Most garage waiting rooms have all the appeal of, well, a garage waiting room. Call the decor Grease Monkey Hell: a few plastic chairs, an out-of-order pop machine, a table covered with old cam-shaft catalogues and a TV permanently tuned to Jenny Jones.
At the Car Repair Company (catchy name, guys!), purists can still read dog-eared issues of People if they're… More >>
With the hundreds of discount dens, bargain barns and 99-cent stores around the Valley, it takes a lot to get a seasoned bargain hunter to raise an eyebrow. But when you combine clean, intact men's, women's and children's clothing and footwear, plus housewares, with 50 to 75 percent off retail prices, the Dillard's Clearance Center can make even the cynical… More >>
Best One-Stop Shop to Get Your Pornography, Gore Video, and General Delinquency Fixes
Looking for a lock-pick gun? Trying to peep at your boss's confidential mail but don't know where to pick up the CIA Flaps and Seals Manual? Got a hankering to brew up some marijuana beer but can't find the infamous how-to book (labels included)? Underground Mall is the spot for all that and a grip of other tools, toys, manuals… More >>
Did you long ago give up hope of ever finding a copy of preteen belter Lena Zavaroni's 1974 novelty disc "Ma! He's Making Eyes at Me"? Sorry, we got to Prickly Pair first and beat you to it.
Not only did we zone in on Zavaroni, we also carted off such hard-to-find goodies as a pre-Cher Sonny Bono 45, a… More >>
Where is it written that a huge national bookstore chain is inherently inferior to a cramped, poorly stocked counterpart run by aging unicorn-huggers who can quote chapter and verse on J.R.R. Tolkien?
If it's in print, one of the army of friendly staffers at Borders will direct you to a section of the store devoted to that very same school of… More >>
Squeezed out of its longtime Mill Avenue digs last spring by the prospect of competition from a yet-to-be-announced national chain, this beloved independent bookstore didn't surrender. In fact, its second store is now thriving in its second location -- in a Tempe strip center just two doors from another used-book shop.
Like its defunct flagship store, the new offshoot hosts… More >>
Culture is too often measured in art institutions. Yet places like Volumes give you the real pulse of a city's art and design. To say this is our only source of Archi-Lit would be to damn it with faint praise. Everything about this store -- its selection of books, its movable fabric walls and ceilings, and owner-designed shelves -- distinguishes… More >>
Best Library to Visit When You Need to Make Copies
So it doesn't have five floors and special columns that light up during the summer solstice. We still like going to the Mesa Public Library.
It's got an impressive collection of material, yet it's small enough to navigate. And it's got chess sets in the youth area, a bulletin board offering jobs to teens and a sheet music index. But… More >>
Best Place to Get a Cup of Coffee and a Sugar Skull
Thank heaven the owners of Saints and Sinners rent a retail space at the Willow House coffee shop, allowing us to pick up devilishly fun gifts on the cheap -- and on the go.
Along with traditional "Day of the Dead" sugar skulls, you can find a cast iron Catholic Nun bottle opener for a ten-spot. For 12 clams, pop… More >>
Don't you dare go write a fat check at an upscale antique boutique before spending an afternoon digging through the funky furniture shops on this stretch of Bell Road.
Camouflaged in a motley section from 24th to 29th streets are four wonderlands of eclectic furniture and accessories, some of it used, some new, others identical to Scottsdale gallery pieces but without… More >>
Best Place to Buy Good Old-Fashioned Moderne Furniture
For lower-end comfort, a honkin' big La-Z-Boy is hard to beat. But for higher-end visual pleasures, the furniture at this intimate showroom just down the street from the Phoenix Art Museum is about as good as modern design gets.
The gallery specializes in mid-century furnishings from the original production lines of such companies as Herman Miller, Knoll and Dunbar. A… More >>
So maybe money can't buy good taste, but at least you'll have a running start at acquiring some -- for a price -- at Showcase at the Peak. With two ever-expanding locations, this emporium specializes in exotic imported furniture and home accessories from far-flung places around the globe. Though many of the things Showcase at the Peak carries are new,… More >>
No, we're not going to tell you where to hook up with a Girl Scout wanna-be -- or even a bakery that sells triple-fudge cookie confections. What we're talking about here are old Kodak Brownie cameras and other vintage photographic equipment lusted after by seriously insatiable shutterbugs.
Zoom in on Collectible Cameras, a picture-perfect repository of photographic equipment dating back… More >>
Drooling over that sleek 'n' slinky postmodern design look that permeates the pages of haute decorating mags like Elle Decor and Metropolitan Home? You know, the kind in those glossy spreads showing futuristic furniture that looks like it's straight out of a 1960s Euro-hip sci-fi thriller?
