Tuff Stuff
When you're one of the last remaining original custom leather stores in the country, a hard edge goes along with the hide. Through the steel bars and past the motorcycle in the display window, the interior of Tuff Stuff Leather has been home to reasonably priced vests, pants, belts, bondage wear, and more for more than 20 years. With most items manufactured on-site, leather lovers can start small with a studded arm band or biker hat, browse gear like body harnesses and collars, or take it tailor-made with a pair of custom "501"-style leather pants. Screw tender — when it comes to leather, it's Tuff.
Revolver Records
Vinyl junkies who need a fix come to Revolver Records for two reasons. First, the store has a big selection of records, all separated by various genres. Of course, they have the standard sections like rock and country, but the smaller bins — those labeled punk, industrial, metal, and hip-hop — have a sizable selection, too. Volume and organization make Revolver heaven for casual browsers, but another reason this store's so popular with record collectors is its plethora of rare and imported albums. It's easy enough to find The Eagles' Hotel California anywhere (even Goodwill), but if you're looking for, say, the British import 12-inch pressing of Alien Sex Fiend's Ignore the Machine, a limited-edition Jimmy Eat World picture disc, or even a first pressing of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie soundtrack, you've got to go Revolver.
Hoodlums New & Used Music
There are a lot of great record stores of varying degrees of indieness in metro Phoenix. Hoodlums excels not because it has the biggest selection or the choicest obscurities — it's solid, but not spectacular, in that regard — but because it's the best version of what we think a record store needs to be in an evolving marketplace deeply affected by the steady march toward digital-only distribution. Hoodlums isn't just a place to pick up silver slivers of plastic and old concert posters; it's a meeting place that always goes the extra step toward engaging customers as a community, whether it's staging a seemingly unending string of signings, small shows, art shows, or screenings of music-related movies. They've even held a few micro music festivals. In that way, Hoodlums has followed the path of its next-door neighbor, Changing Hands Bookstore, becoming a treasure to the Valley. You can buy CDs anywhere, but it's a rare place that can make you feel like part of the local music community, and Hoodlums is such a place.
Releasing a tape instead of vinyl or CD-R really gives a DIY musician some serious street cred. And, much like vinyl, cassette tapes have made a comeback — most local record stores, such as Revolver, Stinkweeds, and Eastside, carry locally produced tapes. But because copying tapes must be done in real time, it's a completely maddening and time-sucking experience to dub more than just a few. Which is why Lambchops Studios rules. The 33-year-old biz does it for you and does it well. Plus, they give serious discounts for advance orders. All you gotta do is bring in some blank tapes and the master CD and they'll turn the job around in a few days. Amazing. You just won back a year from your life.
Bizarre Guitar & Drum
Anybody who has ever fallen in love with rock 'n' roll can tell you there's an ethereal connection between an instrument and the greats who have played it. Even if you only know a few chords, holding a pre-CBS black Fender Stratocaster in your hands makes you feel you posses the magical ability to channel Clapton and rip through the five-minute guitar solo at the end of "Layla." For over 25 years, this is the gift that Bizarre Guitar has offered Phoenix. The faint echo of a million brilliant musical moments can be heard in every scratch, ding, and scuff of the instruments lining the walls, and with that, the opportunity to relive those moments and create new ones. So what are you waiting for? Go make music.
The Astrology Store
When it comes to matters of the mystical, The Astrology Store is a supernatural Shangri-La. Opened more than 10 years ago by co-owner, astrologer, and psychic-medium Dave Campbell, the Astrology Store offers books, gifts, jewelry, supplies, classes, and events to both budding spiritualists and predicting pros. Get guided with a reading from Campbell or one of his seers, receive messages from loved ones on the other side at Group Medium Night, or eyeball your energy fields with an aura photo Polaroid. And, thanks to the Astrology Store's massage studio, the search for enlightenment never felt so relaxing.

Best Way to Avoid Getting Yourself on an Episode of Hoarders

Arc of Tempe Thrift Store

Arc of Tempe
We didn't have to look up the phone number for the Arc of Tempe Thrift Store. We know it by heart. That's how often we manage to make a pile of stuff to give away. Every six weeks or so, we load our porch high with all kinds of junk — the kind of stuff that's useless to us (Who needs a third pie tin, or size 2T pants when the kid's been a 5T for six months?) but might suit someone else. Then we dial up the Arc and choose a day (once in a while, they are booked on our day of choice, but not typically, and they're always super-nice). On the appointed date, we know we'll come home to an empty porch. Presto — junk gone, handy receipt left in its place for a tax deduction. (Don't forget to photograph your donated items first — pesky IRS.) We can't tell you how many lousy garage sales we threw, or how many times we tried to shove microwaves and old TVs in a compact car to drive cross town to another thrift store, 'til a friend tipped us off to this wonderful cause, which operates day programs for developmentally disabled adults — along with a damn good thrift store. Do good and avoid being buried alive in your junk. What's better than that? (Sorry, pal, but you'll still have to carry those old pizza boxes out to the trash yourself.)
Easley's Fun Shop
If the film Kick-Ass taught us anything, it's that dressing like a superhero is a downright dope experience. Whether it's transforming your bath towel into a makeshift cape as a tyke or dressing up as Spider-Man for Halloween, being a wanna-be Man of Steel or the Dark Knight is one of those simple pleasures in life. But if you don't have the wherewithal, money, or time to construct a painstakingly accurate Catwoman getup, head for Easley's, where adult and children's costumes for every major superhero (both Marvel and DC) are available for sale or rental, ranging from the late Heath Ledger's version of the Joker to the Flash. Remember, the clothes do, indeed, make the Superman.
Atomic Comics
Atomic Comics is the third-largest comics retailer in the nation, and for good reason. Not only does it have a massive selection of comics, graphic novels, and toys (in-store and online), but it has energy and color. Traditionally, comic book shops were housed in small, boring storefronts and manned by yawning, middle-aged men. At Atomic Comics, all the signage is big and bright yellow, and the young and dynamic staff often dresses up like superheroes or villains. Employees are also more than happy to show patrons around the sprawling stores or help them find a particular comic that may be buried in a box. They're also able to discuss in detail just about any comic, character, or storyline you can imagine, and they love to suggest new titles to customers based on what they already know they like. As much as we sometimes love being left to our own devices among 10,000 comic books, we also love enthusiasm and good service, and Atomic Comics provides it all.
McFarlane
Spawn creator Todd McFarlane's shop may be filled with toys, but the target is most certainly not your 5-year-old. Though you'll find kid-friendly throwbacks like My Little Pony here, the store mainly offers collectible sports figures (look for quarterback Kurt Warner's figurine later this year!) and twisted toys from the bizarre mind of its namesake. We've spotted everything from detailed, life-like action figures of American soldiers to characters from Halo and Nightmare on Elm Street. McFarlane even carries a three-pack of femme fatales featuring a bound, blindfolded, and very buxom S&M version of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz in a barely-there leather bustier and a dominatrix version of Little Red Riding Hood with the butchered remains of a wolf. Yep, once you walk into McFarlane, you're definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Best Of Phoenix®

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