All About Books and Comics

All About Books and Comics has been around for over three decades in the Valley. That's a hell of a lot longer than the tenure of most of the creative teams who make the comic books they sell. The staff at All About Books and Comics are knowledgeable and passionate about their stock. And there is a lot of it. Home to a dizzying array of single issues, graphic novel collections, toys, and other geeky paraphernalia, All About is a one-stop shop for any fan of four-color culture. And if you're looking to stock up comics on a budget, All About has a discount comic hub just four doors down from their "superstore." An added bonus that makes All About Books and Comics: It's right next door to game bar Bonus Round. Swing by to load up on graphic novels, then head next door to drink some sweet cocktails and play Ms. Pac-Man until the wee morning hours.

Arizona State Fairgrounds

Once a year, bibliophiles and bookworms across the Valley congregate for a long weekend of standing in lines and rifling through stacks and stacks of books. Like the pilgrims heading to Canterbury, devoted readers converge on the Arizona State Fairgrounds, to score some sweet finds at the annual Volunteer Nonprofit Service Association book sale. VNSA virgins will be surprised by the shockingly long lines that snake around the parking lot. Folks line up way before sunrise for a chance to get a first crack at a huge warehouse full of books. The VNSA collects book donations year-round, amassing a huge collection of works — everything from best-sellers to rare, one-of-a-kind volumes. Most of these books are priced to move, so a frugal book fiend can walk away with a shopping cart jam-packed with goodies. And if you can stand to wait until Sunday, the already low prices will be slashed in half.The 2019 sale is scheduled for February 9 and 10. Mark your calendars, stash some cash, and get ready to line up at the crack of dawn.

Bizarre Guitar & Drum

A more fitting name for this shop would be "Bazaar Guitar." Like a bustling marketplace in some ancient city of brass, Bizarre Guitar is home to all kinds of stringed wonders and oddities. Founded by Bob Turner in 1976, the shop has grown to fill a warehouse. Specializing in buying and selling vintage guitars, Bizarre Guitar is a likely spot to find the sweet ax of your dreams. In addition to selling guitars, the shop also offers a variety of maintenance services (including restringing, truss roots adjustments, reheading, tuning, cleaning, and pickup installation). They also service drums and amps. And while selling classic gear is their schtick, they do sell brand-new gear as well (including PA systems).

The Ghost of Eastside Records

Vinyl use is still on the rise (except watch out: Tapes are hot, and even CDs have been in the spotlight this year), but record stores are not. That's why it's important to support your local strip-mall record shop, and Ghost of Eastside Records is a good example of this. Tucked between the famous Yucca Tap Room and the coffee-shop-meets-music-venue FiftyOne West in Tempe's Danelle Plaza, Ghost of Eastside Records is a packed room of alternative, punk, pop, rock, and country records, plus most everything else you can think of — including vintage clothes from Double Nickels Collective, shop pups, and friendly people. And be grateful: The original Eastside Records shut down just north of Arizona State University in 2010, and a temporary pop-up/reboot opened and shut down by 2012. Now we have kind of a Ghost of Ghost of Eastside Records, and let's hope there's no further need for a reincarnation.

Revolver Records

We're on a vinyl budget, but we don't have the patience to slog through piles of ruined records at local thrift stores. Revolver Records, on the other hand, offers us the chance to expand our music collection — and our musical knowledge — for pennies on the dollar. Box after box of $1 LPs line the shop, and we recently came away with nice copies of old wax by Glen Campbell, Patty Duke, Nellie Lutcher, and the Ink Spots. Revolver's downtown location also offers a fine (and fair-priced) selection of artists from the '40s through just last year. Counter help will look up a record, or even play it for you, if you ask real nice. Talk about a bang for your buck.

Reports of the CD's death as a format have been greatly exaggerated. There are still plenty of places in town that stock and buy used and new CDs. Although some stores offer a well-curated selection of titles, Zia Records stands out for having damn near everything. Looking for soundtracks or exotica? Eager to stock up on Numero Group reissues? Interested in filling the gaps in your doom-metal collection? Zia locations have wide-ranging, well-stocked sections. And while the big indie rock and rap titles are well-represented, there are tons of neat obscurities to be found (from Madchester to avant-classical CDs and beyond). The best part is that most of the used CDs are priced on the low end, so for $10 to $20, you could walk away with a few choice discs. And an added bonus of visiting Zia: You can get your used CDs refurbished. So if there's a cherished disc you've been holding onto with a few scratches, you can bring it in and get them smoothed out.

For 21 years, Cowtown Skateboards has been at the heart of Arizona skateboarding. You can stop in to any of the four Valley locations to find a wide variety of decks, trucks, wheels, tools, apparel, shoes, magazines, DVDs, and great employees who are willing to help share their passion for skateboarding with anyone who walks through the doors. Besides having a great selection of skateboarding goods, Cowtown also brings the skating community together by organizing several events a year, including the annual Go Skate Day event, locals-only contest the PHXAM, and several other smaller events like video premieres and art shows.

The Bicycle Cellar

Tucked into the Tempe Transportation Center, the Bicycle Cellar is both an easygoing, friendly place for the local Arizona State University crowd, and a facility for hardcore bicyclists. It's not just a store, it's a way to boost public transit, enabling cyclists to more easily hook up with light rail and the Valley's bus system. For less than the cost of a gym membership, bicyclists can sign up for nearly 24-hour access to the Cellar's secure bike lockup and showers. Visitors looking for a quick jaunt to Tempe Town Lake can find a decent rental here. Wait, there's more: The store's stock of bikes and components would make Floyd Landis reach for a syringe. But what's really neat is the relatively low-cost repair shop. We got our iron steed tuned up and outfitted with a new chain and handlebar grips for less than the cost of just the tune-up at the last place we visited. The general manager, Tom, actually talked us out of the new rear-wheel cassette we said we'd been considering, saying it wasn't necessary. Honesty is the best policy: He caught us looking at a fancy new Surly mountain bike, and knows we'll probably be back someday.

Butt Out

Quitting cigarettes is no easy feat, friends. Believe us, we're not just blowing smoke. Patches, pills, and good ol' fashioned willpower will only get you so far. Some try vaping in order to get over the hump and on the path toward a tobacco-free lifestyle. And if you choose that route, take a deep breath and calm your jittery nerves, then head for either of Butt Out's two locations. The staff at these mom-and-pop vape shops are extremely personable and helpful, whether you're a former two-pack-a-day smoker, a hobbyist, or a total noob wanting to see what this whole vaping thing is about. They're also extremely knowledgeable and can recommend the perfect mod, atomizer, and juice (including their delicious in-house brands) from their well-stocked selection to suit your needs. And they do so with a minimum of snobbery, unlike clerks at other vaporiums who fume if you don't know the exact wattage to yield the perfect pull. Thankfully, that's not Butt Out's style. You swing by, gear up, gab about metal (a favorite topic at both locations), and kick back in their lounges and vape to your lungs' content. Basically, it's never a drag shopping at Butt Out.

Walking into Zerona is kind of like realizing maybe you shouldn't have had that second brownie — a bit overwhelming. On the larger side for a Phoenix smoke shop, Zerona is coked to the gills with a fine selection of glassware, including from local bong-maker Rotten Pricks. The typical head shop ware here includes several brands of kratom, nitrous oxide, and CBD products. It's also a full-service tobacco shop, whether you're a home-roller, pipe user, or hookah party genie. For reasons we've never quite been able to understand, Zerona provides one-stop shopping for graffiti artists with its colorful array of spray paint and markers. If Zerona doesn't have it, you don't want it.

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