Shopping & Services

  • Best Florist

    Greg Swenson

    If you've attended an opening at the Elliot Smith gallery, dined at Remy's or Big Sky or wandered through one of the hipper establishments in downtown's loft-district oasis of chic, you've seen Greg Swenson's work. Swenson grew up in Champaign-Urbana and studied illustration in Chicago before moving back, broke, to central Illinois. A few days before Mother's Day, out of… More >>
  • Best Gift Store

    Botanicals on the Park

    Botanicals on the Park is the place to buy grown-up gifts for people who don't equate stylish housewares with matching Big Gulp cups, don't think a plastic grocery bag is the best carrier for picnic supplies and don't snatch their salt and pepper shakers from fast-food restaurants. Botanicals stocks martini sets and shakers, handmade Romanian wine glasses, beaded wine covers,… More >>
  • Best Musical Instrument Store

    Ron Busch Guitar Studios

    After an exhaustive online and real-world scouring of music stores, as well as a small, informal poll of local musicians, the year's search for the Best Musical Instrument Store yielded the Ron Busch Guitar Studio, which won last year's Best Place to Stretch Your Musical Dollar award. It all makes sense when you examine the facts: You don't have a… More >>
  • Best Newsstand

    World News Ltd.

    With hundreds of titles and the most eclectic assortment of magazines in the St. Louis area, World News easily eclipses any other news peddler in town. Tired of the local daily seed catalogue? World News stocks more than a dozen American Sunday newspapers, plus daily editions of the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. Weary of U.S. press? World News… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Back Issues of Playboy

    A-1 Books

    Don't misunderstand us: A-1 Books is a legitimate used book store, wherein yesterday's bestsellers mingle with the usual coffee-table books about the Civil War and whatnot. But there's also an "adult" side to the store that, we imagine, pays most of the bills. And there you'll find, amid all the generically athletic neo-smut, an exhaustive archive of the postwar male… More >>
  • Best Record/ CD Store

    Vintage Vinyl

    It's tempting to recommend Euclid Records, which consolidated its two locations into one grand Webster Groves store this past year; the result is a very nice store for the record geek. But, ultimately, Vintage Vinyl reigns supreme -- and it has actually gotten better in the past year with new releases and collector-type merchandise. In a world where any release… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Vinyl

    Euclid Records - CLOSED

    For the true record hound, there is nothing like walking into a record store and inhaling the unmistakable smell of aged vinyl. A heady blend of countless basements, peach crates, dorm rooms, over-the-garage-apartments, wood-paneled dens, living rooms, sensimilla residue and human hands, long-play records carry the aroma of past lives, late nights and lonely hearts within their grooves. Euclid Records'… More >>
  • Best CD Store (Used)

    Vintage Vinyl

    Year in, year out, same thing. Vintage Vinyl on Delmar rules this category. And with good reason -- the store may not have as many used CDs as other stores, but what they have counts. The staff won't take just anything, and while that may suck when you're trying to get beer money out of your Kenny Rogers CDs, it… More >>
  • Best Video/DVD Rental

    St. Louis Public Library, Schlafly Branch

    News flash: There are no awesome video stores in St. Louis. None. Zippo. Zilch. Sure, there are the Lackluster and Hollywood chains, plus the promising Farrago cine-café on Washington Avenue. But if you're talking bang for the buck, how can you beat free movies for a whole week? That's the deal at the Schlafly. New releases do not carry the… More >>
  • Best Art Supplies


    You're feeling surly about W.'s wars. You've got a hankering to indulge your inner Otto Dix and show folks the brutality of it all. Alas, you're out of phthalo green to create that perfect putrescence effect. And some alizarin crimson sure would help bloody things up. Of course, Otto, you could run to one of those hobby-shop chains -- many… More >>
  • Best Electronics for the Audiophile

    Best Sound Audio/Video Design Group

    On the ladder of geeky male pastimes, audiophilia ranks way up there, right above cigars, though below gun collections. But it's a harmless pursuit, the quest for the perfect system to fit into the most acoustically perfect room in order to fully appreciate the subtleties buried within a perfectly engineered, perfectly performed King Crimson record. We like Best Sound because… More >>
  • Best Junk Store

    John's Furniture and Antiques Annex

    Junk is such a loaded, negative word, at least for those of us appreciative of human detritus -- toss-offs, failed fads and the sublimely surreal. In particular we love the bread-and-butter of knickknack stores, those ridiculously anthropomorphic animal figurines (kitties having afternoon tea, anyone?). Is there any more insane manifestation of the human mind? No. John's Annex is a freak… More >>
  • Best Pawn Shop

    Sam Light Loan & Mercantile Co.

