Community Florist
We knew we were going to love Community Florist when we spotted the shop's cat purring away near the cash register. But when we phoned in an order during a busy Mother's Day weekend, and one of the floral artists called back later to ask how Mom felt about snapdragons, we were really sold. Who makes that kind of effort anymore? The folks at this aptly named place, that's who. We like how the floral arrangements are created right out in the store itself, at a long, low table where we can watch and get some ideas for what we might like to send or display at home. The coolers are always stocked with completed arrangements, for people on the go who need a quick hostess gift, and loose flowers are available for a make-it-yourself bouquet. We prefer to work with the talented staff in creating a wild centerpiece, and we wonder what they're putting in the water that makes these flowers last longer than most. We bet it's a Community secret.
Baker's Nursery and Gift Shop
Let's face it: Most gardeners fight a losing battle in the war against Phoenix weather. We throw some gravel down, stick a barrel cactus or two next to a boulder, and call it a day. But Baker Nursery always seems to beat the heat. With an ever-changing selection of lush annuals, sturdy perennials, and a healthy supply of heat-tolerant shrubs, walking through Baker's acreage feels more like a trip to a botanical garden than a landscaping chore. And the helpful staff offers more than just sound advice and friendly service. They offer hope — an exit strategy for those of us who have uprooted our last crispy gardenia.
Chain-store nurseries can lack charm. But when we see the display of blooming bougainvilleas and bushy lantanas at Lowe's, we know we've found a green-thumbed friend. You may not find at Lowe's that rare euphorbia you've been looking for (then again, you might), but you will find a sturdy selection of time-honored plants at prices affordable enough to re-create the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in your backyard. And when one of your leafy friends can't hold on for another minute, Lowe's will replace your withered specimen for up to one year. And who could brown-thumb their nose at that guarantee?
Zinnias at Melrose
Here's a little shopping secret: Go upstairs at Michael Todd's new vintage mall, to the wide terrace that overlooks the many bibelot-crammed carrels down below. Up there, you'll find practically a whole floor of old, newer, wrought-iron, and pot-metal outdoor furniture. A separate department, this space is filled with trellis benches and wire terrace tables and old tin shell chairs, all grouped in displays to inspire a garden party of your own. This swell trove of beautiful old lawn furnishings is modestly priced and certain to be discovered by someone soon — why not make it you?
Figs Home and Garden
The urban home and garden fashion boutique Figs (Fine Interior Garden Space) has been around for five years, but it took owners Jon Douglas and David Coark four years of traveling beforehand to establish the shop's eclectic mix of European, Asian, French, Indian, Haitian, and Moroccan furnishings, antiques, and accessories. With home and garden goods covering nearly every square inch of wall and floor space, treasure-hunters can wander worldly amidst finds of carnival boats, architectural salvage, vintage padlocks, and Asian statuary, or stay in the neighborhood with one-of-a-kind works from Figs' stable of local artists.
La Grande Orange Grocery
Courtesy of La Grande Orange
Not long ago, we were listening to a fascinating show on the Martha Stewart station on Sirius. The topic: what to bring your host or hostess. One caller told the tale of bringing a gift to a hostess, only to have the hostess ask the guest to take the gift home with her. "We don't like to bring anything more into the house," she explained rudely. We can assure you that that hostess would have been singing a different tune had the gift come from La Grande Orange Grocery. Whether it's LGO's homemade English muffins, a sprinkle-covered cake from Tammie Coe, or a bottle of wine, you can find the perfect edible gift, as well as a wide selection of inedibles your hostess never knew she needed — like bright-colored oilcloth bags, champagne-scented candles, or T-shirts and bags emblazoned with the LGO logo. Just thinking about all the goodies at LGO makes us want to throw a party — if only for the hostess gifts.
Stupid Cupid
We didn't even know we needed a private-label soy candle until we were given one by a dinner guest recently. The sticker on the bottom read "Stupid Cupid," so we headed there and, well, sort of had our life changed. We bought a bunch of stuff for our own home — hand-pounded metal picture frames, a soap dish with an old metal water spout attached to it, a ceramic planter shaped like a cow — and then, taking a cue from our friend with the candle, grabbed a couple of items to tuck away as hostess gifts. The best part is that the prices are practically thrift-shop low, but the stuff is all new, and some of it is one-of-a-kind artisan work (like the hand-carved wooden horsie we couldn't bear to pass up).Invite us over for dinner, and you'll likely wind up as hooked on this groovy gift shop as we are!
Cheap Thrills
We hear it every time we visit Cheap Thrills at its new Indian School location: Some shopper spots something on a shelf or a rack in this boffo boutique and cries out, "My grandma used to have that!" But it's not just granny stuff that's stocked at this shop, where we recently bought a mint-in-box Big Jim Sports Camper (like the one we got from Santa in 1971!) and a bathrobe made entirely out of fake fur. The French deco dresser in our bedroom came from here, and we're still kicking ourselves for not buying that honest-to-gosh lava lamp (not a repro!) that we saw there on the same day. Everything's priced to move here, and all of it is pretty dang cool.
Ozzie's Furnishings
We have a terrible confession to make. Phoenix, we've been keeping something from you. We discovered Ozzie's Furnishings years ago, but we haven't shared it with you because — well, because we're selfish. There's no other way to put it. We're sorry. To make up for it, we promise to stay out of Ozzie's for a while, to let you catch up. Anyhow, our house is bursting at the seams with the amazing finds from this small but beautifully curated St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. The folks who run Ozzie's are damn good shoppers who peruse SVDP's giant warehouse often, hand-picking the goodies that constantly come in (and out) the door. We can't believe the turnover at this place — and it's as much about low prices as high-quality home furnishings. Seriously, turn your back and that dark stained Mexican wood desk with the bird carving might be gone. That vintage trunk — the one that's in perfect condition — might disappear from under your reach. The powder blue tufted velvet bench? Poof. Ozzie's is not for the laid-back shopper. But if you're up for a fight, we'll see you over there. As soon as we buy a larger house — and give you a head start. Remember, it's all for a good cause.
We've been to pretty much every Goodwill store in the Valley, from Surprise to Queen Creek. On the right day, and with a little luck, there's always a treasure to be had at the remarkably professional nonprofit chain. Still, on the whole, we have to say we've had the very best luck at the Central Phoenix location on the southeast corner of 16th Street and Indian School. We're not sure why, exactly, but something about that spot seems to facilitate great finds — maybe it's the location that the established upper-middle class people in nearby north central Phoenix favor for donations or maybe it's not as picked-over as the suburban stores. Whatever the reason, it's the best, and you should appreciate us telling you so. After all, we're reluctantly reporting this to you because it's our job, fully realizing that you'll now snatch up the great Ikea furniture, vintage Western shirts, and classic T-shirts we've been snagging there over the past year. C'est la vie.

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