The Real Deal - Staff Picks

Best Record Store — East Side
Melodies and Memories
23013 S. Gratiot Ave., Eastpointe; 586-774-8480

OK, there ain't a store like this in the whole country. Even Hollywood's mighty Amoeba Records doesn't have a thing on Melodies because, well, besides sporting the country's largest lunch box collection, the Motown history here is sick: Martha Reeves, Eminem, Ron Banks and countless others have sung the store's praises (every so often the Melodies folks keep the store open late so Em and his bodyguards can shop). Then there's the personalized memorabilia on its walls, featuring Marvin Gaye and many more. The store has the Midwest's largest selection of box sets, from country to rock to jazz to blues to avant-garde, and it takes whole rooms to house its selections — a couple for its dance titles, another for its classic and pop rock, one for its jazz and R&B, one for its Krautrock, punk, techno and used, and another room for its blues and soundtracks. It often has three stereos going at once, playing different music in different rooms. The place is huge, a lovely crammed-but-organized mess of pop culture and music, which sees more than 50,000 different titles. Melodies is Beatle-freak heaven too (try stumping Bob or Dan on any Fab Four trivia — dudes are faster than Google), and it's a bin-diver's dream (you actually have to get on your knees to hunt through the vinyl).

Best Record Store — West Side
Dearborn Music
22000 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-561-1000

You'd never know the sales of physical music are down and that the record biz is in the toilet when you step into this glorious record emporium. It's like walking into late last century, a time when record stores hummed fiscally and were crammed full of new and obscure music you couldn't wait to sift through. There are tens of thousands of titles here (more than $1,000,000 worth), including up-to-the-minute and rare imports from Italy, Europe and Japan, and a whole room of just blues and jazz, used and new, plus DVDs, pop culture trinkets and assorted ephemera. You can find hi-res titles too, Alice Cooper gold CDs, box sets and tons of vinyl. This well-run, organized shop has lasted more than 50 years (!) for good reason.

Best Place to See a Local Rock Star Workin' a Day Gig
Car City Records
21918 Harper Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-775-4770

It'd be a tall order to list all the local rock stars who've passed behind the counter at this beautifully shambolic and hallowed record store, but if we'd tried we'd cough up such names as Ben Blackwell (Dirtbombs), punk superstar Heath, John Nash (Electric Six, Witches, Volebeats, etc.), Chad Gilchrist (ex-Outrageous Cherry, Blades of Grass, etc.), Mike Alonso (Electric Six, Aquarius Void), DJ Head (Eminem, D12), DJ Daddy Riff (12-Tech Mob), Ralph Valdez (ex-DJ, THTX, Algebra Mothers, Retro, etc.), Liz Copeland (violinist, DJ), Larry Rosa, Bootsey X (Lovemasters, Rocket 455, Coldcock, etc.) Melissa Elliott (Dirt Eaters, the Jills, His Name is Alive), Geoff Walker (Gravitar), Tom Potter (Bantam Rooster, Detroit City Council, Dirtbombs), Len Bukowski (avant-jazz saxophonist), DJ Houseshoes and Tom Lynch. These days you'll sometimes find the ever-genial producer-songwriter Matthew Smith (Andre Williams, THTX, Volebeats, Outrageous Cherry, blah, blah, blah) manning the register along with ex-Go and current F'ke Blood dude Dion Fischer (who also helps run the UFO Factory). And while trolling here you might bump into local star poet M.L. Liebler, dapper journalist-rock stars Mike Hurtt (the Party Stompers) and Ricky Rat, or DJ and Magic Bag talent buyer Willy Wilson, all jawing away while flipping through the expansive bins.

Best Strictly Used Record Store
Record Collector
327 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-548-9888

Its dusty, lived-in interior has the look of an old film screened on a large piece of cardboard splashed with some faded color. In other words, and even on first glance, you know it's a real record store, like one of those that existed a few decades ago in lower Manhattan. And if you're there at precisely the right time, you might catch owner Warren Westfall's witty and self-deprecating monologue whose topics within five minutes could include Buck Owens, Ezra Pound and idiot politics. (Factoid: It was Westfall who gave Metro Times its name all those years ago). The Record Collector's stock is both underground and mainstream, and often great, because you can score many out-of-print titles in jazz, R&B and rock — from 45s to CD box sets — some of which end up on the store's eBay page. The selection stays fairly fresh because there's a heavy turnover of music here, which weighs heavily on the area's musical tastes.

