Shopping & Services


    Wet Paint

    There's a reason Wet Paint wins this category hands down every year: This Grand Avenue arts emporium, an independently owned store with deep roots in St. Paul, should be the first stop for the professional and the dilettante artist alike. Wet Paint's crowded aisles boast a reported 30,000 products, everything from oils, acrylics, pens, and charcoals to fancy decorating paper… More >>

    Treasure Island

    Trust us: The last thing a new (or for that matter, any) parent needs is to blow hours staring at an overly lighted wash of strollers, cribs, car seats, diaper bags, breast pumps, nail clippers, bathtubs, and backpacks. Thankfully, Treasure's Island has been weeding out the more gratuitous items for over 50 years. The salespeople can show you how to… More >>

    Kenwood Cyclery

    You want a bike--but not just any bike--and bikes are pricey. If you intend it to be your "other car," it may cost just as much. The folks at Kenwood Cyclery don't just sell any old bike off the floor, they help you find the bike you'll love and use for a long time. It may take a little… More >>

    St. Sabrina's

    St. Sabrina's is easy to spot from the streets in Uptown thanks to the faux-church and stained-glass painted exterior as well as the eclectic group of patrons coming and going through the doors: Gothers, punkers, college stoners and wild soccer moms all come here, and people-watching is as fun as checking out the rubber nun hand-puppets and body glitter. Upstairs… More >>

    Amazon Bookstore Cooperative

    Let's just say you know someone who's laboring under the impression that feminists are cold and humorless, and let's further say that you'd like to do something to change that person's mind. First, you might gently suggest to your pal that he or she is a brainwashed schmuck. Next, you could send him or her to the worker-owned Amazon Bookstore… More >>


    Somehow, walking into this Dinkytown used-book favorite, located just down the street from the equally fantastic Book House, always feels a little like stepping into a Victorian curio shop. Maybe it's the parrot adjacent to the cash register whose occasional squawks barely ruffle the place's drowsy charm. Or the uninhabited aquarium in back stacked with copies of Tolstoy. Though there's… More >>


    For more than 25 years Larue's has brought its loyal clientele the most exotic and sensual fashions this side of Eat Street. Hand-dyed silk gowns, bridal confections with unfinished edges, roman glass, burnt silk, crushed velvet floral accents--you name it. If it's too luxurious for words, it's on a rack, somewhere at Larue's. Specializing in what they call "Goddess Fashions,"… More >>

    The Downtowner

    As the temperature in Minnesota gets warmer, the funk emanating from your floor mats get riper. Winter has a funny way of keeping us from maintaining a proper sense of vehicle hygiene, and now the leftover meal in the back seat has festered into something unidentifiable as animal, mineral, or vegetable. No matter what the extent of the filth, the… More >>

    The Electric Fetus

    Dig if you will past issues of Best of the Twin Cities, and you'll find the Fetus is the perennial champ in this category, which is fitting, because the one-stop by 35W acts as the sun around which all the legendary Minneapolis independent record stores orbit. Still, after all these years, we should probably come up with another category for… More >>


    Yes, we are in the age of iTunes and downloads and leave-me-alone-I'm-listening-to-MY-music cubicles. No, there is still nothing quite like the Zen of a Saturday afternoon or pre-club/pre-movie Friday night spent with the sound of souls searching the used racks for something new, old, or in-between; something that will perfectly get them through, get them to the next thing, get… More >>

    El Tropico travel agency/Meta Morfosis salon

    Sometimes you want a cheap haircut. Sometimes you want a CD of Mexican hip hop. Sometimes you just want to get away from it all. Well at Música y Algo Más (a.k.a. El Tropico travel agency, a.k.a. Meta Morfosis salon), you can have the first two for less than $25, and the third for free--if you count daydreaming about vacations… More >>

    Wild Rumpus

    A children's bookstore that names itself after Maurice Sendak's most famous hubbub is obligated to maintain a certain degree of rebellion. Maybe that's why this Linden Hills mainstay allows so many of its resident wild things to strut and scratch and tell their own stories. From the Manx cats who have loved the overstuffed armchairs to the point of no… More >>

    Big Brain Comics

    From Berkeley to Boston, Wednesday counts as the high point of the comic-book purveyor's week; it's the day when new shipments--and the customers who crave their contents--arrive. Hence, the preceding day tends to run a little turgid, except at Big Brain, whose "Tuesday Triple Threat" monkey-wrenches this otherwise-ironclad law of geekonomics. The deal? Buy two items from the shop's generous… More >>

