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.
Danny's Family Car Wash
So, you're getting your dusty ride washed, buffed, and dried, and you've got 20 minutes to kill before it's ready. You look down at your feet and see that those funky old loafers of yours are sorely in need of a shine. There, in the waiting area, is your answer, and his name is Mr. Brice. The dude has been working on shoe leather for going on four decades, but he still treats every shoe and every customer as if they are precious commodities. A jazz aficionado from way back, he hums Louis Jordan or Charlie Parker riffs as he works, interspersing the tunes with his own view of the world — which includes a deeply spiritual side. His business card says that "our shoes are a reflection of our character." He's surely onto something, as we always feel awfully good about our "character" every time our shoes are blessed with that unparalleled Jacques shine.
Los Olivos Car Wash
How many times have you driven away from the car wash, only to notice after a few blocks that crumbs are still clinging to your console, and that your windows are all streaky? Look, in this economy, we really all should be washing our own damn cars, so if we're going to splurge on a wash, we expect the royal treatment. That's what we get, every time, at Los Olivos. Never, ever, do we drive away disappointed. The staff is courteous and hard-working, they listen to our silly special requests — like, "Please don't make my car smell like perfume!" or "Can you reach all the French fries the kids spilled in the way-back?" And on the few occasions we've really gone hog wild and paid for a detailing, we could have sworn we were driving off in a brand-new car. Not bad for an investment under $100. Los Olivos, you sure clean up nice.
Wag N' Wash Healthy Pet Center
Our pup literally barks with happiness when we turn onto Seventh Avenue near Indian School Road — because this funky little section of town has become Doggy Central. There are a half-dozen awesome businesses on a one-mile stretch that will spoil your dog rotten, from doggy daycares to pet boutiques to puppy spas. La crème de la crème may well be Wag N' Wash, a one-stop shop for everything from doggy cupcakes to nail clipping. The staff is so friendly and helpful that we're often tempted to let them wash our dog for us — but we can't resist Wag N' Wash's affordable "self-wash" option. They've got dog baths down to a science here, and they're happy to share their tools. For just $13, you get full run of the shop's tubs, hoses, brushes, dryers — and those all important industrial-strength aprons.
Shauna Rosenbaum has been pampering and primping pets at Shauna's Paw Spa & Pet Boutique in Surprise since 2008. But she's no novice. Before that, she made house calls for nearly 10 years with Shauna's Mobile Grooming. Rosenbaum has a knack for putting her furry clients at ease with a gentle touch and seems to please even the most finicky of pets. Owners can choose from basic grooming services or really roll out the royal treatment for their four-legged family members with various grooming packages. Treat your pet to a Baja Baby conditioner treatment that will moisten dry skin and coats. Or splurge on a thorough tooth brushing followed up by a blast of minty breath spray. Consider a blueberry facial, a paw butter application to cure those unsightly cracked paws and even a spritz of Sparkle and Shine Shimmering Mist to bring out their coat's natural shine and give it a silky feel. After a relaxing grooming session, pets are free to romp around the spacious storefront or lounge around on cushiony beds. No waiting in cages before or after appointments at Shauna's.
Tempe Bicycle
Cranks, cogs, cassettes — if you know exactly what all that is, or even if it all sounds Greek, Tempe Bicycle is the place to roll in a beater or carry out one of the shiners on the floor. Bud and Yvonne Morrison have been selling, fixing and talking bicycles in Tempe for more than 30 years. They've moved a couple of times — from their original shop on Mill Avenue, to their hub on University Drive — but perhaps they've found their permanent place, er, places. The couple's shops cater to the abundance of road, mountain, and hipster bikes that populate Tempe. Sales and full repairs are available at both locations, and bike rentals can be found at the shop on Rural. If you can't find the couple in one of their shops, you might spot them on the road — Bud's been spotted on his high-wheeler antique, and Yvonne leads the Tempe Bike Sunday Rides.
Before trendy boutiques, hipster specialty shops, and Dutch Brothers found the northwest corner of Central and Camelback (We know! Why was this corner so hard to find in the first place?), there lived a humble little skate shop with a clever storefront sign. (That long-gone sign was made of old skateboard decks, but rumor has it that it "wasn't to code.") We knew Cowtown Skateboards back in the day, when a trip to Baskin Robbins was part of buying new Vans.BR went the way of that righteous sign, but Cowtown lives on in its original space, with additional thriving shops in the west Valley and Tempe. You won't find friendlier, scruffier staff anywhere in town. These guys know their shit and are so cool about it — and not just to the skate punks who hang around watching endless videos — that their chill attitude is a service in itself. Great selection and prices. Killer sales. Repairs. Events. Fly website. These days you could buy your Vans at Nordstrom, but, dude, what the hell?
Phoenix Knife House
Phoenix Knife House is a candy store for culinary professionals and wanna-be Iron Chefs. Owned by former chef Eytan Zias, who did stints at Kai and Circa 1900, the small shop is lined with knives in all shapes and sizes from the smallest paring blade to Santoku knives and cleavers. Zias treats each knife like a precious diamond, pulling selections from under glass or behind the counter only upon request. If your knives are getting a little dull, you can purchase a sharpening block and try to revive the blade yourself or let the professional handle it for you. In addition to whetstones and files, Phoenix Knife House carries a dozen brands of carbon and stainless Japanese blades, chef's jackets, cutting boards, and high-quality kitchen tools like rolling pins and spatulas. Despite our cooking skills being limited to boiling eggs and making boxed rice, we drool every time we see the selection of gorgeous Masahiro carbon steel blades with elegant magnolia-wood handles. Perhaps someday we'll be worthy.
The House of Rice Store
Heather Hoch
We ambled up to the counter at the House of Rice, tossed our Dutch cookies and "grow a Buddha" toy on the counter and asked a question that poor clerk must get asked a hundred times a day."Why Dutch and Asian products?"The one-word answer: "Indonesia." Oh. Indonesia was at one point a Dutch colony, which made Dutch food popular in Indonesia, so of course an Asian market in Scottsdale would include Dutch products.No matter — we're just happy it happened. And what success The House of Rice has had, this year celebrating its 33rd anniversary in the same spot. You can't say that about many Phoenicians.We could spend all day in this cramped store, exploring Japanese products (everything from tissue-paper beach balls to sake to sushi-making ingredients), Dutch jams and licorice and little clog magnets, and . . . really, we could go on (and on and on), but you have to experience this place for yourself. We were tempted to buy a bumper sticker that read, "It's Hard to Be Humble When You're Dutch." But we're not Dutch. Instead, we think someone should make a bumper sticker that says, "It's Hard to Be Humble When You're the House of Rice." That, we'd stick to our car.

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