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Shopping

The Real Deals - Reader Picks

Paper or plastic, our readers pick out the top of the shops

Noir Leather
Green Brain
Dixieland Flea Market
Showtime Clothing
SEE ALSO
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Published 4/22/2009

BEST VINTAGE CLOTHING

Lost & Found Vintage
510 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-548-6154; lostandfoundvintage.com

Stop digging through your eccentric aunt's closet for vintage clothing and accessories. Lost & Found has enough backward-gazing apparel to teleport you into the past faster than a Family Guy flashback. The eager-eyed, gracious staff makes even the most inexperienced vintage neophyte feel like an old hand. Lost & Found prides itself on selling only the most authentic clothing from the 1920s to the 1980s, thanks to the owner's frequent shopping pilgrimages to all points Michigan.


BEST INDIE MEN'S CLOTHIER
BEST INDIE WOMAN'S CLOTHIER

Showtime Clothing
5708 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-875-9280; myspace.com/showtime_detroit

For 20 years, Showtime Clothing has been a kind of staple for Detroit's boho underground — a not-so-quiet treasure trove of original and idiosyncratic garb, a winning collection of new retro, ersatz couture, rock 'n' roll, slutty, vintage, killer footwear and more — for nearly every rank of artist and musician. Its walls and racks are crammed. Some of it resembles the psychedelic boutiques of Swinging London's '60's, with fabrics and clothes that would've hung on Hendrix or Funkadelic or the Stones' Brian Jones. Showtime's owner, Dan Tatarian, has been called a "visionary" among Detroit-area indie merchants.

See, this shop, which sits almost clandestinely on Woodward Avenue near Wayne State University, is becoming a kind of cultural fixture too; an indie shop on which to hang identities and, like a good record store, a place for self-definition.

Is that a lot to assign to a clothier? Maybe. But Tatarian says his place "has been a stomping ground for all manner of hippies, glam, and all manner of rock n' roller. Really, everybody."

For Detroit "everybody" is a mighty diverse bunch, from rap and rock stars to street urchins and stage hags. "We've had pimps buy business suits and rings," Tatarian says. "Businessmen from downtown who want an alternative lifestyle — all walks of life."

So Tatarian is commemorating 20 years of serving Detroit's alternative scenes. He must be feeling like a relic. "I don't feel old, if that's what you're saying. No, I feel strong. Strong as a slug."

In its 20 years, Showtime is one of the last indies amid the dismal glitter of large chainstores (um, Hot Topic anyone?) that long ago hijacked "rock 'n' roll appeal" for kids who didn't see its moneyed manipulation. Showtime's an indie and proud of it.

"Showtime and Noir Leather in Royal Oak are some of the only shops left in Michigan that cater to the truly alternative," Tatarian says.

Others beyond the 313 understand. In fact, gobs of out-of-state bands (many from the UK and Europe) shop Showtime each year. Vinnie Dombroski from Sponge and Crud has been donning Showtime apparel since the early '90s. "If I went out to a gig tonight and I walked out there without my Showtime clothes," the singer says, "I wouldn't have a thing to wear, you know? I mean, the clothes I buy from Tatarian are my wardrobe, man.

You know, it takes time to get somewhere," Tatarian says, talking about his 20-year run so far. "But when you do, you find something real. And hopefully Showtime is real.

Purchase an item for $50 or more to enter the Showtime (5708 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-875-9280) raffle. The winner will be picked on Friday, May 1. First prize is a Fender Stratocaster. —Kent Alexander


BEST THRIFT SHOP

Salvation Army
salvationarmyusa.org

The Salvation Army's the granddaddy of all resale stores, the place where bargain hunters, the broke, and the teens and tweens who've recently discovered ironic '80s T-shirts come to browse the myriad of goods on hand — kitchenware, clothing, shoes, furniture, books, records, audio supplies, kitschy knickknacks ... the list goes on. All items are donated and then sold for cheap, with the proceeds going to fund the organization's adult rehabilitation centers, long-term residential facilities that rehabilitate through a program of work and religious indoctrination. So when you buy that T-shirt with the bedazzled lions on it, you're not just adding whimsy to your wardrobe, you're helping society's unfortunate and spreading the good word, all religious dogma aside. Hallelujah!


