Best Of :: Shopping & Services
True story: A man bought his wife a $100 gift certificate from Play It Again Sports last Christmas in the hope that she would get herself either cross-country skis or a pair of ice skates. After two hours in the Southtown store, she walked out with exactly the size and style of used skis ($34.99) and skates ($24.99) she'd been looking for--plus his-and-hers ski poles that fit their respective heights ($5.99 for each pair), a used pair of ski boots ($14.99), and a brand-new pair of warm mittens (8.99). Final tab, plus tax: $101.59. With spring upon us, used inline skates are selling for as little as $19.99, or about what you'd pay for four hours of rental time. And if early-'90s skating technology doesn't cut it for you, PIAS outlets also sell the latest high-tech models brand new at competitive prices. Can't stand the thought of winter sports? A set of used golf irons goes for as low as $34.99. And don't forget that sometimes, used is better than new--think already broken-in baseball and softball gloves for $24.99.
It's a bit on the pricey side ($4.28 per video for two days, tax included, $50 deposit), but Sex World is open 24-7, a real value if you just must have "the only legal version" of Pam and Tommy Lee's home video at 2 a.m. on a Thursday. Respectful service and a huge selections of gay, S&M, and amateur videos make Sex World a pillar of the local sex culture, and the toy selection doesn't hurt--at least not in the figurative sense. Though puns for titles of videos went out with feathered hairdos, new selections do include such potential classics as Coochies Under Fire #6, Nude World Order, and an "adult" version of Othello.
It's the claustrophobic atmosphere of this well-stocked supply shop that draws us back to the West Bank again and again. Towering shelves of handmade papers and the scent of acrylics and oils surround us as we wander in search of pastels, pencils, pressboard, and pushpins. Compared to other local supply shops, the Artery's pricing is moderate and the backroom frame shop is a welcome feature. Online shoppers can access the store's goods via the Web (www.pierce-artery.com), but we prefer to browse in person: Where else could you find an actual powder-blue painter's smock?
Truth be told, you can't really knock the baby superstores. They were inevitable, for one thing--sooner or later warehouse shopping was bound to trickle down to the maternity-and-toddler set. But especially in this day and age, there's something to be said for the personal, homey touch. And you can't get much more personal and homey than Baby Grand, which makes the most of Grand Avenue's liberal zoning by operating out of an actual house. That house is crammed full of virtually everything new parents (and soon-to-be-new parents) could possibly want. Carriages and strollers. High chairs. Walkers, bouncers, and those wonderful contraptions that allow you to carry Junior like a front- or back-pack. Cribs. More bedding than you could shake a rattle at. And, yes, rattles, not to mention all sorts of other toys. If you don't know exactly what you want, service is prompt, solicitous, and knowledgeable. If you do know exactly what you want and Baby Grand doesn't stock it, proprietor Patty Roedler will do her utmost to track it down for you. A handmade organic cotton crib bumper set with matching comforter and dust ruffle? No problem! The deep discounters may be able to undercut Patty's prices, but they can't touch her crew when it comes to ambiance, quality of merchandise, and all-around helpfulness.
Lately we've noticed a few copies of Details and Vibe showing up among the Playboys and National Geographics in the tiny waiting area of Lauren Coleman's barber shop, but otherwise very little has changed in the 35 years he's been a fixture at the bustling and continually evolving intersection of Lake and Lyndale. Keep in mind, though: Lauren's a barber and he runs a shop, not a salon. He's also a one-man gang and doesn't take appointments, so you'll just have to sit over there and wait with the others. Expect a great haircut at an unbeatable price ($11 the last time we got clipped), and conversation that runs the gamut from the provocative to the prosaic.
We're not wild about all Schwinn cycles, but the high-end models--and the GT and Gary Fisher lines also stocked by this Macalester-neighborhood shop--make it worth the trip to the corner of Snelling and Selby. Serious cyclists and beginning pedalers alike pack the inventory-stuffed shop, scanning its small but thorough selection of helmets, accessories, kiddie carts, and repair tools. Even bargain hunters will find a deal or two on clothing and gizmos in the small clearance corner.