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  • Best CD Store (Used)

    Record Exchange

    When it comes to used record stores, there are the depressing ones — full of major-label failures and Pablo Cruise cardboard cutouts, veritable museums of broken dreams and dashed hopes. Then there are the inspiring ones: the stores where you're guaranteed to new and exciting sounds, even (especially) if you don't have a specific purchase in mind. St. Louis is… More >>
  • Best Art Supplies

    Artmart

    Feeling creative? (Or at least inspired enough to rip off that idea you saw on Pinterest?) Artmart has the tools and supplies for any and every project. The 25,000-square-foot building houses a vast array of craft and gift items, but its smart, organized layout isn't daunting. Don't know where to start? Check out a free in-store demonstration, held two to… More >>
  • Best Place for a Kid's Birthday Party

    Kramer's Marionnette Theatre

    Sure, you could have your child's birthday party at any number of bounce-house emporia or arcade-themed chain restaurants. But how about something different, distinctive and very St. Louis-centric in nature? A local tradition since 1963, Bob Kramer and cohort Dug Feltch have performed with his cast of puppets all over the city, nationally and even in Eastern Europe. Kramer and… More >>
  • Best Comic Book Store

    Star Clipper

    Like record stores and book shops, comic book stores have an unfortunate (and slightly overblown) reputation for being elitist and intimidating. Yet the best of these stores function not only as retail businesses, but as valuable, welcoming gathering spots. Star Clipper certainly falls into that latter category. Its selection of comics and graphic novels is as deep and diverse as… More >>
  • Best Lingerie

    Sugar Magnolia Boutique

    Sugar Magnolia Boutique may sound sweet and Southern, but don't be fooled by the name. The boutique is a one-stop shop for intimates, lingerie and burlesque items. Sugar Magnolia proudly carries items in sizes that the average mall store lacks, with bra cup sizes from AA to H and bands from 30 to 50. For women looking for just the… More >>
  • Best Flea Market

    Historic Route 66 Flea Market

    A fortuneteller booth called "Earl's Mistic [sic] Eyes" run by a woman of that unlikely name, raises this flea market above all others. Earl puts a lot of thought into her outfits, and all that thought is all the way kooky. Witnessed looks have been: purple velour caftan paired with an amethyst medallion hanging over her forehead like a third… More >>
  • Best Gun Shop

    Trader's Guns and Ammo

    The brilliant turquoise enamel siding of this downtown Alton institution will hit your eyes like the lights of heaven after you've been shot with one of the snub-nosed pistols for sale inside this gun and pawn emporium. Of course, before you walk away with one of the firearms for sale here, owner Mike Byrd will have to run a background… More >>
  • Best Bridal Shop

    Frew's Bridal

    For 31 years Frew's Bridal occupied a bland boxlike space in a nondescript strip mall on Alton's outer parkway. This year the shop relocated to a gorgeously renovated old building in downtown Alton that once housed a strange and "haunted" antique store called Tootie's. What was once a Pepto-Bismol pink storefront has been painted a more sophisticated brown; the concrete… More >>
  • Best Car Wash

    Waterway Gas and Wash

    "Insist on Clean Windows: It's Our Job." So read the T-shirts worn by the handful of high school-aged boys and girls working the back end of the Waterway car wash, located within a BP filling station off of Watson Road, near River Des Peres. But "insist" is such a strong verb — maybe you're too polite too insist on much… More >>
  • Best Frame Shop

    Pace Framing

    Excellent frame work renders itself invisible; foregrounding and complementing artwork, a superior frame compels one's eyes toward the centerpiece at hand, and only later (if ever) reveals itself as a product of expert craft. This fine balance is precisely what Sandra Marchewa (an accomplished artist) and her business partner Paul Young have specialized in for the past seven years —… More >>
  • Best Corner Store

    Gustine Market

    Some corner stores have Hershey bars. Gustine Market has Kakao chocolate bark. Some corner stores have Tombstone frozen pizza. Gustine Market has Shakespeare's, imported from Columbia. Some corner stores offer a choice of six-packs of Bud, Miller and PBR. Gustine Market has those, too, but also New Belgium, Delirium Tremens, Boulevard and Schlafly. Some corner stores might have the odd… More >>
  • Best Tattoo Parlor

    Trader Bob's Tattoo Shop

    It's tough to give a blanket recommendation on a tattoo studio. The success of the whole process hangs so heavily on the work of the individual artist, and this is a word-of-mouth-recommendation business. That said, cleanliness, front-of-the-house professionalism and a rich portfolio of past work are good indicators of a positive tattooing experience ahead. As one of the oldest studios… More >>
  • Best Electronics