Best Cultural One-Two Punch
Book Beat and Street Corner Music
26010 & 26020 Greenfield Rd., Oak Park

Strange but true fact: Way back in the halcyon days of the 1990s, people often had to actually leave their homes to purchase media, where they had interactions with actual humans. Thankfully you can re-create those thrilling analog days gone by thanks to a happy new commercial real estate coincidence that's as welcome as the first time the proverbial schmuck dropped chocolate in his peanut butter. Book Beat and Street Corner Music are now neighbors. This delightful mash-up was created when soul, rock and blues specialists Street Corner Music split their longtime Southfield location for a new home directly next door to the legendary Book Beat in Oak Park. Now the cream of the printed word and the funkiest of vinyl and CD grooves are just footsteps away, with nary a nametag, apron or cappuccino machine in sight.

Best High-End Audio
David Michael Audio
4300 Delemere Blvd., Suite #201, Royal Oak; 866-961-4423

Shop owner David Kasab is no audio snob, he's just a guy who loves music so much that he has figured out a way to get it to sound the best that it can, and then he turned that into a growing local business. It's no wonder this is the third straight Best Of that DMA has won, because the stereos they sell are the absolute best in the world; including Harbeth handmade speakers, Luxman electronics and Rega turntables. He also has the new Soloos 10 music server, which can change how you listen to music in one elegant — if pricey — swoop. This guy David can help you piece together a killer system, even on a limited budget, and you'll never have to feel intimidated. If you love music, why not hear it the way it was meant to be heard? To hear and see what's in his showroom, call first.

Best Video/DVD Store
Thomas Video & DVD
4732 Rochester Rd., Royal Oak; 248-280-2833;

Especially in this era of Netflix and Red Box kiosks at your local market, there's still something to be said for a store with that personal touch ... especially, in this case, one that caters to the film heads (whether your choice is "art" or "trash") among us. They may have relocated in the last year — but Thomas still has the finest collection for rent or sale in town, including Criterion Collection treasures, out-of-print movies, cult classics, anime features and shorts, laser discs, even vintage "adult" fare. And if they don't have it in stock, chances are very good they can find it for you. What's more, the friendly workers know their shit, and they even made their own feature-length film.

Best Place for Used DVDs
Hot Hits
29207 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-777-3640

A movie lover's paradise, Hot Hits is jammed to the rafters with an almost overwhelming selection of used DVDs — they're literally stacked from floor to ceiling in some spots. Most have been alphabetized and grouped by genre, but don't be surprised if you find a copy of National Velvet next to a copy of National Treasure. The rummage sale atmo makes having a list of flicks you're looking for a good idea. Don't have one? Never fear, the staff is helpful and doesn't mind crawling around on hands and knees to find your cinematic must-have. Hot Hits also has used video games, action figures, CDs and electronics. Oh, and while you're there why not pick yourself up a new set of wheels — they sell bicycles too.

Best Place to Reinvent Your Wardrobe on the Cheap
23700 Woodward Ave., Pleasant Ridge; 248-414-7440

A vintage sundress, a designer polo, a fedora and a pair of skinny jeans. These are a few cool items you'll discover at Regeneration. Inside this amiable, eclectic boutique, you'll find 2,500 square feet of hand-picked fashion inspiration. Four days a week the store buys clothing, jewelry, shoes and accessories from the public, ranging from 1940s classics to new and gently used designer labels. This keeps the inventory fresh — and keeps creative customers returning. When co-owners Nicole Freund and Melanie Williams opened Regeneration in 2007, their goal was to appeal to everyone. So you never know what you'll find.

