Best Comic Book Shop 2011 | Ash Avenue Comics | Shopping & Services | Phoenix
Pop quiz, comic geek: What do fossil records and comic shops have in common? Answer: Both are a window into a time and place that have long since passed. The glory days of comic stores with their boxes jammed full of meticulously plastic-sleeved, cardboard-backed wonders may be gone, but you can relive the memories of them at Ash Avenue Comics. In this shop, spandex-clad superheroes continue their eternal quests to defeat the forces of evil (also in spandex) 24 pages at a time. Just be prepared to wait for the shop to open. There are posted hours, mind you, but they're a bit more like guidelines than hard-and-fast hours of operation.
Porn. Everyone watches it. Young, old, rich, poor. Your priest. Your rabbi. Your County Attorney. Your grandma. Okay, maybe not Grandma, but Grandpa sure does. That's how he stays married to Grandma. That and Jack Daniel's.Free porn on the Internet makes things so much easier, so civilized. But if you want to watch Tera Patrick do the nasty for more than three minutes at a time, you still have to rent the occasional DVD. Free Internet porn is free for a reason, you see. That's why Fascinations is around. The adult store is well lit, scrupulously clean, and hires normal, nonchalant salespeople who can suggest the best bondage flick as if they were selling you a pair of sneakers. This is not to mention the endless supply of sex toys, lingerie, and weird novelties that we can't even begin to describe in these pages for the sake of, ahem, decency.So if you're a regular Joe or Jane, and are jonesing to rent the latest in fetish vids, or are hard up on a Saturday night and need some DVD assistance scratching that hard-to-reach spot, Fascinations is the place for you. And for your grandpa. Just don't let Grandma know.
Vinyl nerds, music connoisseurs, and anyone who yearns for a fresh stack of 12-inch platters full of their favorite tunes have made this downtown record shop a local landmark. Collectors think of Revolver as the best place to score inexpensive upgrades of titles they already own, as well as a great place to fill out their collections with elusive musical prizes. Penny-pinching music fans who think they might want to sample Laura Branigan (but don't want to pay eBay prices) love Revolver, where "Gloria" can be theirs for a buck (thanks to Revolver's stacked-to-the-ceiling back room, where one-buck bargains are the order of the day, every day). Can't think of the name of that song you danced to at your junior prom? The counter help here is unusually happy to assist you in tracking down that elusive song hit from your past. Our last visit netted a still-sealed Boyce and Hart LP, a dead-mint copy of Rachel Faro's ultra-rare third album, and a bootleg CD of some of Sinatra's V-Disc recordings. The well-organized stacks are augmented daily, and an embarrassment of riches awaits anyone in search of old jazz wax for less than $10 a pop.
The Bookmans location in Mesa has the larger CD stock of the two Bookmans stores in the Valley, but it's not just the size that makes the Mesa location stand out — it's the selection. Of the thousands of used CDs that find their way onto Bookmans' shelves every year, about 30 percent are things you won't be able to buy new at say, Best Buy or Target — such as soundtracks for '80s movies like Less Than Zero, early Modest Mouse CDs on indie labels, and obscure reggae box set collections. The other 70 percent of Bookmans' CDs are Top 40, rock, and indie albums selling for a fraction of the price they'd cost new. There's also plenty of local music in stock — CDs by Jimmy Eat World, Gin Blossoms, What Laura Says, Kongos, and many more Valley rockers line the shelves, at prices as low as $5 a CD. Best of all, you don't need to drop a wad of cash to walk out with a stack of music — Bookmans' trade rates are extremely fair.