    Micro Center

    Thanks to computers, the average person is way nerdier than ever before. Even so, electronic supplies still manage to intimidate most of us. Micro Center bridges that gap, offering something for technophobes and techno-sexuals alike. The big-box store has the comfort of a Best Buy (need a cheap laptop for college?) and the microscopic knowledge of a specialty shop (need… More >>
  • Best Skate Shop

    No Coast Skateboards - CLOSED

    No Coast Skateboards turned one year old on August 25, which is hard to believe considering the impact the Tower Grove skate shop has had on the local skateboarding landscape. In its short year of existence, No Coast put together an improbable skate demo in the parking lot of a Sauget strip club (complete with ramp-side strippers), co-sponsored the fourth… More >>
  • Best Thrift Store

    Unique Thrift Store

    Penny-pinching types can expect a few constants in their store-to-store thrifty adventures: There's going to be a lot of shoes. Bikes in various states of disrepair will lean against an old rack. Bargain-basement-priced items dropped and written off by local retail stores will be stacked in abundance, and you will not be able to find a suitable pair of jeans.… More >>
  • Best Pet Store

    Airedale Antics

    It's easy to spoil pets: dry food, wet food, treats, chews, toys. (And don't even get us started on outfits or, God forbid, costumes.) But a big part of loving your furry little friends is making sure that they eat well. Airedale Antics features a wide supply of natural dog and cat foods and treats inside its storefront in downtown… More >>
  • Best Used Book Store

    Dunaway Books

    You could never venture beyond the first floor of Dunaway Books and still be happy with its selection of used books: shelf after shelf of fiction classic, contemporary and popular; memoir and biography; cooking and children's books; not to mention the rare and antiquarian selections. But once you've explored the sprawling basement level, you might swear off all other used-book… More >>
  • Best Antique Store

    Roots Antiques

    Roots is a vividly arranged antique store in Maplewood's renovated Moose Hall, run by three bouncy sisters on a mission to fill your space with non-bouncing billiard balls. Receptacles filled with these clacking spheres occupy every surface, and before you leave the shop, you'll be envisioning a bowl of them on that empty side table in a corner of your… More >>
  • Best Place for a Grown-Up's Birthday Party

    A Class with Vino van Gogh

    All those tortured artists throughout history were on to something: Drinking while creating is a really great idea. Likewise, painting while drinking is also an excellent way to celebrate a birthday — it seriously calls into question that adage about old dogs and new tricks. Vino van Gogh, a Chicago-based company that came to town in May, offers painting classes… More >>
  • Best Book Store (Chain)

    Left Bank Books

    When Borders closed for good last fall, we wondered if we would need to retire this category as Barnes & Noble would just have to win by default. But then we realized something that should have been obvious: Left Bank Books, with its two locations in the Central West End and downtown, is a chain! It's true it doesn't feel… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Vinyl

    Apop Records

    They say that vinyl is a dead format. Who wants the headache of this big, clunky, fragile thing, so susceptible to the ravages of heat or fingerprints or dust — not to mention the challenges of purchasing a quality record player? Tapes and CDs are decidedly dead as well, say they, and the eReader is coming for your books next.… More >>
  • Best Musical Instrument Store

    Geoffrey J. Seitz, Violinmaker

    Stepping into Geoffrey J. Seitz's south St. Louis shop feels like an antique woodcut come to life. The violin maker and his assistants sit hunched over high workbenches and peer through magnifiers at the abalone inlay, the ebony purfling, a rosewood tuning peg. Using handcrafted knives, they shave down fingerboards, adjust soundposts and bridges and re-hair bows as piles of… More >>
  • Best Sporting Goods Store

    Old Mountains Gear Exchange

    Greg Echelmeier, the owner of Old Mountains Gear Exchange and a lifelong outdoorsman, swears by his brown leather Vasque hiking boots — the same ones he's had for nearly 22 years. He opened his outdoor and climbing gear shop in March hoping to offer a cheap, neighborhood alternative to megastores that pedal pricey, low-quality goods. The result is this one-man… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Sex Toys

    Hustler Hollywood

    As soon as she swings through the front door of Hustler Hollywood, sex blogger Kendra Holliday, a.k.a., the Beautiful Kind, gushes over the display for the Liberator sex ramp. "It's perfect for cunnilingus," she coos, showing how the ramp props up your partner(s) to enable new angles. "And it has throw blankets so you can squirt all over it." Holliday… More >>
  • Best CD/Record Store

