Best Of :: Shopping & Services
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?
In the summer of 2009, husband-and-wife team Liam James T. Murtagh and Emily Spetrino-Murtagh took over the old Art One space and opened this novelty shop that fuses two sweet things: vinyl records and candy. The Murtaghs, who play in a number of punk and ska bands, focus their records on those two genres as well as new wave. And there are all sorts of sugar-loaded confections, ranging from jars of eye-popping candy to edible mustaches. The space doubles as the couple's living quarters, so they're open only in the evening when they get home from their day jobs. BTW, don't be alarmed to see the Murtaghs' 2-year-old son, Iggy, running around the shop and being crazy playful. He won't bite.
Tucked behind the yummy Paisley Violin Café is this retail co-op that's housed in totally adorable structures that weren't so adorable at one time: The World War II-era cottages once held German and Italian prisoners of war. However, you won't feel anything weird or creepy when visiting the buildings that were moved from 19th Avenue and McDowell Road and remodeled by Gina and Derrick Suarez. Instead, you may very well experience local-art heaven in shops such as Urban Art Florist and Wicked Wear Studio and Gallery. The collective often unites to hold special events like the Paisley Town Art Festival as well as special dealios during Art Detour.
We shop. A lot. Which is why we figured we'd easily find a new winner in the "Best Boutique" category this year. No go. In good faith we simply can't stray from our favorite, Frances. Georganne Bryant doesn't just run the cutest boutique in town — she's started a cottage industry when it comes to community support. She gives well-earned shout-outs to other local businesses on her blog (www.francesblog.tumblr.com), supports the indie movement in all sorts of creative ways (from sponsoring movies like Handmade Nation to printing T-shirts that say, "Love Phoenix or Leave Phoenix") and she's the first to credit someone else with a good idea. But usually, truth be told, it's Georganne who has the good ideas. If you don't care about all that community building, buy-local hoo-ha, come to Frances because Georganne has good taste, along with good ideas. She stocks the sweetest collection of clothing, housewares, jewelry, and paper goods this town has ever seen. Now you can shop on Frances' website — and our pocketbook (super-cute, purchased at Frances) is really doomed. But be sure to sign up for Georganne's mailing list, because twice a year, she has a really good sale. Just don't go telling the whole world or anything, 'kay?
We'll follow Bunky wherever it goes. And we have. Owner Rachel Richards-Malloy has kept us on our toes since she opened — this is her third location. Today, her teeny shop is located across the street from the Phoenix Art Museum and shares a home with Matt Pool's Giant Coffee in the Merz building. The store is filled with designer clothing and accessories and is cleverly arranged to fit even more inventory than she had before — Bunky now carries books and housewares. None other than Hayes McNeil from Plus Minus Studio designed her modular space. The walls are lined with salvaged wood (you can even spy an old Pepsi can nailed into one of the wood panels). Bunky's got designer threads in a designer space with designer coffee, all in one spot? Oh, man, we are so there.
This cute girl named Olive needed a place to shack up, and turns out Paris Envy had some room upstairs, so a partnership of sorts was born. And we're so glad. This trend of sharing space is a wonderful byproduct of a slow economy, and we hope it keeps classy indie businesses like Paris Envy and Olive in Paris (the latest project from the ladies who brought us the sadly short-lived Olive Annie on Seventh Street) going strong. We drooled over a pair of vintage lamps at Paris Envy, a housewares shop with a shabby-chic French (obviously) vibe, and upstairs, we debated over a piece of handmade jewelry or a funky multi-colored belt. Both stores have so much style and personality and . . . sorry, but you'll have to excuse us because we need to go back and see whether those lamps are still there. Be right back!
Grand Avenue arty types can't get enough of Beatrice Moore's chenille wreaths and wildly colorful piñatas, so it's a good thing Moore has opened this zany art gallery/boutique/vintage craft supply shop in an old pharmacy. In addition to Moore's famously faboo Styrofoam wedding cakes, Kooky Krafts offers for sale work by other craft-centric local artists, all chosen by Moore herself. Bob Adams is offering a line of rubber dolls with real pubic hair; Tony Zahn, Moore's life partner for the past 20-plus years, is selling assemblage pieces made from vintage ceramic planters and chunks of colored cement. Artist Tom Cooper has created a number of brightly hued tikis made from toilet paper rolls. There are elf-face-studded wall hangings and macramé baby heads and sculptures made from old shopping carts and, well, everything kooky at this cool craft shop, including supplies to make your own.
Shopping at MADE isn't just retail therapy — it's a community happening. Cindy Dach curates a small but meaningful collection of crafts, books, and stuff you never knew you needed, along with a magazine rack filled with hard-to-find art mags. In so doing, she has made this little old house a magnet for Roosevelt Row mixing, mingling, and merchandising. Whether it's ornaments handmade by kids at the holidays or a show of artist-made mobiles, it's all affordable and irresistible and our only wish is that there were places just like MADE all up and down RoRow.
We hear it all the time: buy local buy local buy local. But, darn, those local wares can be hard to find in these parts. So we're awfully glad Shannon McRae — a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising — had the idea to start a business in Old Town Scottsdale showcasing the work of local fashion designers. This summer, we fell for Angela Johnson's "Inspired" recycled T-shirt dress and BriBridge's custom corsets, and we can't wait to see what fall holds in store. Literally.
Okay, shop owner Indigo Nielsen, you've gone and wrangled a roomful of vintage wear (Look! A pink plaid circle skirt! Hey! Are those mint-in-box saddle shoes?) that has us yearning for 1957 all over again. And you've reminded us, with your gracefully displayed boomerang table and nylon frieze sofa set, that the '50s weren't just about kitsch. And you've given us back our childhood by selling us the very same leather-strapped lunch pail we had when we were a kid. Now what? Do you want us to genuflect? Because we will. We love your shop, and we can't seem to stay away from it.
You know that Red Hot Robot has awesome designer toys. You know it's got a wide selection of vector art. It's not short on tiny trinkets, either. One of our favorite things to impulse-buy is Japanese busts hidden in cardboard boxes. Which Gundam robot will you get? Is it a Zaku Warrior? Is it a Force Impulse Gundam? You're going to have to buy one and open the box to find out. For those of you with a mind for engineering (or at least figuring out how to put stuff together) you'll appreciate the fact that each box of parts must be pieced together to make the full bust.
Sebastien Millon had us at "hello." Really. As in his etsy shop greeting: "Hello! My name is Sebastien Millon and I draw bears (and because of my amazing artistic versatility, I sometimes draw other things, like rabbits and squirrels). Big-time news! I'm expanding into tote bags . . ."This guy — who hails from the Valley, lucky us — is funny, right? And you can wear his heart on your chest, in the form of his polar bear T-shirts, now available at MADE art boutique and Red Hot Robot. Our favorite is a child-size shirt with a big bear breathing fire while juggling several little kids. But that's just us. You might prefer Millon's other images — equally cuddly-looking, at first glance. There's always a subversive message behind them, and that's just fine by us. Keep an eye out for some dastardly lemurs.