BEST STORE FOR HIP-HOP ATTIRE
BEST PLACE TO SATISFY A SHOE FETISH

Mr. Alan's
24734 Southfield Rd., Southfield; 248-559-7818; for more locations, see mralans.com

It may be difficult to disassociate Mr. Alan's from its well-known commercials — sensory assaults that featured an enthused narrator proclaiming the ever-memorable, "29 or two for 50." But there's so much more to Mr. Alan's than the hyperactive commercials and cartoon logo. What began in 1974 as a small boutique with an emphasis on customer service has expanded into a chain of eight stores selling the latest kicks and freshest hip-hop threads to the fashion-savvy throughout metro Detroit. But despite its expansion, Mr. Alan's has retained its commitment to both superlative customer service — as evidenced by their knowledgeable and damn-near obsequious staff — and to affordable prices, best witnessed at their legendary sales, where designer names can be found at bargain-bin rates.

 


BEST PLACE TO BUY EYEGLASSES

SEE
160 S. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-723-1900; for more locations, visit seeeyewear.com

Since Richard Golden, one-time owner of D.O.C. and dancing star of their sexy specs ads, started SEE (Selective Eyewear Elements) in 1998, the store spread from coast to coast, outfitting the fashionably nearsighted at more than 20 locations from Boston to L.A. The concept is simple — one-of-a-kind, designer eyewear at reasonable prices, what Golden refers to as "hip without the rip." The company built its rep through its trend-savvy merch, personal service — customers receive personalized thank-you notes — and a commitment to community.


BEST PLACE TO BUY LINGERIE

Victoria's Secret
Various locations, see victoriassecret.com

We're sure everyone frequents the website and the stores for the affordable but high-quality lingerie, not necessarily the models. Right. Regardless, the Ohio-based retailer's a fave for fetching styles, colors and sizes that hold up well (no pun, mister!), perhaps designed for actual wearing and not just quick removal 30 seconds after they're modeled.


BEST NAIL SALON
BEST HAIR SALON

Curl Up & Dye
4215 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-833-5006

After a long day at the office, wouldn't you love to just curl up and dye? That's exactly what metro Detroiters are doing to relax at Midtown's newest salon. Co-owners Jennifer Willemsen and Ginny Smith opened up shop in early December and already have more than 500 new clients (not to mention their two Best Of wins). Along with cuts, color, trimmings and tamings, you can throw in a little extra pampering with a manicure, pedicure, waxing, massage or facial. And with smile-inducing prices, why not grab a few impulse buys, such as Curl Up & Dye's own private line of completely organic products.


BEST FLEA MARKET

Dixieland Market Place
2045 Dixie Hwy., Waterford; 248-338-3220

A scavenger's dream, Dixieland Market Place is the place to find whatever gem you're searching for, whether it's a 1944 Schwinn Starlet bicycle or a 1960s dining set. Not on the hunt for anything specific? Just browse the massive amounts of jewelry, clothing, electronics, antiques, musical instruments, rare coins and sports memorabilia up for grabs. Admission and parking are free, so shoppers can while away the hours without having to spend a dime. Store hours are Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, so it's best to start early and leave late.


BEST MAKEUP COUNTER

MAC
Various locations, see maccosmetics.com

Started in Toronto in 1984, Make-up Art Cosmetics, better known simply as MAC, has become one of the leading cosmetic lines of the fashion industry, thanks to its dizzying array of vibrant hues and its durability. MAC — now a subsidiary of Estée Lauder — built and maintains its chi-chi status through a gaggle of celebrity endorsements, getting the seal of approval from the likes of Boy George, Sandra Bernhardt, RuPaul, Missy Elliott and even Barbie. The company's committed to social issues too, raising money for people living with HIV/AIDS, an eye toward recycling and creating lines of cruelty-free makeup.


BEST ADULT NOVELTY

Noir Leather
124 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-541-3979; www.noirleather.com

Get your stimulus package at this kinky suburban establishment our dear readers never get tired of lauding. Is it the selection of masks, paddles and milking sticks? Strap-on dildos for your girlfriend or bend-over boyfriend? The sexy clothes? The bimonthly fetish parties? Ah, Detroit, the New Depression can't dampen our libidos! One Grosse Pointer in our poll admitted to shopping there for her repeated bridesmaid duties: nipple stickers to prevent her little buttons from popping through all those silk dresses!


BEST TATTOO SHOP

Eternal Tattoos
27590 Plymouth Rd., Livonia; 734-425-0428; for more locations, see eternaltattoos.com

Apparently, our readers' love for Eternal Tattoos is as permanent as the ink they've received there (wah-wah-waaah). This perennial winner has been altering the bodies of metro Detroiters since 1980, now operating five locations and even providing laser tattoo removal. Eternal's founder, Terry "Tramp" Welker has a line of machines of his own design, available online along with Eternal ink and the brand new Welker power supply (oh, goody!). Last but not least, Eternal also hosts the annual Motor City Tattoo Convention, which brings top-notch artists here every winter.