If you're the young, urban hipster type with wheelbarrows of cash, a generous trust fund… More >>
Cryogenics? Why freeze the dear departed when Dr. Don can turn a photo of your late loved one into a commemorative fridge magnet? Yes, a fridge magnet, complete with the name of the deceased and a brief message and/or dates of time on Earth.
Untraditional? Perhaps. A funeral crowd-pleaser? You bet!
Cost of these postmortem mementos is about 70 cents apiece when… More >>
With Tower Records no longer a player in the video rentals game, Movies on Central wins in a walk.
And after a stroll through the store's compact-but-tasty inventory of rarely seen titles, you'll understand how this video boutique has nurtured a Valleywide clientele drawn to tapes not to be found in the Valley anywhere else under one roof.
In addition to… More >>
Harkins theaters rock!
And so do the cushy high-backed seats at their newer theaters. It's a small difference, we know, but it's a nice touch that's enough to distinguish them from their competitors.
And that's no easy task, because competing theaters keep looking more and more alike -- for the better, happily.
Next up on megaplex mogul Dan Harkins' drawing boards?… More >>
Every couple of months, the clever kids who operate this stylish shabby-chic emporium rent a U-Haul and head for parts Midwestern. Along the way, they buy up cool old chairs, swell '60s sofas, ancient oil paintings and stacks of another man's treasures. Their return signals the latest "truckload sale," a bimonthly event attended by increasingly larger crowds of collectors, antique… More >>
No one needs a pair of vintage hatpin cushions or a 60-year-old pressed-glass punch bowl. But it's hard to not buy items when they're priced as low as the cool stuff at this three-year-old shop tends to be. Wedged between a couple of antique malls and the brand-new Willo Bakery, this often-overlooked trove aims to please with low prices on… More >>
Best buzz kill?
Fess up, we all hate the buggers, and for our money there's nothing better for terminating the two-winged terrors than the fatal fly swatters we got at the 99 Cents Discount Store. Sure, they cost more than the ones you find in supermarkets and hardware stores, but face it, those vendors really want you to purchase some… More >>
Anyone who's obsessed with cooking and culinary presentation will be pawing the plate-glass front window of Sur La Table to get at the extravagant display of high-tech pots, pans and steamers designed to reel in the addicted, hook, line and sinker. Stuffed into 5,000 square feet of retail space is virtually everything ever conceived for roasting, toasting, poaching and/or hosting.… More >>
From scoops to nuts (the kind that go with washers), Standard is a sure bet for any object remotely connected with restaurant and bar food service. From a deep-fry basket as big as Idaho or a classic, truck-stop diner napkin dispenser, you'll find it here. And for caterer wanna-bes, there are silver plate serving platters and standard-issue chef's jackets ripe… More >>
Aerobics has come a long way since Olivia Newton-John bleated, "Let's get physical!" in leg warmers and a terry headband, and Linda Rogers-Jojola has helped reshape this former fitness craze. Using a combination of step aerobics, resistance training, kickboxing and Pilates, Linda helps sculpt a healthy, functional and (hopefully) attractive body for each member of her class. (And no, you… More >>
Reading the labels on philosophy cosmetic/skin care products is like browsing the self-help aisle at Barnes & Noble. Moisturizer is "hope in a jar," eye cream is "eye believe," exfoliator is "help me" or "the great awakening" -- because "sometimes your skin needs a wake-up call."
Created by a Phoenix aesthetician, philosophy has been a hit in high-end department stores across… More >>
If aerobics are too low-impact for you, and the mere thought of yoga-induced bliss puts you to sleep, you were born to do Pilates.
This fast-growing fitness trend, pronounced "pul-LAH-teez," increases strength and flexibility while developing an athlete's awareness of one's center (abs, back and butt). Using specially designed machines, LaPierre (whose New York accent perfectly complements her unique, no-nonsense approach)… More >>
Your mind and body are in perfect balance; you've attained a harmony you never knew existed; you're sweating like a pig, and your head is shoved between your legs.
Yes, you're at the Yoga Institute, where trained instructors lead you through 27 different postures in a room heated to a balmy 110 degrees. This is Bikram's yoga, and may well… More >>
A dreary corner of our retro bachelor pad benefited from a trip to this ultracool memorabilia superstore, which we found piled high with outlandish lamps. We resisted a '70s salad-oil rain lamp, a fabulous '50s floor model, and a light-up Lucite tiki god, opting instead for a pair of honest-to-gosh vintage lava lamps and a plastic tree with illuminated foliage.… More >>
Remember that incident back in the '80s, when some yahoo was killed when a giant cactus he'd been shooting at toppled over, crushing him to death? We do, and had the cactus survived, we would have been the first to give it a prickly high-five.