Local skate shops have come and gone over the years — except for indie Cowtown. The "family"-owned and -operated skate shop had been slangin' the best boards and gear to Phoenix skate rats since 1996 (that's three years before the first Tony Hawk's Pro Skater video game). The owners credit their success to outstanding customer service and knowledge of the industry — two things that are hard to come by these days, especially in the skateboard world (i.e., that shop in the mall). We love Cowtown for its extensive line of the latest and greatest skate shoes, the best shirts, and the biggest selection of boards in the Valley. If you're lucky, you might even stumble upon a few rare collectible decks (we recently scored a Toy Machine Black Worm of Death). Be sure to look out for newest gear from local skate companies like Old Man Army and AZPX, and don't miss the annual shop sponsored contest, The PHX AM.
Most of us are not what are known as "mountain bikers" or "road warriors" — or anything close. We prefer, every so often, to ride a few gentle miles to a local coffeehouse or bookstore or, on (rare) occasion, get some real exercise and try to take the edge off the guilt we feel after eating like idiots. But our rinky-dink bicycle needs love and attention just like those fancy-pants ones, and we have had occasion to frequent many a shop around the Valley over the years. Our favorite? This venerable homegrown spot just north of East Indian School Road. What makes this joint stick out is the customer service — so sincere and helpful that it borders on a counseling session. A woman named Mary (she's the manager) recently figured out just how much we should spend on a new bike, and it was far less than what we had reckoned (or budgeted for). No one at this place will take you for a ride! They'll just send you home with a sweet one.
If you are looking for a big showroom with lots of new bikes, helmets, and wheels, this is not the place for you. But if you need a solid, honest wrench to fix up your clunker or tune up your speed machine, go see Rene at the Garage. A mechanic for 20-plus years, this guy is living his dream with his shop tucked away in El Mercado Plaza, in the center of Guadalupe. He does offer a few bikes on consignment, but his shop mainly is just as the name states: a garage. If he can't fix it or get it fixed for you, chances are, it can't be fixed at all.
Tucked on the western edge of the Foothill Acres neighborhood in North Phoenix, Try Me Bicycle Shop is not exactly where one thinks to go for that rare part to get the old Schwinn or Raleigh up and running again. But this shop has been in business for nearly 40 years and has been collecting the odd part for every type of bike over that time. The showroom is filled with family-friendly cruiser and comfort bikes — nothing super-high- end here. It's that backroom inventory of old and hard-to-find parts that makes this place truly special.
New Times
If you never made it to Diane Ribbon and Notion, you have our condolences. Truly, the place was life-altering, if you have an affinity for nostalgia or a need for art supplies. If you like vintage crafts, well, like we said, we're sorry. The giant old warehouse was stuck in the '70s (in a good way), supplying everything from doll heads to pom-poms and a lot in between. Like many old-school art supply stores, it closed a few years ago.Enter Beatrice Moore. Literally. With a truck. The Grand Avenue-based artist and businesswoman bought an obscene amount of Diane's inventory and drove it over to her studio, where she hoarded some of it and packed the rest up to sell in her store Kooky Krafts. Behold: It's the plastic clown head you've been looking for! The fake birds you never knew you needed. The vintage bump chenille that Moore will explain is just about impossible to find. Get inspiration from her fake cakes and colorful wreaths, as well as the art of other locals on display. And walk out with your fair share of vintage craft supplies — who knows when you'll need them?!
We admit we're not so touchy-feely around here at New Times, but we aren't ashamed to tell you that we got all warm and fuzzy when we heard about Treasures4Teachers. Well, that's not exactly true. At first, we couldn't believe that someone had such an incredible idea and made it happen! Then we got warm all over. And excited. And kind of wished we were teachers, so we could take advantage of this amazing nonprofit program. Instead, we'll just tell you all about it. If you are a teacher (and the definition of "teacher" has a wide range, from traditional public school teacher to home-schooler to daycare provider) you can show up at this Tempe warehouse with the proper ID (details on their website) and for $5 a bag (and we hear it's a big bag!) load up on all sorts of teaching supplies — everything from pens and pencils to sticky notes and file folders. Sometimes there's furniture (the rules are different there, no bag) and the stock changes daily, so you never know what you might find — but the teachers we've spoken with says it's always worth the trip.

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