Best Clothing Store to Help You Dress Like a Pin-Up
V-Male Detroit Vintage
23902 Van Born Rd., Dearborn Heights; 313-299-8899

Polka-dot petty coats. Ruffle-bottomed panties. Thigh-high stockings. Black-lace corsets. Leopard print peep-toe pumps. Whatever garment or accoutrement you need to strike yer pose is sure to be hanging on the racks of V-Male Detroit Vintage. Specializing in deadstock vintage clothing from the '50s through the '70s, the store's a hot spot for lingerie and burlesque gear too, and is a fave shopping stop for burlesque bombshells. Hey, when Lucious LaMoan graced the cover our own Lust Issue, it was in a V-Male dress — what further proof do you need? Along with the flirty and feminine, the recently expanded shop also carries costume jewelry, vintage sunglasses, hair tonics and pomades, fedoras and, in case you need inspiration for your look, pin-up books and paintings.

Best Place for Clothes for Time Travel to 1960s Paris
Chi Chi and the Greek
3543 Elizabeth Lake Rd. Waterford; 248-255-5039;

This cozy vintage resale store that's tucked in a strip next to a bicycle shop is really like a fashion museum. But Chi Chi and the Greek is a real store — one that'll feel like you're a little girl playing dress-up in mom's closet — whose collection of designer clothes, French fashions and frolicsome vintage wear makes it worth the trip, though you can shop online. The place may make you wish you'd kept some works from the era of Dianne von Furstenberg wrap dresses and long patchwork skirts, though at Chi Chi's (or is it the Greek's?) we know that they've never gone out of style.

Best Place to Buy a Dress to Wear with Tights and Boots
Flo Boutique
404 W. Willis St., Detroit; 313 831-4901;

This lovely boutique in the Cass Corridor next to Avalon Breads is filled with fetching pieces of clothing and accessories. And its affable owner, Felicia Patrick, will offer some choice phrase should you emerge from the dressing room with an actual dress on: "Throw on some tights and boots and mmmmm, ggiiiiiirl!" Sometimes she'll stretch her fashion boundaries and suggest strappy, chunky sandals — but point is, if you're looking for a dress that no one else will have on, this is the place to shop. Check out her hats, jeans and, of course, tights too.

Best Unexpected Place for Men's "Couture"
Multiple locations in metro Detroit;

Some of us were practically raised on catalogs, and all paled in comparison to Sears' monument-sized publication. It was the encyclopedia of retail nirvana, and a deadly weapon. But Sears ain't what it used to be, especially in the men's clothing department, where the fashionable and stylish now outweigh the stodgy and dated. It's where you can find a killer selection of Levi's jeans alongside former mall cornerstone Structure (the brand name "Structure" was bought by Sears in 2003 from the Limited); where American essential Land's End hangs from racks next to urban gear by South Pole and LL Cool J. There's also R. Vintage (hip retro styles), Carhartt (industrial work essentials) and NordicTrack (workout wear). Sears is also a bargain hunter's paradise, with clearance racks stuffed to maximum density. No, it's not your grandpa's clothing store.

Best Surprise Stash of Clip-on Earrings
Thicke Madam Boutique
250 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, 248-298-2785

A clothing store that caters to "the modern voluptuous woman" with sizes starting at 12, this Ferndale fashion station also carries a healthy stock of clip-on earrings. And for the rare woman with nary a hole in her ear, that's worth a cross-town trip. But don't expect subdued simple silver hoops, that is, unless they're attached to dangling beads. The selection here is full of color, texture and sparkle.

Best General Store for the 21st Century
Acme Mercantile
111 W. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-213-3722;

Take a short turn off Ann Arbor's bustling Main Street and travel half a block until you reach a stately brownstone with display windows crammed with an odd assortment of products, from cleaning supplies to novelty gifts and do-it-yourself guide books. This crowded little store is Acme Mercantile, the self-described "world's smallest department store," which packs into 900 square feet many goods traditionally found at old school hardware stores, office supply stores and drugstores. Acme Mercantile opened in 2002 in order to fill gaps left in downtown Ann Arbor with the closing of those other indie businesses, and the resulting store, despite its size, is easy to get lost in. Products range from organic pet food and natural body washes to tiki mugs and cocktail napkins, T-shirts and shower curtains to kitchen clocks and cannabis cookbooks, as well as a plethora of other fanciful goodies that pop with practical whimsy.