BEST SMOKE SHOP
BEST HEAD SHOP

BDT Pipe & Tobacco Place
21640 John R Rd., Hazel Park;
248-542-6110; 27419 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-776-5233

Now that the Mitten has made medicinal marijuana legal (oh, joy!), the demand for new and interesting ways of ingesting said medicine is destined to increase. Enter BDT Pipe & Tobacco Place. BDT owner and former employee Randy Hauck has experienced first-hand an increase in vaporizer (smokeless ingestion device) sales due to the recent passing of the law. On the recreational end, BDT provides everything the smoking connoisseur may need ... except tobacco.


BEST BODY-PIERCING SHOP

Lucky Monkey Tattoo Parlour
308 S. Ashley St., Ann Arbor; 734-623-8200; luckymonkeytattoo.com

The professional staff is continually getting certified and sent to seminars to make sure they are giving you exactly what your heart, lip, ear, eyebrow, tongue and health desires. Using the highest quality titanium products, the passionate piercers here will make sure that, from start to finish — and even in the weeks to follow — you get exactly what you want, where you want it and how you want it.

BEST MICHIGAN-MADE PRODUCT

Better Made Chips
Found at party stores, supermarkets, bars and in our readers' cupboards; bmchips.com

Since its conception in 1930, Better Made Chips have been a staple of backyard barbecues, the sole nourishment at drunken house parties, the favored pick of office vending-machine raids and the ultimate munchy satisfier. The preeminent Detroit snack food is made from Michigan-grown potatoes and is also the official chip of the Pistons, the Lions and the Tigers.


BEST COMIC BOOK STORE

Green Brain
13210 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-9444

Nearly a decade in, Green Brain owners Katie and Dan Merritt like to think of comic books as a form of literature and conduct business as such. You won't find rare first additions locked away in a five-inch thick steel vault, but what you will find is a clean and family-friendly atmo with an emphasis on reading and using your brain.


BEST INDIE BOOK SHOP

John K. King Used and Rare Books
901 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-0622; rarebooklink.com.

He's opened satellite stores in Detroit's Cultural Center and Ferndale because, well, the four floors of his main building and the warehouse he bought next door just weren't big enough to house the million-or-so books John King has for sale. Sure you can search the company's website for titles, but getting lost in the stacks is a Detroit tradition. Go in for a book, come out with a dozen others and $1 cardboard black-and-gold moose head like one of our readers did.


BEST VIDEO SELECTION

Thomas Video & DVD
4732 Rochester Rd., Royal Oak; 248-280-2833; thomasvideo.com

In case you missed it, Thomas Video moved back to their roots in January, leaving its Clawson location of 17 years for Royal Oak (a whole half mile down the road!). If you missed the moving sale — where thousands of rare, out-of-print, new and used movies from Thomas' legendary collection were sold — well, you've shot yourself in the foot. And if you missed the grand reopening sale, you shot yourself in the other foot. As it stands, Thomas still offers more than 40,000 titles — mainstream hits, foreign films and the weirdo cult flicks the place has been known for since opening as the first video rental store in the country way back in 1974.


BEST SHOP FOR GAMERS

GameStop
Various locations, see gamestop.com

There's something to be said about being the world's largest video game and entertainment software retailer — GameStop has all of the newest hardware and software, as well as unlimited resources for novice gamers. It also owns the intensely popular Game Informer magazine and has used its 5,100 locations to create the "GameStop Nation," which consists of thousands of gamers. Instead of using those beat-up games as coasters and Frisbees, gamers can sell them to GameStop and purchase used games at reduced prices. And GameStop has yet to feel the Vulcan nerve pinch of the economic slump, recording record sales and earnings in 2008. Wow.


BEST PLACE TO BUY ROLLER BLADES/SKATEBOARDS

Modern Skate and Surf
29862 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-545-5700; 1500 N. Stephenson Hwy., Royal Oak; 248-546-PARK; modernskate.com

So you want to be the next Rob Dyrdek, but you don't have the proper gear? You can do one of two things: find an enormous, ex-military friend to create a show with or go to Modern Skate and Surf and buy all the essentials for transforming yourself into a true thrasher. Modern Skate and Surf was established in Royal Oak in 1979, and soon became one of only 30 stores in the world to carry in-line skates. With a team of professional skaters called Team Modern and a skate park built by world class X-Games ramp builders in their home town, Modern Skate and Surf caters to those in need of a serious session.