    Euclid Records - CLOSED

    Euclid Records is more than just a record shop. It is a link down the river to New Orleans, where it has a second location and a big pair of open arms for any bands from St. Louis headed toward the Gulf of Mexico. And Euclid isn't just selling recordings made by other people — its proprietors also run a… More >>
  • Best Golf Shop

    The Gateway PGA Golf Sale

    The Gateway PGA's annual golf sale isn't some dumping ground for loud shirts with uneven hems and boxes of mismatched shoes. Here, the merch comes straight from the pro shops of country clubs with initiation fees that are likely higher than your household's yearly net income — Old Warson, Westwood and Bellerive are just a few of them looking to… More >>
  • Best Junk Store

    Goodwill Outlet

    "If you're serious about this, you'll want to get yourself a pair of gloves," one experienced junktaur tells RFT, without looking away from a new blue bin with piles of unmatched shoes. Ever since it opened last year, the Goodwill Outlet — where clothing is 79 cents a pound and everything else just 39 cents a pound — has become… More >>
  • Best Furniture Store

    Centro Modern Furnishings

    St. Louisans who want their homes to be as chic and elegant as possible need look no further than Centro Modern Furnishings. Established as a trade showroom in 1988 and open to the public since 1998, this high-end furniture store in the Central West End carries elite manufacturers, such as B&B Italia and Cassina, known for both their function and… More >>
  • Best Gift Shop

    Q Boutique

    A gift-purchasing excursion can be fraught with second-guessing and agony. That is, unless you're shopping at Q Boutique in the Central West End. Adjoining the World Chess Hall of Fame, this shop has something for everyone — even if you're not a huge fan of the board game. Expect to find striking jewelry for your hard-to-please sis, cool toys for… More >>
  • Best Hardware Store

    Oak Hill Hardware and Paint

    Your pooch has once again blasted its way through the back-door screen, and you've had enough. You need a paw-proof grill. It's either that or get rid of the dog. You could go to a big-box hardware store, wander the aisles aimlessly and hope to catch the attention of some teenager pretending to work while chatting on his Bluetooth, only… More >>
  • Best Newsstand

    World News Ltd.

    Newsstands are obviously an endangered species these days. Luckily, St. Louis has the Sumatran rhino of newsstands — every bit as rare, hard-nosed and as magnificent as the nearly extinct animal. The shop still holds onto that charming old-fashioned feeling, nestled on one of the cutest corners of Clayton and complete with a clerk listening to the ball game on… More >>
  • Best Baby Store

    Cotton Babies

    Necessity is the mother of invention. Jenn Labit is the mother who invented. In the mid-2000s the St. Louis mother of three created an adjustable cloth diaper that is now the center of her business empire that includes a huge online presence in addition to stores in Missouri and Washington State. The Town & Country location is the newest of… More >>
  • Best Book Store (Independent)

    Pudd'nhead Books

    People pay a lot of lip service to how much they love their local businesses, especially their book stores, and how important it is to support them. But when the going gets tough, when the book store really needs the customers, how often do the customers pull through? St. Louis book-buyers are a loyal lot, it turns out. Last year… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Used Clothing

    Value Village

    The range of wares at Value Village is wide, from furniture, mattresses and household items to appliances, electronics, books, movies, music and décor. Its greatest strength, though, is its far-flung selections of used clothing for men, women and children. Value Village appeals as much to thrift-store treasure hunters scouring racks for retro trends and quirky fabrics as it does to… More >>
  • Best Garden Center

    Garden Heights Nursery

    We're lucky in St. Louis to have the world-renowned Missouri Botanical Garden. But ask yourself: When was the last time you had the free time required to explore that garden? For the harried masses still pondering the question, we offer a solution. Next time you're traveling through Richmond Heights on Big Bend Boulevard, do yourself a favor and stop by… More >>
  • Best Mall

    Chesterfield Mall

    The success of one mall can be the death knell for another shopping center. Just look at the Saint Louis Galleria's rise in popularity in the 1990s and contrast that to Crestwood Plaza's downward spiral during the same decade. So when West County Center transformed itself a few years back into the Shangri-la of suburban shopping, many questioned the long-term… More >>
  • Best Bike Shop

    Big Shark Bicycle Company

    Walk into Big Shark Bicycle Company in the East Loop, and you'll be taken by two things: the staggering selection of bicycles and the super friendly staff. Indeed, Big Shark is the rare kind of bike shop that caters to everyone and doesn't discriminate. A college student looking for reliable transportation for less than $400 is treated with equal respect… More >>
  • Best Dollar Store

    Dollar Tree

    Not every dollar store is created equally. Not even every Dollar Tree store is created equally, but at least the chain's slogan, "Everything's $1," holds true across the board. Dollar Tree doesn't pull $3 or $5 punches, though, but it does sell copious amounts of quality goods. While perusing the housewares department it's easy to forget it's a dollar store… More >>
  • Best Toy Store