Best Bookstore for Bibliophiles
Leopold's Books
15 E. Kirby St., Detroit; 313-875-4677

Despite economic woes, Detroit's Midtown quietly flourishes with whiz-kid entrepreneurs opening storefronts, challenging the tanked economy head-on. Leopold's Books recently opened in the Park Shelton next to Good Girls Go to Paris Crêpes. More of a book boutique than a traditional bookstore, Leopold's carries a small, somewhat quirky selection of publications with an emphasis on graphic novels, comic books, local authors, indie efforts and art mags. A selection of classics and some contemporary fiction, including a hearty dose of McSweeney's, as well as unusual nonfiction and a smattering of children's books, also populate the store. It's a sweet spot for book lovers who live to peruse that which is rare to chain stores. And if you're looking for something specific, owner Greg Lenhoff (he's the dude sitting behind the desk) will be more than happy to order it for you.

Best Salon with a Conscience
Curl Up & Dye
4215 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-833-5006;

When this swanky salon with the cheeky name opened last year, it became an instant success — at least with MT readers, who named it best hair salon and best nail salon. A year later, Curl Up & Dye continues to be a reader fave, and it's no wonder, because the salon's indie chic decor — purple walls, sparkling concrete floor, mod chandeliers — creates an atmo that's posh yet free of pretension, and the gracious and professional staff works beauty magic. The salon boasts products too — including its own Cass Corridor brand — that aren't tested on animals, are almost always natural, organic and fairly priced. Whether you've been massaged, coifed, manicured or shaved, you'll stroll out feeling brand-fucking-new.

Best Deal on a Pedicure
Douglas J Aveda Institute 
409 S. Center St., Royal Oak; 248-336-5500;

The warm weather is here, and it's time to expose your toes in sandals and flip-flops. But before you do, you might want to make an appointment at Douglas J Aveda Institute in Royal Oak for an Express Pedicure. Under the supervision of a certified instructor, an Aveda student will get your toenails summer-ready for less than $30. That includes filing, shaping and applying nail color. And you get to keep the bottle of polish. This spacious spa, school and salon offers a full menu of luxury services — haircuts and color, facials, body treatments, professional makeup application and more — at reduced prices. And it's all done in an elegant Zenlike setting that captures Aveda's Earth-friendly spirit.

Best Affordable Acupuncture
Community Health Acupuncture
801 Livernois St., Ferndale; 248-246-7289;

This Chinese practice works wonders for a variety of ailments — including joint pain, asthma, migraines, even infertility and anxiety. One MT editor was told to seek a different career when a carpel tunnel syndrome problem became too severe ... until those tiny Oriental needles eased the pain. In America, though, acupuncture has become a treatment for rich folks, with a single session running anywhere from $80 to $300. God bless Michigan native Darlene Berger for her group treatment facility (which is the way it's done in China) in Ferndale, which operates on a $15-$35 per session sliding scale. CHAC is part of a national network, which includes two other metro area centers with the same payment scale — in downtown Detroit and Livonia. Berger, who recently added a second acupuncturist, Carol Soborowski, to her practice, says, "This isn't charity. The objective is to provide treatment to as many people as possible by making it as affordable as possible." If Western medicine isn't working for you, this is worth a shot. The first Friday of each month, treatments for first-time patients are free.

Best Indie Craft Fair
Shadow Art Fair

This DIY craft fest of "stuff that people make" has run since 2005, and now draws thousands of visitors twice a year. It was founded by a group of friends that included Ypsilanti zinesters Linette and Mark Maynard, and Mark says they "started it for all the reasons we got into zining ... to bring together a lot of people doing creative stuff who had dead-end jobs." But the fair is no small beer, and it has grown into a large, juried and fun event allowing local artists to exhibit and sell works within a "comfortable, friendly, and supportive setting." Twice a year, the 12-hour mini-fest takes over Ypsi's Corner Brewery, keeping shopping local and spirited, with live music, craft beer and unusual special activities.