    Cinema Revolution

    Jesus! They have The Gospel According to St. Matthew--that Christ movie by the Marxist Pasolini! Vive la révolution! What's radical about this next-generation video store--besides the "Burn Hollywood burn" posters and crimson decor--is the militancy with which the masses (no Disney here) are surrendered to the cause of maintaining the Cities' smartest, most selective video collection. There can't be more… More >>

    Hifi Sound Electronics

    On the afternoon we visited, Finding Nemo was being thrown from a $22,000 CRT projector onto a 92-inch screen, which we momentarily mistook for a huge aquarium, so vividly rendered was the coral. (Best to leave the littler fish at home unless you're ready to take the plunge, that's for sure.) What we've always loved about this classy playroom (est.… More >>

    Best buy

    Not even a warehouse chain as dedicated to best buys as this one can compete with the prices of low-overhead electronics retailers in the virtual world. So what Best Buy has offered increasingly in recent years--particularly through its cavernous store off 494 near 35W--is breadth of product and convenience of purchase. Most likely the prole knob-twiddler will want to conduct… More >>

    Elko Trader's Market

    With the advent of online auctions, the whole world is a flea market, and a pretty awesome one at that. So if we go to a real live one, it better be an event. For the second year in a row, we're sticking with Elko Trader's Market. For one thing, there isn't a lot of new competition in the field.… More >>

    Bastian Skoog

    Seriously funky floral arrangements with brave color and texture combinations, inventive structure, and imaginative materials are what separates this studio from your average floral designer. When we say imaginative, we mean imaginative. A bridal bouquet shaped like a box? Done! Work grapes into the bouquet? Done! Thinking less in terms of a bouquet, and more along the lines of an… More >>

    Bloomsbury Market

    If a slightly eccentric British blueblood opened the garden shed of her estate to the public, it might look something like Bloomsbury Market. The place is crammed with garden statuary, birdbaths, benches, pots, gardening tools, gloves, pots, vases, French seed packets, jackets, clogs, clippers--plus, of course, annuals, perennials, herbs, shrubs, mulch, fertilizer and potting soil. Whew! But this isn't the… More >>

    Lyn-Lake Barber Shop

    You'd think, based on the low, low price most barbers charge for a haircut, that they aren't nearly as skilled as the black-clad poseurs skulking around the chrome fixtures at that slick Uptown salon. And that the cut you'll get won't be as au courant as the one you'd get at the chain with the beyond-organic rep. Not so, kids.… More >>

    Seven Corners Hardware

    Forget about hardware stores as sterile and unappealing as Wal-Mart, with their white linoleum and Muzak ambience, not to mention the difficulty of finding a store employee among the vast wasteland of garden hoses. Those who really appreciate the dirty, sweaty, messy, fine art of home improvement expect their hardware stores to feel the same--gritty, oily, and filled with a… More >>

    The Saint Paul Hotel

    Le Meridien, the newest hotel in downtown Minneapolis, offers an über-chic contemporary comeliness that's suitable for even a Beverly Hills brat. Sure, the rooms feature extra-special amenities like plasma screen TVs and Hermes soaps, but try walking in with your anti-haute couture Target clothes or valet parking your rusty, rattling '94 Mazda. It doesn't feel so special. But at the… More >>

    Karin Jacobson Design

    On a recent birthday, we were at the jewelry counter at Herrodd's, with three hundred pounds in our pocket, and we chose not to buy anything because we knew we'd prefer whatever Karin Jacobson cooks up next. From cocktail rings to commitment rings, Jacobson's bodacious baubles combine design mastery with a youthful affinity for toy rockets, oversized gemstones, bugs, etc.… More >>

    Midway Shopping Center

    It used to be that forgetting where you parked was the most common form of shopping-mall amnesia. These days, the interiors and inhabitants of most near-suburban enclosed malls are so interchangeable--excepting, of course, MOA's shrieking Camp Snoopy centerpiece--that it's often a struggle to remember where you are, let alone where your car is. Urban strip malls, on the other hand,… More >>

    Mike Glasgow

    Minnesota's virulent fetish for all things Scandinavian extends to the Volvo automobile, of which you'll find nearly every existing model, vintage, and level of salt-addled physical distress on Twin Cities roadways. More than a few local Volvo owners have found an ally in Mike Glasgow, whose two-stall shop on a glamourless St. Paul corner is neither tidy nor especially comfortable… More >>

    Groth Music

    The electric guitar was still in its infancy when Groth Music opened for business in 1939, but you can bet they had 'em, along with much of what "Minnesota's Original Superstore," as the venerable entity calls itself, continues to sell. Groth is particularly strong in percussiveness: Its offerings run the gamut from agogo bells ($20 and up) to mysterious-looking gourd-shaped… More >>

