Musicians Discount

Because musicians are some of the most competitive folks we know in the creative community, a music store founded and operated by these people may sound kind of intimidating. But even folks who are starting or playing in their first band will feel welcome at Musicians Discount. The spacious store in the Poca Fiesta strip mall that once housed Tower Records specializes in brand-name new, used, and vintage guitars. There's a quiet room where you try out any of the store's instruments by plugging into a variety of amps and jamming out. The shop also sells the most affordable effects pedals in town as well as sonic odds and ends such as speaker cable and recording gear, all at reasonable prices.

Ziggie's Music

These cats, in business since 1927, definitely know what they're doing when it comes to headstocks, fret boards, whammy bars, and all of that other fancy talk about guitars.

Even if you don't speak the lingo, you can still find yourself a kickass acoustic or electric guitar during the store's monthly swap meet. For the past 16 years, folks have been gathering at Ziggie's to buy, sell, trade, and upgrade guitars and other stuff, including amps, straps, and cases. Trade gear every first Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to noon.

Eastside Records

Aside from being one of the few truly independent record stores in town, Eastside's always had a reputation for satisfying eccentric tastes. Sure, you can go to the mall for that copy of Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds (Eastside will have it, too), but where do you go when you're looking for Lydia Lunch's spoken-word manifesto Oral Fixation or a copy of the 1996 U.K. import Jitter Juice, by now-defunct goth rock band 12 Rounds? Chances are, Eastside will have whatever you're looking for, and if they don't have it, they can order it. The in-store selection isn't the largest (four rows of CD bins, as opposed to the dozens found at most chain stores), but Eastside's CD bins are treasure troves of underground tunes, right alongside the usual Top 40 suspects.

Zia Record Exchange

Of course, Zia offers more in trade than in cash (after a recent sale, they offered us $57 in trade credit or $39 in cash), but they also pay more for CDs than any other place in town (some places, like a particular bookstore chain that also sells used CDs, will offer only pennies on the dollar). The clerks are pretty savvy, too, so as long as you're not trying to pass off some beat-up copies of Debbie Gibson records or Danzig bootlegs without covers, you're likely to get a pretty good bang for your buck.

Best Place to Buy Vinyl and a Turntable to Play It On

Revolver Records

Revolver Records

Revolver has a small amount of CDs for sale, but the store's forte is vinyl records — rooms upon rooms of them. There's an entire room of records filled with jazz platters, and rows of rock records, too. Hell, we even found two copies of the 1972 post-Jim Morrison Doors record Other Voices, with guitarist Robby Krieger and keyboardist Ray Manzarek splitting vocal duties. Thankfully, Revolver also has vinyl listening stations, which saved us from purchasing the album out of sheer curiosity. In addition to its voluminous library of records, Revolver is also one of the few places in town where you can buy turntables — and not just any old turntables, either. Revolver sells USB turntables, which allow listeners to plug the turntables into their computers and record and rip their vinyl albums in a digital format. Now that's music geek love.

Arizona Italian American Club

About once every month, a hall that's normally reserved for bingo and pasta dinners is transformed into a place where rare dusties and cheap-o wax cylinders in every musical genre possible sell for reasonable prices. The heavy hitters of the local vinyl scene — including Revolver Records, Tracks in Wax, Arizona's unofficial music archivist Johnny D, and up to 40 individuals with record collections numbering in the 30,000-title range — sell crates of LPs and 45s. You can even bring your own portable record player and sample albums before deciding to buy. Admission costs $5 between 9 and 9:30 a.m. and $2 thereafter.

Hoodlums New & Used Music

We would head to the southeast corner of Guadalupe and McClintock just to go to Changing Hands — or Trader Joe's, or China Max, or even Baskin-Robbins, but now we're happy to report we have yet another reason to hit the south Tempe strip mall. Hoodlums, the record store smoked out of the Memorial Union at ASU by a recent fire, is graduating to a spot just a couple doors down from Changing Hands. Now we can shop for books and music, and we're looking forward to joint projects from the two businesses, like a recent event featuring the author of 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die.

