Department of commerce

Best place to primp your car
Dr. Detroit
25 W. Elizabeth, Detroit

On those days when a simple $2 car wash just isn’t enough — and on those days when you feel the need to make your Rolls-Royce look the way it looked when you first bought it — you might want to check out Dr. Detroit’s Auto Detailing, located in the heart of Detroit’s Foxtown area, right across the street from the State Theatre. Owner Dimitrious Oliver makes it known that his services are specifically for the pampered few. The prices reflect that attitude. But if you can foot the bill, then it is definitely worth it. Just make sure to make an appointment for a visit with the doctor in advance.

Best thrift store
Salvation Army
Various locations

For those in search of that “I got something for nearly nothing” high, the thrift store is the veritable dealer. And our pick for the best in the metro area is the Salvation Army, and we’ll add that the one at 5600 E. 8 Mile in Detroit is a standout. Can we describe the joy of a fashion- and clothes-whore at making a score? Can we convey the all-consuming thrill of finding a vintage 1960s fur-lined coat for less than $20 or a velvet chair for $5 or a set of Christmas tree lights for $1.50. We cannot. We can only suggest where you might have such experiences.

Best Inner-City Hardware Store
Detroit Hardware
6432 Woodward Ave., Detroit

For the city-savvy fixer-upper, there’s no place quite like Detroit Hardware. Located a stone’s throw from the New Center area, it is also within easy reach of Milwaukee Junction’s urban homesteaders. Along with a knowledgeable and helpful sales staff and an intuitive and organized layout, there’s also a very good chance you’ll find an open space in their small lot to park your car.

Best Inner-City Hardware Store to Hear a Story
Busy Bee Hardware
1401 Gratiot Ave., Detroit

The selection is good, and the location at Gratiot and Russell near Eastern Market is convenient, but the best thing about shopping at Busy Bee is the stories you’ll hear if you ask about the building’s history. Workers will happily tell how the Busy Bee warehouse across Gratiot Avenue was a Purple Gang hideout, and how a tunnel was dug from the warehouse to the store, or even point out the room in the store where the Carhartt line of work clothing was developed. Also, the Bee is probably the last hardware store in the city to sell garden seed in bulk.

Best independent hardware store to mourn
M&M Hardware
17401 E. Warren, Detroit

Brian Rouleau, who grew up in Detroit and purchased M&M Hardware in 1976, did his utmost to keep the beloved establishment afloat. But he did not have enough loyal customers, and earlier this year, he shuttered its doors. The hardware store had specialized in plumbing — and fixed just about anything you could fit through the front door. Folks don’t shop at small businesses like they once did; they go to giant home improvement centers, said Rouleau in an interview with Metro Times two years ago. Rouleau is a gem, and so was M&M Hardware.

Best pawn shop
Sam’s Loans
2100 Michigan Ave., Detroit

Let’s face it: Somewhere along the way, lots of pawnshops started looking like a Best Buy with a jewelry counter. An outstanding exception to this trend is Sam’s, one of the original Michigan Avenue pawnshops of the 1920s. What makes Sam’s special is owner Bill Connell’s penchant for antiques. Here you’ll find — in addition to the usual jewelry, sound systems, used tools and musical instruments — toys in their original packaging, a filmstrip projector, a 1948 Wurlitzer jukebox, a 1930 “kicker-catcher” penny-arcade machine, art, swords, beer steins and Confederate money!

Best raver hangout-turned-political clothing emporium
Detroit Threads
10022 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck

Sure, at Detroit Threads you can still spend hours flipping through thousands of techno, house, hip-hop and rock records or have owner Mikel Smith regale you with stories of dancing his youth away at Bookies and Todd’s in the early 1980s. But the best reason to come here this election season is for the selection of satirical baseball shirts created by Los Angeles’ Clothing of the American Mind. This is apparently the only store in Michigan where you can find long-sleeve T’s emblazoned with “Halliburton Overchargers,” “Unilateral Cowboys” or “Axis of Evil Doers” across the chest. And on the back, they urge a vote on Nov. 2 for a “new team” in the White House. Fashion both activating and inspiring.

