Best Comic Book Store 2023 | Ash Avenue Comics & Books | Goods & Services | Phoenix

Think comic books are strictly for nerds and neckbeards? Check those misconceptions at the door of Ash Avenue Comics & Books, bub, as the popular Tempe shop's diverse patronage illustrates otherwise. Owner Drew Sullivan prefers his place to be a "judgment-free zone" where anyone and everyone can experience the joys of the sequential art form in its many formats. It's one of the reasons why Ash Avenue is the best comics store in town. Here are a few more: Sullivan showcases a wide range of indie, underground, self-published, small-press and creator-owned titles alongside racks stocked with single issues, ongoing series and trade paperbacks from leading publishers like Marvel, DC, Image and IDW. Elsewhere in the shop's voluminous, well-organized selection are YA comics, manga, graphic novels and fanzines, as well as a wall of cool collectibles and merch (Coop skateboards! "Goonies" action figures!) that only an establishment like Ash Avenue would carry. No wonder the place draws a crowd.

Here's a factoid joystick junkies can file away in their brains alongside the Konami code: Fallout Games' impressive selection is so vast and laden with rarities that it's a key plot point in a movie. True story. In 2020's "Max Reload and the Nether Blasters," the titular character comes across an ultra-rare (and ultimately cursed) ColecoVision cartridge at Fallout that unleashes an ancient malevolent force upon the world. Sounds farfetched? Some of the more fantastical elements, sure, but it's based on the fact that you'll find anything and everything at all four Fallout Games in the Valley. Inside each location, a multitude of titles, systems and gear spanning multiple generations of video gaming are arranged from floor to ceiling. There are old-school machines like the Vectrex and Odyssey 2 consoles perched above rows and rows of games from modern-day consoles. They also stock collectibles (need a Mega Man helmet?), vintage Nintendo Power issues, plastic pixel art and any sort of connection cable you might've misplaced. Unlike the fictionalized version of Fallout Games seen on the silver screen, none of it will summon any evil entities.

Step into Collectors Marketplace and it won't take long to see why the spot is kid-tested and geek-approved. Both camps will find something to covet among the vast sea of new and used plastic playthings occupying almost every inch of its 8,000-square-foot interior. Small nooks operated by local collectors each contain toys from a specific franchise or fandom, ranging from "Star Trek" to the WWE. Nearby, floor-to-ceiling gondola shelves contain an army of G.I. Joe figures and a universe of Marvel characters. Wander even farther and encounter rooms filled with Funko Pop!, an entire row dedicated to "Star Wars," enough Transformers to conquer Cybertron, a wall of Hot Wheels cars and even some Barbie and "My Little Pony" dolls. If you're into anime, the rear of the marketplace is devoted to collectibles, including "Gundam" model kits and Banpresto figures. When it comes to sheer selection, Collectors Marketplace makes running the best toy store in town look like child's play.

Trill stands out as the dopest hip-hop shop in metro Phoenix due to its unique blend of offerings encompassing all aspects of hip-hop culture. The shop's street cred can be attributed to its incorporation of the four fundamental elements of hip-hop culture — rapping, DJing, graffiti art and breakdancing — often performed live for hundreds of attendees. There's an array of b-boy and b-girl clothing and accessories of the vintage and new, trendy varieties, as well as an extensive collection of hip-hop-themed toys. You can browse the CD, record and cassette tape collection as the booming 808 drum music emanates from a colossal robot-shaped loudspeaker installation, creating an environment that embodies the vibrancy and energy of street culture. This immersive setting sets Trill apart from conventional shops and elevates the overall shopping experience.

There's a saying about boxing gyms: The more rundown, the more legit. While Cowtown Skateboards isn't exactly rundown, the store offers the same sort of lived-in feeling, not unlike your favorite pair of Vans. Two decades ago, the flagship store in Phoenix took over an old Cowtown Boots location, and because signs were too expensive at the time, the owners kept the Cowtown sign and the brand was born. That same level of ingenuity continues to reign as Cowtown has grown Southwest skate culture through events and branded merch. Whether you're a serious skater looking for high-quality trucks or just a fan of the subculture in the market for dope clothing, you'll find it at Cowtown.

