Forgive us for how nerdy this is going to sound, but the employees of this place are like matchmakers. Tell them you want something really gory and, in a few seconds, you'll be looking at a two-page color illustration of human intestines and other innards strewn across the pages. Sold. (That was Warren Ellis' No Hero, by the way.) The employees are what make this place great, but that's not to downplay the selection. All About has wall-to-wall comics, from the newest releases to collectible classics. There's even a little room in the back with nudie material, if you're into that kind of thing.
Best Kids' Clothing: Baby Teith
That designer Tiffe Fermaint recently had a daughter is a style blessing for babies everywhere. Known for her club-ready wearables, Fermaint has shifted her focus to dressing her kid in cool duds. We're talking onesies bedecked with Morrissey's face, T-shirts that read "I am the future," headbands, bandanna bibs, and leggings in such prints as purple lightning, gemstones, galaxies, and black-and-white punk studs. All Baby Teith items are made in Phoenix and in Fermaint's spectacular style. Because your kids should be as well dressed as you, right?
Best Homegrown Boutique: GROWop
If loving Anthropologie's a crime, then lock us up. We're suckers for its candles, housewares, and impeccably styled boho-chic clothing. Guilty as charged. But what if you had a locally owned and operated alternative? You do. With local artisans contributing goods such as jewelry, succulent planters, and buttons, new and vintage clothing curated by owners Josh Hahn and Kenny Barrett, and handpicked items from select designers and vendors like the Portland Collection and 1820 House candles, there are plenty of reasons to swing by the bungalow boutique. That's in addition to the fact that we sound just a smidge cooler when we tell people where we scored that fab vintage purse.
Best Jewelry: Mother of Gideon
Charis Elliott and Seth Fainkujen approach jewelry differently than your average bauble-makers. Instead of creating one ring to rule all, the duo specializes in designing and creating bespoke pieces with ethically sourced stones. Named for the Biblical warrior, the company's intricate pieces of jewelry look not unlike pieces of armor. Hefty rings, angular necklaces, and naturalistic materials combine for a collection that's a little intimidating but totally covetable. Try the wearable art on for size at the brand's pop-up shop at Biltmore's Union.
Best New Boutique: Pepper
We want to be the kind of girl who's perpetually dressed in finds from Pepper. She's stylish but not trying too hard; put together but not a perfectionist. The Old Town Scottsdale shop specializes in laid-back California cool that looks effortless. Owned by the oh-so appropriately named Cathy Beach, the store brings a decidedly Venice Beach vibe to the Valley, carrying selections from bohemian-chic brands Free People, Alternative Apparel, and Mink Pink. Think Panama hats, sunny yellow maxi dresses, and slouchy floral print harem pants. The shop's named for Beach's pup, whom you might spot lounging around the boutique.
Best T-Shirts: Hello Apparel
A dead giveaway you've spotted a shirt by Hello Apparel? Well, a lot of them have "hello" in a loopy cursive font emblazoned across the chest. Those T-shirts, tank tops, and sweatshirts are manufactured in Arizona by Sam Means' Hello Merch, which works with touring bands to create quality merchandise. But you don't have to be musically inclined to partake. A sense of humor and an appreciation for design will do just fine. A few of the brand's non-name-related designs read "I'm so tired" (with a children's top that counters "I'm not tired") and "I'm So Broke." At $24 a pop, you might be the former, but you can't blame the shirt for the latter.
Best Home Goods: Bungalow
If you're ready to translate those stacks of Elle Decor into reality, it's time to head to Bungalow. The North Scottsdale shop is more than a place to pick up a throw pillow. Yes, you can swing through the 12,000-square-foot showroom to pick and choose items that stand out, like that chalkboard globe, cashmere throws, and a blue glass chandelier inspired by Egyptian antiques. But the store also will pair up shoppers with stylists who will work to meet both taste and budgetary needs. Want a nautically casual living area and a French industrial-esque dining area? Done and done.
Best Boutique: Frances
Stuck in a fashion rut? Head to Frances. Each time we swing by the CenPho boutique we find something -- whether it's a purse, a pair of teensy stud earrings, or a lovely summer dress -- that recharges our style mojo. Which isn't to say the shop's full of wacky wares. Instead, the perennial favorite mixes standbys like Toms shoes, against the grain jewelry, and Frye tooled-leather bags with Free People rompers and other of-the-moment items. In addition to women's styles, the shop houses a second room of menswear, home goods, and things for the kiddos. Swing through and it'll be near impossible to leave empty-handed.
Best Shopping on Roosevelt Row: Curious Nature
Don't be frightened. Curious Nature beautifully blends creepy and cool. The shop deals in oddities. And if taxidermy gives you the heebie-jeebies, then you're not going to love it. But if you have a flair for the freaky or an appreciation for scientific pursuits, then you'll likely find entrancing the preserved bugs, bats, and coyote skulls among the frightening, fascinating items stocked. If you'd rather your décor didn't look you in the eye, the shop also offers mirrors topped with antlers, cement planters, and crystals.
Best Shopping on Grand Avenue: Hazel & Violet
The Bragg's Pie Factory building continues upping the artsy ante. Only helping things is the recent relocation of Hazel & Violet from Roosevelt Row. With white and orange walls and industrial furnishings, the letterpress printing shop offers a line of ready-made coasters, greeting cards, and posters, as well as custom services. The new Hazel & Violet has more than two times the square footage of its previous location, and that means more space for more workshops with more participants. Sometimes more really is more.
Best Gift Shop: Design Lab
There's just one problem with Design Lab: We want all of it. The Mesa shop stocks everything from delicate apothecary jars and industrial lettering to plush accent pillows and seasonal decorations. With all those odds and ends, it's the perfect spot to load up on go-to gifts like candles, novelty knickknacks, and picture frames (yes, grab a few journals and maybe a lamp for you, while you're at it), greeting cards, and twine to wrap it all up with. You'll be set on birthdays and thank-yous for months to come, and that's well worth the trek to Mesa.
Best Denim: Lawless Denim Co.
Think nothing can get between you and your Levi's? Check out the Lawless Denim and get back to us. Roman Acevedo's boutique specializes in creating custom jeans in-house and by hand -- and with the help of a brigade of vintage sewing machines. Here's how it works: You pick your denim -- either American or Japanese selvedge. Decide on a style, like high-waist or boot cut. And then select finishes like buttons and thread color. For around $245, you'll have a pair of jeans made to your specifications and measurements. If you're not quite ready for custom-made pants (or dropping serious dough), head for the ready-made rack, where you'll find denim for about half that price.
Best Shopping on Mill Avenue: Brand X
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Graphic T-shirts are back in style. And what better way to embrace a trend than by putting your own spin on it? The folks at Brand X specialize in just that. The Mill mainstay offers a variety of shirt styles, colors, fonts, and graphics that'll help make your dream top a reality. Whether you're hoping to knock off Madewell's shirts with laissez-faire French sayings or hype your band, the Tempe crew can help (and help you look awesome).
Editor's note: This post has been edited from its original version, which mentioned Lawless Denim's now-closed location at CityScape.