Best Nursery 2020 | Berridge Nurseries | Goods & Services | Phoenix

For more than 80 years, the Berridge family's friendly service, devotion, and perseverance (the owners rebuilt after the nursery burned down in 1971) has made Phoenix greener. Its philodendrons and rhododendrons and Creeping Charlies have climbed and sprouted and greened up the Valley for generations. We're nuts about the Berridges' impressive array of bonsai starter plants and related pots, trays, soils, and tools; its vast pile of ceramic planters; its wrought-iron benches; and its tidy bags of manure. But what we love most is the saintly patience the Berridge staff showed when we were just starting to grow a green thumb and turned up to ask every dumb question a first-time gardener could come up with. During our first visit, one nice fellow patiently talked us out of planting bare-root rose bushes in the fall. We've been back almost monthly ever since.

Party planning is daunting when you're out of fresh ideas. But walking the aisles of Arizona Fun Services is a lot like sampling your way through a candy store — every turn brings a new assortment of party decorations, favors, invitations, games, and other celebratory delights. It's got all the big occasions covered, from birthdays and weddings to graduations and baby showers. And it has an impressive selection of holiday themes, for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and Halloween. You'll find entertaining options for celebrating everything from Mardi Gras to Oktoberfest, helping you earn the coveted "best party planner ever" reputation with family, co-workers, and friends. And if you're planning a truly epic bash, the store can rent you a bounce house, casino equipment, and even a dunk tank.

We used to know a guy named Lavoo who works in his wife's cake-pan store, and he swears by this place. It has, he says, the best selection of cake and baking supplies in town, and has for more than 20 years. G&G owner Gilbert offers everything you'll need to make the perfect layer cake, from straight-edged pans in every imaginable shape, to frosting bags and tips, to the decorative junk you'll want to pile on top once your masterpiece is out of the oven. Flavorings, colorings, and edible glitter share space here with cake mixes and cookie cutters in super-unusual shapes (we bought one shaped like a casket — no, really). Unlike other cake supply joints, G&G will even do the baking for you. Those online baking supply sites will only sell you SpongeBob cake-toppers in bulk, but at G&G you can mix and match. You'll never need another cake supply store, we promise.

It's all about making memories at urbAna. The boutique, owned by Ana and Brian Wells, was inspired by Brian's grandmother's written accounts of all the parties she'd once thrown. Some of the selection of home decor here channels such vintage vibes, and other items on offer have more of a modern flair. Either way, build-it-yourself furniture is not part of the equation at urbAna. This is where you go for the finer things that also have character: a brass bar cart, a laddered bookshelf, a cactus silk pillow, and a beach towel with a big, beautiful saguaro on it. The type of items, in other words, you'll be glad to pass down to your own grandkids one day.

Antiquarian stores aren't hard to come by around here; the center of most Valley-area cities and towns has a row of vintage shops to pop into while you're out and about. If you'd like to graduate from casual browser to active shopper, though, head up to Sunnyslope and visit The Vintage Arizona. The antique wares here are plentiful, well-priced, and extremely Southwestern in their aesthetic. Hand-painted coasters, turquoise ashtrays, scorpion paperweights? Grandma-looking Pyrex or old-fashioned bathroom scales? Weird old records, magazines, books, and toys? Saguaro-shaped margarita glasses and well-worn playing cards? It's all here. The store was opened in 2019 by Shannon Steward, who scouts and handpicks the many items lining the shelves, furniture surfaces, and front patio of her curated shop. Steward even throws the occasional dance party up in here. Stop by and she'll tell you when.

How often does one of your favorite local shops reopen, years after it closed, in its same former storefront? Not very often. But Michael Robertson must have grown weary of listening to Phoenicians whine about how much they missed QCumberz, the vintage decor store he ran for years on Seventh Avenue before moving on to other, equally popular antique stores. So, late last year, he moved right back into his old digs. Within minutes of entering (or reentering, as it were) his store, we were already reliving our favorite shopping memories of yore. Robertson sells more than just antiques and warmhearted charm at this swell boutique. He peddles decorating ideas, too. We're glad he's back, and not just because we needed a new-old sofa and a lava lamp.

News flash: You don't have to wait for Halloween to play dress-up. Mardi Gras sells and rents almost anything you could possibly need in the way of costumes, accessories, makeup, and props. The shop has helpful, knowledgeable staff experienced at working with clients ranging from the costume-curious to theater professionals. There is a dizzying array of options here. You might walk in wanting to be Mata Hari, but discover while you're there that you're actually better at rocking the Marie Antoinette vibe. Who knew?

Oh, sure. Those big-box national chain pet stores at the mall are convenient. But when's the last time you were greeted at the door of one of them by a chicken? Never is the answer, and that's why it's high time you headed to Pratt's to meet Zeus, who for five years has been clucking and scratching and serving friendly fowl attitude to everyone who comes through the door at this Glendale pet store. She won't crow, and she's not especially interested in helping you pick out a collar for Rover, but Zeus will offer something you won't find at the mall: her incomparable presence. Recently, she's been joined by Poseidon, a 2-year-old hen whom you'll find strutting down aisles of feed and feline beds and most everything you'll need to keep Fido and Fluffy in the pink. But don't be fooled: Zeus is the ruler of this roost.

Personal is the word that comes to mind when we ponder the virtues of Changing Hands, the oldest and greatest bookstore in the Phoenix area. Even though we haven't been hanging around there as much this year — the virus and all — we haven't felt any less connected to this powerhouse community hub. That's because Changing Hands has done an excellent job of pivoting on the fly. It does curbside pickup, of course. The author events we love? Kinda great as literary Zooms, it turns out. Best of all are the book bundles. You fill out a Book Personality Quiz online, and Changing Hands' expert staff will send you care packages with multiple books and themed swag (prices range from $50 to $500). It's a wonderful gift to send somebody, of course, but it's also totally worth treating yourself to a bundle — both for the reading material and for the simple pleasure of connection that comes from a smart person choosing a book just for you.

Best Bookstore You Didn't Know Existed


Currently closed for browsing but open for curbside pickup, the aptly named Books is one of our favorite local secrets. This family-owned and -operated trove stocks nearly 200,000 hardbacks, paperbacks, records, comics, and DVDs — and has for more than 30 years. We've scored several rare, out-of-print treasures here, including a first-edition copy of Shirley Jackson's Hangsaman and a signed wartime edition of We Followed Our Hearts to Hollywood by Emily Kimbrough. Always friendly and eager to help, the staff is made up of bookworms who'd love to help you find your next favorite novel or memoir. We look forward to the day when we can return to wandering around the neatly categorized and alphabetized selections in this brick-and-mortar booklover's paradise.

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