Best Bead Store 2009 | Beads Galore | Shopping & Services | Phoenix

We love that arts and crafts are in vogue, and we're always looking for fresh ways to get our maker fix. If you or a crafty friend want your pupils to dilate, just stop by the enormous Beads Galore brick-and-mortar store. Sure, its online shop probably has what you need with a click of a mouse, but a Web-based purchase won't ever match the satisfaction of running your fingers through a zillion beads. Started in 1986 by Norman Lawitz, Beads Galore is now shepherded by his son Bernie. His passion for beads and everything you need to make jewelry also emanates from the helpful staff there. Bead material ranges from the simple (plastic and glass) to the exotic (Swarovski crystal and bone), so you can keep your jewelry real or make it as eye-poppingly gaudy as you wanna be.

As one Crop Girls customer pointed out on our most recent visit, scrapbooking is the one crafty hobby that people seem to stick to — as evidenced by the fact the store is always packed. We'll travel clear across the Valley to go to Crop Girls, which has the best selection of vintage paper and stickers in town, and to pick the brains of partners Crista, Donna, Christina, and Pamela, who are always in the know about the latest scrapbooking convention.

Outside, the shop's an ugly beige mess; inside, it's a haven of pretty lime-green walls, crafting stations, and rows and rows of paper, stamps, stickers, and scrapbooking kits neatly organized and labeled. We've recently scored clear stamps for making wedding invitations, baby-themed paper in star shapes, Distress Ink, and our favorite find — Jen Wilson's "The Ride" paper, which has cool scalloped edges in vintage-y orange and a pattern of old station wagons to match. The Crop Girls offer classes several times a week, so you'll know how to use those supplies, and there's also a unique selection of Aussie scrapbooking mags that Crista — whose accent indicates she's a native — swears by for ideas.

It's 10 p.m. on a Saturday and your crafty self is stuck home with nothing to do. You've already thumbed through the latest Martha Stewart Living. Twice. You watched reruns of HGTV's The Carol Duvall Show until you wanted to hot-glue your eyes shut. Yeah, we've been there. Thankfully, there's The Craft Retreat, an adorable little scrapbooking and pottery-painting shop in Glendale that hosts late-night "Crop Till You Drop" and "Paint Till You Faint" sessions, from 6 p.m. to midnight several times a month. For less than $20, you can score dinner (usually pizza or sandwiches), a drink, and, most importantly, some instant crafting BFFs. You'll have to bring your own supplies, or you can purchase unpainted stoneware or trendy paper, decals and photo corners from Craft Retreat's stock at 10 percent off. But considering the alternative could involve using your craft punch to cut a heart-shaped chunk in your hair out of sheer boredom, we think it's so worth it.

Ever been "finger-wagged" by one of those serious-as-cancer security guards at the Phoenix Art Museum? You know, you sneak in for a closer look at one of the paintings, and the guard is in your face, index finger zipping back and forth like a windshield wiper? Hey, it's their job; we get it. It's just a bit Big Bro for our taste.

Our taste, in fact, runs more to the intimate and the hands-on, and that's why we love this gallery-slash-emporium, founded in 2007 by Jane Reddin, a retired partner at the law firm of Lewis and Roca. Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century, Reddin carries only handcrafted goods by artists and artisans fed up with shoddy, mass-produced wares.

But don't expect Grandma Moses crap. In addition to generally excellent visual art, you'll find touchable treasures such as kitchenware, furniture, clothing, jewelry, garden goods, door stops, fused-glass business-card holders, blown-glass beer mugs, hand-bound photo books, handmade soaps, organic-cotton baby blankets, vases, rugs, sake sets, mosaic-tile mirrors, and night lights.

About the only thing you won't find is a finger-wagging sentry.

Kraig Foote had a brilliant idea. He invited students to sell their art at a gallery on high-end Marshall Way in Scottsdale. The students get a start, the customers get a bargain. Genius, right? We think so, and obviously so does the market — Foote has teetered, for sure, but he hasn't fallen, as so many of his fellow Marshall Way-ers have in the past year. We wish him and his artists the best of luck moving forward.

Once we find a flower shop we like, we latch on as if it were our hairdresser. So we understand if you don't feel right about even reading this. But if you're new in town, or your florist moved to Vegas, or you're ready to cheat on whoever usually trims your stems, Phoenix Flower Shops is a worthy aspirant. The established local chainlet offers breathtaking designs, personal service, Web deals, and everything from stuffed animals to fine giftware to snacky treats to accompany the finest blossoms, delivered worldwide. But here's the deal for us penny-pinching DIY-ers: Choose your own assortment from PFS' insanely well-stocked vats of fresh, lovely stems every Friday (except certain holiday weekends; call to check) for 50 percent off the usual prices. Whether you're fancying up a family event or impressing a new crush, it's a great way to spread cheer to more people with more flowers, more often.
Judy Nichols

Flowers are overdone. Edible Arrangements look a little creepy. So when you care enough to send the very best, send cookies! Urban Cookies creates adorable care packages for any occasion under the blazing sun. Each brown box is customized with a design of your choosing and squared off with a fanciful ribbon. As for the contents, you can't go wrong. There's the dark chocolate walnut coconut-rolled oat cookie called the Urban, a milk chocolate and molasses brown sugar creation called the Simple Urban, a coconut-pineapple dream known as the Urban Tropic, and the Urban Trail, which somehow manages to involve almonds, sunflower seeds, brown rice crisps, oats, and raisins. Gift packages start at $25 for eight cookies. Um, did we mention we just broke our pinkie toe and could use a little TLC right now?

From the professional pastry chef to the neophyte fondant user to the 6-year-old looking for anything with Elmo on it, ABC has it — and a pretty pink bakery box to put it in. We're pretty sure this place carries every Wilton product on the market; you can find cake toppers for every holiday (and, yes, aisles devoted to cartoon and TV characters, including the furry red monster); and we've been known to spend way more time than should be allowed staring at the dozens of varieties of sprinkles. In the end, you may go running home to Betty Crocker, but you can decorate her cake in style, thanks to ABC, and no one will have to know.

Don't laugh at us, but we needed a new meat thermometer. Our heart was set on the Redi-Fork Digital Probe Thermometer with Detachable Tines and Rapid Read TipTake, but who wants to pay retail for such a high-end item? We certainly didn't, so we headed out to Le Gourmet Chef and almost wished, once we arrived, that we hadn't. But only because we wound up with a new set of galvanized cookware and some once-pricey oven mitts we would never had bought if they were full price. This place is like a gorgeous museum of all things cookery, from tiny sugar cube tongs to electric griddles, and everything at bargain basement prices. Our meat thermometer is magnificent, and it cost us less than half what it would have anywhere else. Definitely worth the drive to Anthem. We're going back!

The only confusing thing about this amazing pointy emporium is its name: Phoenix Knife House is located in Scottsdale. Geography aside, everything about Eytan Zias' knife shop makes perfect sense. Zias is a former chef whose love for all things sharp led him to open a store that also offers cookbooks, whetstones, and chef's uniforms. But it's the dozen specialty lines of cutlery — including rare Masahiro and Misono knives — that most folks come here for. That and the even rarer service of by-hand knife sharpening that Phoenix Knife House offers. Which makes this place (dare we?) a cut above the rest.

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