    The origins of the Sam Light Loan & Mercantile Co. are a little murky. The sign painted on the outside wall reads, "50 years at this location," but that's outdated by a decade, and the Light family's involvement in the pawn trade goes back even further. Sam Light, a Russian emigré, started business as a tailor when he came to… More >>
  • Best Thrift Store

    Society of St. Vincent De Paul St. Louis Thrift Store

    How about a perfect dining-room table for $25? With chairs! Or a vintage designer sofa for a mere $50? Furniture and kitchen items are typically the best finds at the St. Vincent De Paul Society Thrift Store, but it's worth checking out the clothing too. You may not find any designer duds in the mix, but the sheer volume more… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Used Clothing


    The key to a great used-clothing store is how well the establishment juggles the dueling priorities of raw volume and pimp-ass, retro styling. Here, while joints like the Vintage Haberdashery on South Grand succeed on the latter front, only Rag-O-Rama consistently delivers the goods in both categories. Toss in the wild-card criterion of whether you can locate a wacko T-shirt… More >>
  • Best Vintage Clothing Store

    Pixie 9 Vintage

    A pixie is a mischievous sprite. If you were to encounter nine of them, you'd either be in for a whirlwind of trouble or an eye-popping orgy. Appropriately, then, you'd be apt to find clothes that would lead to both scenarios at the peculiarly named Pixie 9, a skinny, bi-level boutique nestled amid the oak furniture and trinket peddlers of… More >>
  • Best Dollar Store

    Deal$ -- Nothing Over a Dollar

    Ah, the dollar store, where the average Joe and Jolene can feel like Trumps for a day. Go ahead and buy the microwaveable chocolate-chip cookies, the ergonomic broom-and-dustbin, the hardback books and ceramic karate fighters. Give each of your kids two bucks and tell them they can pick out two of anything at all in the whole store. The dollar… More >>
  • Best Gaming Store

    The Gathering Ground

    At first glance, the Gathering Ground looks like any other successful gaming store. Long tables are crowded several days a week with kids playing collectible-card games such as Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Legend of the Five Rings, Lord of the Rings, etc., along with the new generation of popular WizKids figurine-based games, such as Mage Knight and HeroClix. Young employees behind the… More >>
  • Best Comic Book Store

    All American Collectibles

    There is a crisis in the world of comics, an emergency that not even the X-Men (or movies about them) can fix. Years ago the death of the corner newsstand decimated the number of kids who read comic books, and things haven't been the same since. Most folks don't know where the few comic book stores in their area are… More >>
  • Best Toy Store

    Toy Man Toy Shows at the Machinist Hall

    Though not a toy store in the technical sense, the Toy Man Toy Show is truly the best place to buy toys in town. This every-other-month toy convention at the Machinist Hall in Bridgeton is a secondary market of old and not-so-old toys (and their idiosyncratic dealers), with acres of Hot Wheels, Aurora model kits, dolls, Japanese-cartoon videos, action figures,… More >>
  • Best Baby Store

    Babies "R" Us

    A registry and lots of things to register for -- that seems to be the number-one criterion for expectant parents, especially if the baby will be their first. The store that lots of anxious moms and dads turn to is Babies "R" Us. Like multiple infants coaxed from the same womb through the wonder of fertility drugs, the 183 Babies… More >>
  • Best Mall

    Plaza Frontenac

    There are other fine malls in the area, it's true. None, though, ensconce shoppers in a comparable atmosphere of grandeur, from Saks to Neiman Marcus, and every place in between. Somehow, even during the dreaded holiday shopping days that make up the space between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, easing into a great parking spot remains a possibility.… More >>
  • Best Book Store

    Subterranean Books

    On the surface, it seems to be nepotism. Subterranean sits on Delmar, just across the street from the RFT offices in University City, and so it is a lunch-hour haven for the bookish (guilty) and an easy out for lazy reporters (guilty again). But Subterranean honestly and truly deserves the award, and here's why: If you have three bucks and… More >>
  • Best Used Book Store

    Dunaway Books

    If you don't know much about history but you'd like to, then stop by Dunaway Books and pick up a five-volume set of the papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower. For muckraking types who want to know more about the author who chronicled political corruption and slime in St. Louis back in the day in Tweed Days in St. Louis, there's… More >>
  • Best Wine Store

    The Wine Merchant, Ltd.

    We checked the selection of all the local wine stores while assuming different personalities. We played dumb: "So is this rosé like a white zin?" We acted snobby: "Oh, those South African cabs, their impertinence amuses me." We asked legit questions: "What's the difference between Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-Fuissé?" We even 'fessed up: "We just need a decent bottle of red… More >>
  • Best Liquor Store

    Brown Derby Wine Cellar

    Wine takes top billing at Brown Derby, but we didn't let that throw us. When it comes to liquor brands, this upscale west St. Louis County shop, located near the intersection of Clayton Road and Highway 141, has few equals in the metro area. Brown Derby offers a superlative selection of distilled spirits, including cognacs, liqueurs, rums, gins, tequilas, single-malt… More >>
  • Best Car Wash

    Waterway Gas & Wash

    Next time you want to wash off the city grime and give your car a shiny suburban sheen, at least for a few days, drive out to Creve Coeur. Washing a car isn't rocket science. But since the first Waterway Gas and Wash opened in 1970, the folks there have streamlined it into a seamless and efficient process, a combination… More >>
  • Best Garden Center

    Bayer Garden Shops Inc.

