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Apologies to Kermit, but truer words were never spoken. (Ribbeted?) We look around the house and think, "Where to begin?" We can barely keep up with the laundry, much less the movement that tells us to use all natural products and rid our lives of plastic bottles. (As if.) That's why we're so glad we found a.k.a. green, a place where, if so inclined (and financially endowed), we could retrofit our house with enviro-friendly flooring, tile and other green products, and get all sorts of advice on how to do it. We think at this point we'd need to raze our 1940s home to truly fit the latest trend starting from scratch, at the pesticide-laced foundation. (Those damn termites.) And if we ever do that, we'll know where to go.
We found Jacuzzi tubs for less than $500, laminate flooring for 88 cents a foot and all kinds of beautiful floor tile that's nearly being given away if you hunt and peck through the selection stacked up in the parking lot. Some of the items are regular stock and the deals on that merchandise were only so-so, but this is the first place we'd venture out to if needing a new door or front porch light fixture.
Check out the clearance tables; inventory shifts from day to day. The store is well-organized and clean, and the staff is very helpful, not only in answering questions but with loading your car with your purchase.
Watch out, though upgrading your home can become addictive and with the prices here, you could walk in wanting a new faucet and end up with a whole new bathroom. Now if they just offered cheap labor to take home with the supplies, we'd be happier than Bob Vila at a World of Screwdrivers convention.
This north Phoenix skin-schlepping emporium, which has operated at various Valley locations since the late '40s, has also transformed many a member of the family Ursidae into lifelike trophies over the years, including grizzlies, brown bears, and Kodiaks.
One example of their artistry was a particularly fearsome-looking Arizona black bear that became a terrifying hunter's trophy placed on a makeshift rock setting. It's so lifelike we're a little scared it could come back alive at any moment and take a swipe at us like some psychotic version of Gentle Ben.
It's located in the Strip Mall Time Forgot probably not for long, given the hipster encroachment from the north (Postino, et al.) and east (The Vig). There's a drugstore a friend refers to as That Scary Drugstore and Secret Post Office (it's true, there's a post office in the back, very old-school) and a coffee shop actually called The Coffee Lady, who got pushed out at 40th and Campbell when La Grande Orange set up shop.
Okay, back to dolls and bears and surprises. We had come to love this shop even before the aforementioned 5-year-old happened last Christmas to ask the mall Santa for "a bear with a suitcase with clothes from other countries." (Don't ever let your kid see a toy catalogue, unless you intend to earmark and save it.)
We were completely stumped. No amount of Internet research yielded an answer. In a panic, we called Dolls Bears, and of course the proprietor, Mark Besler, had the answer. "Yes, that's Muffy Vander Bear," he said. "And that ensemble would run you several hundred dollars; it's from FAO Schwartz." He waited patiently for us to put ourselves back together, then said, simply, "Come in. I'll take care of you."
That he did. He sold us Muffy and several sets of clothing, for well under $100, advising that we find a little suitcase elsewhere. (We scored one at Cost Plus.) Our kindergartener was thrilled, and so were we.
Who knew? Those creepy dolls staring at us have the right to have an attitude. Dolls Bears & Surprises sells high end collectible dolls including Madame Alexander, Effanbee and Goetz, as well as our beloved Muffy. And, it turns out, Mark Besler's not just a salesman, he's an artist. There's a whole page on his Web site showcasing the glass eyes he puts in collectible dolls, and more than once we've watched him repair an antique teddy bear. We hope he's in business for a long time Muffy is already looking a little the worse for wear.
On a recent visit, we noticed a sign in the window warning that no new repairs will be taken 'til 2008. Hang in there, Muffy.
In between numerous prototypes and double-sized display models of his company's toys hang different awards he's received from Wizard magazine and the Comic Buyer's Guide, as well as clippings from Variety about himself. McFarlane is also a fan of both rock and jocks, so photos of the Spawn creator with folks like Yankees slugger Jason Giambi and Kiss are mixed with sports memorabilia and signed guitars. McFarlane just opened a second store over in the Westgate City Center in Glendale, and while it'll be more of a retail-type deal, we're hoping he'll be showing off more of his personal goodies.