Best Place to Shop with Civil War Re-Enactors
Detroit Historical Society Guild Flea Market

This twice-yearly flea market at Historic Fort Wayne occupies one of the fort's many large buildings and splays out onto the surrounding lawn. The market is a treasure trove of the delightful, the curious, the collectible and the strange, with vendors hawking antiques, arts and crafts, vintage memorabilia, costume jewelry, records, paintings, retro sports equipment ... the list goes on and on. But the best part is the location — after buying your bow and arrows, you can wander the fort grounds, stumbling upon military drills being performed by soldiers from all eras, Civil War to present. Official, guided tours are offered both days for only $3, where a knowledgeable volunteer will fill you in on the minutiae of its history.

Best Store to Lose an Hour or Two
Paris Antiques
112 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-542-9594;

If you can afford jetting to Paris for a weekend of leisurely strolls through street markets cluttered with beautiful things, good for you. For us, there's the Royal Oak's Paris Antiques. In business since 1999, Paris sells a continuously evolving set of merchandise that includes clothing, jewelry, accessories and furniture, both new and vintage. And while the prices may still be out of many budgets — three-digit figures are the norm — an hour or two browsing the beautiful array of objects, trying on a spectacular 1950s vintage prom dress and imagining that antique art deco mirror hanging in your bedroom, are still the absolutely best way of wasting two hours.

Best Place to Find Anything Old
Global Village Collectibles 
51 Harper Ave., Detroit

There are scads of old houses in Detroit with lots of old things in their attics, and much of that stuff seems to wind up at Global Village Collectibles. Housed in an old building with a narrow storefront, the store looks like someone's long-neglected basement, stuffed with beautifully aged trash and treasures. Everything is piled 5 feet high in a massive, unsorted heap that runs the store's length, spilling into side rooms. The upstairs is equally crammed with stacks of furniture, glassware, memorabilia and collectibles, and all colors of buried gems. Its odd, seemingly unfinished motto, "The corner stone of your antique," which is written on the sign out front, is a fitting description for this store's unpredictable, haphazard offerings. Open seven days. The door is usually locked; knock to get in.

Best Bike Shop
Eastside Bike Shop
26210 Van Dyke Ave., Center Line; 586-756-2001

In a nondescript little corner building on Van Dyke, Eastside Bike has everything you could ask for from a bike store, whether you're an experienced peddler or new to the two-wheeled bandwagon. The shop not only offers a wide selection of new rides — including low-riders, choppers and BMXs — but also an unparalleled inventory of used, classic and unusual hard-to-find bikes, as well as a full-line of accessories and supplies, both new and used. But what sets Eastside Bike Shop apart is the service. Family-owned and -operated since 1982, the owner brings with him more than 45 years experience in the bike biz and, if the raves of loyal customers are to be believed, can repair anything, including antiques and classics, usually within one day.

Best Unusual Wine Shop
MotorCity Wine
Second Floor, 608 Woodward Ave., Detroit;

This little wine shop may never have the huge selection common to suburban outlets, but what it does have are two passionate wine lovers whose mission is to help busy Detroiters expand their horizons. In that regard, expect expert tastings, knowledgeable suggestions and beaucoup personal service from two folks who know their wine (one of them's from Quebec, after all), and it's all at competitive prices. The downtown location allows working commuters to order their wine online and pick it up later, and they also offer a limited delivery service. Don't see what you like? They'll order it. Don't know what you like? You're just a private consultation away from finding what you do. Want to buy one for tippling on premises? Their $5 corkage fee is much cheaper than any restaurant markup.

Best Locally Made Tortilla Chips and Salsa
Garden Fresh
1505 Bonner, Ferndale; 248-336-8486;

Jack and Annette Aronson started their business in the back of a little restaurant in Ferndale, where their handmade salsa became such a hit with customers they began selling it in jars. Their secret? High-quality natural ingredients and attention to detail went into every batch. Today the Aronsons run a gourmet food factory in Ferndale where they also make a variety of chips to go with their famous salsa. Garden Fresh kettle-style tortilla chips reflect the same passion and artistry that goes into all the company's products. And because they're steadfastly local, the chips are fresh — and arguably the best available — and come in a variety of flavors: original, blue corn, toasted sesame and unsalted. Garden Fresh supports several charities. Each month a portion of its profits are donated to the Children's Hospital of Michigan Foundation.

