Best Boutique 2012 | Frances | Shopping & Services | Phoenix

We never met Georganne Bryant's beloved grandmother — the namesake for her vintage-inspired CenPho boutique — but frankly, we feel like we knew the woman well; that's how much time we've spent with Frances over the years, poking at "her" gorgeous, creative collection of jewelry and super-cute kitchenware. And we are pretty sure we're sending Bryant's kid to college with our splurges on Orla Kiely bags over the years. At Frances, you truly do feel like family — the staff knows your name and your shoe size, and they're just as excited as you are when you find that perfect dress on the 50 percent off rack during one of their amazing sales. Bryant quickly is becoming the godmother of the hip, indie retail scene in Phoenix — a scene she had a hand in creating. Frances' blog is a must-read, and the store's offspring (Frances Studio and Smeeks candy store) complete our favorite shopping experience. Bryant's "Love Phoenix or Leave Phoenix" mantra is catching on as copycats come along, and she welcomes them with open arms. Look for a second location of Frances to open soon at Biltmore Fashion Park as part of an experiment called Union.

Anchored by Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue, open-air shopping center Biltmore Fashion Park makes for some of the best people-watching we've ever enjoyed. Unlike most malls that are overrun with hapless high-schoolers trying to look cool, Biltmore's crowd is made up of shoppers who tend to fall into one of two groups. The first has money to burn at Escada and a penchant for conspicuous consumption. Behind door number two are the folks at the shopping center for Cheesecake Factory and a toppings-heavy serving of Mojo. We're guessing that you're somewhere between the two, and that means you're in for a fun time, provided you have a pair of sunglasses (to maintain an air of mystery, of course), a label-ambiguous but fashionable outfit, and a few hours to kill.

Believe it or not, the Phoenix arts district known as Roosevelt Row has been around long enough to have some actual history. And when people tell the story of how the whole thing started, they love to talk about Modified Arts, the music/arts venue that popped up many years ago in a nest of twinkly white lights that eventually put the spotlight on downtown. With all due respect to Modified's Kimber Lanning, there's another pioneer in the field (and one that's still going strong, while Modified has adopted a lower profile): MADE. Cindy Dach opened her little boutique in 2005 and — in a city where shops come and go with the seasons — she kept it going during one of the toughest economic times in history. That's because MADE isn't just a store (although that would be enough — we'd go there just for the refrigerator magnets!); it's a community gathering spot, both literally and figuratively. Dach hosts workshops and classes (full disclosure: New Times' Deborah Sussman and Laura Gill currently lead workshops there) and themed art exhibits (among our favorites, the artist-made salt-and-pepper show several years ago). The merchandise (much of it made by local artists) is constantly changing, and we find ourselves stopping by on a regular basis for inspiration – or any time we need an original gift. A bonus: In the years MADE's been there, an entire community of coffee shops, boutiques, salons and other businesses has sprung up near the corner of Fifth and Roosevelt streets, with Dach's little shop as its centerpiece. Thank you, Cindy.

We were ecstatic upon hearing that Cole and Dana Reed would fill Roosevelt Row's long-empty, shoebox-shape building that formerly housed drag bar 307 Lounge. High expectations for a quirky, interesting, and, most important, fun place to shop on RoRo were happily met with the pair's GreenHaus Gallery + Boutique. Its offerings include reupholstered and refinished furniture, vintage interior décor finds, and paintings from local artists. The shop's artsy leanings are no surprise. Preserved behind removable drywall at the back of GreenHaus is one of Phoenix's oldest murals by Ted DeGrazia.

Gloria Marsiglia's Grand Avenue jewelry shop and gallery is a gem worth unearthing. In the small space, you'll discover handcrafted necklaces, bracelets, beads, accessories, and other gifts made by local artists, including Marsiglia, who has designed decorative accouterments for more than 30 years. And she's all about sharing her in-depth knowledge. Marsiglia teaches workshops for beginners looking to learn about wire design, creative upcycling, chain-making, and cuffs, as well as more advanced sessions that tackle metalsmithing and wax casting, if you've got some experience under your handmade belt. On Third Fridays, you can share your new skills with other adornment fanatics during On the Dish, Marsiglia's networking potluck and wine-tasting series.

Whether you've got one pair or one for every day of the week, Saba's got what you're looking for. There's nothing worse than a cheap pair of boots, and fortunately, Saba's carries only the best. From a simple starter set to top-of-the-line exotics such as ostrich and rattlesnake, they'll hook you up and fit you right. In fact, we stop in just to drool over their selection of colorful and intricate designs from classic Texas boot makers. Even more than their great selection and helpful, knowledgeable employees, we love the experience of pulling on our fancy new footwear and stepping out onto the wooden sidewalks of Old Town Scottsdale. Since opening in 1927, Saba's has served as Arizona's most authentic and original Western store, and when sporting a pair of their handcrafted boots, we're damn proud to be Arizonans.

It's not every day that a business founded online succeeds to the point of opening a brick-and-mortar shop. In fact, the story usually seems to go the other way around and is attributed to lack of consumer interest. But that's the story of Cory Martinez and Ben Funke's Meat Market Vintage, an eBay shop that grew to take over the Mill Avenue space that Three Roots Café formerly occupied. The couple's delight in finding vintage oddities makes their boutique a must-see. Visit for a heaping helping of kooky patterns, blasts of bold color, and uncommon silhouettes. Not sure if you can rock those giraffe-print pants? Martinez and Funke will help you embrace your funky side and assemble a one-of-a-kind look.

It's a rare occurrence when boyfriends, hubbies, and, well, any dudes can stay entertained during a shopping endeavor. Bunky Boutique is the exception to that rule. Granted, it neighbors Matt Poole's Giant Coffee, so no excuses for dozing off are acceptable while in a 50-foot radius. But what it really comes down to is the inherent style of its owners, Rachel and Jim Malloy, who pride themselves on a selection of pieces that are, as they like to say, timeless with a twist. The men's section is stocked with supersoft eco-heather polos and hoodies, lit-inspired T-shirts, offbeat neckties, Baxter grooming products, bike accessories, and plenty more for him to keep busy with while you're trying on that pile of must-haves in the dressing room. Don't worry. He'll be in line right after you.

Those of us who like nothing so much as a hardware store that offers old-fashioned DIY advice must now stop our whining. Because the folks who work at Six Points Hardware are so nice and so helpful that we sometimes wonder if we've stumbled onto the set of an Andy Griffith Show rerun. Sure, they sell lumber and nuts and bolts and paint and power tools, just like a hardware store is meant to do. But what sets Six Points apart is the warm-hearted help we always get from the staff here. We recently were advised against buying a particular type of paintbrush to go with the interior flat latex we were purchasing — and the brush the nice clerk recommended cost less than the one we were going to buy! Sometimes we call just to ask a home improvement question, and we're never disappointed by the advice we receive — even when we're not shopping at this down-home, well-stocked, friendly hardware store.

Bill Wahl's happy to be disturbed at work. The local typophile and his stockpile of typewriters continue the tradition of the business that's occupied 30 South MacDonald in Mesa since 1949. Wahl’s surrounded by old, rusty machines that local diehards and newfound typewriting hipsters have dropped off at his shop for repairs. The walls are lined with Coronas, Smiths, Hermes, Remingtons, and Royals with enough carrying cases and musty typewriter smell to put any sucker for vintage stuff over the edge. It’s in Wahl’s shop where you’re likely to spend an afternoon plinking on old keys and warming up to the lack of a backspace button and real ink on paper (ah!). If you look carefully, you might catch a glimmer of Hipstamatic hope for the future of the typosphere.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of