Best place to buy affordable women’s underwear
Various locations

If you are in search of a spaghetti-strap camisole with matching panties, a demi bra or a bustier, thongs or low-rise string bikinis, a slip in black lace or cream-colored satin, check out Target. For the less adventurous, it also carries plain white Hanes Her Way undies in various cuts and sizes. A pack of five costs about $6. Don’t overlook the sleepwear section in this same department. It is well stocked with nightgowns, pajama bottoms and robes. It offers a solid selection of reliable brands at affordable prices.

Best mom and pop stripper store
Fun & Fantasy
925 E. 11 Mile Road, Royal Oak

This cozy little store is the ultimate destination for any exotic dancer, risqué clubgoer, or someone with an adventurous spirit. Offerings include fishnets, corsets, hosiery, itty-bitty outfits, costumes, lingerie and platform heels that would make Gene Simmons wince. The selection is generally better than what’s found in chain stores like Lover’s Lane and Priscilla’s, and the clearance rack occasionally offers true scores (heels o’ doom for $10!). This is also the best place in metro Detroit to buy pasties — the nipple adornment, not the little pies.

Best one-stop for kink
Noir Leather
Noir Leather
124 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak
248-541-3979 •

The little perv shop that Keith Howarth founded has persevered to become an institution. A huge dildo in your favorite hue? A sexy rubber mini-dress and dog collar to match? Nipple clamps? This little shop of pain and pleasure has you covered. Or uncovered. And don’t get us started on the Noir-sponsored fetish parties.

Best one-stop for ink
Motor City Tattoo Expo

Held every year the first weekend in March (thelocations vary), the Motor City Tattoo Expo is a bright collision of color and culture. Detroit is some home to some of the best tattoo artists in the country, and many an ink collector travels across the nation to get tattooed by the best at this event. Even if you’re “blank” — and intend to stay so — the expo offers unparalleled people watching for the un-tattooed pedestrian. And if you’re one of those people who still thinks tattoos are for sailors and miscreants, wake up and smell the ink! Everyone from truck drivers to business managers will be there, proudly flaunting their flesh-and-blood canvases.

Best record store to buy stoner rock from Sweden
Neptune Records
412 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak

You say you’ve never heard of Trad, Gras Och Stener, Parson Sound or other psych-stoner bands from Sweden’s hippie underground of the ’60s and ’70s? And you don’t care that more than 100 releases — CD and vinyl — on Germany’s Kompakt label are nearly always in stock? The guys at Neptune Records refuse to believe it. Come up to the store in Royal Oak or shop on the Web ( for left-field art rock, experimental techno and must-have classics. Consumers with adventurous musical palates will be richly rewarded. One of the best specialty record stores in North America.

Best hip-hop vinyl selection
Melodies and Memories
23013 Gratiot Ave., Eastpointe

Turntablists, you don’t just need a good vinyl outlet. You need someone working there who can get you the hot shit, the rare shit, the hard-to-compare shit, when you need it. Metro Times hears that the guy running the place, Reggie “Hotmix,” a DJ who still spins a mean hip-hop or house set, is unparalleled when it comes to knowing what’s where, and how to get it. Old standards like Eric & Rakim and Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s “T.R.O.Y.” are in stock. But Reggie specializes in getting his hands on the rare pieces, like the 12-inch of Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg’s (remember that name?) “Deep Cover.”

Best place to buy obscure jazz, soul and R&B records from rock ’n’ roll musicians
People’s Records
615 W. Forest Ave. (just west of Second Avenue), Detroit

Park the car and stroll around lively area Second and West Forest avenues in Cass Corridor. Nestled in its quaint subterranean digs, People’s Records, owned by Brad Hales (Easy Action) and Dave Shettler (former Sights tub thumper); is the perfect place to find that impossible-to-find Betty Davis record or Detroit-specific blues. You can also add to your 45 collection (this small store touts a catalog of more than 10,000 blues, soul and R&B 45s). Post script: some have found this diamond in the rough hard to find, so we should mention that People’s is located on the south side of Forest, near the alley — definitely worth the search.

Best Detroit rock-slappy blog

They say a rising tide raises all boats, and that’s certainly been the case for the Detroit music scene-devoted site What started as a thinly stocked content-receptacle created by a handful of downtown scene fanatics has turned into a sort of clearinghouse for info on the city’s hype-buffeted garagerati. The site’s Detroit Dish section has a loyal community of feedback fiends and as the rawk-buzz has started to subside a bit as of late, the site’s editorial content has been admirably democratic in spreading the love to the city’s musical output. Even as the site’s editors are sure to bow to any whiff of Detroit’s street rock heritage, they’re just as sure to tout good news about folksters, indie pop kids and aspiring major label, mainstream-aping, pop-rock acts.

