Shopping & Services


    Wet Paint

    Nestled along the row of specialty shops on St. Paul's Grand Avenue, Wet Paint is an independently owned one-stop artists' shop stocked to the ceiling with just about every type of acrylic, brush, canvas, and paper a craftsperson could require (the place claims an inventory of 30,000-plus products). Wet Paint is especially well known for its sheet paper department, which… More >>

    This is the place to go when that sweet infant or well-behaved child earns herself a generous gift. Finery for your favorite little tyke or sweet pea is hand-picked from the likes of Cash Cash, Cake Walk, Mulberry Bush, and a host of other houses of kiddy couture. Playthings by Manhattan Toy Company, Crocodile Creek, Gund, TY, et al. line… More >>

    Van Dusen Center

    If, like us, you use LaSalle as the staggerway from the Minneapolis nightlife to your cat-pee-scented Uptown hovel, then you've passed by the VanDusen Center a million times and thought, "Damn, I wonder what the inside of that place looks like?" Well, here's your golden chance to find out. The 1892 mansion has been fully renovated and offers king or… More >>

    Freewheel Bike Shop

    Sure, this West Bank institution offers a cerebellum-blowing selection of bicycles; ditto for lights, bells, mirrors, racks, saddles, lube, heart rate monitors, riding gear, and just about every other piece of bike-related paraphernalia you can imagine. Hell, they even stock a trike and a couple of different unicycles for those who find two-wheeled conveyances too conventional. But it's the shop's… More >>

    Saint Sabrina's

    There's a bit of a fetishist in all of us, and Saint Sabrina's proves it every time a customer walks through its gates, er, doors--despite whether they come to peer or get punctured. Standout clothing, shoes that could pass as artwork, and artwork in the form of tattoos and body piercing are their business, and damned if they don't do… More >>

    Ruminator Books

    Huge inventories and convenient locations have their allure, so yeah, from time to time we find ourselves in Borders or Barnes & Noble, too. But there's no substitute for the authentic, independent bookstore experience. Ruminator Books, our perennial winner, has all the right elements: the impassioned, handwritten endorsements that decorate the shelves, the knowledgeable staff of dedicated bibliophiles, and a… More >>

    Book House

    At first blush, this Dinkytown favorite presents the chaotic aspect of an overgrown jungle, with books spilling off the shelves and flooding the floors. But take a few minutes to acclimate yourself, and Book House's organizational schemata resolves into something resembling order: literature and the humanities on the first floor; history, philosophy, and the physical sciences in the basement. Prices… More >>

    Fun Sisters

    Fun Sisters (not to be confused with Sister Fun) is open only one weekend a month or by appointment--but it's well worth the scheduling. The small south Minneapolis storefront offers a wide array of designer knockoff handbags, trendy accessories, and costume jewelry in both classic and outrageous stylings. Every four- to seven-year-old girl we've encountered since a Fun Sisters… More >>

    T&Y Car Wash

    There are all kinds of joints around the metro that will get your car clean. Basic wash, interior/exterior, wash with wax, and the somewhat mysterious undercoat--the options are limitless. But how many of these places make you feel that getting your car clean is the most important thing in the world at that moment? How many of these places don't… More >>

    The Electric Fetus

    "We cater to the lifestyle of the music geek," a clerk said on a recent visit to the Electric Fetus. Absolutely true. As you walk in, you're greeted by the smell of incense (warning: this might trigger flashbacks in those born before this date in 1970) that once wafted through the headshops of yore. The first music you see after… More >>


    A record collection is a lot like a relationship: It takes up a lot of your time; it needs to be maintained with loving attention and kept full of surprises; and every year or so, you need to scrap the whole thing and start over. Okay, not that last part. But when you do feel the passion you once felt… More >>

    Red Balloon Bookshop

    Some independent bookstores have been compelled to pull out all the stops in order to stay in business, bringing in clowns and animals to roam the aisles in an effort to dazzle and entertain prospective young readers. It's understandable, and the shows can be beguiling, but there's something to be said for a well-stocked bookshop with informed, interested, enthusiastic staffers… More >>


