BEST ALL-AROUND DEPARTMENT STORE
Hudson's (various locations)
BEST THRIFT STORE
Value World (various locations)
BEST PLACE FOR BARGAIN SHOPPING
Target (various locations)
BEST INDEPENDENT MEN'S CLOTHIER
Broadway, 1247 Broadway, Detroit, 313-963-2171 and 18900 Michigan Ave., # 321, Dearborn, 313-982-1155
BEST INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S CLOTHIER
House of Chants, 210 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale, 248-414-9170
BEST PLACE FOR COOL EYEWEAR
D.O.C. (various locations)
BEST STORE TO GET HIP-HOP GEAR
Mr. Alan's (various locations)
BEST STORE TO DRESS LIKE A ROCK STAR
Incognito, 323 S. Main, Royal Oak, 248-548-2980
Somerset Collection, 2800 W. Big Beaver, Troy, 248-643-7440
BEST NON-MALL SHOPPING DISTRICT
BEST PLACE TO FIND A NEW STYLE
BEST SMOKE SHOP
BDT, 21640 John R, Hazel Park, 248-542-6110
BEST HEAD SHOP
BEST VINTAGE CLOTHING STORE
Cinderella's Attic, 319 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale, 248-546-7209
BEST PLACE TO BUY A COMPUTER
Best Buy (various locations)
BEST COOL FURNITURE SHOP
Art Van (various locations)
BEST PLACE TO UPGRADE YOUR GARDEN
English Gardens (various locations)
BEST USED RECORD STORE
Record Time, 262 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale, 248-336-8463 and 27360 Gratiot, Roseville, 810-775-1550
MOST KNOWLEDGEABLE RECORD STORE STAFF
Harmony House (various locations)
BEST OVERALL RECORD SELECTION
Harmony House (various locations)
BEST NEW VINYL SELECTION
BEST NEW DVD SELECTION
Best Buy (various locations)
BEST INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE
Bookbeat, 26010 Greenfield, Oak Park, 248-968-1190
BEST USED BOOKSTORE
John K. King Books, 901 W. Lafayette, Detroit, 313-961-0622 and John K. King Books North, 22524 Woodward, Ferndale, 248-548-9050
BEST COMIC SHOP
Dave's Comics, 407 S. Washington, Royal Oak, 248-548-1230 (sadly, no longer open)
BEST CHILDREN'S BOOKSTORE
Borders (various locations)
BEST STORE FOR UNIQUE/EDUCATIONAL KIDS' TOYS
Zany Brainy (various locations)
BEST ART SUPPLY STORE
Utrecht, 4863 Woodward, Detroit, 313-833-9616 and 28878 Woodward, Royal Oak, 248-548-7679
BEST HOBBY SHOP
Rider's (various locations)
BEST PLACE TO SATISFY A FOOTWEAR FETISH
DSW Shoe Warehouse (various locations)
BEST PLACE TO SATISFY A CHOCOLATE FETISH
Godiva (various locations)
BEST ADULT NOVELTIES STORE
Lover's Lane (various locations)
BEST PLACE TO BUY AFFORDABLE ART
C-Pop, 4160 Woodward, Detroit, 313-833-9901
BEST PLACE TO UPGRADE YOUR SOUND SYSTEM
Best Buy (various locations)
MOST AGGRESSIVE ELECTRONICS STORE STAFF
ABC Warehouse (various locations)
BEST PLACE TO BUY A NEW CAR (OAKLAND)
Art Moran, 21375 Telegraph, Southfield, 248-354-5110
BEST PLACE TO BUY A NEW CAR (WAYNE)
Village Ford, 23535 Michigan, Dearborn, 313-565-3900
BEST PLACE TO BUY A NEW CAR (MACOMB)
Ed Rinke, 26125 Van Dyke, Center Line, 810-754-0440
BEST PLACE TO BUY A NEW CAR (WASHTENAW)
Varsity Ford, 3480 Jackson, Ann Arbor, 734-996-2300
BEST PLACE TO BUY A USED CAR (OAKLAND)
Mel Farr (various locations)
BEST PLACE TO BUY A USED CAR (WAYNE)
Bill Brown Ford, 32222 Plymouth, Livonia, 734-421-7000
BEST PLACE TO BUY A USED CAR (MACOMB)
Showdown Autos, 34165 S. Gratiot, Clinton Township, 810-791-0777