Best Afrocentric bookstore
Shrine of the Black Madonna
13535 Livernois Ave., Detroit

Sure, Detroit has a mega-chain bookstore downtown, but if you’re looking for a real experience, a place that has enjoyed the respect and support of its surrounding community, the Shrine of the Black Madonna is still the place to go. Specializing in the histories of the broad range of cultures affected by African Diaspora, reading material roams from the educational tomes of Cheikh Anta Diop to the racy erotic fiction of Zane. Nationally recognized authors pop in for occasional book signings, and an upstairs wing is used to host poetry readings and community gatherings. Authentic art tops off the inventory, so there is enough to make each visit a true experience.

Best place to barter for a dashiki
African World Festival
Hart Plaza, Detroit

The art of the deal for African carvings, dashikis, and more: Peruse on Friday, inquire on Saturday, offer and barter on Sunday. It’s the best way to shop at the annual African World Festival, which is organized by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The three-day event in August attracts more than a million people each year, plus vendors from around the world. Think about it: if you travel from New York — or Ghana, for that matter — to sell your stuff, you wanna go home with as little merchandise as possible. We watched one woman talk a vendor into selling a $250 mask for $50. A good poker face and the will to walk away will get you a lot in life.

Best shop for heads
Henry the Hatter
1307 Broadway, Detroit

The city’s oldest retailer, it’s been a Detroit institution for a century, and walking through the shop’s doors is like taking a walk through Detroit history. The A-list hat designers are all present and neatly displayed along the walls and the staff is more than happy to lend a hand. They have felt evening hats with colorful plumes, plaid and leather urban caps, fur winter hats, engineer’s caps, and even a selection of baseball lids. And since they stock both men’s and unisex hats, there should be something for every head here.

Best business to let R.I.P. (a tie)
Rent-A-Wheel, Rent-A-Wife
Whoever patronized these businesses will probably take that secret to their grave. Since both are closed, Metro Times doesn’t know exactly how they operate Rent-A-Wheel, now an empty storefront on Eight Mile near Coolidge in Oak Park, but never took it seriously. Now that we know it actually existed, we see its closed doors and think, “Uh, yeah. Why would anyone would buy a set of Sprewells (spinning rims) on a rent-to-own plan?” As for Rent-A-Wife, we can only hope the name is not self-explanatory. Possible slogan: “Why wait for a mate?” or “For the pitiful bastard in you.”

Best place to spend your zlotys
Polish Market
11411 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck
2938 E. Maple, Troy
13700 Sibley, Riverview

If you crave pierogies stuffed with apples or apricots, village ham that melts in your mouth, or imported butter so sweet it might seem like you’re eating dessert, this small chain of clean, well-stocked markets is for you. A massive new store is expected to open in downtown Hamtramck in time for the holidays. An added bonus for closet voyeurs: some of Central and Eastern Europe’s most beautiful transplants work and shop here. Bring your camera and get in line.

Best piano tuner
Clem Fortuna
Fortuna Piano Service
10537 Whittier, Detroit

You might think all piano tuners are about the same, but Clem Fortuna has an obsession with tunings — emphasis on the “s.” Sure, like his peers he spends most of his time fixing the action of keyboards, replacing hammers and returning neglected uprights to a standard A=440 vibrations per second. But Fortuna recognizes that other eras and regions have had different notions. Want a Victorian era tuning? How about a Pythagorean one? How about just intonation, which goes against the last 150 years of Western music? In fact, he’s even composed music for a tuning system of 41 microtones to the octave instead of the usual 12. Maybe that’s not what you need him to do with your piano, but just in case …

Best place to rent a cult flick
Thomas Video
122 S. Main St., Clawson
248-280-2860 •

Ever have one of those nights where you feel like watching a flick, but just don’t know what to choose? Come to Thomas Video, and consult the expert staff of film geeks (and we mean geek in the best possible way!). Owners Jim Olenski and Gary Reichel specialize in the rare and out there; this is the best resource around for obscure cult and horror flicks. Olenski is the co-editor of Cult Flicks & Trash Picks, a hefty tome exploring the realm of bizarre cinema; rest assured, these dudes know their film. If Troma films, the Toxic Avenger’s adventures and Fangoria magazine ring your bell, Thomas Video is the place for you, geek (and we mean that in the best possible way!).