Best Place to Buy Ice Cream

Hamtramck's ragtag fleet of motley ice cream trucks is so large, you'll likely always have "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" in earshot. Throughout a summer day, what seem to be several hundred ice cream trucks ply the streets of this 2.1-square-mile city, which means they are absolutely everywhere. If you get up close, you might even appreciate their hand-painted charm. No two are alike, and there are even a few old New York City-area Mr. Softee trucks in the bunch, all creatively decorated and patched up like it's Havana. Watch long enough and you may even see an unusual ice cream motorcycle putter along — complete with sidecar and rear-mounted freezer case. When they get close enough, sometimes they'll drown out their own prerecorded ditty, as all of the trucks seem to use the very latest in loud-engine technology to keep the ice cream cool. And they're absolutely everywhere. As one friend observed, "Hasn't that ice cream truck been by here three times in five minutes? And there's an ice cream stand on the corner!" Welcome to Hamtown, pal.

Best Southeast Asian Shopping Destination
13 Mile Rd & Dequindre, Madison Heights

This little strip mall corner of Madison Heights has it all. Grab lunch, dinner or take home a classic Vietnamese sandwich from Pho Hang. Next door, Kim Nhung Super Foods sells everything you need to make an authentic meal in your own kitchen. Further down, QQ Bakery is a little gem that offers everything from bubble tea to curry pastries, but really shines with a simple sponge cake so light and airy you'll think you're eating sweet vapors. Finally, for a quick, hot portion of pork or duck to go, visit Liang's Oriental BBQ.

Best Grocery Store Wine Selection
Western Market
447 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-546-7288;

Wine is an agricultural product and belongs in grocery stores. Unfortunately, the typical selection in these establishments is bleak, full of corporate labels. But Ferndale's Western Market brings fine wine to the people. Shelves are loaded with everything from bargain table wines to obscure, small production, natural wines that tastemakers in New York and San Francisco have been gushing over for the past couple of years.

Best Meat Market
Western Fruit & Meat Market
447 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-546-7288;

No, we're not talking about the best place for singles to hook up ... though we could and do recommend a few of those elsewhere in this issue. With all due apologies to our vegetarian friends, this terrific little boutique market in the heart of downtown Ferndale arguably has the best meat counter in the metro area. People always standing in front of it, waiting for their number to be called; the ground round seems especially popular. Personally, we dig the marinated meats — particularly those of the kebab variety ... and the roasted garlic ones are simply scrumptious. All you really need after a visit to the store is a fired-up grill.

Best Local Coffee
The Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company
389 Enterprise Court, Bloomfield Hills; 800-645-6077;

Coffee beans aren't local but coffee roasters can be. Located in Bloomfield Hills, the Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company is a small-batch micro-roaster of certified, specialty grade coffees with an emphasis on Fair Trade Organic coffees. What makes their java so good is that they roast each individual type of bean to best develop its particular flavor characteristics. Find their excellent single bean varieties and blends at gourmet markets throughout Detroit.

Best Non-Health Food Store Salad Bar
Westborn Markets
27659 Woodward Ave., Berkley; 248-547-1000;
additional locations in Dearborn and Livonia;

It's still not that easy to find a decent salad bar at a grocery store in the metro Detroit area — but we have to give this boutique market kudos for its consistency. Even Whole Foods Markets — which did well in our last two "Best of" issues — has disappointed us at times of late for inconsistency. For instance, they often don't have blue cheese at their bar ... and we're sorry, but a salad bar without blue cheese just ain't a proper salad bar. But Westborn always seems to have the exact same items — cheese, fruit, chicken and crabmeat (in addition to those healthy veggies) at their bar, seven days a week, 12 months a year. When it comes to salads, it's nice to know there's one place you can depend on in the area. Check out their nearby soup bar as well (the variety of soups for that day are listed on their website for each location). In a word: It's awesome.

