Smilin' Jack's Pedal Cars

Remember pedal cars, those miniature metal machines that were foot-powered and looked exactly like Dad's classic Thunderbird? Take a trip back to the good old days at Smilin' Jack's and you'll find plenty of the real thing — vintage-style pedal cars with chrome accents and fins as well as its modern cousin, Big Wheels. Jack's also carries a large stock of autographed baseballs and other sports memorabilia, rare Hot Wheels miniatures, classic red wagons and vintage model cars from as early as the 1940s. The best part about Smilin' Jack's? The social norm that said these goodies are strictly for dudes has broken down since their heyday, so dangerous girls can get in on neighborhood pedal car drag races instead of trying to put Barbie's head in an Easy-Bake oven.

Auntie Em's Miniatures

The shelves of today's toy stores are stocked with plastic cell phones and dolls that make a Van Buren Street hooker look elegant. That's why we adore Auntie Em's, where old-fashioned dollhouses and fully clothed dolls reign supreme. The feminine yin to Smilin' Jack's Pedal Cars' yang, Auntie Em's carries everything a girl needs to build and decorate her own miniature world, from teensy tables and beds to accessories such as a sleeping cat and a white picket fence to make her dream home complete. Every summer, the shop hosts a series of Dollhouse Camps where little princesses can build custom five-room bungalows for about a hundred bucks. All she'll need afterwards is tiny designer furniture, a matchbox-size sports car, and a miniature husband to pay for it all.

Retro Ranch

This funky store is stocked with a whole lot more than your typical coterie of furniture, barware, and velvet Elvis paintings. The owner's eagle eye has scored an eclectic selection of clothing so enticing it would make Carrie Bradshaw — and Sarah Jessica Parker — jealous. Cheery '50s skirts, prom dresses, '70s skiing sweaters, and straw handbags are waiting to be snapped up. Label-lovers and luxury hounds know which racks stock the fancy stuff, with finds that regularly include cashmere coats, mink stoles, and Lilly Pulitzer dresses. We love the recession pricing, like a men's Yves Saint Laurent velvet blazer for under $50, or sparkling rhinestone earrings for a mere $15. And for $20, who doesn't need another 1940s black leather handbag? Yup, that's pretty fabulous.

Blue Jean Buyer

The Blue Jean Buyer is a magical place. You can walk in and pick out any pair of jeans, boots, belt and T-shirt, and you're about as close to being Keith Richards as you're going to get without having a few blood transfusions. With an astounding collection of vintage Levi's, T-shirts, cowboy boots, and jewelry for both guys and girls, it's impossible not to get lost in this tiny shop. With trade-ins accepted and already affordable prices, we can't help feeling lucky. Steve Vizzerra's quaint little boutique would certainly hold its own in Silver Lake or Williamsburg, but we get to keep his shop and its timeless rock 'n' roll cool all to ourselves.

Sunset Clothing Xchange

It's a shopper's dream come true to hit a hot streak in a store. When you find so much that you actually have to put things back to keep the total ticket down, you experience the glory of pure consumerism . . . and you're beautiful. This happens to us every single time we walk through the doors at Sunset Clothing Xchange in Tempe. It's uncanny. The selective store offers only the best vintage finds as well as contemporary brands like Paige, Bebe, Rock & Republic, French Connection, Betsey Johnson, and People's Liberation (just to name a few). The racks are clean and well organized, and there's not a busted zipper in the place. With ridiculously reasonable pricing, we often wonder how the place keeps their doors open. As long as they are, we'll be walking through them.

Hollywood Regency

We finally wrangled an invitation to Lewis and John's annual snooty-boots cocktail soiree, only to discover that its hosts insist on "formal vintage eveningwear" in order to get through the door. We made a beeline for Hollywood Regency, because we knew that the proprietress, Heidi Owens, had a few years back turned her love of old-timey fashion — not to mention the entire back room of her kicky vintage furniture shop — into a really swell homage to dinner jackets and formals. And they're all for sale! We swooped in and found a velvet-lined, brocade smoking jacket and a pair of cufflinks shaped like little penguins, and tarted up our ensemble with a silk hand-painted necktie from the '40s. While we were there, we also scooped up a couple of pairs of plaid shorts and a bowling shirt with the name "Chet" embroidered on the pocket, because we can't ever resist Hollywood Regency's cool duds and amazing low prices.

Antique Trove

There's a booth among the many at Antique Trove that carries nothing but big, beautiful pieces from the south of France. We go there sometimes just to ogle the Napoleon armoire and the glass-and-mahogany wet bar. Don't get us wrong; sometimes we go to Antique Trove to actually buy stuff, like the little French Deco side table with a built-in humidor that's part of our bedroom suite now, and the glass-topped dining table with hand-carved rosette chairs that we got for a steal during one of Trove's frequent sales. We love a bargain, and we're often surprised by how pricey Antique Trove's high-end stuff isn't. The folks at this colossal antiques mall also sell stuff that isn't so fancy (not long ago, we bought a set of Lennon Sisters paper dolls for a friend whose home is filled with such things), but it's a huge space full of finer old furniture pieces and it never lets us down.

The gal who runs this place loves to chat, but she'll also leave you alone to wander through this old house in the ghost-town stretch of East Indian School Road. You'll find everything from neatly arranged Barbie clothes (hey, everything is neatly arranged in this shop; no digging through boxes or poking around on shelves here) to unbelievably low-priced barware and vintage dishes. Fat Cat doesn't waste any space with ordinary furniture; the large pieces scattered throughout (like a shockingly affordable Victorian dining set that haunts us still) are all incredible and pristine. A visit to Fat Cat's brick-and-mortar store (they also run an eBay store with the same name featuring equally awesome furniture and collectibles), in any economy, lets us come away with more stuff than we could otherwise afford.

Historic District Antique Mall

We cannot tell a lie: We stopped shopping at this, one of the biggest antique malls in town. Not because their stuff was expensive or because we never found anything we liked there, but because the guy who ran the place was a tyrant. We got tired of being yelled at for asking how much a floor lamp cost or whether they had any ceramic ashtrays, and so we took our business elsewhere. But then someone told us that the place was stuffed with old, inexpensive silver trays, which we happen to be passionate about, so we sucked up our courage and headed in. Surprise! Not only is our once-favorite antique mall completely reorganized, with wider walkways and tidier booths, but it's under new management, to boot. The new people working there never holler at us, and in fact they're so concerned with making our shopping trip pleasant that they've relocated the entrance, so now we can enter from the parking lot instead of walking all the way around front. But what we really care about is the vast selection of cool trinkets and old furniture, which is also new and improved here. At this downtown antiques emporium, everything old is new again!

Red Modern Furniture

Jonesing for a rosewood and leather sofa by Hans Olsen? Dying for a pair of Eames chairs? Won't sleep 'til you own a Milo Baughman cocktail table? Have no idea what we're talking about? Even if it's the latter, we bet you'll appreciate a trip to Red Modern Furniture, if only for the sheer devotion these folks show to their cause — making the world more beautiful, one piece of modern/mid-century/vintage furniture at a time. To you, it's an ottoman. To others, it's an important piece of history. Either way, Red has the best selection in town.

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