    If you're trying to recapture the old-school elegance of Grace Kelly or Gary Cooper, Ragstock is not the vintage store for you. You're not likely to find a stunning gown or well-tailored suit lurking behind the racks of funky cowboy shirts and flared cords. Really, though, for most of us, looking like Grace Kelly or Gary Cooper is hopelessly unrealistic… More >>

    Comic Book College

    There's been a comic book store at the corner of 32nd Street and Hennepin Avenue South for three decades. No matter the ownership or configuration, the basic operation has never changed. It's always remained a well-stocked store run by friendly folks who know more about comics than is psychologically or socially healthy. The most recent, downsized version is a cramped… More >>

    Video Universe

    No offense to Netflix, but even with its rapid-fire shipping, the virtual DVD outfit isn't so well suited to the all-important impulse rental. And when you absolutely must have a DVD copy of the widescreen Last Year at Marienbad, for example (imagine your most pretentious friend has come from out of town to belittle your aesthetic judgment once again), that… More >>

    Audio Perfection

    In business for more than 25 years, this endearingly unpretentious haven for high-end knob-twiddlers remains unique among elite electronics stores. Indeed, when we visited, the interior of its bland, brown-brick corner building was charmingly laden with empty electric sockets, and pieces of footprint-covered cardboard had been taped over the glass-block windows to prevent that pesky daylight from interfering with the… More >>

    Ultimate Electronics

    Forced by the virtual advantages of online retailers to bring its prices down to earth, this heretofore elite electronics outlet has opened its doors to us working stiffs while retaining ties to the more reliable manufacturers whose gear can't be bought at Best Buy for any price. Examples: a Mitsubishi DVD player with progressive scan for $149, a Denon receiver… More >>

    The Elko Trader's Market

    There's nothing that gets our acquisitive, pack-rat juices jangling like garage sale and flea market season in Minnesota, and we have a house full of mostly useless testimony to the bountiful nature of these local treasure troves of castoff culture. That hasn't stopped us, unfortunately, from desperately wanting more. The desire to spend money on things that other people have… More >>

    Martha's Gardens

    Set back behind the homes in a quiet residential neighborhood, the Martha's Gardens studio is like a secret little portal to a flora wonderland. This is where Martha Gabler Lunde meets with prospective clients to talk about ideas for that wedding or special event. She listens, kind eyes intent, to your hopes and desires. Then she builds on them, excitedly… More >>


    Frank Gerten settled on a few acres of property south of St. Paul in the early 1900s... Thus begins the trite but true roots-to-riches tale of this family-owned gardeners' mecca in Inver Grove Heights. Whether you need a new Felco pruner, a pep talk on your pansies, or a whole truckload of perennials, Gertens proves that it's possible to… More >>

    Seven Corners Hardware

    You could build a bulwark against the strip-mallification of America with what's in stock at Seven Corners Hardware (est. 1933), but you don't have to: The store itself already stands as a dusty, independently owned fortress. Its two stories are crammed with 14-foot-high shelves loaded with just about any tool, part, screw, bolt, belt, hose, or any other accessory you're… More >>

    St. Paul Hotel

    A good part of this luxury landmark's appeal undoubtedly lies in the fact that it's the only local hotel built before World War II that didn't succumb to the wrecking ball long ago. But the Saint Paul Hotel offers far more than turn-of-the-last-century charm. Even its standard (or "deluxe," as the hotel calls them) rooms offer a level of opulence… More >>

    Nook and Cranny

    Rhoda and Claire, of Nook and Cranny Services, want to restore balance to your busy life. That means they will connect you with your very own "Home Specialist," who will help you organize, clean, or generally tend your home. You will have the same home specialist on an ongoing basis, offering consistency and the opportunity to fine-tune your home care… More >>

    Apache Plaza

    In the post-apocalyptic movie version, Northeast's beleaguered Apache Plaza would be a prison colony run by feuding overlords played by Kurt Russell and Dolph Lundgren. As it is, however, the mall that was once a bright and shining star on the local shopping scene--a pioneer, for God's sake, granddaddy to the behemoths that have ensured its extinction--is now little but… More >>

    Groth Music

    When MARS (Music And Recording Store), the chain of music "superstores" founded by the former CEO of Home Depot, spun out of orbit and into the dark sun of bankruptcy last year, it took with it some of the fears of the folks staffing this family-owned company. After all, their employment depends on offering customers "a little more fine-tuned attention… More >>

