It'll drive our copy desk crazy that the name of this place is CQ (Wikipedia it, Einstein). But we must bring the goodness to you. Every visit reveals something we never knew existed. A yellow enamel one-piece complete kitchen that looks like you should buy it for a giant Barbie doll. A hand-carved tiki bar with red-velour-topped stools. At 20,000 square feet, the showroom seems endless. You gotta be tough, though; CQ is not some Melrose-on-Seventh boutique with a John Waters clone sliding up to discuss the provenance of a cocktail table. There's stuff from the '80s on consignment here, as well — avert your eyes. Then peep a suite of Broyhill easy chairs with original upholstery, or the clean lines and light wood of sturdy bedroom sets, or lamps and lampshades that must be breeding behind our backs, they're so numerous. It's old-school shopping: the treasure hunt with the unexpected payoff.
Haus Modern Living
We're not sure, but we think we might have actually been birthed in a shopping center, given our native Phoenix status. So don't get us wrong, we love a trip to the mall. And we're sure that the Biltmore Fashion Park location of Haus, the groovy midcentury-style furnishings store, is perfectly pleasant. But the Scottsdale location is to die for, honey!

Located in one of those cool strips that used to house a bank or something, just a block or so north of one of our long-gone favorite Scottsdale hangs, the Safari Resort, you have to drive 'round back to enter Haus. The first time we stopped by, we were struck by how spacious and airy the store is, even though it's jam-packed with modern design, most notably by Jonathan Adler, the darling of the midcent set. Adler himself actually made an appearance at this Haus, not long ago. We're sure the crowds went so wild they had to partake from one of his signature striped ceramic jars, whimsically marked PROZAC. (Adler's actually penned a book called My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living.)

For us, a trip to Haus is as good a mood elevator as any, 'til we get our credit card bill.

Red Modern Furniture
It may not hold any bargains, but Red Modern is the place for midcentury chic. And since the shop switched up locations a while back, settling into groovy two-story digs on Camelback Road, we can't stay away. Can't afford those Paul Laszlo (at least, the owner thinks so) powder-blue chairs reupholstered in brightly striped chenille (to die for), or even the "lady candle holders" that clearly inspired none other than Jonathan Adler (we can't stop thinking about 'em)? Slink over to the side of the store, where Mint offers cute vintage clothing and accessories at affordable prices. Find yourself some cowboy boots and an Enid Collins purse, and start hitting up estate sales — maybe the Red folks have left some treasure undiscovered. But don't count on it.
A.k.a. Green
It's not that easy, being green.

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.

Construction Lots!
Planning a remodel? Looking to replace an old door? Need a new toilet but don't want to flush big dollars down the drain at the usual warehouse home improvement stores? Navigating the construction on Washington is worth it when you land in this DIY-er's oasis for great deals on all things related to remodeling. Construction Lots! gets inventory from builders' overstocks or random items not used in custom home projects, and sells to the public at a fraction of the price.

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.

Sears Parts and Service Center
Have you shopped for a decent vacuum cleaner lately? It's akin to buying a car or real estate (a good canister vac in a specialty store virtually requires a background check and employment verification). Well, shopping for a super-hard sucker doesn't have to suck super-hard. The Sears Roebuck and Company service center at 32nd Street and Greenway offers a wide variety of reconditioned (which usually means someone opened the box and touched the Styrofoam packing), high-quality vacuum cleaners at rock-bottom prices. The service folk are friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to let you take the inventory for a test drive. Extended warranties are available, although at these prices, you may as well buy a new vacuum in the unlikely event that one of these beauties conks out. You can drop a grand on a vacuum at another shop if you want (although several non-traditional sucking options should be available for that kind of money), or you can get a better vacuum at this Sears strip-mall outlet without having to apply for a second mortgage.
Fabric Depot and Supply Inc.
Fabric Depot is the textile industry's answer to a candy store. Unsurpassed in its selection of top-notch fabrics sporting affordable yardage prices, this warehouse puts its competitors to shame with both inventory and service. Bolts are well-organized according to pattern, color, and material, and swatches are pre-cut for the taking, eliminating the need to have an employee snipping at your heels during the entire shopping experience. This is not to say that help is unavailable — Fabric Depot employees are there when you need them and respectful of your personal space when you don't. Do-it-yourselfers will find a wide variety of high-quality hardware and trim for furniture and window-covering projects, as well as flooring materials for completing the look of a room. All good, but what we are really nuts about are the bolts. Of fabric, that is.
Western Plastics
Since 1968, this family-owned business has been turning out all shapes and sizes of plastic and glass containers for crafty types as well as big businesses. Need some eight-ounce jars for the salt scrubs you've perfected? They've got that. How about cobalt glass bottles for your super-secret perfume blend? They've got that. Large food-safe containers for your million-dollar-idea barbecue sauce? Yup, they've got that, too. Tucked in an industrial area of Phoenix, the showroom is open to the public. Mix and match bottles and tops for the perfect combination to show off your creative genius. If you're extra crafty, they'll even label your bottles for you. Best of all, you don't have to order by the truckload. Bring cash, though. Just because they make plastic doesn't mean they take it.
A-Z Seivers Mountain Valley Taxidermy
Pardon the pun, but animals of all shapes and sizes are just dying to get into Frank Jimenez's taxidermy shop. Whether it's recently departed desert fauna like javelinas, wildcats, and mountain goats; or such inanimate African animals as rhinos, giraffes, or zebras; the tanned and treated pelts of all of these recently deceased beasts have been skillfully stuffed and mounted with an eye toward quality by the 49-year-old and his five-member crew of taxidermists, which includes his 23-year-old son, Frank Jr.

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.

The first time (and, okay, the second and third) we walked into Dolls Bears & Surprises, we thought we'd stumbled into the toy store time (and organization) had forgotten. To our plebeian eyes, the shop was nothing more than a mishmash of far-too-real looking dolls, particularly babies, crammed onto every available surface, staring at us. Our instinct: run. But our 5-year-old was enthralled, so we stuck it out (much the way we'll now sit through a circus, grinning at the scary clowns) and realized, on subsequent visits, what a treasure trove this little shop is.

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.

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