As his hulking bodyguards hoisted his gold-plated wheelchair over the threshold of a swank new Hustler Hollywood store back in December of '06, a crowd of 200-plus greeted porn magnate Larry Flynt with the sort of spontaneous chant usually reserved for the likes of Jerry Springer or Howard Stern: "Lar-ry, Lar-ry, Lar-ry!" Little old ladies and Iraqi war vets. Truck drivers and Scottsdale hotties. Reporters and pimp daddies. All there to press the great man's sagging flesh and celebrate the grand opening of an idea: A sex shop as gleaming and stylish as a Nordstrom, as hip and trendy as an Urban Outfitters, but with sections devoted to kinky lingerie and vinyl bustiers, adult books and novelties, vibrators, and XXX-rated DVDs.

On one wall of the 10,000-square-foot orange-and-cream themed erotic emporium read the store's motto, "Relax... it's only sex." And while Flynt signed books and body parts, it was clear that the reason folks were so enthused was that Flynt had brought a touch of Hollywood decadence to Sand Land, and made that decadence as uncontroversial as an ice cream parlor, though no less titillating in the process. Even more than the magazines and the books that Flynt's Hustler empire mass-produces, the Hustler Hollywood stores are his ultimate triumph over America's prudes. Somewhere, Jerry Falwell's 300-pound corpse is rolling over. Of this, you can be sure.

At a glance, it looks like an electric razor, maybe, or even, um... Well, okay, we'll say it. A vibrator. But the Taser C2 packs a much bigger punch than your personal pleasure device. This thing is built to take a grown man down from a distance of 15 feet. Shocking! Really, why should cops get all the fun? Now you can have your own firearm alternative, thanks to the folks at Taser International, who've even thought to make them in pretty colors, like a cell phone or an iPod. We're sure your assailant will admire your style as you take him down.

But think twice before putting that thing in your pocket. You wouldn't want to risk a misfire.

Fleur't has a solid collection of all the cute basics: dresses, jeans, tops, skirts. But what really makes this place pop is the bling. It's everywhere — on the Havaiana flip-flops (they're made in Brazil, all the girls have 'em, where have you been?) to the bras in the boudoir section in the back of the boutique. In the center, you'll find display cases full of big sunglasses, flashy pendants and watches, but our favorite blingables were at the front of the shop, where a tableful of rhinestoned T's and tops just begged us to take them out. "Walking Contradition," reads one. Another: "Shopping is My Cardio." Amen, sisters!
Now that Jennifer Croll is getting national props for her retail vision, we wish we could say we knew her when. The fact is, Croll opened her first boutique in California — but don't blame us for boasting that she soon found a better shopping mecca in Scottsdale. Today, Croll's six-boutique empire is based in the Valley of the Sun, and she's not only leading The Mix, the giant new, Fred Segal-esque retail space in Old Town, she's also running great shops in Kierland Commons and DC Ranch. Yes, you can get Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses and Theory pants elsewhere in town, but nobody, and we mean nobody, picks pieces with a better eye than Croll and company. It's like having a personal shopper to pare down the collections to leave us with only the high notes — and then arranging them so artfully, we really can't help buying more things than we'd planned. We get confused in department stores, but at Jennifer Croll, we just get lucky.
We've been waiting for more great shopping near Roosevelt Row (MADE art boutique was getting lonely!) and finally, our wish has been granted. Bunky Boutique is named for the owner's grandmother, and that's not the only whimsical touch at this small but well-stocked haven. Yes, we saw stacks of silk-screened T's (what passes for high fashion in our fair metropolis) but what really got us going were the more unusual items, like funky, gangsta-ish hats for guys and dresses made from bed sheets (really, it looks better than it sounds, and the designer will make you clothes from your own sheets if you ask). We were pleased to see Angela Johnson's tulle-festooned dresses showcased, and very happy to see Laura Spalding's amazing painted metal tiles on the walls. Spalding's palm tree scenes reminded us a bit of the great shot on Bunky's Web site: the artfully graffiti'd façade of the boutique, with Phoenix's signature palms peeking up behind it. We expect this place to be a city signature someday soon, too.
We know what you're thinking: "Quit wasting my time. Everyone knows the best place to buy kids' clothing is Target."

Yeah, yeah, we've been on that Target high, too. And so have you, and you, and you, and you — and we know that because last week on the playground, six little girls were all wearing the same Circo dress. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes — like on The First Day of School, or Picture Day, or a major national holiday — we like to break away and dress our kid in something that didn't cost less than $5.99. And for those occasions, you can find us in our version of hog heaven, This Little Piggy Wore Cotton.

The shop features all the high-end regulars, like Baby Lulu, but our favorite items come from the Piggy's own collection: Comfy cotton items in everything from dresses to itty-bitty boxer shorts (they even make those in adult sizes), printed with patterns that change seasonally. Our current favorite is the crazy-looking Chinese dragon on a bright turquoise background. We're also partial to the pink toile (not sure that pattern comes in boxers).

You can also find a wonderful variety of accessories, books and other must-haves — all stuff that they don't sell at Target, not even in a knock-off. Not yet, anyway.

T-shirts with bike prints that expand the eco-consciousness. Skirts dolled up with kitschy flower patterns. Hand-sewn, hippie-friendly hemp bags and wallets.

These are just some of the items you'll find at the Collectively Operated Local Artists Boutique (C.O.L.A.B.). More than a dozen artists communally run the space dedicated to serving the community with handmade fashions and accessories for men, women and children. Approximately 95 percent of the hippie-dippy goods are handmade by local designers such as Sticker Club Girl Fashions and Spraygraphic Apparel. Since there's no middle man or woman, those earrings, lingerie and hats are sold to the public at very affordable prices. The space also features monthly First Friday exhibits with an emphasis on textile design.

Boyfriend/girlfriend textile duo Cory Hazlett and Jen Davis decided to ditch the pre-fabricated, rent-heavy storefront concept for a more personalized approach. Hazlett and Davis sew a variety of hot threads from their home, then ship to any address nationally or internationally. Every Black Cherry item is handmade, ranging from men's Civil Disobedience T-shirts bearing snarky comments like "We Didn't Give Up on America, America Gave Up on U.S." to women's accessories. Halter, strapless, and "pretty pin-up" dresses are customized based on measurements, and the kids' line includes made-to-order sundresses for girls and bowling shirts for boys, all which are available through online and mail ordering.
It's pretty easy for chicks when they want to sauce up the old wardrobe. The options for tops alone are endless. Tube top, halter top, tank top, spaghetti strap, empire waist — and so on. But for dudes, it's button-up, collared or T. It's no wonder that they rely on color, pattern and printed designs so heavily. On Mill Avenue, there's now a mecca for interesting T-shirts, Brand X Store. Not only do they sell their own zany T's, but customers can walk in with personal designs and have a custom T-shirt printed right on the spot. Soon enough, there will be enough variety around this town that the girls are going to get jealous.
Want the latest jeans design by True Religion? Then get your butt down to Chandler and wiggle it into a pair — or try another brand, like Rich & Skinny or People's Liberation. Moody Blues has dozens of options, all designed to show off your rear and lighten your wallet, but hey, for some people, finding the perfect pair of jeans really is a religious experience. This place has the blues — and a few reds and blacks, too, as well as hats, jackets, shoes — even home accessories.

Not that anyone's going to be looking around your house, with the rear view you'll be offering.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of