Best Of 2015

Call us selfish, but there's nothing we hate quite so much as shopping for other people. What do they want? What do they not already have? What seems like a generous price point — without being so generous as to make things awkward? It's almost impossible to buy a great gift — yet the occasions for which we need to do so are seemingly endless. Which is one reason Phoenix Rising has become our go-to shop for birthdays, anniversaries, even bridal showers. The selection is quirkily clever without being wildly impractical, with curation that takes the guesswork out of purchases. We've hit a homerun with just about everything we've bought here, from jewelry to wallets to coffee-table books. The card selection is also spot-on, which saves the dreaded second stop at a Hallmark shop. You'll be covered in no time, freeing you up to shop for a much easier-to-please recipient: yourself. 6331 Delmar Boulevard, University City, 63130. 314-862-0609, www.shopphoenixrising.com.

Goods & Services

Goods & Services
Best Antique Store? Check. Best Bike Shop? Check. Best Sex Shop? Never fear; we've got that covered too. If you're itching to drop a few dollars on a new vibrator or an old handbag, our staff picks for the best goods and services in town will keep you from squandering your money at second-tier retail outlets. Shopped 'til you've dropped? We've also got a winner for Best Mani/Pedi.
Josh Davis, lead floral designer at Botanicals, works his magic.
Mabel Suen
Josh Davis, lead floral designer at Botanicals, works his magic.
If you're going to the trouble of sending flowers to your beloved, you'd be a fool to drop your hard-earned pesos on a boring old vase of roses with baby's breath. But it's not like you're a floral expert — how creative can you get when you barely know an orchid from an iris? Enter Keith McDonnell and Dean Riebeling, the creative geniuses behind nine-year-old Botanicals Design Studio in the Tower Grove neighborhood. They'll draw out what you want — from a vague "something stylish and romantic" to a more specific color scheme/size/price point/occasion — and use it to craft a custom display that will strike you as exactly what you desire, even if you could have never figured it out for yourself. Best of all, they work quickly. We called one recent Saturday around 10 a.m., and by noon, the perfect arrangement for our friend's baby shower was ready for pickup. There's a reason Botanicals has thrived for almost a decade; these guys can turn any window-shopper into a devoted repeat customer. 3014 South Grand Avenue, St. Louis, 63118. 314-772-7674, www.botanicalsdesignstudio.com.
If shopping is what helps St. Louis neighborhoods thrive, then we are more than happy to pull out our charge cards. Revive Thrift Shop combines a pleasurable experience for shoppers ­­— stylish, modern clothes both second­hand and new; curated housewares such as turquoise candy dishes and reworked china hutches; plenty of sunlight and space ­­— with the opportunity for at-­risk or post-­prison men to learn retail and carpentry skills that can benefit their communities. Working with Mission: St. Louis and the in­-store upcycling-furniture business Anew Nature, the nonprofit shop brings its calling to life through job training and customer interaction. So if you need one more reason to buy that gorgeous green-­and-­orange armoire, just think of the piece as an investment in the neighborhood. 2202 South Vandeventer Avenue, St. Louis, 63110. 314-776-7520, revivethrift.org.
Paperdolls is the boutique to find a trendy outfit or staple item that doesn't break the bank. The shop buys its skirts, blouses, dresses, shoes, jewelry and handbags directly from New York and Los Angeles, so it's always on-trend. Unlike other retailers, Paperdolls doesn't overwhelm with clothes that are strewn all over the place. Plus, it accommodates a wide range of price points. Designer lines are represented, but cheaper items are on offer as well — which can be dangerous, because you just may want to snatch up everything in there. Thankfully, the staff is friendly and willing to help you narrow your options. And with locations in Kirkwood, Town & Country and University City, a Paperdolls is never far away. Three area locations, including: 110 East Jefferson Avenue, Kirkwood, 63122. 314-965-3655, www.paperdolls.boutique.
Jewelry by Craft Alliance won’t break the bank.
Mabel Suen
Jewelry by Craft Alliance won’t break the bank.