BEST ALL-AROUND RECORD STORE
BEST RECORD STORE FOR FANATICS

Record Time
27360 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-775-1550; recordtime.com

Forget about rock stars who frequent the joint. Forget that Kid and Em browsed the racks, buying records that may have aided their journey on to riches and infamy. Forget about the back room where the Detroit electronic music scene was basically birthed, headed by Richie Hawtin, Jon Aquaviva, DJ Munk, Dan Bell and Claude Young. Forget that the place has been around more than a quarter century. Forget all that junk, 'cause Record Time's a great place to buy records. Period.


BEST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT STORE

Guitar Center
31940 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-296-6161; for more locations, see guitarcenter.com

For a chain store, this place has street cred. Many employees are local rock stars who can answer tech questions that some huge dude eating a sandwich behind a glass counter probably wouldn't know. Guitar Center encourages customers to touch the merch, and they have a glorious room dedicated to the most beautiful-sounding instrument of all — that'd be the acoustic guitar, kids. They want customers to play before buying (and why wouldn't you?), but don't sit down play the intro to "D'yer Mak'er," because no one cares about your knowledge of Page licks.


BEST PLACE TO BUY A BICYCLE

The Hub of Detroit
3611 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-879-5073; thehubofdetroit.org

The Hub of Detroit grew out of Back Alley Bikes, a youth program designed to get low-income youths their very own bicycles. The volunteer organization needed a way to fund their philanthropic endeavors and saw a need in Detroit for a bike shop. So the Hub was born, killing two birds with one ultra-cool stone. Not only do Detroiters now have a place to purchase a used bike, fix up an old set of wheels and to buy biking accessories, but all proceeds from the shop go directly to Back Alley Bikes. The staff — which consists primarily of volunteers —runs a variety of classes and programs for area youth, including having kids 13-18 clock volunteer hours in the shop to earn their own bike.


BEST FLORIST

Blumz
503 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, 248-398-5130; 1300 Broadway, Detroit, 313-964-5777; www.blumz.com

Between the banana tree and the refrigerator of fresh flowers at the downtown location, we found colorful vases we just had to have. Perhaps we were poisoned by the sweet smells or enchanted from the sunshine pouring in the windows on two sides of the store. Tucked in a corner location between Gratiot Avenue and the stadium area, the Detroit location is the smaller of the two Blumz — the larger Ferndale site is where most of the wedding orders and bigger arrangements are done. But both stores offer potted plants, fresh bouquets, delivery services, cards and other assorted accessories that will brighten up your home and office.


BEST JEWELRY STORE

Tapper's Diamonds & Fine Jewelry
6337 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield; 248-932-770; 27716 Novi Rd., Novi; 248-465-1800; tappers.com

Founded by brothers Howard and Steven Tapper in 1977, Tapper's Diamonds & Fine Jewelry offers a large selection of high-quality diamonds, designer fine jewelry and luxury timepieces — otherwise known as really expensive watches. The 16,000-square-foot location in West Bloomfield, complete with a beautifully immense showroom, signals Tapper's status as one of the premier independent jewelers in the country, achieved through superlative customer service (including a no-hassle return policy) and a selection that's wide enough to satisfy almost anyone's taste.


BEST JEWELRY DESIGNER

Abracadabra Jewelry & Gem Gallery
205 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-4848; abracadabrajewelry.com

Specializing in jewelry design and high quality gemstones, Abracadabra has operated in Ann Arbor — in one form or another — for 35 years. Owner Steven Lesse and his staff help customers design their own bling or choose from one of the shop's custom lines, such as the popular Celtic-inspired wedding bands. Abracadabra also sells Mokume-Gane rings, which are made using an ancient Japanese metalworking technique. Hell, nothing says I love you like a wedding band fit for a samurai's sword.


BEST PLACE TO BUY FURNITURE

Art Van Furniture
Various locations, visit artvan.com

Art Van is a Michigan exclusive and the prices in their Clearance Center make it easy to scrap your old hand-me-down furniture and splurge on a couch that doesn't smell like ass or long-dead pets. Web surfers can view what's hot in the Clearance Center online and shipping prices are relatively low — even free on select pieces. There are 30 locations and the free online room planner allows customers a chance to make a virtual blueprint of any room before they buy a single piece.


