Did you know there are just nine weeks until Christmas? (We know; we're not thrilled about it, either.) Whether you're looking to get a jump on your holiday shopping, or you just enjoy buying cool stuff for yourself, we recommend checking out the goods at some of these Best of Phoenix 2020 winners.
Best Mexican ImportsMexican Arts Imports
340 North 24th Street
For 50 years, Mexican Arts Imports has been adding dazzling color to metro Phoenix. The shop is packed to the gills with merchandise: pottery, clothing, kitchenware, leather goods, wall hangings, religious items, fridge magnets, and holiday items share space in a dizzying display. We never know where to look first, but we often head straight for the apparel section, where fun woven totes sit alongside embroidered clothing, leather holsters, striped blankets, and gorgeous hand-tooled purses. We hit up Mexican Arts Imports for papel picado in a variety of sizes, for brightly painted serving platters to give as housewarming gifts, for wall mirrors bordered by tiny Mexican tiles. Each room in the surprisingly large shop yields more items to discover, and we like to visit often to see what's new and take a few treasures home for ourselves.
Best NurseryBerridge Nurseries
4647 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale
For more than 80 years, the Berridge family's friendly service, devotion, and perseverance (the owners rebuilt after the nursery burned down in 1971) has made Phoenix greener. Its philodendrons and rhododendrons and Creeping Charlies have climbed and sprouted and greened up the Valley for generations. We're nuts about the Berridges' impressive array of bonsai starter plants and related pots, trays, soils, and tools; its vast pile of ceramic planters; its wrought-iron benches; and its tidy bags of manure. But what we love most is the saintly patience the Berridge staff showed when we were just starting to grow a green thumb and turned up to ask every dumb question a first-time gardener could come up with. During our first visit, one nice fellow patiently talked us out of planting bare-root rose bushes in the fall. We've been back almost monthly ever since.
Best Place to Get Your KicksMany Worlds
4524 North Seventh Street
Before we stepped into Many Worlds, we'd never been in the presence of a pair of shoes that cost as much as a down payment on a car. The new sneaker boutique in midtown Phoenix has a mint pair of used Nike Air Yeezy 2 Solars — along with dozens of other, slightly less spendy kicks. The minimalist space is home only to a few racks of shoes from the likes of Nike, Adidas, and Converse, plus a small area devoted to Many World-brand T-shirts and shirts by Supreme. Lookie-loos are welcome, so even if high-end sneakers aren't in your budget or your feet are too small for anything in the store, the staff will greet you warmly. But if you decide to buy, know that the service doesn't end when you walk out the door; half of the space is taken up by Many Worlds' Reshoevn8r concept, which sells display cases and shoe-care products, and even offers shoe-cleaning to keep your purchase looking fresh.
Best Place to Buy RecordsThe 'In' Groove
3420 East Thomas Road
It would have been better for our savings accounts if we hadn't hopped on the vinyl bandwagon, but we're record collectors now, and we're not stopping anytime soon. As a result, we find ourselves at The 'In' Groove a couple of times a month surveying the selection. Owner Mike Esposito has created an environment welcoming to both vinyl newbies and seasoned collectors. We like to hit the bins of recent used arrivals first, then scan the rest of the store, which is heavy on pop and rock of today and yesteryear, but also has strong sections of jazz, hip-hop, and soundtracks. Everything is fairly priced (like the gorgeous vintage copy of Led Zeppelin's first album we scored for under $20 the other day), which isn't to say cheap — there are some real vinyl gems under glass at the store, with prices to match their rarity and condition. The folks at The 'In' Groove are friendly — but they ain't dumb.
Best New Age StoreFantasia Crystals
5108 North Seventh Street
At the family-owned Fantasia Crystals, visitors get a warm welcome from an attentive staff well-versed in numerous spiritual traditions and practices. The store, open since the 1980s, provides a safe space for people to explore multiple avenues of belief without giving one particular perspective more validation than the others. Fantasia Crystals offers classes on metaphysical, occult, and spiritual topics, and carries a wide range of items used by individuals who embrace these traditions. Everything you need for your metaphysical practice (or to start a new one) is here: books, tarot cards, small sculptural deities, candles, sage, and much more. There are also lovely gifts like jewelry, journals, and trinket boxes. In need of guidance? Fantasia has psychic readings on the weekends. If you've got an open mind, you'll learn a little something every time you pay a visit.
Best DispensaryMint Dispensary
The specials are hot, the staff is friendly, and the medicines are potent and diverse at Mint Dispensary in Guadalupe. Finding the right stuff is no problem here, with Item 9, Timeless, Baked Bros., and other big-name brands represented, in addition to a fresh array of flower strains. Yes, it gets busy here, as any good pot shop does. But making the wait easier is the visual effect of the large, always-busy kitchen behind Plexiglass next to where patients line up for the budtenders. The chefs make pizza, salads, and all kinds of goodies with infused THC products that create a virtuous (sinful, really) cycle of more munchies. If you had to pick one dispensary to be trapped in during an emergency, it would be this one. You don't even have to go in to shop: In September, the Guadalupe location opened a drive-thru. The small Mesa location doesn't have a kitchen, but even on its own would get a rave review for service and selection — and, bonus, your customer points work there, too.
Best Clothing StorePhoenix General
It's all about simple sophistication at Phoenix General. Kenny Barrett and Joshua Hahn are at the helm of the local chain, the success of which is a testament to their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. The flagship store in midtown sports a fabulous lineup of cotton clothing, including some featuring designs by local artists. We especially love seeing Carrie Marill's beaded jewelry, Sabrina Frank's tie-dye T-shirts, and Linda Cato's botanical prints when we pop in. It's the go-to place for comfortable but stylish threads — jumpsuits, short shorts, flannel shirts, and track jackets — for both men and women. Look for the same magnificent vibe in the newer Roosevelt Row location, where merchandising clothing rises to the level of artistic curation. Phoenix General staff are eager to help you to accessorize your look with hats, belts, bags, and more, so you're perfectly attired for casual office days or evening romps through the city's nightlife.
Best Place to Get a Band ShirtShirts 'N' Things
1840 West Southern Avenue, Mesa
Your eyes won't know where to focus upon entering Shirts 'n' Things, a family-owned retail shop that is packed with, well, shirts and things. The "things" category includes pins, patches, stickers, tapestries, weird purses, and weirder shoes. But you're here for the shirts — specifically, the band shirts. An entire half of the store is wallpapered with the faces and logos of rock stars and rock bands, punk outfits, rap icons, reggae legends, and femmes fatales. At the counters, you'll likely meet husband-and-wife co-owners Larry and Deb Teiman, who opened the place in 1980 and sell gear from acts like At the Drive In, The Dead Milkmen, N.W.A., Wu-Tang Clan, and Frank Zappa. Those are just the bands we remember from last time we were there. There's much, much more: This place has 50,000 SKUs.