BEST PLACE TO BUY A USED CAR (WASHTENAW)
Tradin' Times magazine (available at various locations)
BEST FRUIT MARKET
Eastern Market, 2934 Russell, Detroit
BEST HEALTH FOOD STORE
Whole Foods (various locations)
BEST BIG BOX STORE
Best Buy (various locations)
BEST BEER SELECTION IN A STORE
Merchant's Warehouse, 126 N. Main, Royal Oak, 248-546-7770
BEST WINE SELECTION IN A STORE
BEST PLACE TO MAKE AN IMPULSE PURCHASE
Target (various locations)
BEST PET-SITTING SERVICE
Mom and Dad
Best Thrift Store
They really do care about customer service at Value World. These days, that is what’s hard to find. There’s an already-been-chewed clothing store in every downtown shopping district of every city in our expansive consumer nation. Prices for leftover, barfed-on thermal underwear or had-sex-in prom dresses range from unbelievably cheap to laughably expensive. Honestly, when wading through waves of wrinkled ’70s fashion on the floor, don’t you feel like asking the local Reality Bites loony indie retailer: "Exactly whose pillbox hat do you imagine you are selling — Jackie O’s?!"
It seems many of you creative Detroiters have happened upon thrift bliss when you walked into a Value World. Can you remember when? I’ll bet classic soul music crackled nostalgically from blown radio speakers. The employees laughed grandly at inside jokes and smiled at you as they carefully pushed their movable clothing caravans to a cyan stream in the T-shirt rainbow across the wall’s horizon.
Value World (globally expanded nomenclature from Value Village) offers the best of Detroit’s unique finds. For Halloween, I located several incredible costume ideas: the ‘silent-film star’ dress was ultimately the most fantastic notion. On a paycheck basis, I race west on Nine Mile Road from Woodward to my personal favorite Ferndale location. That’s where I have typically found an incredible piece of jewelry or a "Sherilyn Fenn a la ‘Twin Peaks’" plaid wool skirt.
It’s a good feeling to shop here; drifting with friends and with purpose down the long aisles of slacks, ashtrays, lamps and boots or eyeing what others are giddily snatching for their collection from behind the pages of your soon-to-be-purchased great American 19-cent(ury) novel. —Rebecca Mazzei
Best Independent Women’s Clothier
House of Chants
Fashionable Ferndale has begun to give Royal Oak a run for its money in the arena of hip, one-of-a-kind clothing boutiques. With notables such as Cinderella’s Attic, Dragonfly and Mother Fletchers, Nine Mile is well on its way to becoming "the new Main Street." Then there’s our readers’ pick for the best source of unique women’s clothing, House of Chants.
Owned by the jovial Robbins sisters, Linda and Cindy, House of Chants is a charming little slice of urban chic and vintage style. It’s the modern Zen of accoutrements — become at one with yourself and your accessories. The space is airy and open, the store bright and cheery. The sales staff is highly sociable, pleasant and helpful; they tell it to you straight (and nicely, of course) if that outfit doesn’t fit right or really isn’t you, and will assist you in picking out something that works. What a refreshing change of pace.