Formerly called the Wag N' Wash, this local spot recently underwent a name change. But that's pretty much the only thing that changed at Bark If You're Dirty, the best dog wash in town. The front of the store is a pet shop filled with everything you and Fido might need, from food and treats to collars and toys. Check in at the counter and select which type of wash you want. Does your dog just need a quick shower? Or more of a deep clean with conditioner to make their fur shine and smell nice? Once you've made your selection, follow a staff member to the back into a space filled with large metal bathtubs with side flaps that fold down to help get your dog inside. Adjust the water temperature and get to washing. Each bathtub comes with a flexible shower head, scrub brushes, shampoos and soaps, and a stack of towels. If your pooch is brave enough, there are also hair dryers to ensure Fluffy is as fluffy as possible. Walk back through the store on your way out and grab a treat for your freshly cleaned pup.

Stemistry would be notable if just for the awe-inspiring fact that its founder and owner, Dylan Capshaw, 17, is possibly the youngest owner of a brick-and-mortar store in the country. He goes to high school full time and owns and operates these shops while running a wildlife rescue and taking helicopter lessons, among other interests. But the business stands on its own as a destination. Stemistry concentrates on two things — coffee and flowers — and does both extremely well, selling top-quality and often local products in an adorable ambiance full of rustic charm and greenery with friendly service. Some of the coffee drinks even incorporate flowers, such as the photogenic signature rose latte, and you can enjoy your java jolt while pulling stems from the build-your-own-bouquet bar. The concept, which launched in Scottsdale in March 2022, was such a success that a second location followed less than a year later in Heritage Square in Downtown Phoenix. Capshaw, a history buff and an old soul, paid homage to the historic venue by naming a few of the specialty drinks after prominent Phoenicians of the past.

The Plant Stand is the place for metro Phoenix plant enthusiasts and newbies looking to add greenery to their homes or businesses. With its extensive selection of plants, including popular indoor varieties, exotic options and hardy succulents, there's something for everyone. The store's location on 10 acres with four greenhouses is impressive, allowing for a wide range of plants to be cultivated and displayed — and events, which brings this nursery to a higher level in more ways than one. The unique feature of using the store's enormous size as a venue for yoga and cannabis sessions adds an exciting twist. The combination of plant shopping, decor selection and wellness activities makes The Plant Stand more than just a nursery — it's a destination that caters to various green interests. The imported pottery selection also adds to the appeal, offering a variety of decor styles to complement both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Pueblo is a plant-lover's desert oasis. The Grand Avenue shop has a whole host of houseplants, and upon walking into its airy warehouse space, your eyes may need to adjust to the lush greenery popping out at you from every nook and cranny. Owners Michael Lanier and Coby Bruckner, and their team, offer a helping hand to select the perfect plant and answer questions about care. But Pueblo is more than a plant shop, curating an ever-changing roster of planters, home goods and gifts. And, Pueblo invites guests to linger, from browsing its vintage gardening library to cozying up on its patio, where the uber-cute khaki three-wheeled Italian truck turned coffee bar Caffio Espresso serves daily.

Whether you're making a Muppet costume, a sofa cover or a wedding dress, SAS Fabrics has what you need. It's always a little overwhelming to walk into SAS's Tempe or Phoenix locations; open the front door and you're immediately met with a dizzying assortment of fabrics in every print, color and texture you can imagine. Besides the fabrics, SAS carries elastic, buttons, trim, zippers and everything else to put the finishing touches on your project. The helpful and knowledgeable staff will cut your fabric and send you home with a smile so you can begin the creation process. At SAS, the only limit is your imagination.

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