We like the sound of that!

Wag N' Wash Healthy Pet Center

Problem: Your dog stinks. Auxiliary problem: You're can't stomach overpriced groomers who slap those pink bitch bows on your pal's collar even though he's a pit bull named Butch. There is a solution, and the "green" chain Wag N' Wash pioneered it at its six stores in Colorado, Illinois, and right here in Phoenix, on the Seventh Avenue Curve.

For a thrifty $13 to $17 — depending on your choice of Basic, Premium, or Ultimate Wash — you get a roomy, stainless-steel work space and all the bells and whistles you could possibly need to rinse out the reek. These include temperature-controlled sprayers, brushes, combs, professional-strength dryers, and personal-grooming products such as cream rinse, skin moisturizer, and no-more-puppy-tears shampoo. Two other things to note: 1) You don't have to clean up after yourself. They do it. 2) They don't carry pink bows.

Pets Inc.

The 20-gallon fish tank we bought for our children three years ago is a regular Garden of Eden, where lots of going forth and multiplying goes on, and death is a stranger. We owe it all to Pets Inc. Things weren't always this good. We were worried when we set up the tank — we knew anything that doesn't bark or meow when it's hungry had a low probability of survival. Sure enough, two die-offs occurred in the first year — including a major one while we were on vacation that left all but two fish floating on the surface.

With the help of the friendly staff at Pets Inc., we soon had a lively tank full of fish again. The staff hooked us up with a better pump system than we'd been using, and they also imparted the key knowledge that we should change the charcoal filter now and then. We selected a bunch of mollies, a pencilfish, a big suckerfish, and some others whose names are hard to recall. And we got new decorations for the tank, including a scale model of the Roman Coliseum and lots of faux sea ferns. We found the prices at Pets Inc. to be very reasonable — the fish and stuff cost less than a nice seafood dinner for two, that's for sure. Amazingly, we haven't had to buy fish in two years because the mollies are so randy.

Even one of the pre-die-off fish, Spot, is still wiggling his tail. When we're ready to move up to a bigger tank, or maybe try our hand at saltwater fish, or find replacements for the Third Great Extinction that is yet to come, we see no reason to go elsewhere.

Pets Inc. remodeled last year and added more shelf space, more products, and an above-ground pond to show off its new line of pond plants, koi and turtles. The large store also specializes in reptiles, and has an impressive menagerie of lizards, snakes, and tarantulas. Even if you don't buy anything, Pets Inc. is great for looky-loos who just want to treat their kids to a free mini-zoo experience.

Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World

If you can't find the fake lure to fit your specifications at this off-the-grid outdoors emporium, it doesn't exist. The selection is mind-boggling, monstrous, even excessive, if that's possible in this big-box age. However, not everyone is a sucker for the Bass, which started life in 1971 with eight feet of shelf space in a backwoods Missouri bait shop and has mushroomed into a chain boasting more than 40 big-box "Walleye-Marts." (Outgunned) competitors are naturally disdainful and true sportsfolks won't set foot in the joint, but weekend warriors can't get enough of the 200,000-square-foot retailer/tourist destination.

On the fence? Want the worm of your dreams but not sure you want to pay the social toll? Here's a hilariously appropriate yelp.com post we found from one similarly conflicted Phoenix woman:

"Talk about retail meets theme park meets playground meets the wild outdoors! When you first walk in, you aren't sure what your eyes should settle upon. The flashy boats? The four-wheelers? The huge fish tank? The gun room? The arcade games? From slingshots to dog collars, we looked it all over. We even spotted a camo bikini. Absurd. [Despite] being in sheer bewilderment of the enormity of this place, I had fun. I hate to admit it, but it's true. From admiring the wood furniture to snapping a camera pic of a bull's testicles, I had fun! I even managed to find some flip-flops I convinced myself I needed. Now that's powerful marketing!"

Indeed.

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