    Spicer's

    An iPad or a gift card will certainly please any kid, but there's something special — magical, even — about the simple joy of a simple toy. At Spicer's one can find Webkinz and other trendy electronic gadgets, but they're speckled among old-fashioned board games, train sets and lawn sports. These items are a throwback to the innocence and tech-free… More >>
  • Best Florist

    Botanicals Design Studio

    Flowers are a beautiful way to show someone you're thinking of them. But the truth is, all you can take credit for is the initial thought — and choosing the right florist. Once you've done that, it's really up to the floral designer to make the impression you hoped to achieve. Anyone can Google "florist" and find dozens of options,… More >>
  • Best Adult Video Store

    Pure Pleasure Adult Megacenter

    Let's not beat around the bush — it's all too easy to find massive quantities of free pornography on the Internet. Simply Google a key term like "porn" or "MILF" (or "bush," for that matter), and an endless supply of visual erotica will flood your senses. But therein lies the problem: With so much to choose from, how does one… More >>
  • Best Yarn Store

    Hearthstone Knits

    Even for the most experienced knitter, navigating the maze of patterns and yarn varieties can be intimidating. So can the "knitting police," a self-appointed cabal that believe it has the power to declare what's right and what's wrong in the world of needlework. So thank goodness for Georgia Druen, who has owned and managed Hearthstone Knits since 1994. Druen herself… More >>
  • Best Bed and Breakfast

    Dwell Nine Twelve

    In a back yard near Lafayette Square, a bed & breakfast of no compare Spiral staircase and thirteen-foot ceilings. Artworks and décor ever so appealing A separate entrance — the place is yours. Invite some friends! Charge for tours! A lounge downstairs, a bedroom above. Step onto the balcony and feel the love, of a courtyard below to waste the day. Reading a book… More >>
  • Best Place to Meet Married Women

    Laclede's Landing

    Happily married women don't spend their evenings bar-hopping sans hubby on Laclede's Landing. There are other bars for that — bars where shitfaced strangers won't think it's appropriate to ask for a hand job in a bathroom that reeks of Jell-O-shot vomit. Unhappily married women, however, are a different breed. Though she'll probably grimace in disgust if propositioned for a… More >>
  • Best Place for a Last Date

    Lambert St. Louis International Airport

    Telling someone you've lost that lovin' feeling is never easy, no matter the circumstance. At best there's a broken heart to console; at worst there's your car, which you'd rather not find keyed. Riverfront Times doesn't condone lying to a companion, but for damage-control purposes, sometimes it's necessary to cushion the blow by spinning the old "extenuating circumstances" yarn. Instead… More >>
  • Best Place to Meet Single Women

    Left Bank Books

    It might seem all too obvious — lurking behind a copy of Female Chauvinist Pigs with some Gloria Steinem tucked under your arm. But the key to this approach transcends simply being in the right place at the right time. A few visits to this spot, even when it's devoid of women, will equip you with the information and attitude… More >>
  • Best Hotel

    Chase Park Plaza Hotel

    A certain lady of our acquaintance prides herself on her familiarity with first-class hotels. "You must always make sure the bed is triple-sheeted," she instructs us. "The blanket must never touch your skin. Do you have any idea what else that blanket has touched?" Once, circumstances beyond her control forced her to spend a night in a budget hotel where… More >>
  • Best Place for a First Date

    Sam's Club (on a Saturday)

    A friend we'll call "Emily" met her suitor through an online dating website. His proposal for their first date: a bicycle ride on Grant's Trail, a bike path meandering through south county. She agreed to meet him just off the trail in the parking lot of Sam's Club. But when she arrived, he had a pre-date surprise: "It's free-sample day… More >>
  • Best View of Downtown

    The Eighth Circuit Library

    Admiring St. Louis' skyline from across the river has its charms, but there's a unique thrill to looking down on it. Few public places offer a better vantage point for this than the Eighth Circuit Library, on the 22nd floor of the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse. When you enter this hushed oasis, the Mississippi stretches before you in panorama… More >>
  • Best Public Library

    St. Louis Public Library Central Library

    When completed in 1912, the Central Library gleamed like a jewel downtown. Funded by tycoon Andrew Carnegie and conceived by Cass Gilbert (designer of the U.S. Supreme Court building), the new structure featured stone archways and ceilings harking back to the Renaissance, but also cutting-edge technology like book elevators and an air-washing system. By the mid-aughts, the library had fallen… More >>
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