What happened to that cactus, we don't know, but we hope it found a loving home… More >>
A teenager dragged us here one day, hoping to shock us with the crazy fashions stocked at Spine. Now, she's mortified to find that it's one of our favorite places for funk-alicious, one-of-a-kind threads. We're not allowed to meet her friends anymore.
These gently worn items are from -- or inspired by -- the '50s, '60s and '70s. The most modern… More >>
Every few weeks, Tarnished Treasures' owners hit the road to comb estate sales and confer with junk dealers all over the country, returning to restock their collection of the highest quality, most original used furniture, hardware and knickknacks in the Valley. The beat-up look is in, and interior designers -- as well as boutique owners -- line up at the… More >>
You've seen those folks who do balloon animals at fairs or restaurants to keep the kids happy? Elaine Klein is a novice, yet a virtuoso. Unlike most twisters whose inflated rubber repertoires are limited to air-filled poodles and squeaky sombreros, Elaine interviews kids (or adults) before pulling something out of her . . . imagination.
The lady knows how to work… More >>
Pop Culture Classics doesn't specialize in sports memorabilia. It's an equal-opportunity kitsch paradise, with mint-condition pop esoterica like Doctor Who comic books, UNICEF Barbie dolls, Superman costumes, Chewbacca masks and even a KISS makeup kit that includes autographed stamps of approval from Gene Simmons and Co.
But the shop's sports section makes up in quality -- or, at the very… More >>
We suppose it was inevitable. Late one afternoon last spring, we espied Ralphie the Pug, Ranger the Rottweiler, Ginger the Pomeranian and Lizzie the Golden Retriever mingling easily in a corridor at Biltmore Fashion Park. Neither the dogs nor their masters seemed to have much familiarity with the meaner streets of our great metropolis. Both pups and humans were well-groomed,… More >>
Blue Dragon and its small team of dutiful tattooists -- along with "John the Piercist" -- bestow upon their customers the most presentable cornucopia of full-color tats and unpredictable piercings found just about anywhere. Blue Dragon's artists are renowned for their abilities, sought after by Phoenicians and even out-of-towners. Tattoos are done meticulously with fanciful flares, with imagery ranging from… More >>
Best Place to Look at Art While You're Getting a Pedicure
Art, schmart. We were just looking to get our toenails pruned.
So imagine our surprise when we sat back for our 7 p.m. pedicure session at this full-service salon, only to be startled by the sound of live guitar music. We opened our eyes and saw a table with punch and cookies, then noticed the abstract oil paintings on the walls.
We… More >>
Sorry you did it? Tattoos go on more easily than they come off -- but they do come off. And a consortium of community groups in Mesa will help you remove them if you're willing to put up with a little pain and a few hours of community service.
Started by the Mesa Gang Intervention Project, the tattoo-removal program was designed… More >>
Just because barbers spend on average three hours a year running their fingers through your hair doesn't mean they have to know how much you make or what you paid for your house. Rule of thumb, if your mother doesn't know something, why should your hair stylist?
That's why the silent scissors of Yury Yakobuv are such a godsend. Unlike snooty… More >>
Finally, someone who understands a woman's deep, biological need for a new pair of shoes.
"A woman can spend three and a half hours upstairs [in women's clothing] and nothing's working, but they know they can come down and buy a new pair of shoes and they're happy," says Betty Di Marco, a sales associate at Dillard's in Paradise Valley Mall.… More >>
For service, inventory and professionalism, J. Stephens wins this one in a walk.
Small but well-stocked, Stephens carries the usual well-heeled brands. More important, however, it offers that fading American ideal: service.
We know of one fellow who went to buy a pair of new shoes and wound up with free replacements for the year-old but well-walked ones he was wearing.… More >>
We couldn't resist a $200 Armani suit at a local clearance shop, even if it was two sizes too big. Finding a tailor willing to fix this fashion find was another matter altogether. But George Nicolopoulos, owner and proprietor of Thomas Family Cleaners and Tailors, was happy to rip apart our new eveningwear and make it fit our frame.
The… More >>
What really makes Albertsons your store?
It's the zeal in which it displays those marginal items that hang off the shelves in the middle or end of an aisle, things like big salad forks or ice cream scoopers that can't sit on a shelf. Whoever is in charge of this unique product placement should be commended, at least by Happy… More >>