Zinnias at Melrose
Before her untimely passing early this summer, fashionista and paper curator Heidi Owens upgraded her already fabulous vintage clothing shop, turning it into a frankly jaw-dropping fashion emporium of the past. By moving into the large, linoleum-tiled boutique on West Indian School Road, Owens quadrupled her floor space and was able to fulfill her dream: creating a department store, circa 1964, that featured the best examples of fabulous fashion from the last half-century — and every last bit of it beautifully arranged on mannequins, in glass cases, and on racks as old and interesting as the stuff they're displaying. The place looks like a museum, but don't be fooled! Every one of those dinner jackets, evening gowns, circle skirts, and bola ties is for sale. A truly astonishing array of vintage paste and Bakelite jewelry is also for sale here, at this shop that will have you longing for the days when swing coats were in and mannequins were made of hot pink vinyl. Don't waste any time getting over there — with Owens sadly gone, the storeowners have announced they'll close when the merchandise is gone. Last we checked, everything was 50 percent off.
Garage
A while back, the rumor spread that Katie Wilson had packed up her boutique and candy bar for kids and moved the shebang to Scottsdale Fashion Square. We were happy to hear she was still in business, but a little sad to hear of another empty storefront in Old Town Scottsdale.We are happy to report that the rumor was completely untrue. Katie and her "body shop for kids" are still happily ensconced on Stetson Drive, and as classy as ever. On a recent visit we drooled over a candy-dot "dress" and a Hershey messenger bag, purple tutus, and enough accessories to keep the hair out of the face of every toddler from here to Gilbert. We also love T-shirts with messages like "Rebel with a Cause" and "Excuse me, did you say thank you?" If we didn't, Katie, that's our bad. Thanks for hosting the most stylish kiddy party in town!
Butter Toast Boutique
Phoenix is notorious for less-than-decent vintage shopping. Poor us. We're just too young a city. Thank the fashion gods for Butter Toast Boutique. Somehow, they know where to snag some of the best vintage threads we've seen. The racks are packed with delightful polyester prints and more gorgeous purses than you can shake a bag of mothballs at. Every time we set foot in the place, even the patrons look ultra-hip. Owners Jasmine Jarrett and Traci Nelson also vend through their killer etsy.com site, BillieGoatVintage.
Blue Jean Buyer
Recycled since 1987, The Blue Jean Buyer's selection of denim looks how we'd like our asses to look: small and tight. With American-made 501, 505, and 517 classic Levi's, in addition to '70s bellbottoms, cut-offs, old-school Wranglers and Lees, bib overalls, and designer jeans amped up by local artists, denim devotees can easily score a blue bargain. Want to personalize your vintage purchase? Owner Steve Vizzerra, who calls himself the "Denim Doctor of Arizona," is happy to rip, stitch, distress, or dye your denim in tea for an old-school look that's anything but ordinary.

Best Place to Unload Your VHS Tapes for Credit

Bookmans

Bookmans Entertainment Exchange
Don't laugh. We found, in our basement, a box full of old VHS tapes we'd been saving for some reason, and we figured no one would want them. Wrong! We took them to Bookmans, where we swapped more than half of them for store credit. Then we turned right around and bought ourselves (for free!) a hardcover copy of Catcher in the Rye and a three-volume set of Harold Robbins novels. We also brought home a VHS copy of The Gold Diggers, a silent picture not available on DVD. We couldn't help ourselves — Bookmans' selection of rare movies on VHS is unbeatable! You're welcome.
Book Gallery
Book Gallery's a throwback to what used bookstores were like before mega-secondhand bookshops came along: persnickety, idiosyncratic cubbyholes where you run across rarities chosen in part by the interests of the owner. Not that Book Gallery is a cubbyhole, size-wise. The store is spacious enough, but the densely packed shelves lend a feeling of intimacy, a place where you can hide from the world while you rumble through the works of Madame Blavatsky, thumb through sci-fi novels you haven't seen since the 1970s, or peruse obscure, Depression-era children's tomes.Add to this the vast collection of bookends in the place — in the form of everything from American presidents to hunting dogs — and you have the ambiance of a San Francisco curio shop out of some Dashiell Hammett detective story. Book Gallery has a Mesa location as well, but it's the Phoenix shop that retains the best of what bookstores used to be.
Half Price Books
We were thrilled, thrilled, thrilled when the national chain Half Price Books decided to set out its shingle in the Biltmore area earlier this year. Yes, there are already plenty of good spots to buy used books in CenPho, and we adore most of them — but Half Price Books, we have to admit, is tops. It's not just the selection, though it's remarkably extensive and perfectly organized. It's the clearance area. No mere shelf, the clearance section of Half Price Books literally takes up three giant bookshelves. And unlike other stores, these clearance books aren't just a pile of boring bestsellers. They're remarkable novels, interesting biographies, and even (sometimes) an old classic or two. We've found many of our favorite books just by taking a chance and betting a dollar or two that Half Price Books will come through. It's rarely left us disappointed.
Charles Parkhurst Rare Books
Okay. This is not a bookshop for the faint of heart. Parkhurst and company aren't offering for sale first-edition Clive Barkers here. This isn't the place where one goes to upgrade one's worn copy of Catcher in the Rye. This four-year-old bookseller is where one might, for example, go to purchase a pair of leather-bound volumes of Tobias Smollett's The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote, a first translation from the Spanish of Miguel de Cervantes' original. For $5,500. Serious collectors (like A.S.W. Rosenbach, widely considered the greatest antiquarian bookseller the world has ever known, whose rare 1960 biography is available here for only $125) flock to this beautifully appointed, museum-like store for fine first editions, manuscripts, signed and inscribed, books and special-bound, rare and unusual 19th- and 20th-century literature. The staff, smart and helpful and as in love with books as their customers, aren't at all stuffy about the many exceptional titles they offer for sale. We love them, and we love that this store — where we can ogle a rarely seen copy of C.S. Forester's Flying Colours (priced at a still-reasonable $650) or purchase a near-mint printing of J.M. Barrie's A Lady's Shoe (a bargain at $35!) — is right here in our town.
Changing Hands Bookstore
As more brick-and-mortar book retailers shut down around us, we take huge comfort in knowing that this homey bookshop continues to thrive. For decades now, Changing Hands has offered more than just great prices on new books and a vast array of rare and interesting used titles. This independent community bookstore has offered up workshops, writing seminars, book groups, poetry roundtables, and even tarot readings. The store's new-ish series of off-site events brings to town some of the best in literature; recent celebrity bookings have included Garrison Keillor and Stephenie Meyer. The friendly staff actually seems to want to talk to customers about books they've read and enjoyed, another rarity in the shrinking world of retail. But mostly, there are books: Neatly kept, well organized, and stacked to the rafters, they are proof that Changing Hands is here to stay.
The Shoe Mill
So you scored a cheap parking spot over by the football stadium, but your classes are clear on the other side of Tempe's ASU campus, over by Gammage? Better ditch those Blahniks for some Danskos, sweetie. We know, it's not pretty, but your feet won't be, either, after weeks of hoofing it. And if anyone can make you look good while keeping you comfy, it's the Shoe Mill, a downtown Tempe tradition. How about those Dansko clogs in a red patent leather, or some strappy Naot sandals? You'll certainly feel better about your fashion choices when you breathe in the heady smell of leather from an assortment of super-cute (and ergonomically correct!) bags and totes — perfect for schlepping those books, with enough room for the high heels, if you've just got to keep them close.

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