Best T-Shirt Shop
15 E. Kirby St., No. 108, Detroit
Remember when every mall in America had a print-your-own-T-shirt shop? Remember how much fun it was to take in your favorite kitty-cat illustration and have someone put it on a shirt that you could proudly wear for your elementary school class picture? You can relive that magical moment again at Goods Detroit, where you can bring in your own design or choose from a selection of pre-made images. The pre-made images can be printed on-site. While you’re waiting for your shirt to be printed, shop around: The store also carries jewelry, art, soaps and other items made by local artists.
Best Place to Get a Hair Cut While Rocking Out
The Chop Shop
2980 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-546-2237
This place really is the shit. The whole room feels like a cross between an auto shop and a ’50s barbershop. Women are welcome, but the feel is one of a man’s man’s place. The owner, Jay, will talk to you about Morrissey for hours, while everything from Elvis to old surf rock will play in the background. All of the staff look like they just stepped off the Rebel Without a Cause set. The prices are reasonable, and the quality is top-notch. If you don’t live in Berkley, it’s worth a drive.
Best Place to Find an Old He-Man Figure That You Used to Have When You Were a Kid but Lost
3277 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-548-7213
There are plenty of comic stores around town, and good ones too, from Wonderworld in Taylor to Detroit Comics in Ferndale and Green Brain in Dearborn. However, none are quite like Time Travelers. The place is appropriately named, because it kinda feels like stepping into the forgotten memories of your 12-year-old self. The shelves are stacked with toys of yesteryear, from He-Man and Transformers to Star Wars and Smurfs. Of course, Time Travelers sells comic books and game cards too, much like any other store of its type. But it is the nostalgic thrift store quality of the place that makes it stand out.
Best Sleaze-Free, Sex-Positive Place to Buy Sex Toys
1527 Washtenaw Rd., Ypsilanti;734-487-9201
More locations at loverslanestore.com
We all know those poorly lit, sleazy adult stores on the seedy side of town. The ones that sell expressionless blow-up dolls and French ticklers. You don’t want to go there. You don’t even own a trench coat! You’re just looking for something to spice up sexy-time with your partner and add a little dimension to solo fun. Lover’s Lane has a friendly staff that offers information and encouragement to people of all genders, orientations and experience levels who want to explore their sexuality. There are testers of lubes and oils available for comparing slipperiness, taste and scents. Toys can be handled, to better evaluate feel and vibration intensity levels. Now there’s something you can’t do on the Internet!
Best Independent Toy Store
Adventures in Toys
250 W. Maple Rd., Birmingham; 248-646-5550
Big store and good selection are not mutually exclusive, and Birmingham’s Adventures in Toys proves that true. Hardly bigger than a breadbox (we are teasing, of course), the store is neatly stocked with toys that are designed to do more than enthrall for the moment. From science, art and engineering-themed gifts for both sexes, the owners’ persnickety demand for intellectual engagement seems to drive what’s for sale. Nary a Bratz doll in sight, the items tend to fall on the higher end of the price scale, but then quality also doesn’t come cheap. The free polka-dot giftwrap is a nice touch too.
Best Place to Play for Robot Nerds and Lego Maniacs
The Robot Garage
637 S. Eton St., Birmingham; 248-723-9100
The idea is one of sheer brilliance: Take one unused warehouse and spruce it up; fill it with all things Lego; hire some great, kind and kid-loving staff; charge premium prices for classes, parties, etc.; rinse, lather and repeat. The owners of this marvel in childhood entertainment offerings, who opened their doors less than 24 months ago in an old warehouse in Birmingham’s “industrial” district, have created a facility no kid can resist. With a top-notch crew who are hands-on and helpful, the premium charged to attend a class, camp or workshop does not come cheap. The venue is also a great place for birthday parties. The combination of robotics, Legos and education, all packaged in a low-key atmosphere make this the go-to place for us. (BG)
Best Indie Grocer in Hamtramck
Al-Haramain International Foods
3306 Caniff St., Hamtramck; 313-870-9748
Hamtramck has no shortage of small corner grocery stores but Al-Haramain is the best of them. The staff is friendly and if you shop there enough, they’ll remember you by name and let you know when your favorite fruit is first in-season and back in stock. Every square inch of the place is packed with fresh produce, candy from around the globe, bread, bulk spices, nuts, and olives, halal meats, and that one thing you didn’t know you needed until you found it. Best of all are the reasonable prices. Why does this ethnic market offer excellent produce at reasonable prices? It’s because Al-Haramain’s Yemeni customers demand high quality and low prices — and that’s a deal we all get to share in.
