Pratt's Pet Store

Walking into Pratt's pet shop for the first time might catch your nostrils off guard. Well, there is no "might" about it — the smell of farm animals is not bad so much as it's foreign to the nose of a suburbanite. But get past that, because this shop is amazing — like a little zoo, but you can take these animals home with you. If you're looking to save money on eggs, Pratt's will sell you a laying hen for $20. A young hen will set you back only $12. But why stop at the chicken? Pratt's is stocked with other feathered and furry animals, including lovebirds, finches, a Blue Fronted Amazon, noisy doves and pigeons, puppies, a goat, gerbils, ferrets, bunnies, and pot-bellied pigs. They also have, by the way, a 10- to 12-foot Burmese python that — should you regret any of your other pet purchases — will gladly feast on small furry or feathered animals. Or you can just pick up some of the high-end and organic food and great pet treats the store sells for way less than you'd pay at the big-box pet stores.

Baker's Nursery and Gift Shop

It's not easy being green — especially in Phoenix. Luckily, the garden gurus at Baker Nursery in Arcadia are here to help. For more than 40 years, Baker has been bringing some much-needed TLC to the backyard landscape. Offering a vibrant array of seasoned and desert-suitable plant life, from citrus trees and cacti to herbs and hibiscus, Baker Nursery is as much a pleasure to walk through as its knowledgable staff is to talk to. Knowing that not all of us have the greatest track record with Mother Nature, the staff will set out to find just the right plant to fit your yard, and more importantly your maintenance level. Whether its frostbitten fauna or suffering succulents, Baker Nursery will give you the tools and tips to recover your pathetic-looking plants or, at the very least, replace them with something better.

Stinkweeds

Stinkweeds more than makes up for what it lacks in size with its music selection and online offerings. The small, independent music store in the Medlock Plaza (on the northwest corner of Camelback and Central Avenue) has been a Valley mainstay for years. In that time, Stinkweeds has stayed true to its indie roots. The store's staff knows its stuff and is always willing to give new music suggestions. Keep your eyes peeled when browsing the racks for special releases and limited-edition vinyl. Don't forget to check the latest upcoming shows on the store's live music board, and make sure to ask for a poster on your way out. Staff always has free album art at the ready.

Strangely enough, that would-be dead-as-the-dodo retail outlet known as the record store is making a comeback. For evidence, look no further than this tiny shop along Scottsdale Road between Indian School and Camelback Road. We dig this outpost of vinyl because of what it's not: a catch-all receptacle for the kind of mass-produced platters you tend to see at most used record stores. (So, for 99-cent copies of gajillion sellers by Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and AC/DC, Meatloaf, and The Boss, you're gonna have to look elsewhere.)

No, John Rose's shop is where you'll find very-good-to-near-mint copies of cool old (and most likely long-forgotten) R&B, country, rockabilly, and exotica acts. There's also a solid selection of garage, punk, and New Wave slabs from the '80s and '90s. Why, just recently, we nabbed a beautifully preserved copy of 1967's Carryin' on with Johnny Cash and June Carter for about $8, a $3 copy of Nick Lowe's The Abominable Showman, and the Amuck compilation of early Phoenix punk for $12. We almost picked up a $15 long-out-of-print copy of the Circle Jerks' debut, Group Sex, to go along with it all, but we gotta eat, too.

Changing Hands Bookstore

Changing Hands isn't just the best bookstore in the Valley. It's one of the best bookstores in the country. That's not just because of the books. And we're not talking about the gift section, although that's awfully nice. It's the people. From founders Gayle Shanks and Bob Sommer down to the clerks at the cash register, we can't help smiling as we reluctantly end our bookstore experience and head off to run our other errands.

The other day, our 10-year-old put it best. "I love Changing Hands so much I want to marry it!" she announced. That had a little to do with the book she'd just purchased and much more to do with the fact that the clerk who sold it to her actually held up the line so she could read a bit of it aloud to him.

That's not going to happen to you on Amazon.

Soon the local book scene will be twice as nice, as Changing Hands (finally!) opens a second location in Central Phoenix. We plan to be the first in line. Right behind the 10-year-old.

Modern Manor

When it comes to Midcentury Modern furniture, there's not a shop that does it quite like Modern Manor in the Melrose District. With big-name designer pieces from the likes of Charles and Ray Eames and Arne Jacobsen (and the price points to match), the warehouse-style store offers space-age styles, super-simple mod pieces, and glam Hollywood Regency, too. Its owners have such a knack for decorating that they've started staging on-the-market post-war homes remodeled by Rafterhouse. But more exciting for its shoppers is the recent addition of concrete artisan Brandon Gore's shop Hard Goods, relocated into the room that formerly housed metal lettering — as if we needed another reason to keep our wallets at the ready when browsing the emporium.

Labeling Lawn Gnome Publishing a used bookstore is almost unfair, because it's so much more. The brainchild of Aaron Hopkins-Johnson has hosted poetry readings, lectures series, musical performances, zine fests, and an assortment of other events since it opened its doors in February 2012. Located in a small house in the heart of the Roosevelt district, with brightly colored shelving and wood floors, Lawn Gnome is the quintessential quaint indie bookstore. The selection is smallish, but it's the perfect size for browsing; you might not always find what you came into the store looking for originally, but usually you'll find something better.

Ash Avenue Comics & Books

Perhaps a trip to the comics shop sounds like a nostalgia-ridden adventure down memory lane. While it can certainly serve that function, Ash Avenue Comics is big on the now. With a solid selection of fresh indie books, notable graphic novels, and big-name serials, too, the Tempe standby eschews an old-timey feel for a selection that'll surprise anyone who's been on a hero hiatus. Not sure where to begin? Consult owner Drew Sully. The shopkeeper is (surprise) an avid comics reader and readily dishes on his favorite ongoing series like Uncanny X-Men or Hellboy in Hell.

Online supply stores and national art supply chains are gobbling up mom-and-pop art shops at an alarming rate. Yeah, it's a sign of the times, but when it comes down to where we like to buy our specialty colored pencils, airbrush paints, newsprint, and printing plates, we'll stick to Arizona Art Supply.

The locally owned and operated supply shop opened in 1951 and was one of the first stores in town dedicated to selling just art supplies. Today, it's one of the last of its kind in Phoenix. The store has expanded to include locations in Tempe, Scottsdale, Sun City, and Tucson, but our favorite location continues to be the massive store in Central Phoenix. It houses a massive collection of everything you'll need for your next creative project, art-school final, or summertime craft. And if you really don't want to leave the comfort of your studio, you can shop for your goods on the Arizona Art Supply website.

All About Books and Comics

Whether you're looking to buy or consign vintage comics, All About Books and Comics is the place for you. This Central Phoenix shop has a great selection of back issues of vintage comics, including Captain America, Thor, Avengers, X-Men, Dr. Strange, Superman, Flash, Mr. Miracle, Spider-Man, and Iron Man. Can't find what you're looking for? A helpful clerk will check the backroom for the issue. Looking for vintage on the cheap? Check the dollar room. Want to play? AAB&C sells action figures, toys, and other superhero collectibles.

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