Best New Detroit Export
McClure's Pickles

There's been a ton of talk over the last few years about the Detroit-Brooklyn connection, mainly as it pertains to music, fashion and such websites as — but here's a link you can really bite into: McClure's Pickles. It's the brainchild of the McClure family, spearheaded (bam!) by brothers Joe and Bob, the latter being the Brooklyn-based half of the operation, an actor who plays Jed on The Burg. Using their great-grandmother Lala's recipe, the boys started the company after years of making pickles in their tiny Michigan kitchen. But it's not just pickles —¬†relish, mustard and other McClure's products are now made just outside of Detroit, and in Brooklyn too, using as much local produce as possible. Every jar is hand-packed, the cucumbers hand-sliced, and the labels, printed by Rolling Press, use soy and vegetable inks with chemical-free plating and are created with wind-powered electricity.

Best Product of a Second Career
Deadline! — Second Block, by Paula Tutman
295 pp., $15.95, Dailey Swan Publishing, available at local bookstores, including Little Professor and Book Beat;

You've seen her perky self on WDIV-TV4 for years but she's also a writer and has been a grizzled police reporter in her successful career. And that stint on the streets with Detroit's finest — along with a vivid imagination — gave Paula Tutman at least some of the inspiration for her second novel, released this spring. Picking up where her first book left off (Deadline! published in 2008), Second Block brings fictional Detroit TV reporter P.S. Garrett back on the job of murder and mayhem. As she's covering grizzly murders, she's unaware — at least early in the book — that the killer is committing crimes so that she'll cover them. His obsession with her and her obsession with her job brings plot twists, pretzels, really, until her work as a journalist nearly kills her and saves her life. Part thriller plus part mystery equals fun read. And with a twist at the end, book three is all but guaranteed. Write on, Tutman.

Best Idea for Detroit's Creative Capitalists
Design District

In recent years, Detroit's fashion scene has built up some steam — we hear of a new designer or fashion event on a bi-monthly basis, these days. But there's a speed bump in the road. From our perspective, the only thing getting in the way of an all-out movement is some kind of real organization. So here it is, fashionistas: Find a neighborhood in Detroit and move there, all of you, within a short span of time. Call it the Detroit Fashion District, and start marketing it. This is basically organized gentrification. We know gentrification is still a dirty word for many of you, but for the city to rise from the ashes, what's in a name? Looking at Detroit fashion is to look at a cluster of islands spread across at least three counties. Think of the empowerment in geography. If you got together for an organized relocation, you'd demand places to pick up morning coffee and after-work cocktails, you'd require fabric stores, you'd need designers, pattern makers, photographers, modeling agencies and seamstresses within close proximity. You could open up boutique storefronts too. And wouldn't you want to live near where you work? Just an idea.

Best Cleaning Service
Rejoice Cleaning
27042 Sprucewood Dr., Wixom; 313-285-79191; 313-414-7428 or 313-285-7191;

You never realize how hard it is to find a decent house cleaner until you look for one. You probably never heard of Rejoice Cleaning before (they maintain a low profile) — so how do we know the work of the hubby-wife team of Chris & Toni Blaylock (plus, their co-workers) is superb? Well, for years, the crew cleaned Metro Times' offices, and some of us had them clean our homes. Take our word: The place, no matter the condition, will be immaculate when they're done, and they never fail to go beyond the call of duty. We call them true "artists" when it comes to the art of cleaning. And they're as trustworthy as they come. Rejoice is available for both businesses (including entire buildings) and private residences alike.

Best Home Air Vent/Duct Cleaning Service
Ventcorp Enterprises Incorporated
773 Argentine Rd., Howell; 248-347-9300;

There are a ton of vent/duct cleaning services in the area — they're all over those mailbox advertising circulars. Some are better than others, of course — there are many scams out there — and never trust those who quote a ridiculously low price. If it doesn't cost at least $300 for an average-sized house, it's probably not a reliable or legitimate service. But we'll tell you exactly why we prefer Ventcorp over the others. Mainly because the owner, Dave Saunders, is such a professional, up-front and courteous dude. He's friendly, upbeat and answered every damn question, explaining every single detail. Plus, recently, when one of us had an indoor air quality problem and phoned him, he answered questions, gave advice ... and didn't receive a penny for his knowledge and time. Dude takes pride in his work. How rare is that?