They’ll also help you select the perfect jewelry and accessories for your new ensemble — how about a delicate, ruby-and-silver choker? Or a pair of tiny, sparkling, jeweled barrettes? Or a smart little handbag in which to stuff all the phone numbers you’ll receive once you hit the town in your new outfit? Which brings me to the clothes — a trendy, tasteful, cutting-edge collection of hot labels and looks ranging from raver chic to classic batik. House of Chants also offers a small selection of quality, stylish, vintage clothing, saving you the hassle of digging through piles of hideous ’70s polyester crimes against fashion in order to find the perfect retro gem. So, if you want to look like everyone else, go to Old Navy. If you want a distinctive and striking look that complements your personality, get thee to House of Chants. —Sarah Klein
Best Place to Find a New Style
By now everyone is sick of hearing how Ferndale is the new Royal Oak, but apparently there’s no substitute for the original, as once again the trendiest city in Michigan has garnered your pick for best place to clean up your shoddy, unhip look and get some world-class style. The Main Street drag is still your favored place to plunk down a hunk of change on the latest styles, whether your look is corporate chic, classic vintage flair or glam-rock love bunny. It’s one of the few areas where pedestrian traffic really thrives, encouraging lots of window-shopping and plenty of opportunities to spot local celebrities. The number of trendy, independent boutiques continues to flourish, providing fresher, hotter, spicier threads than the standard chain-store fodder. Plus you can feel good about supporting small, independent, local businesses. If you’re wallet is a bit strained, you can still cull mass amounts of fashion inspiration by simply grabbing a seat at your favorite coffeehouse on Main with your steaming, double, tall, skinny caffeine-free cappuccino (this is Royal Oak, after all) and people-watching. From the scrubby, pierced teens with bright-orange Mohawks, to the latest in European runway knockoffs being modeled by polished and pretty scenesters, to some of the outrageously flashy and skimpy evening attire favored by the clubbing contingent once night falls, you’re sure to find a nouveau look that you can try on for size. Or, if it’s your pad that’s in need of the makeover, there are plenty of nifty stores where you can spend hours browsing knickknacks, subtle living-room accents or an entirely new furniture ensemble. So, what are you waiting for? Go discover your inner fabulosity that’s just dying to escape and do work it. —Sarah Klein
Upscale through the tulips
Best Place to Upgrade Your Garden
Spring springs, as it eventually does, and there you are, looking at your pathetic excuse for a yard. Sloppy, olive-drab grass, dried sticks that used to be a plant, clods of leaves you never got around to raking last fall, and worst of all, that old canvas lawn chair you’ll never get around to repairing.
Looking good, ain’t it? Time for a trip to English Gardens, and quick before the neighbors form a beautification committee to pay you a pissed-off visit.
Why English Gardens? MT readers voted it the best place to upgrade your garden, and there are more than a few reasons why.
For one thing, this family-owned, five-store local chain has great selection. If you need a juniper to fill in that gap in the hedge where the dog got out, they’ve got it. If you’re in search of the perfect shade of hot-pink rose, they’ve got it. If you want a trellis-trained Akebia quinata, check it out.
But it’s not just outdoor plants. English Gardens has a huge selection of lawn furniture (go ahead, toss that old chair!), gardening equipment, bulbs, seeds and mulches, as well as indoor plants and cut flowers (they’re also a full-service florist), so you know you’re bound to find something to brighten your place up.
Plus, a knowledgeable staff is on hand to help you select the right shrub or tell you if that Akebia is really going to thrive under your, um, careful care. They even offer regular seminars on gardening topics to make sure you know what you’re doing once you get those rosebushes home.
