The thing about being a dog is that you're subject to the will of your owner. Sure, you can bark and whine, but you're going to be stuck wearing a pink fuzzy sweater and eating tofu dogs if your master demands it. Whimper.
Good thing there's Wag N' Wash, where owners can pamper their pooches with a bubbly shampoo and bakery treats that look just like the human food Fido's always trying to score under the table. The store stocks tons of all-natural kibble, from Active Care to Nature's Variety, plus grain-free brands for sensitive tummies and a fridge filled with raw food.
Medicines, bones, treats, and fuzzy toys are also plentiful, and the bakery section is one of the largest we've found, with liver brownies, peanut butter pie, and quiches that almost look good enough for us humans to eat.
We have absolutely nothing against PetSmart. The local favorite is a good corporate citizen and a great place to shop for everything from dog food to a new pet fish. But Oliver & Annie is to PetSmart what a stylish little clothing boutique is to Target: a small, lovely complement. This tiny north-central Phoenix shop — tucked into the same oh-so-cool strip as Lola Coffee and Haus — smells good, looks good, and offers a carefully selected array of products. We're talking boutique pet food brands, healthy treats, toys made of organic cotton . . . Yes, you will spoil your pet here, but the place is so fabulous, you'll feel chic (not guilty!) while you do it. And trust us, we have yet to meet a single regular customer without at least a tiny crush on the owner.
Oh, Frances, how we love you. Actually, we never knew you, because you are Georganne Bryant's late grandmother and the namesake of her north-central Phoenix boutique, which in just three years has become a retail mainstay in that neck of the woods. Bryant stocks her little shop with cool women's clothes, gift-perfect baby goods, and irresistible housewares. We always swear we won't, but every time we go, we manage to walk out with at least one piece of jewelry. Hey, we're shopping local. Supporting the economy. Feeding a dangerous habit. (Whoops, got a little honest with that last one.) And somehow, it just feels extra-good to shop at Frances. Bryant is the city's head cheerleader — created the "Love Phoenix or Leave Phoenix" T's you see around town, co-sponsors an indie craft fair at the holidays, and helped bring Faythe Levine's Handmade Nation documentary to Phoenix earlier this year. No, we never met the real Frances, but we still love her for having a granddaughter with such a good heart and such great taste. We bet she'd be awfully proud.
Steve and Andi Rosenstein are big thinkers, which is good, because they've got 15,000 square feet of space to fill, and the Anchor Manufacturing Building on Central and Lincoln is their new project. Built in 1928, this historic spot has housed everything from a car dealership to a garage for city buses to a beer distributorship. It's currently home to their clothing label, R&R Surplus, while they pick up hipster design cred by hosting Kontakt Magazine parties and the Phoenix Contemporary Design Fair. But their big plans include "The Duce," its name derived from their historic neighborhoods' start as a produce district. The Duce will be home to a bar, a restaurant, a produce stand, a vintage bike shop, and an all-vinyl record store. Set to open in November of this year, that sounds like the kind of downtown indie mini-mall we so desperately need. Kudos and godspeed, Rosensteins. The 'Nix is a labyrinthine mix of complex building codes, regulations, and good old-fashioned red tape, the kind of Gordian knot untied only by visionaries. We can't wait for The Duce to be The Done.
The plush linens, vintage baubles, and flirty sundresses at this chic boutique practically sell themselves, but owners Kristin and Dan Alber and their creative staff really want you to get "blissed out." They've got craft kits and supplies for domestic divas to make everything from felt cupcakes (these make adorable pincushions!) to fun printed aprons, and the store's Blissful Living Studio offers classes on jewelry-making and sewing romantic fashions. The blissful spirit is also contagious on the store's blog, which highlights romantic accessories and store sales and offers tips for a happier life. There's even a Blissfully Traveled magazine and an annual Fall Blissfest street fair with live music, antiques, and craft vendors. All this blissful branding is enough to give guests a serious retail high, without any pharmacological assistance.
Don't let the cutesy name fool you — this fun shop is aimed at the tattooed, tough-as-nails set who adore vintage threads and elbowing each other on the flat track. Pink House started out as a furniture shop, but gradually transformed into a funky fashion-forward boutique with about a dozen vendors, including Happy Hippie Resale, Harley Quinn & Ivy, and the deliciously awesome Pink DeVille, whom you'll find pimping hair flowers and retro aprons with pink kitties at roller derby bouts and on First Fridays. Love Sailor Jerry? The shop's selection of vintage tattoo prints is awesome, and they're not just on baby T's. Look for silky embroidered tattoo dresses, cool A-line skirts, and tight, polka dot tube dresses from Elegantly Wasted that'll have you channeling your inner bombshell in no time.
We just assumed, based on the chic little cocktail dresses in the window of this two-year-old central Phoenix clothing shop, that Rowdy Boutique would be a bit too chi-chi for our tastes. Thank God for second impressions: A friend told us about Bag Dayz, and we've been regulars ever since. Buy something at Rowdy, and you'll get a free canvas tote — and that tote will serve as your entrée to once-monthly Bag Dayz, where not only are the sales to die for, but you get a free accessory (one month it was super-cute gardening gloves!) to boot. Free stuff? What could possibly be a better reason to shop?
Ever notice how some boutique shops rotate stock so infrequently that their selection is as stale as a week-old doughnut? That's why we love MADE, whose fresh stock has yielded new treasures every time we've popped in for First Friday. This artsy little shop offers a unique collection of accessories, including huge bejeweled rings and vintage magnets that make us giggle. There also are photo books, handmade soap, and cool wall panels by the likes of Roy Wasson Valle and Cyndi Coon. On recent visits, we scored a box of elegant monogrammed note cards (for the handwritten letters we've been meaning to write) and a handmade bowl for a birthday present (big hit!), as well as items from the small but significant selection of books and magazines. To ensure you don't perish of shopping ennui, MADE's stock changes seasonally — incorporating rows of stockings and glittery ornaments during the holidays and random travel finds from local art consultant Ted Decker throughout the year.
Devious Wigs & Things is like the Cheers of vintage shops — after a couple of times pawing through their unpredictable selection, the entire Devious family knows your name and can point you to the leather bomber or Steve Madden purse your heart desires. The front room features a large selection of primping goodies — from jeweled eyelashes to quality china-doll wigs in alarming shades of neon pink and electric blue, at about 40 bucks a pop — while the back is packed with vintage threads for dudes and dames. You never know what shopping holy grails you'll find at Devious. An $8 vintage skirt. Cool striped stockings. Or maybe some glittery butterfly hair clips, as owner Anna Marie Gutierrez has a personal weakness for the winged critters. It may take an hour or two to complete your quest, but there's plenty of opportunity for a break — you can Twitter your finds from the pay-per-minute Internet desk or plop down on the vintage chairs to watch a retro flick on videocassette.