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Best Of 2012

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Surplus Store

Gas masks and googly eyes. Bowling pins and beakers. Ax-Man Surplus has it all and then some, and it should be your first stop whether you're a do-it-yourselfer, you've been assigned to procure props for a local indie film, or your first-grader has come home and announced, "Teacher says I have to bring a hundred of something to class tomorrow." Plus, each of Ax-Man's four metro locations offers a great way to waste an afternoon, browsing the bins and buckets as they're updated each week and reading the punchy handwritten signs that give Trader Joe's punny cheese tags a run for their money. Say you don't need a hundred roller-blade wheels or a thousand swizzle sticks because you already have a box of both in your garage? Ax-Man also buys old junk and will happily turn over your trash so it can become someone else's treasure.

1639 University Ave. W., St. Paul, 55104
MAP
651-646-8653
Best Clothing Store (Women)

Building a decent women's wardrobe in Minneapolis/St.Paul has its challenges. We're rich with thrift, vintage, and boutique stores, but finding a one-stop shop for women that's moderately priced is a bit harder. We do have one option that falls between a major department store and an on-sale retail outlet: Nordstrom Rack at Mall of America. It's conveniently located at an entrance, so you don't have to look like one of the mall's infamous speed-walkers to get there. Nordstrom Rack, also known to fashionistas as "Nordstrom Crack" because of its addictive nature, has designer duds at lower prices than the flagship store and features a wide array of sizes. There are even special events for those with shoe sizes in the double digits. Accessories are a great buy here, as purses and jewelry are always top-notch, and if you need underthings or even hair and body care, there's plenty of that, too. Ladies as busy as they are stylish will appreciate the Rack when there's no time to stop off at different shops all over town.

324 W. Market, Minneapolis, 55425
MAP
952-854-3131
Best Clothing Store (Men)

Though economists, politicians, and pundits alike swear our nation is on the upswing, with each month's again-overdrawn checking account and increasingly fraying pair of jeans, it's abundantly clear: Many of us are still in recession mode. So while some might consider the "best clothing store" to mean fine men's attire, this year we advise you to set your sights on the outer-ring suburbs and Mills Fleet Farm. With locations in Brooklyn Park, Blaine, and Oakdale, the Brainerd-based upper Midwest chain sells not only hardware, tools, farm supplies, and hunting and fishing equipment, but also Dickies, Wrangler, Levi's, Carhartt, and CAT. At Fleet Farm, a pair of jeans will set you back only $15 to $40, and they'll hold up better than the distressed, pre-torn styles you'll find at the mall and in many boutiques. Consider its selection of bib overalls and trapper hats, duck jackets and flannels, and you'll see it's the real deal for working-class fashion that's been all the rage from '90s grunge to '10s hipsters — a style many Minnesotans will assert hasn't gone out of fashion since their grandpappy's day.

8400 Lakeland Ave. N., Brooklyn Park, 55445
MAP
763-424-9668
Best Boutique
Cliché

What other boutique in town acts as an epicenter (or catalyst, really) for an entire fashion scene? Cliché's "Avoid the Grey" annual event was especially creative this year, featuring models in peep-show-style booths, and the boutique is always the highlight at the Envision Artopia art and fashion showcase. Owners DeLayna and Josh Sundberg also support local clothing and jewelry designers by featuring their lines in the store. Cliché houses more than 100 local and international labels and puts forward a tone that's both classic and stylish. If you're looking for a unique outfit or accessory to show off at a special event or even on a date, Cliché will have you covered.

2403 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, 55405
MAP
612-870-0420
Best Used Clothing Store

It's always gratifying to know that a business cares about its customers and has its ear to the street. According to owners Allison Bross-White and Rahsaan White, b.'s mission is to fill the void of hip-hop-centered businesses. They have outfitted both men and women for nearly two years, but the shop has also helped the local scene thrive by supporting events and collecting donations for a group of artists to visit South by Southwest. As you enter the doors, jams from Desdamona to Doomtree can be heard and works by local artists can be seen on the wall. Browsing the small yet thoughtful selection of clothing, shoes, and accessories will impress you with a blend of vintage, basics, and high-fashion pieces from local designers. You may even find that special Gucci purse or P.O.S.'s sneakers, at a fraction of the retail value. New inventory is posted on the store's Facebook page, and if you ask nicely they'll put it on hold for you.

5456 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, 55419
MAP
612-824-1292
Best Outlet Store

Len Druskin's value-oriented subsidiary brand, Len (which is different from its City Center Outlet and Southdale Clearance stores), opened a fourth location in the Mall of America last August, on the third floor next to Nordstrom. The company's newest concept store, which also has locations at City Center, Southdale, and Rosedale, offers designer merchandise and brands from Len Druskin, from the Len Druskin Outlet, and a wide selection of career wear, coats, accessories, and shoes, all for 50 percent off (or more). Walk into the shop and you'll be amazed by the selection and organization of the clothes. It's not a picker's paradise, because it doesn't need to be; there's plenty of selection, and not just in oddball sizes, so you don't need to dig and dig to find your prize.

8100 24th Ave. S., Bloomington, 55425
MAP
952-358-6969
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Best Surplus Store: Ax-Man Surplus

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