And if you just can’t face getting dirt under your fingernails, they even provide a landscaping service. Take that, neighbors! —Alisa Gordaneer
Best Used Record Store/Best New Vinyl Selection
Well, Record Time isn't exactly a used record store entirely, but they do have a great used section. It's very manageable, not overwhelming like many stores that specialize in used material. And you always spot that record you just can't … possibly … live … another … day … without. The store also was voted as having the best new vinyl selection. This really was no contest. The payroll sheets at each location read like a who's who in all varieties of Detroit electronic music. With so many DJs and sample-collectors on staff, how could the stores not be well-stocked with the best vinyl that's out there? Record Time is really feeding an addiction with its amazing collection of cheap, used goods. While most vices might lead you to the bar or casino, nearly every payday I find myself heading to the closest Record Time on the way home from work. Where's my support group? —Melissa Giannini
Heard it all
Most Knowledgeable Record Store Staff/Best Overall Record Selection
You all know you can drop into any Harmony House any day of the week with a specific request and those industrious music freaks with the "backstage pass" nametags will find it for you. There's this mysterious system where they type the title into the computer and then magically know exactly where it is in the stacks. It's almost like a government experiment. Pretty soon we'll all be bar coded — if we're not already. And Harmony House was in on it all along! OK. So, anyhoo, those are the signs of a store that deserves the title of Best Overall Record Selection. Harmony House is by far Michigan's most successful small-scale-chain record store. And they have an entire location devoted to classical music!
You'll find everything you never knew you wanted. And when that backstage-pass-clad staff member finds what you want, you know he or she has already listened to it and every other record by the artist, every side-project, compilation inclusion, split 7-inch, everything. And for this, the store's staff also was named most knowledgeable, not to mention so darn nice. —Melissa Giannini
Beats them all
Best Independent Bookstore
If you’re a sucker for small — if, in your mind, a cozy bistro beats production-line dining, or an intimate cinema outcools a multiplex every time — then the Bookbeat is for you. With corporate chains gobbling up the book business like Monstro the whale in Pinnochio, there aren’t many independent shops left. Local merchants offering specialized selections of literature and magazines in an atmosphere of personal interaction continue to brave the waters. But only Bookbeat (26010 Greenfield, Oak Park) offers an intense focus on photography and visual art, Eros and Thanatos, feminism and the avant-garde.
Enter the store and immediately see signs of a very particular mind at work. The discounted books feature titles you’d forgotten you wanted and a few surprises newly disregarded by the straight and narrow. Then a locked glass case encloses all manner of fetishistic objects — from Mexican Day of the Dead statuettes to surreal totems and a mojo or two. These are just a hint of wild things to come, particularly if you thread your way through tightly packed aisles of what seem like all the hip, weird, sexy, daring, mind-bending books in the world and go straight to the back of the store.
There, in the tiny gallery curated by Bookbeat owner Cary Loren, browsers come upon an art experience like no other. Works are hung side-by-side, one above the other, so as to afford maximum exposure to the vision of the month. Loren has been responsible for exhibiting some devastating work in the past 16 years, introducing Detroiters to the likes of Jeffrey Silverthorne and Billy Name.
Though there aren’t any entertainers whining their latest songs and you’ll have to get your coffee a few doors down at the deli, the Bookbeat has enough stimulation to wrap you in its arms for hours on end. —George Tysh
Best Used Bookstore
John K. King Books
We are all in search of a space that moves like our minds, fast and quick, slow and powerful, stretching off into a thousand lines of flight, from sex to gardening to labor history, transmitting in a million peculiar ways the spirit of our own becoming. And though Al Green has not been touted (yet) by John K. King Book’s web page (www.rarebooklink.com/index.html) for perusing its rare book room, I honestly believe that JKB is the retail version of this utopian space, a space not unlike the soft, funky and clairvoyant folds of Al Green’s "Explores Your Mind." Four floors tall, organized by subject, displayed for your pleasure.
Mr. King (Yes, there is one: I’ve heard him speak over a walkie-talkie held by a clerk while pricing back-issues of Playboy.) has sold used books in Detroit for more than 35 years and now rules the market. The building off the Howard Street exit of the Lodge was one of the first and most important entrances into the city when I was a lonely high-school loser and continues to be a place of exploration and discovery, a vast library with exceptional pencil-written prices in the corners.
