Su Vino Winery
Scottsdale's latest twist on the wine scene lies in a bona fide winery squeezed into the heart of Old Town. Su Vino offers the typical wine tastings and happy hours of any wine joint, but the real sparkle they serve is the ability to blend, bottle, and cork your own wine. Their "wine consultants" assist brides, families, and corporations with tastings to create their own custom blend, come up with a name, and label it in small batches for a reasonable price. They'll even help design your personalized label with photos and logos. Hey, we'll take a bottle of Cabernet over a fruit basket any day.
Tower Liquors
Drive-thru liquor shops can be singularly seedy affairs — and God knows East Phoenix, from Indian School to McDowell Road, is full of plenty of dubious examples. But even though Tower Liquors falls smack dab in the middle of this milieu of grungy alcoholic functionality, it's truly a gem: a spotlessly clean, perfectly organized shop that offers everything from Jose Cuervo to pickled eggs. The icing on the cake? The building is a Mid-Century Modernist's dream, with the kind of design details that inspired haughty hotspots like the Vig and the Parlor. During the day, it may not look like much; at night, we dare you to drive past its bright neon sign and not feel the gemutlichkeit. All that and cheap tequila, too.
Smokin' Lingerie
The seedy stucco strip-mall digs of Tempe's Smokin' Lingerie make it look like the kind of place you'd expect to buy cheap polyester thongs and rolling papers. But Smokin' Lingerie's best-kept secret is that it's home to one of the largest S&M toy collections around. This is where local doms and subs (that's dominants and submissives, for all you non-kinksters) come for supplies they need quicker than Internet shipping allows. The shop carries tools to set you up as a power player, from six-inch stiletto heels that you can crush into your sub's sternum for foreplay to ball gags and The Gates of Hell, a Mad Max-style torture device that restrains a man's, er, manhood. Into fetish play? Try the latex body paint. Don't have a partner? Ask about the self-gratification machines. And should you have more questions on BDSM, Smokin' Lingerie has a collection of "educational" videos to clue you in to the lifestyle.
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.)

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of