Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2003

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

BEST WAITING ROOM

We're hoping something goes wrong with our old flivver soon just so we have an excuse to visit the waiting room at Chester's Garage. This is not your average repair shop. The owners specialize in restoration and repair of antique cars, even carrying Model A parts in stock.

But what makes us notice Chester's is the picture window facing Seventh Avenue that encases an amazing collection of 10 or so antique cars in a makeshift museum, some dating to the late 1910s. Chester's works on modern cars, too, and has been in business for 32 years. While your car is being fixed, you can replace the usual perusal of last month's Sports Illustrated with a waltz around some amazing pieces of automotive history.

Readers' Choice for Best Place to Get Your Oil Changed: Jiffy Lube

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 WAITING ROOM: Chester's Garage

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