My own highlights: Summer 1997 — JKB North in Ferndale, I found the slim Detroit pressing of French revolutionary Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. Last summer — the Big Book Store on Cass, I picked up a series of ’80s rock mags with Prince on the cover. And, of course, Fall 2000 — downtown Detroit branch, I priced a series of ’60s Playboys, one featuring an interview with Malcolm X. We all have our weak spots. What John K. King bets is that we will find them, in their sweet immediacy, among the stacks of his bookstores. He hasn’t been wrong yet. —Carleton S. Gholz
Best Comics Shop
Dave’s Comics in Royal Oak
Comic-book fans loyally voted for this perennial favorite once again this year, but as we reported last December, Dave Hutzley closed his Royal Oak store. At that time, Dave told us he’d continue to sell vintage collectibles at shows, by mail order, and maybe over the Internet (he didn’t rule out the possibility of opening a new brick-and-mortar store, either).
Unfortunately, Dave’s former hotline has been disconnected, and we were unable to locate him prior to our deadline. Consider this an E.T.-style message for him to call and tell us about his latest plans. We promise to pass any news along to you. —Karen Fisher
Lessons in fun
Best Toy Store
"We're about kids having educational fun," says Amy Masi, manager of the Southfield Zany Brainy. Masi took me on a tour, showing me some of Zany Brainy's most popular items. Like other stores, Poo Chi and Razor Scooters are hot. But have you heard of the Mozart Magic Cube? Plays eight works by the maestro, and if you press any side of the cube, you bring in more instruments. Imagine your 8-month old, swiping at it, bringing in the string section, then the horns. Made by Embryonics ("From womb to classroom"), the cube sells for $39.99. I liked the Feltland Deluxe House ($99.99) — a modular dollhouse made entirely of felt — the roof, the furniture, even the inhabitants. Masi pointed to the right-hand side of the store, calling it the "girls’ side." The left-hand side is for boy toys. (Sigh… and we wonder why sexism persists.) For girls, there are craft items such as jewelry kits and lots of cooking toys that turn out delicacies such as chocolate insects. Boys get Legos, Playmobile, and Kinex. Hopefully the kids mix it up more than the grownups.
Parents can relax — there are no toys promoting violence. No GI Joes, no toy guns. Even the Game Boy selection has been purged of blood and gore.
Zany Brainy prides itself on customer service, and there are activities for kids every day of the week — story time, art classes (bring your own equipment or buy it there), video premiers. Everything teaches something. The "123 Bee" by Vtech ($12.99) teaches "numbers, motor skills, and cause and effect" according to the packaging. How? Numbered buttons light up and an electronic voice says a number. Go with Mozart, I'd suggest. —Elissa Karg
Best Place to Satisfy a Footwear Fetish
DSW Shoe Warehouse
"The shoes of the moment — the deal of a lifetime." This is the mantra of DSW, which stands for Discount Shoe Warehouse, and Discount Shoe Warehouse stands for every Imelda Marcos wannabe’s dream come true. Yes, it’s a nonstop symphony of footwear, with aisles and aisles of shoes, shoes, and a few more shoes. Every size. Every shape. Every color and style imaginable. Shoe aficionados — you know who you are — should be duly prepared when first entering a DSW; you may be overcome with emotion and overwhelmed by the staggering size of stock and vast range of footwear. You might even think you’ve died and gone to shoe heaven.
A relatively young company that’s quickly expanding, DSW is a national chain with locations in many states. Stocking both women’s and men’s shoes, with even a few handbags to boot, the stores are organized according to category. You can happily flit from comfy athletic shoes to trendy designer imposters to immortal classics like the penny loafer and black, knee-high boot. Also, you need not sit around and wait for a disgruntled salesperson to fetch your selections; all the shoes are boxed and stacked in a help-yourself set-up. (Even so, there are still plenty of staff wandering about in case you need assistance.) Did I mention that it’s cheap, too? There’s even a large section for mark-downs. It’s like Payless on steroids; the average DSW is around 20,000 square feet, so prepare to spend hours roaming to your little shoe-loving heart’s content. Plus, the quality is relatively high, so the shoe might actually last longer than the style’s particular trend. So go forth, and explore the delights of DSW — your feet, and your wallet, will thank you. —Sarah Klein