    Like a trusty outdoor thermometer or reliable weathervane, the scores of cars parked along Hampton Avenue and on all the available side streets near the Bayer Garden Shop signal that spring planting season has arrived. In the winter, the same car congestion means it's time to pick up a poinsettia and a Christmas tree. But Bayer is more than impatiens… More >>
  • Best HardwareStore

    Hanneke Hardware and Industrial Supply

    Never mind the Home Depot a mile away on Kingshighway. Hanneke is the Hill's hardware store, and it has been for 75 years. With three locations (the St. Louis HQ, plus 9343 Gravois Avenue in Affton, 314-631-6250; and 2293 Grissom Drive in Westport, 314-993-4020) serving both residential customers and professional contractors, Hanneke is one of the few remaining independent hardware… More >>
  • Best Frame Shop

    The Framery

    The theory of neighborhood self-sustainability is one that many a ramshackle borough in St. Louis struggles with. The litmus test is simple: If two feet of snow fell to the ground over the course of two weeks, would you be able to achieve daily amusement, home maintenance and sustenance without killing yourself or starving first? Because of the Framery (and… More >>
  • Best Tattoo Parlor

    Allstar Tattoo

    There are many places to get a tattoo in St. Louis. Everyone and their mom has one, and the multitude of Taz and butterfly tattoos must come from somewhere. Whereas any artist who serves up the best price will work for those inclined to pick flash off the wall, the discerning lover of body art wants something different. What separates… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Sex Toys

    Cheap Trx

    Dialing up a glow-in-the-dark dildo order on the Internet and calling yourself a cheeky monkey ain't cheeky at all. True sex-toy aesthetes shop for playthings the way rich women shop for lingerie: in person, reverentially, with lots of hands-on help. For such aficionados, Cheap Trx is priceless, with a level of customer service rarely seen in any kind of store,… More >>
  • Best Adult Video Store

    Fantasy Video

    It's Tuesday, dinner time, and Fantasy Video is packed. At least a dozen men crowd the video section that's smaller than a typical one-bedroom south-city flat. Patrons are sharing aisles in the kind of place where you'd rather make your selections in private, considering the fare. The more you look, the more you discover -- this is a place for… More >>
  • Best Tobacconist

    HSB Tobacconist

    There are two basic kinds of tobacco stores: the discount outlet, with cartons of cigarettes on the cheap, and the hoity-toity cigar boutique, with the walk-in humidor and smoking lounge and copies of Cigar Aficionado. Then there's HSB, a cluttered and smoky sanctuary in the middle of the Delmar Loop, under the shadow of the Tivoli's marquee, nestled between Nieja… More >>
  • Best Sporting Goods Store

    Galyan's Sports and Outdoor Adventure

    Galyan's opened its first store in St. Louis this year, and it's worth the trek to west county. The store packs the works: shoes, clothes and gear for recreational sports and the great outdoors. Despite its size, you hardly ever have to wait in line. The sales staff is attentive but seldom annoying; they have a welcome tendency to let… More >>
  • Best Skate Shop

    Altered Skates

    Glen Stallings' Altered Skates has been a fixture on Delmar for sixteen years now -- a lifetime in skate years. He has weathered the longest drought in skate history and survived the enormous mid-'90s boom in skateboarding's popularity, what with the X Games and the online superstores. Both want and surfeit have taught him how to run his shop in… More >>
  • Best Bike Shop

    Big Shark Bicycle Company

    We don't care what Lance rides. Friends don't let friends ride Trek. That's almost a forgotten slogan, but back in the day, anti-Trek bumper stickers were the rage among cycling snobs who considered hand-built bicycles as much works of art as utilitarian transportation. It's an expression of individualism. Like a Harley, a fine bicycle should be one of a kind,… More >>
  • Best Gun Shop

    Denny Dennis Sporting Goods

    Whether you're shopping for a 12-gauge or a 30-06, inspiration always helps. And there's plenty on the walls of Denny Dennis, which boasts a taxidermy collection nearly as large as its firearms inventory. Alongside the standard-issue whitetail and elk are bison, water buffalo, mountain goats, bears, gazelles and sundry horned creatures whose names and continents of origin we can only… More >>
  • Best Gun Shop Gimmick That Died

    Machine-gun rentals

    Bad day at the office? Argument with your sweetie? Eighty-sixed from your favorite watering hole? Used to be, you could head on down to Bulls-Eye Indoor Pistol Range (5100 Manchester Road in St. Louis; 314-781-4867) and rent a fully automatic firearm to get those aggressions out at the rate of hundreds of rounds per minute. That's right: a machine gun.… More >>

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