Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2003

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

BEST USED BOOK STORE
Bookman's Used Books, Music & Software

There it was! The first edition we'd been looking for to complete our collection, its dust jacket hardly worn at all and showing almost none of its 33 years. We found this literary treasure at Bookman's, where the prices are always rock bottom.

Sure, other stores cater to the hard-core bibliophile in search of rare first editions (and willing to pay dear prices), but for casual book collectors like us -- and for book lovers in search of no more than a good read -- nothing satisfies like this supermarket of recycled treasures in Mesa.

From the outside, the place resembles a big retail joint, anchoring a strip mall along Country Club Drive. Bookman's is huge, and, even better, the store stays open much later than others -- until 10 p.m. every day of the week.

Naturally, you'll find row after row of hardcovers and paperbacks in all the usual varieties. But Bookman's also has a large selection of magazine back issues (particularly Arizona Highways going way back), used video games, CDs, videotapes and DVDs. Best of all, Bookman's has such a healthy volume of trade-in, you're almost guaranteed to find new items every time you visit.

Readers' Choice: Bookman's Used Books, Music & Software

1056 S. Country Club Dr., Mesa, 85210
MAP
480-835-0505
BEST CAR HEAVEN

Our car was a beauty in its day, a 1960 Cadillac. But it had been so long since we'd been able to find parts to take care of it, it had fallen into a quiet, dusty sleep of disrepair. Then, we found Arizona Vintage Parts, and our pretty car knew it had gone to heaven. The place is hard to locate, down a dirt road with virtually no address, but it's got pretty much everything a vintage auto connoisseur could ever need. Some customers come from other countries just to find that perfect chrome accent, or engine part. The specialty is Cads, from 1930 to 1985. But there's a treasure trove for all makes and models of antique cars, with parts like water pumps, fuel pumps, brake parts, U-joints, bearings, seals, ignitions, front end, gaskets, fenders, panels, hubcaps, bumpers, floorboards, radios, antennas, seat belts, steering pumps and so much more. Another big bonus: Everything is rust-free.

Baby, we can drive our car!

BEST PLACE TO THINK SMALL
Auntie Em's Miniatures

Bottom line: Size matters to miniature collectors, and the small-minded love this shop. At Auntie Em's, we can hold the whole world in our hands -- and decorate it. Doll houses feature furniture and every imaginable accessory, from place settings and appliances to minuscule trees and farm implements, even the teeniest cat food box. And those with big ambitions can pick up the wood, tools, paint and glue necessary to create their own trinkets. Need a little guidance? Peruse the racks of how-to books, videos and crafty magazines.

And for once, go ahead and bring the boys, for also on the premises: Smilin' Jack's Pedal Cars. (We appreciate the noncommittal slogan: "If it's got a pedal or wheel, we may have it.")

5625 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, 85301
MAP
623-435-0783
BEST PLACE TO RENT A SNAKE

Rich Ihle is known as the snake or reptile man. He has a large collection of scaly friends, with names like Freckles, Miss Piggy, Junior, Mrs. Square, T-Bo and Theresa. Freckles is a leopard gecko from India. Miss Piggy is a western hognose snake. Theresa is a tiger-phase reticulated python, the longest snake in the world, growing to 30 feet. Ihle is very interesting. He enjoys educating people of all ages about these often misunderstood animals, and showing his live creatures for schools, libraries, malls, scout and church organizations, youth groups, fairs, and other special events. The animals that he uses in his programs are captive reared and extremely tame, making them perfect for school classroom hands-on presentations (including preschool), birthday and company parties, even as stars in commercials and movies. As Ihle says, the critters actually enjoy the attention as much as we enjoy the show. What a ssssscintillating ssssservice.

BEST REASON TO GROW A GREEN THUMB

Thanks to the superb selection at this cool new shop, our garden now looks like an advertisement for antique dealer Michael Robertson's latest business venture. We dropped in to buy a couple of vintage earthenware pots, and left with a truckload of outdoor decor we couldn't live without. Our garden's gorgeous with Garden Party finds: a stupendous Virgin Mary fountain; a just-weathered-enough Adirondack lounger; and a crate full of like-new gardening tools that double as ornamentation. We plan to go back for another tour of the extra-cool "Shabby Chic White Room," where last trip we snagged an ecru crackle-glazed "Pissing Boy" statue and a marvelous milk glass flower bowl. Fans of campy Catholic art will want to check out the roomful of Jesus junk, and anyone else with a patch of planted soil will surely score something from this marvelous hoard.

BEST DRAG QUEEN OUTFITTERS

Looking for glamour? Looking to shine? Are you a performer? A star? A man who dresses in women's clothing? Well, then . . . Boom Boom LaRue's is the place for you. Located within the shabby chic space of Vintage Interiors, sequined gowns are packed on the racks. Each piece of costume jewelry is hand-picked so there are no duplicates (this ensures that no fashion faux pas occur onstage). Boas, tiaras and wigs (oh my!).

But the true treasures are those elusive size 12 and up stilettos and go-go boots. So all you men who have an upcoming command performance at Pookies, stop in and freshen up your look and avoid looking drag -- we mean, drab.

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BEST USED BOOK STORE: Bookman's Used Books, Music & Software

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