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We are accustomed to running into friendly firefighters shopping for dinner at our neighborhood Safeway, but when we spotted a gaggle of firemen near the front of the line at Last Chance on a recent visit, we got a little uppity. “Jeez,” we said (luckily only to ourselves), “the bargains are good here, but really, shouldn’t those firefighters be adjusting their hoses or waxing their poles instead of shopping?”Then we got close enough to see the victim on the floor. Given the pushing and shoving that goes on at this shopping mecca folks come from all over the country (indeed, the world) to pick through the Nordstrom wares on sale at the one and only Last Chance outlet you gotta figure that sooner or later, someone was going to pass out. We certainly hope he or she is okay, but we didn’t stick around to find out. We were on a quest for a certain Prada purse that day. Whether it’s Ugg boots or Taryn Rose flats, you just might find your dream item at Last Chance for a fraction of the original price. You never do know what will be on the racks, and the selection changes all day long, so get a physical and get over to Last Chance.

In the summer of 2009, husband and wife team Liam James T. Murtagh and Emily Spetrino Murtagh took over the old Art One space and opened this novelty shop that fuses two sweet things: vinyl records and candy. The Murtaghs, who play in a number of punk and ska bands, focus their records on those two genres as well as new wave. And there are all sorts of sugar loaded confections, ranging from jars of eye popping candy to edible mustaches. The space doubles as the couple’s living quarters, so they’re open only in the evening when they get home from their day jobs. BTW, don’t be alarmed to see the Murtaghs’ 2 year old son, Iggy, running around the shop and being crazy playful. He won’t bite.

Tucked behind the yummy Paisley Violin Caf is this retail co op that’s housed in totally adorable structures that weren’t so adorable at one time: The World War II era cottages once held German and Italian prisoners of war. However, you won’t feel anything weird or creepy when visiting the buildings that were moved from 19th Avenue and McDowell Road and remodeled by Gina and Derrick Suarez. Instead, you may very well experience local art heaven in shops such as Urban Art Florist and Wicked Wear Studio and Gallery. The collective often unites to hold special events like the Paisley Town Art Festival as well as special dealios during Art Detour.

We shop. A lot. Which is why we figured we’d easily find a new winner in the “Best Boutique” category this year. No go. In good faith we simply can’t stray from our favorite, Frances. Georganne Bryant doesn’t just run the cutest boutique in town she’s started a cottage industry when it comes to community support. But usually, truth be told, it’s Georganne who has the good ideas. If you don’t care about all that community building, buy local hoo ha, come to Frances because Georganne has good taste, along with good ideas. She stocks the sweetest collection of clothing, housewares, jewelry, and paper goods this town has ever seen. Now you can shop on Frances’ website and our pocketbook (super cute, purchased at Frances) is really doomed. But be sure to sign up for Georganne’s mailing list, because twice a year, she has a really good sale. Just don’t go telling the whole world or anything, ‘kay?

We’ll follow Bunky wherever it goes. And we have. Owner Rachel Richards Malloy has kept us on our toes since she opened this is her third location. Today, her teeny shop is located across the street from the Phoenix Art Museum and shares a home with Matt Pool’s Giant Coffee in the Merz building. The store is filled with designer clothing and accessories and is cleverly arranged to fit even more inventory than she had before Bunky now carries books and housewares. None other than Hayes McNeil from Plus Minus Studio designed her modular space. The walls are lined with salvaged wood (you can even spy an old Pepsi can nailed into one of the wood panels). Bunky’s got designer threads in a designer space with designer coffee, all in one spot? Oh, man, we are so there.

This cute girl named Olive needed a place to shack up, and turns out Paris Envy had some room upstairs,
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so a partnership of sorts was born. And we’re so glad. This trend of sharing space is a wonderful byproduct of a slow economy, and we hope it keeps classy indie businesses like Paris Envy and Olive in Paris (the latest project from the ladies who brought us the sadly short lived Olive Annie on Seventh Street) going strong. We drooled over a pair of vintage lamps at Paris Envy, a housewares shop with a shabby chic French (obviously) vibe, and upstairs, we debated over a piece of handmade jewelry or a funky multi colored belt. Both stores have so much style and personality and . . . sorry, but you’ll have to excuse us because we need to go back and see whether those lamps are still there. Be right back!

Grand Avenue arty types can’t get enough of Beatrice Moore’s chenille wreaths and wildly colorful pi so it’s a good thing Moore has opened this zany art gallery/boutique/vintage craft supply shop in an old pharmacy. In addition to Moore’s famously faboo Styrofoam wedding cakes, Kooky Krafts offers for sale work by other craft centric local artists, all chosen by Moore herself. Bob Adams is offering a line of rubber dolls with real pubic hair; Tony Zahn, Moore’s life partner for the past 20 plus years, is selling assemblage pieces made from vintage ceramic planters and chunks of colored cement. Artist Tom Cooper has created a number of brightly hued tikis made from toilet paper rolls. There are elf face studded wall hangings and macram baby heads and sculptures made from old shopping carts and, well, everything kooky at this cool craft shop, including supplies to make your own.

Shopping at MADE isn’t just retail therapy it’s a community happening. Cindy Dach curates a small but meaningful collection of crafts, books, and stuff you never knew you needed, along with a magazine rack filled with hard to find art mags. In so doing, she has made this little old house a magnet for Roosevelt Row mixing, mingling, and merchandising. Whether it’s ornaments handmade by kids at the holidays or a show of artist made mobiles, it’s all affordable and irresistible and our only wish is that there were places just like MADE all up and down RoRow.

Okay, shop owner Indigo Nielsen, you’ve gone and wrangled a roomful of vintage wear (Look! A pink plaid circle skirt! Hey! Are those mint in box saddle shoes?) that has us yearning for 1957 all over again. And you’ve reminded us, with your gracefully displayed boomerang table and nylon frieze sofa set, that the ’50s weren’t just about kitsch. And you’ve given us back our childhood by selling us the very same leather strapped lunch pail we had when we were a kid. Now what? Do you want us to genuflect? Because we will. We love your shop, and we can’t seem to stay away from it.

You know that Red Hot Robot has awesome designer toys. You know it’s got a wide selection of vector art. It’s not short on tiny trinkets, either. One of our favorite things to impulse buy is Japanese busts hidden in cardboard boxes. Which Gundam robot will you get? Is it a Zaku Warrior? Is it a Force Impulse Gundam? You’re going to have to buy one and open the box to find out. For those of you with a mind for engineering (or at least figuring out how to put stuff together) you’ll appreciate the fact that each box of parts must be pieced together to make the full bust.

Sebastien Millon had us at “hello.” Really. As in his etsy shop greeting: “Hello! My name is Sebastien Millon and I draw bears (and because of my amazing artistic versatility, I sometimes draw other things, like rabbits and squirrels). Big time news! I’m expanding into tote bags . . .”This guy who hails from the Valley, lucky us is funny, right? And you can wear his heart on your chest, in the form of his polar bear T shirts, now available at MADE art boutique and Red Hot Robot. Our favorite is a child size shirt with a big bear breathing fire while juggling several little kids. But that’s just us. You might prefer Millon’s other images equally cuddly looking, at first glance. There’s always a subversive message behind them, and that’s just fine by us. Keep an eye out for some dastardly lemurs.
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