    Pawn America

    There are shops that offer more selection per square inch, and some folks get off on that sensory rush. But sometimes we want a little room to move and to not feel like we're being watched (very closely). Pawn America has a range of store sizes, but the spacious Lyndale Avenue location in Bloomington really swayed us. We've been there… More >>


    O vinyl, ravished bride of hissiness, you will ever earn our praise. Your elegant brevity, your malleability in the hands of an artful DJ, the beautiful pop and scratch of your gradual deterioration--so much more like life than compact discs. Fortunately for us purists and Luddites, the Twin Cities provide no paucity of spots to buy oldfangled records: For hip… More >>

    Intercontinental Video

    If a four-alarm fire is going to devastate your highly unique video store, you might as well have it happen at a time when the rest of the industry is struggling to shift its inventory from tape to disc, and the customer is pretty much looking to forget the former format entirely. Newly reopened after the aforementioned blaze, this West… More >>

    General Sports

    Past winners have included some enormo-dome one-stops and second-hand gear chains, but let's hear it for this underdog, which has been in the game for more than 40 years. General Sports' one and only shop may not have every conceivable item, but it packs a lot into one location, and keeps up very well on the popular activities from season… More >>

    Twilight Tattoo

    Twilight Tattoo stands out at the corner of Bloomington and Lake. It's a little brick building with blue-trimmed windows that screams "quaint neighborhood watering hole" instead of "home of needle-made skin art." Owner Shane Wallin wanted to create a unique visual space for clients, and put as much thought into the building's distinctive design as he does into his custom-made… More >>

    The Salvation Army

    This store, tucked in Minneapolis's warehouse district, boasts two huge, linoleumed levels of wall-to-wall treasure. From clothing to lamps to furniture to those unnerving paintings of the kids with giant doe eyes, this Salvation Army is indeed a salvation. The staff is always friendly--though they've heard it all, so don't ask about returns--and they frequently wheel around carts overflowing with… More >>

    the Golden Leaf

    Stepping into the Golden Leaf is like taking a little field trip to a temple of tobacco. The near-intoxicating aroma of Burleys and Cavendishes, as well as the store's kaleidoscopic pipe and cigarette selection, can leave even the most diffident non-inhaler feeling just a bit enraptured. But the real benedictions lie in the shop's climate and humidity-controlled humidor, where, like… More >>


    Oh, how we wanted to hand this one to Creative Kidstuff and their tasteful arrangements of development-spurring mobiles and nostalgic wooden trains. Our homegrown big box's offerings might not be hand-carved and painted by a Bavarian handwerker, but the sheer breadth of its inventory speaks better to the infinite varieties of activity that children call play. Walk past the slew… More >>

    Everyday People

    Either of the Everyday People stores--Dinkytown or Uptown--could win this award by itself. Hit both stores on one day, and you're guaranteed satisfying power-shopping, with no icky megamall hangovers or musty thrift-store smells to endure. If you missed the Sly and the Family Stone reference, you won't miss the vibe, with Al Green or maybe the Vines playing in the… More >>


    No offense to Once Upon A Child, which offers junior's gently-used with sure, if bland, efficiency. But shoppers looking for surprises in selection, not to mention price, might consider regular visits to the Unique chain. Regular because, as at most thrift stores, you have to be there to stumble on finds like brown suede Hush Puppies for four Georges or… More >>

    Lula's Vintage Wear

    Nestled in a cozy cluster of boutiques mere paces from the clamor of Snelling Avenue, stands one of Minnesota's most charming mysteries. How Lula Vintage Wear proprietress Haley Bush stays in business charging near-thrift shop prices for flawless duds from days gone by--all of it nicely cleaned and pressed--is anyone's guess. Maybe rents really are that much lower in… More >>

    Theater Antiques

    Given furniture's potential expense, it's hardly surprising that some penny-pinchers opt for hand-me-downs, thrift-shop finds, or throwaways in the pursuit of durable home accoutrements. Sadly, none of those alternatives offer much in the way of choice. Granted, the carefully selected merchandise at Theater Antiques costs a bit more than the average dumpster score, but the delight-dividend more than makes up… More >>

    Video Universe

    "It's worth the drive!" the ad promises--and indeed it is. Matter of fact, we challenge you to find another store in the entire state that'll rent all five of these on DVD: Duck Soup, Last Year at Marienbad, the Criterion edition of Tarkovsky's Solaris, Disney's The Little Mermaid, and the first few commandments in Kieslowski's Decalogue--yours for a full week… More >>