Best Electronics Store 2001 | Fry's Electronics | Shopping & Services | Phoenix
There's no cooler place to be a nerd. A large computer section and a cafe serving espresso drinks cater to the techie crowd, though the wide selection of everything electric leaves no one empty-handed. Displays practically scream "Try me!" to shoppers searching for appliances, digital cameras, computers or musical instruments. A Fry's drone in a white shirt and tie can be found at every turn, and, with eight home theater and audio rooms to try the equipment, you'll always know what you're getting before you mosey up to the register. To get to a cashier, customers are herded through a maze of impulse-buy fun junk, like chocolate keyboards, 10,000 kinds of batteries, and bargain bins full of computer games. But nothing's as fun as the savings once you finally arrive at the cashier.
With big-deal bong brands such as Zong, Kaos, Chalice and Chong, this shop is a smooth smoker's paradise. Double-sided glass means high quality, and can mean high prices, too -- up to $200, but well worth it for a connoisseur. The shop also has less expensive and almost-as-cool water pipes in several media and an informative and friendly staff to show off the pageant of pipery. Of course, this trippy, 12-year-old trove sells more than pipes. Garments with stitched pockets for stashing keys and other "small personals" hang from treetop racks, alongside the usual whacked-out posters, tee shirts, tapestries and plastic-beaded curtains. To complete the mood, choose from an array of rock-star incense, like the Bob Marley Variety Pack or Grateful Dead rose-scented sticks. Don't miss the 11-hose hookah near the register -- an 11th-anniversary gift last year from famed batik artist and pipe designer Jerome Baker. Careful, though: Insinuating the use of illegal substances will get you a swift kick out the front door.
There's hardly an excuse not to make a day of it at Brass Armadillo, a 40,000-square-foot mall with a cozy diner on premises, plenty of research materials about antiques, and generous daily hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Each of the mall's 600 booths and cases has a distinctive character, and you can gorge your appetite for antiques on items ranging from schlocky secondhand '40s dishware to mint-condition vintage furniture. Don't overlook the rows of glass cases, where you'll find pricey, 200-year-old costume jewelry alongside ratty (but still collectible!) Skipper dolls from the '80s. Prices are reasonable, and the pleasure of the hunt makes this worth turning into an Antique Mall rat.

Nestled into a tiny brick building in downtown Phoenix, Sage is a new vintage/antique/junk shop for the eclectic collector tired of scrounging through hope-to-get-lucky thrift shops. The store is actually an old house whose rooms are packed with a collection of curiosities that change weekly, each of them priced to move. Few items cost more than $300, and most are less than you would pay for a shirt and trousers at the mall. From velvet theater ropes and vintage dress forms to gorgeous antique furniture such as a railroad desk, a velvet chaise longue and a 1920s oak file cabinet, Sage has enough conversation pieces and one-of-a-kind items to make treasure-seeking friends jealous. We ogled a vault from a now-demolished Missouri bank that was once robbed by Jesse James, and bought a hundred-year-old "fix-up" mirror that's the envy of our junking pals.
As soon as that EPT test shows up red, your girlfriends gather with reams of advice: Ginger for morning sickness, Maalox for heartburn, bags of frozen vegetables for swollen ankles. As for stretch marks? There's no scientific prevention, but that doesn't stop our girlfriends from offering up remedies. We're particularly fond of one concoction, passed along by a girlfriend who earned her college tuition behind the counter at Lotions and Potions, one of the Valley's first bath and body shops. She suggested a four-ounce bottle of Lotions and Potions massage oil, mixed with a quarter-ounce of Vitamin E oil. Top it off with your choice from the shop's wide assortment of scents -- everything from strawberry to sandalwood. We can't guarantee it'll prevent stretch marks, but it sure feels great. And as any pregnant woman can tell you, that's a premium worth not passing up.
Last year, the term "BoBo" joined "yuppie" and "Gen Xer" on the shelf of social labels, with the publication of journalist David Brooks' book BoBos in Paradise. BoBo is short for "bourgeois bohemian" -- newly rich people who cling to less moneyed, hippie-esque traditions. You've seen them -- day traders in incense-smelly coffee houses, bankers in Birkenstocks, lawyers in used bookstores.

Home decorating is a great showcase for BoBo-ness, Brooks says. Go with expensive but beat up: chipped antique plates, banged-up coffee tables, batiked bedding. And one of Brooks' favorite examples of BoBo-dom -- the furniture/clothing store Anthropologie, formerly accessible to Arizonans only by catalogue or online -- has come to Scottdale's Kierland Commons, so you can finger the organza curtains and wrought-iron candlesticks in person. BoBo wanna-bes, beware: Anthropologie's goods are shabby in the best bohemian tradition, but the prices are strictly bourgeois.

Magazine junkies like us will go to great lengths to get a glossy fix. That's why Borders isn't just a pit stop but an essential destination for satisfying our craving for periodicals. Sheer variety fuels our shameless addiction. At Borders, we can plan our dream vacation, drool over sports cars, brush up on global affairs or preview Paris' prêt-à-porter, all while flipping through scores of titles. Magazines you can't find anywhere else in town are neatly stacked up next to more common selections. Need a little more time to decide? The Borders cafe is conveniently located adjacent to the mag section, so shoppers can leisurely enjoy an iced latte with their I-D.
Great Caesar's ghost! Did All About Books & Comics really win this category again? Hey, does Lois Lane have the hots for Superman?

A contender long before anyone ever heard of Spawn, Sandman or Witchblade, Alan and Marsha Giroux's fortress of funny books continues to be one-stop shopping headquarters for two generations of Valley comic-book geeks. In addition to thousands of comic titles (both new and used), the store stocks scads of related ephemera: sci-fi trading cards, James Bondabilia, monster-movie merchandise and, well, you get the idea.

Hey, what do you want us to do? Draw you a picture?

When the much-loved but cramped Book Gallery moved across the street to its new location last year, it was as if a handsome prince had been released from a familiar frog. And handsome is the perfect word to describe Book Gallery's new space, which looks like a classic library, without the stuffiness. The staffers are laid-back and friendly, and knowledgeable about virtually every volume on their shelves. Chairs and tables are arranged throughout, for the comfy perusal of merchandise ranging from beautifully preserved first editions and ancient signed hardcovers to more modern, but carefully chosen, coffee-table books. Rows of rich wood shelves with glass doors house the rarest and priciest volumes. Luckily, the store stays open late (10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays), but with virtually every item here a gem, there aren't enough hours in a lifetime to fully explore the treasures of this literary museum.
Memorabilia collecting is built on the sunny premise that yesteryear's omnipresent junk is today's rare gem. That premise implies that the junkier the item was in its own time, the more wondrous it is in the sweet glow of nostalgia. The fine people at Pop Culture Classics understand this. Where else are you liable to find an unopened can of Billy Beer, as powerful -- and rare -- a piece of '70s Americana as you can purchase, for $25? The arcana doesn't end there. Whether you're in need of KISS makeup kits, Chewbacca masks, Doctor Who comic books, UNICEF Barbie dolls or Charles Barkley action figures, this is your one-way ticket to trash heaven. Just don't try drinking that Billy Beer.

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