Best Of :: Shopping & Services
The first time we walked into Smeeks, we weren't sure whether to clap our hands in glee — or cry. We really did tear up a little, after months of hearing about Georganne Bryant's dream to open a candy/novelty shop in the same complex as her wildly successful boutique, Frances. This place is a dream come true.
For us, too. Yes, absolutely, there are retail gems in this town, but let's be honest. They are few and far between. We're frankly sick of going to places like Portland and Los Angeles and lusting after their one-of-a-kind indie businesses.
Now we have this to say to the rest of the world: Eat your heart out, because we've got the candy. Smeeks was Bryant's childhood nickname, and kids are the main targets of this sweet little blue-and-red shop — but we've seen adults drop a good chunk of change, too, on everything from Abba Zabbas to crepe paper nut cups. And it's not just about candy and party goods. From sparklers shaped like numbers, hearts and stars to Japanese stickers to a wide assortment of dart guns, you can find something for anyone with a sense of humor, even if he doesn't have a sweet tooth. Smeeks got us nostalgic for the places of our Phoenix youth — Farrell's, Jutenhoops, Circus in Tempe. As you'd expect, Bryant's spit-shined it all into gleaming, gorgeous submission and presented it to the city on a silver platter — with free gumballs for everyone.
As she's fond of saying herself, we're just glad Bryant likes all that goofy, dumb stuff that we like, too.
Now that Phoenix has "made it," we're all searching for the little things to help round out our city's Mid-Century Modern aesthetic. And See Saw is here to deliver. Run by six young and talented designers and boasting two massive old-school letterpresses, See Saw is more than an Urban Outfitters-style paper factory. Its cards and calendars capture a clean, minimalist design that stands out in a very powerful but understated way. And it's a heavy hitter, to boot. Boasting a client list that includes the much missed Palatte restaurant and Mayor Phil Gordon, these designers are quickly establishing themselves as the people to go to in Phoenix for hip and unique cards, invitations, or branding. Their blog is pretty cool, too.
So you've run out of gouache and if you don't get some fast, your artistic muse will leave you. No worries. Head to Ash Avenue in Tempe and talk to the good people at Wet Paint. Whether you're in need of blue Prismacolor pencils to lay down the sketches for your next Web comic or bamboo brushes to practice Japanese calligraphy, you'll find Wet Paint well stocked. Also check out the posters and fliers near the store's entrance for events around town targeting art enthusiasts. As for that muse, it comes and goes, but maybe a few peeks at the art mags on display at Wet Paint will give you a jolt of inspiration.
Painters have it easy when it comes to sourcing materials. Paints and canvases are available at art shops, craft stores, even Wal-Mart. On the other hand, if you specialize in "found object" or recycled art, you'll likely be stuck scouring back alleys and diving through smelly dumpsters, unless you're in the know about The Town Dump, a funky backwoods store hidden in Cave Creek. The dilapidated red shack is chock-full of treasures, from cowhides and bear pelts to printed textiles, antique hardware, and vintage tin ceiling tiles. Need an authentic lasso for a Wild West-themed project? Castoff rebar bits or iron scrollwork for welding? A 7-foot-tall wooden cross for your giant Piss Christ knockoff? Yeah, it's all here. Grab some funky estate sale castoff and display it in a gallery, à la Marcel Duchamp's Fountain — just don't expect us to buy it (literally or figuratively) as fine art.
For those who lust after art and craft supplies, there is only one place you need to visit to completely load up. Sorry, but it ain't fancy. The good news, though, is that there's likely one in your neighborhood. Dollar Tree dollar stores (and we're not talking about just any dollar store; it's gotta be a Dollar Tree) are the absolute best for basic art supplies. They have paint, markers, poof balls, and stickers as well as pads of paper, rulers, scissors, tissue paper, crayons — you get the idea. And it's all dirt-cheap. If you have an art studio or just a kitchen table, run out and stock up so you're ready when the creative spirit strikes you next.
Ready yourself for Project Runway status by learning how to sew at this cute-as-a-button shop in Phoenix. Bernina Connection offers "bring your own project" open sessions on nights and weekends; just bring snacks to share and come ready to giggle with the local gals. Don't worry about the fact that you can't find a Jo-Ann Fabric in central Phoenix to save your life — Bernina sells all the fabric and notions you'll need. Classes for all skill levels are offered, so get on down there and sew yourself a vintage apron or a recycled T-shirt quilt.