Best Retail Rebirth
DeVries & Co.
2468 Market St., Detroit; 313-831-2020
Longtime patrons of Detroit’s Eastern Market got a good scare last year with the announcement that the venerable R. Hirt Jr. company, founded in 1887 and run by four generations of the same family, was closing its doors. As it turned out, fortunately for fans of the vendor of specialty goods, the store was actually closing for a mild renovation, passing back into the hands of another Hirt descendant, the man who ran it until recently, David DeVries. The renovations were complete last May, and shoppers can now find the same specialty products in an even finer-looking space than previously. The floors shine and a bit of order has been added to the checkout process, with two registers to check out patrons at the end of their shopping experience. Congratulations to DeVries for giving us a slightly updated version of an ancient Detroit classic.
Best Place to Buy Sausage Supplies
3317 Caniff St., Hamtramck
Where does one go when in need of hog casings, fatback, pork butt and any of the other ingredients needed for sausage making? You’re not going to find hog casing at the local big box store. Our favorite place to get all things hog is Bozek’s Market in Hamtramck. White smocked butchers are on hand to help you out with all your sausage making questions. This market has so much meat it gets its own chilled room, which presents an alternate reason for visiting in the middle of the broiling summer heat.
Best Place for Late-Night Shopping
See meijer.comfor scads of locations
Maybe everybody else has become inured to this, but … isn’t it just kind of amazing that you can charge into a Meijer at 1 in the morning, maybe in an altered state, and just start loading up a cart with 5-mil black plastic bags, a pick and a spade? Or with a few cases of beer, several gallons of whiskey, and a couple of boxes of shotgun shells? And that the checkout lady won’t even look at you sideways? Are we the only ones amazed by this? God. Bless. America.
Best Print Shop and Skate Shop in One Convenient Location
10229 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck
Do you have a hankering for a skateboard and a need to get something screen-printed? How will you ever have time to do both? Head over to Chiips. When the Chiips folks moved their skate shop from Plymouth to Hamtramck in late 2012, they moved their sister business, the Barber Shoppe Screen Printing, into the back of the 2,700-square-foot space, with enough room leftover for a half-pipe, so you can test out your new board right in the store.
Best Place to Find Unusual Detroit Records
2610 Carpenter St., Hamtramck; 313-870-9647
How things have changed! You may think you knew the Record Graveyard back when it was on Caniff Street in downtown Hamtramck, but now that it has moved to the northern fringe of town, it’s much changed and, frankly, for the better. The selection is better organized, and, best of all, the 45 RPM singles with Detroit origins have been sifted out. We’ve been thrilled to paw through the collections of Detroit rock, soul and, especially, gospel, buying original records featuring the Lemon Singers, even nameless recordings from storefront churches. Honcho Jeff Garbus deserves many thanks for running what has become, more than a shop, an important local historical resource.
Best Gift Shop for Browsing
621 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak
Sometimes “eclectic shopping experience” is a euphemism for rummaging through barely sorted stuff dumped onto shelves without care. Not at Shine. The various and sundry items are in balance on adjacent shelves, with no cognitive dissonance. The mix at Shine can include high-end candles, beauty products, stylish housewares, swanky jewelry — even retro pajamas. It’s one of the few places that makes shopping for gifts easy and enjoyable, and the kind staff is more than happy to help you find the perfect gift, pricey or humble. This is one store where the online experience simply can’t measure up to visiting in the flesh.