Don't try this at home, kids. Every little girl wants pointe shoes as soon as she sees her first Nutcracker, but not every little girl will have them not if she has a good teacher, that is. Pointe is only for the right feet, the right body and the right student. If you're lucky (and hardworking enough) that your teacher says, "En pointe!" then hope she or he takes you nowhere but Barry's, where ballerinas big and small have been fitted for pointe shoes for decades. Barry's is also the one-stop shop for tights, leotards, lamb's wool all the accouterments a ballerina could ask for, except perhaps for the Band-Aids she'll no doubt need, after some time in those pointe shoes.
You can buy your jeans and flannel at Wal-Mart, cowboy, but when it comes to boots, you'd better find the best around. And we've found them for you, at David Espinoza's shop. It will take months, and it'll cost you almost $500, but you'll walk out of Espinoza Boot Maker with a pair of boots custom fit to your feet, with a one- or two-inch heel and the same attention to detail that the bootmakers of the 19th century turned to their craft. We know some picky cowpokes, and they say Espinoza is the place to go.
We don't recommend many chains in Best of Phoenix, but here's one we can't resist. Any time we feel our lives falling apart (and that's often), we head over to Cost Plus to find something to hold the pieces. We're never disappointed, particularly when there's a clearance sale. Even at full price, the enormous selection of imported baskets (big and small; rough and soft; colorful and earth-toned) makes us feel like we really can hold the whole world in our hands. Or, rather, our baskets.
Antique Gatherings
When you walk into an antique store and dust doesn't fly, you know you're not going to score any rusty tin signs or Beanie Babies. So it is with Antique Gatherings, an 18,000-square-foot mall that's packed to the rafters with high-end goods. Though the dealer wares are constantly changing as with any antique mall this is a great place to start if you're seeking something on the order of a well-preserved armoire or fainting couch, a Tiffany lamp, Capodimonte porcelain figurines, Villeroy & Boch ceramics, or china/glassware by the likes of Hadley, Limoges, or Royal Daulton. Antique Gatherings also has a dealer who specializes in rare books, and there's a large booth in back where you can buy (non-vintage) incense, candles and other aromatic delights.
Retro Redux
We hate the "retro" look. We're gonna hold out for the real thing. This is why we love Retro-Redux. It's not an Antiques Roadshow owner Beth Lipham is much more fun than that. Specializing in mid-century antiques, the store caters to the mod squad; lacquer lamps, laminate tables and fondue pots abound, without a Victorian armoire in sight. Not only that, Lipham keeps her prices well below book, so those of us without trust funds can afford to feel fancy. On a recent visit, we spotted a dining room set by mid-century furniture god Haywood Wakefield priced hundreds of dollars below its normal list price. Our favorite find? A black velvet picture of Saint Peter's crucifixion. It goes great with our new chartreuse sofa and bitter sense of irony.

BEST ANTIQUE STORE WHERE YOU COULD BREAK A HIP

Antique Outpost

Claustrophobics beware; this quaint little shop is so overstuffed with goodies that the merchandise overflows into the aisles, making patrons hold their breath, pull in the paunch, and scooch along sideways to navigate. The Antique Outpost is a throwback to the days when there were no such things as antique malls, just mom-and-pop shops like this one, which has been owned and operated by Winn and Frank Green since 1967. Pa Green is nowhere to be seen not that there'd be any room for him but Ma rules the roost from behind a tiny counter that's only slightly bigger than a breadbox. Like the Outpost itself, Winn's a real time-travel trip, chatting up customers with her bone-dry wit and sharing her intimate knowledge of, well, just about everything except eBay, an outlet she adamantly refuses to utilize, bless her stubborn heart. We say hurrah for her, though being eBayers ourselves we can't help salivating over her treasure trove of hard-to-find collectibles, which includes an offsite collection of 200,000-plus vintage postcards that's probably worth a cool mil all by itself.
This place used to be tied on our list with the Florence Crittendon Thrift Shop on Central Avenue as our fave odor-free find-a-bargain hot spot, but now that Flo has closed, Assistance League tops our list solo. Roomy, well-organized, and always chock-full of fabulous finds, Assistance League is the cleanest secondhand store in town. Its recent expansion has added another whole room of high-end, low-priced goodies; there's no crap to wade through to get to the best stuff. On our last visit, we bought a still-sealed Andy Williams Christmas album; a '50s chrome-and-plastic kitchen canister set; and a never-used electric pizzelle iron, all for just $16. But beware: This chic shop shuts down at 3 p.m. every day, and the blue-apron-clad workers begin advising customers of this fact about an hour before. We like to think that's because they need to get back out into the world to find us some more great stuff for next to no money. For which we're thankful.
We know someone who's taken to inviting people she only barely likes to visit her at home, just so she can show off the swank boomerang table she bought at Vintage Solutions, a shop we can barely stand to stay out of ourselves. We have yet to figure out whether the owners of the store formerly known as The Garden Party have the same eclectic taste in furnishings as we do, or if our taste was completely formed by shopping in this cool collection of early- and mid-century furniture and accessories. The Nylon Frizee-covered barrel chair ($60) we bought there this past summer looks great alongside the fringed lampshades ($6 apiece!) and the hand-painted '50s occasional table ($22). And don't get us started on the gorgeous set of like-new 1950s ceramic dishware we bought here service for 40, plus serving pieces, for only $150! No matter how often we go, Vintage Solutions always solves our decorating needs as well as our need to shop for cool stuff.
If you want a '60s-vintage lounge chair yesterday, you need to hit one of the mod joints in the Seventh Avenue Melrose District. However, that's a fairly pricey option, as vintage furniture on Seventh tends to be expensive at least in comparison to Antique Plaza Annex, a cool little furniture/antique emporium located in Old Town Mesa. If you've got loads of patience, you'll turn up some great finds at this store because of its high turnover of goods; there's a whole new load of old stuff on a weekly basis. Some of our pickups have included a three-piece set of old movie-theater seats, several examples of blond-finished wood furniture from the '50s, and an H.R. Giger-meets-Ward Cleaver Contour Chair Lounge with Viverator (i.e., built-in massager) manufactured by the Lounge Co. of St. Louis, Mo.
If Commandant Klink of Hogan's Heroes was alive today and needed some fancy fascist dress epaulets for his National Socialist Party duster, he could find 'em at this little gem of a store in Old Town Mesa, known across the Valley and the state as the place to find antique and vintage militaria. While Nazi collectibles are not particularly rare, they're increasingly hard to come by (what with eBay's ban on sales of the controversial mementos) and are duly cherished by collectors. History by George caters to hard-core Nazi nuts with a full slate of Third Reich regalia, from daggers to badges to armbands to medals. Shhh just don't tell the skinheads.

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