BEST STORE AUDIO/VISUAL GEAR

Best Buy
Various locations, see bestbuy.com

Upon the collapse of one of its leading competitors, this monolithic audio and video chain has grown yet more powerful. But no worries, Best Buy will match any local competitor's prices on just about everything in the store — while there are still competitors left, that is. And sure, loads of anecdotal Internet grumbling and a class-action lawsuit in New York question how Best Buy puts their price-matching policy into practice, but if all you need is a hi-def TV or a new car stereo — no questions asked — Best Buy's staff will hook you up.


BEST ATTORNEY

Geoffrey Fieger
19390 W. 10 Mile Rd., Southfield; 248-355-5555; fiegerlaw.com

"I've been covered in the media in flattering and unflattering ways," he says in his commercial. Now in his 30th year of practicing law, Geoff Fieger (brother to Knack leader Doug) continues to be Metro Times reader fave. That's saying something, with Detroit Free Press counsel Herschel Fink fighting for the watchdog journalists there, William Goodman managing the Detroit City Council's legal affairs through the mayoral scandal and University of Michigan's Bridget McCormack tackling wrongful convictions without the luxury of DNA in her cases. To keep up with Fieger's work, dig on his blog: fiegertime.com.


BEST ECLECTIC GIFT SHOP

Middle Earth
1209 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-769-1488; middleearthgifts.com

The array of products available at Middle Earth can be succinctly summarized by the shop's slogan — harming only the humorless. From mugs to bumper stickers, Middle Earth offers seemingly endless opportunities to amuse and bemuse with products adorned with a snappy and irreverent slogan.


BEST CAR WASH

Jax Kar Wash
28845 Telegraph Rd., Southfield; 248-353-4700; for more locations, see jaxkarwash.net

This family-owned business has been making cars sparkle since 1954. Currently, Jax boasts six locations in the metro Detroit area, where its innumerable sales and promos — free washes on birthdays, a 48-hour clean guarantee, weekly coupons to the email list, monthly and weekly passes, punch cards, Ladies Day Wednesdays (just to name a few) — make it a recurring Best Of winner.


BEST PLACE TO BUY A CAR

Howard Cooper Imports
2601 S. State St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-3825; howardcooper.com

Excellent customer service, superior sales, top-quality training and high facility image are the major criteria in which a dealer wins Honda's most prestigious and coveted award — the Honda President's Award. Howard Cooper Honda has snagged the award seven times. Dig Cooper's website; browse new and used rides and other car needs.


BEST PLACE TO BUY A MOTORCYCLE

Motor City Harley-Davidson
24900 Grand River Ave., Farmington Hills 248-473-7433, motorcityharley.com

Whether you prefer a Street Bob or a Fat Bob, a Night Train or a Cross Bones, southeast Michigan's fave motorcycle dealer can help. Motor City Harley-Davidson has brand-new bikes and pre-owned rides along with a full complement of accessories. The maintenance department will keep your bike purring. If you're new to riding, try the "Learn to Ride" program. If you need a refresher, there's a "Skilled Rider" course. And if you're worried about supporting businesses that support others, Motor City Harley-Davidson along with its HOG Chapter are among the nation's leading dealerships for charitable contributions.


BEST HEALTH FOOD STORE
BEST PLACE TO BUY ORGANIC FOOD

Whole Foods
2918 Walton Blvd., Rochester Hills; 248-371-1400; wholefoodsmarkets.com; with locations in Ann Arbor, Troy and West Bloomfield

Smokehouses, grills, wine bars, brick-ovens, gelato bars, coffee bars, cooking classrooms — the various extras that Whole Foods provides has transformed grocery shopping from a chore into an experience. The exact list of amenities varies from store to store, but every location offers huge selections of organic produce (with emphasis on locally-grown) hormone-free meats, artisan cheeses, fresh seafood, gourmet prepared foods and an extensive line of cruelty-free bath and body products. Each store also hosts a variety of events and specials throughout the week, from store tours to massages (yes, massages).


BEST GOURMET GROCERY STORE

Holiday Market
1203 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-541-1414; holiday-market.com

If fresh sushi, cheese, wine and pastries are your comfort foods, then a trip to Holiday Market might soothe you into contentment. Easily accessible, not too pricey, offering a variety of healthy and sinful treats and staples, the Royal Oak grocery is more a way of life than a place to shop. It's got cooking classes, a wine club and an online newsletter to remind you just how good a trip to the grocery can be. We've gone in to grab lunch from their deli and walked out with enough treats for an hors d'ouvres spread for the neighborhood. Beware!

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