Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

We stood at a magazine rack the other night, holding a $25 (we kid you not) design magazine in our sweaty hands, and had one thought: "Do they have this used at Bookmans?" If you've never been to the magazine section at one of the Bookmans locations in town, we suggest you drop this issue and head over. Bring your pocket change, because that's all you'll need to get yourself a pile of reading material. Sure, you might want to make sure you have the latest Time or Newsweek, but tell the truth: How far behind are you in your New Yorker reading? Cancel that subscription and scout the racks at Bookmans — we'll all but guarantee you'll find several months' worth of back issues, sold to the store by some other shlub who realized he'll never catch up on his own reading. A copy of Martha Stewart Living or Oprah's O will run you several dollars retail, but for a fraction of that, the girls can come home with you. Yeah, they may be a little long in the tooth, but we bet you won't notice the difference — have you ever noticed how repetitive magazines are getting, anyhow? Hey, no nasty comments about Best of Phoenix!

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a graphic novel must be worth a billion. That's why when we want more than 24 pages of comic action, we head to Samurai Comics. If you're the sort of troubled soul who prefers gritty, graphic novels like 30 Days of Night, Samurai's got you covered. Do you prefer a 50-plus volume manga series like Naruto or Fruits Basket? This store's got enough manga to make you sneeze speed lines. Just use your hand, okay? Nobody wants a copy of Berzerk with your bodily fluids all over the pages.

Ash Avenue Comics & Books

We're not sure there's a reason to leave the corner of Ash and University. There, you have access to great coffee, pizza, piercings, Casey Moore's, and one incredible comic shop: Ash Ave. Comics. If single issues or superheroes are your thing, look no further. Ash Ave. has enough plastic-sleeved action comics to justify your overflowing collection as a "financial investment." If you're looking for something in particular, talk to Ash Ave. and it'll order it for you faster than you can ask whether the Flash is faster than Superman.

Red Hot Robot

Paying hundreds of dollars for a vinyl figurine may seem like madness. We prefer to think of it as dedication. You never have to grow up as long as Red Hot Robot is around to surprise your inner child with wacky plastic toys, zonked-out artwork, and dozens of books full of vector art. Grab a Munny and permanent marker to create your own toy or purchase a limited-edition John McCain figurine complete with warhawk arsenal. Either way, it's a good investment for the bare and lifeless corner of your cubicle. Just don't open the boxes your treasures come in: Violating the collector's value would be madness!

Fetish Falls

PVC dress. Check. Riding crop. Check. Gas mask. What?? If you've been trolling the 'Net to find good bondage wear or, God forbid, slumming it at Hot Topic, you clearly haven't visited Fetish Falls. What started as an at-home craft shop for making the colorful "Cyberlox" clip-on pigtails cosplayers and raver chicks are so fond of has transformed into a one-stop brick-and-mortar shop where you can stock up on bondage gear — from collars and leashes to gorgeous black-and-white-striped Victorian bustle skirts by Hilary's Vanity (for the more discerning dominatrix). Though the shop's staff may curiously inquire as to where you'll be headed dressed head to toe in latex or as a little girl with pink tights and frilly skirt, they won't pass judgment or snicker under their breath. And if anyone does give you the stink-eye, just tell him that the gas mask is for those "high-pollution advisory" days.

Unique on Central

Though most of Unique On Central's merchandise caters to the gay and lesbian community (rainbow jewelry, spandex swimwear, gay erotica), the store's greeting card selection is a hoot for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. Owner Doug Klinge says that people constantly come in and giggle over the silly greeting cards. There are several racks and stands containing things like birthday cards with a photo of a woman stuffing her face with cake, while another woman tells her, "You shall not purge until you eat it all!" and graduation cards featuring wrinkled, stern-looking nuns warning recent grads not to party too much, lest they get the ruler. And if you need a cheeky gift to go with your smarmy card, Unique On Central also offers a variety of gag gifts (literal gags and otherwise).

Ah, the Magnet Lady. First, Mona sets up shop in a corner of a wedding reception, a bar mitzvah, a quinceañera, or whatever special event you may host. Then, she asks passersby to pose for a photo or three, with whomever they like. Now comes the good part. Before you say your goodbyes, just drop by Mona's booth and pick up the black-and-white photograph she took of you and yours. The photo isn't just a photo, but now, cleverly, a magnet for guests to stick on their refrigerators, filing cabinet or wherever as keepsakes. The woman oozes enthusiasm for her self-created gig, which has been a big hit at the three or four events where we've seen her work. And don't worry — she doesn't seem to do too many close-ups.

Quality Nails

Here in the Valley of the Flip-Flops, toes are all-important. And it's not enough anymore to simply sport a pleasing shade that hasn't chipped yet. You'd better deliver some bling on those toes, or at least a mini-mural. Good news: Quality Nails steps up toenail design to a new level. The small waiting area of this Tempe shop is filled with hundreds of CD cases, each housing six hand-painted bright designs for your digits — cheery polka dots, argyle plaids, beach scenes, multicolored stripes, camouflage, animal prints, even a white baseball design with red stitching for you sporty girls. Don't like what they've got? No problem: Quality Nails will create custom designs. We loved their pink cosmopolitans for a Sex and the City party. Just think of what they might do for a party to celebrate Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland remake.

When it's time to hit the decks, there's no doubt that Cowtown is the only choice for us. There's just something about walking into the store that makes our heart race a little faster. While it could be the constant stream of the newest skateboarding videos showcasing the latest in Skate-or-Die prowess on their big-screen television, we think it might really be Cowtown's full understanding of skateboarding as a sport and a lifestyle, not just a phase in someone's life. They're just as dedicated to pumping up local brands like AZPX, Deville, and Mob Action as they are to sneaking info about the latest Nike SB drops to their VIPs. When it's time to rock gear for some concrete and asphalt exploration, Cowtown has your back from top to bottom.

Slippery Pig Bike Shop

Cyclists can be really picky: The seat's too wide, the fork's too long, the wheels are too squishy, there's more than an ounce of fat on my body. With the exception of the latter, your bicycling needs can be met at central Phoenix's Slippery Pig, a serious bike shop for serious bikers. This full-service shop has everything you'll need to repair your prized cycle, from handlebars and banana seats to used Kevlar tires that will resist puncture wounds from Arizona's many prickly plants. The shop also does repairs on-site at reasonable prices, if you'd rather have a pro pamper your baby than risk screwing it up yourself. We particularly like their selection of pre-built bikes, which include such high-end racing bikes as pricey and lightweight Cannondales and lower-cost powder-pink cruisers for the ladies.

Best Of Phoenix®

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