    Best Pawn

    There's no getting around it: The pawn industry thrives on misfortune. Behind nearly every item at your local hock shop is an unspoken tale of desperation, which makes browsing the wares a somewhat ghoulish enterprise. The folks at Best Pawn, though, have managed to put a kinder face on the whole tawdry affair. Tucked into a handsome building on West… More >>

    Let It Be Records

    The music industry nearly ended the tactile delights of audiophiles everywhere when it declared vinyl dead in the late 1980s. Most of us obliged the biz by tossing our vinyl and replacing it with more expensive, more realistic-sounding (or so they claimed) CDs. Today, vinyl accounts for a small fraction of all recordings sold, but the numbers are climbing steadily,… More >>

    World Beat Video

    The devastating loss of Cedar Avenue's Intercontinental Video to fire last year (it may yet reopen, we're told) has cleared the field in this category for the store's longtime runner-up just down the street near the corner of Riverside. For years World Beat & Video has had its own distinct virtues as a warehouse of intercontinental video, including a basement… More >>

    Galyan's Trading Company

    Since our definition of "sport" has outpaced even the everything-goes Olympics and ESPN2, we're looking a for store with an exhaustive inventory. For more than five years, our readers have sung the praises of this megaplex and, casting aside our hang-ups concerning the dwindling mom-and-pop shops around town, it's time that we duly recognized the masses. With the latest equipment… More >>

    Electric Dragonland

    Electric Dragonland in Hopkins is a fine place to get a tattoo, agreed nine out of ten Twin Cities tattoo artists in a recent impromptu poll. (The tenth tattooist snarled and refused to be interviewed by "that corporate rag" we work for.) "Electric Dragonland does a very good job with images," says Don Nolan, owner of Acme Tattoo in St.… More >>

    There are quirkier thrift stores around, but nobody else really has the space to compete with this behemoth. Clothes, knickknacks, glassware, books, furniture, old typewriter tables, luggage, wall decorations--this store has it all. About 20 couches, and even more stuffed living-room chairs, fill the extra-discounted basement every day. If you need a winter coat cheap, you'll almost certainly be able… More >>

    Golden Leaf

    The first thing that hits you when you walk into Golden Leaf is an aroma so rich and exotic that you might find yourself wondering if you've somehow passed through a time warp and landed in the personal warehouse of some Renaissance shipping magnate. Once you get your bearings and realize you're still in Calhoun Square, you're free to peruse… More >>

    Hub Hobby Center

    The northernmost branch of the Hub doubled its space when it annexed the pizza place next door, which has allowed the hobby store to triple the room it has for educationally entertaining toys. That means more room for crunchy bug-shaped chocolates, space-food ice cream, copper embossing kits, and rock tumblers. More room for plastic horsies (and the beautiful princesses who… More >>

    When the long-proposed Pan-Asian Urban Village, slated to take over the intersection that currently houses the DAV, finally comes through (which could begin to happen in about six months), we'll be a little sad, because where else are we going to find the cheapest jeans in town? Or that perfect warm and fuzzy green flannel shirt, tagless and hand-sewn by,… More >>


    Since kids grow as fast as the national deficit, it's good to know Savers offers everything from layettes to leotards for a pint-sized price. At 50 cents a T-shirt, who cares if the kids think fingerpaint is body glitter? At $2 a dress, what does it matter if the kids look like they came from a mud-wrestling championship rather than… More >>

    Theatre Antiques

    Despite its "bargain hunters beware" reputation, this labyrinthine Lyn-Lake antique pavilion harbors more than a few sweet deals in its massive selection of classic 20th-century furnishings. The astute shopper can score a blond Heywood-Wakefield desk in decent condition for $345, a good-as-Noguchi knockoff table for $145, or a like-new Louis Poulsen lighting fixture for $325--in each instance, a fraction of… More >>

    Nicollet Village Video

    If Quentin Tarantino had chosen to bring his video-clerking experience to Minneapolis instead of Miramax, we like to think he'd be employed at this expansive storage facility for the film buff's most catholic tastes. Here, in-between duties at the checkout counter, Quentin could curate an in-store film festival that pulled from a superb collection of rare widescreen tapes (Happy Together!… More >>