Best independent Detroit video store
Top Video
16037 Mack Ave., Detroit

For more than 18 years this family-owned business has provided an enormous selection of new releases, classic movies, foreign films, documentaries and how-to videos. If you’re in the mood to see Blade Runner or want to learn how to build a deck, you can rent a video (or DVD) for just $3 for one night (an extra 50¢ will get you an additional evening.) If Top doesn’t have the movie you want, they’ll order it. The fellows behind the counter are extremely helpful in tracking down films among the packed shelves and making recommendations. The store is, like the much-adored Thomas Video in Clawson, sans the hipster vibe.

Best way to enjoy the river without your own boat
Diamond Jack’s River Tours
313-843-9376 •

From June through Labor Day, Diamond Jack’s offers leisurely two-hour public excursions from Hart Plaza in Detroit and Bishop Park in Wyandotte. The Hart Plaza ride, for instance, leisurely motors north almost to Lake St. Clair, then turns around and hugs the Canadian shore south to Zug Island. Even longtime Detroiters can gain a new perspective, such as viewing Manoogian Mansion from the backside. And on the Windsor side, there’s one of the planet’s more unusual sculpture gardens lining the riverbank. And although the walk-up, public rides have ended for the season, the company’s boats are available for private hire (school groups, church groups, weddings, you name it) through the end of October. Public ride prices are $14 for adults; $12, seniors; $10, children under 16; free, children under 5.

Best record store you’ve never been to
Vibes New and Rare

14500 Eight Mile Road, Suite 203
Oak Park
Hidden away in an office building on Eight Mile Road, Rick Wilhite’s Vibes is a New York-style dance store, filled with underground white-labels, disco-boots, rarities and Rick’s friends’ records (Kenny Dixon and Theo Parrish among them.). Bring money and an act-like-you-know attitude when you hit the buzzer. Hours are currently Monday-Saturday, 1-7 p.m. but you had best call ahead.

Best DIY rock ’n’ roll record shop
Young Soul Rebels

4152 Woodward Ave.
In the face of unbridled downloading and greasy corporate treaties, it takes a true rock ’n’ roll believer to open an indie record shop these days. And there are few believers as steeped in Detroit rock ’n’ roll as Dave Buick and Dion Fisher — co-owners of Young Soul Rebels records and tapes. Both are longtime stalwarts of the downtown scene and their leap of faith into the record-selling biz has them offering no shortage of LPs by the punk (’60s-’80s punk, that is), new wave, glam, soul and whatever-the-hell-else weirdo bands that inspired these two musical miscreants in the first place. Bound up the stairs between C-POP and the Majestic Café and you’ll likely find a sought-after sonic treasure for a reasonable price. Buick and Fisher peddle the wares of their Motor City pals, too, as well as archival releases from lost punk bands like the Denizens and the Ramrods released on the pair’s own Young Soul Rebels label. Plus they co-host the occasional show with Warn Defever’s Brown Rice Studio, which happens to share the space. Next time you’re in the mid-city area, save the dough you’d spend on booze and pay ’em a visit.

Best place to browse the latest art magazines
Book Beat

26010 Greenfield
Oak Park
The books are stacked from floor to ceiling and the choices, from current indie best-sellers and Surrealist collections, to the latest art magazines in a hidden shelf amongst the piles. Which all makes this store a key to opening up the metro in metro-Detroit.

Best hair studio to get a rock-star makeover

3301 Edwin St.
Tucked into a neighborhood side street of Hamtramck, Sandy Kramer Shaw’s Barberella is like some heavenly waiting room where seraphs tend to your follicles and local and national rock ’n’ roll hits singe your ears. And while your curls float to the floor or are splashed in various hues, you can dream about the photo shoot that will grace your first album cover, or the coif that will set the world afire as you hit the nearest Hamtown dollar store.

More best of Detroit 2004:

Community values
Nutritional value
Steppin’ out
Best of the worst
Reader’s Poll

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