Beautiful, statement-making jewelry doesn't have to max out your credit cards to speak volumes, as shoppers at the Craft Alliance Center of Art & Design could attest. With a focus on contemporary craft, the gallery shop at the Craft Alliance features both local and national artists who skillfully create wearable pieces that are beyond lovely enough to spruce up any ensemble. Expect to find an ever-changing selection of distinctive bracelets, necklaces, rings and more, with looks that range from elegant to quirky, understated to bold. And the best part? If you find yourself inspired, the Craft Alliance offers classes that teach you how to make your own adornments. 6640 Delmar Boulevard, University City, 63130. 314-725-1177, www.craftalliance.org.
Sarah Michelson and Willow Rosen at Box.
Mabel Suen
Sarah Michelson and Willow Rosen at Box.
Located just off Cherokee Street, Box adds an interesting retail and meeting space to the bustling restaurant and bar district. It doesn't immediately come off as a sex shop; gauzy white curtains cover the windows of the entrance, and the main room is so minimally decorated, it takes a moment to realize that the gold milk crates affixed to the walls display an assortment of sex toys. In fact, many of them would look at home in a Sharper Image catalog. More economically priced and familiar items are also for sale, including beautifully crafted glass dildos, condoms and whips. But Box is much more than a place to get a fancy vibrator: The shop has a feminist, community-driven, sex-positive mission. Co-owners Willow Rosen and Sarah Michaelson are experienced and helpful beyond their knowledge of pleasure devices — both are practicing doulas, and in the interest of providing a safe space to talk about sexuality and motherhood, they have devoted an entire room, with nary a phallus in sight, to their regularly scheduled lectures and discussions that range in topic from consent, masculinity and menstruation to recovering from sexual trauma and the benefits of breastfeeding. Box is like no other sex shop, and it's worth a visit — even if cock rings aren't your thing. 3350 Ohio Avenue, St. Louis, 63118. 314-312-2213, boxstl.squarespace.com.
Soon after the Civil War, the Marx family began selling essential goods in the city of St. Louis. Incredibly, 140 years later, Marx Hardware & Paint Co. is still in business. The shop in Old North is now run by brothers Andy and Steve Marx, who encourage calling ahead to ask about selection — they're not Home Depot and don't pretend to be. That's part of the charm — that, and the giant harmonica hanging from the ceiling, along with the wood-burning stove that warms the shop come winter. Marx offers a bit of everything, from tools and paint to rat traps, shovels, garden hoses and glue. The brothers even stock laundry detergent and toilet paper for neighbors who don't want to trek to the grocery store. 2501 North 14th Street, St. Louis, 63106. 314-231-8435.
Riverside Antiques specializes in architectural items.
Mabel Suen
Riverside Antiques specializes in architectural items.
Every shop on Cherokee's Antique Row is unique. Riverside Antiques happens to specialize in architectural items: vintage doors and windows of all sizes, metal register covers, wooden balusters, tin ceiling tiles, old light fixtures. When last we checked, it had even salvaged bricks engraved with "ST LOUIS." Owners Don and Barb Moore have been here since 1979, and they cull their inventory from rehabbers and estate sales. The couple lives above the shop, which is open practically every day (even in the dark of winter, when some shoppers duck in just to rub their hands over their vintage wood stove). "I love this place," Barb says. "I wouldn't want to live anywhere else." 1947 Cherokee Street, St. Louis, 63118. 314-772-9177, www.riversideantiquesstl.com
The Hill Cigar Company has a selection of boutique cigars.
Alex Brown/Flickr
The Hill Cigar Company has a selection of boutique cigars.
Walking through the front door of the Hill Cigar Company is like discovering a home you never knew you had the keys to. In the front room there's a ring of comfortable chairs occupied, usually, by a harrumphing collection of good-natured smokers. The walk-in humidor is a veritable Cigar Library of Congress: Aficionados will thrill at the selection of boutique cigars and new releases, while novices will get the hand-holding they need to find their flavor. The highlight, however, is the lounge, which is laid out with blocky leather armchairs, continent-sized couches and a full kitchen. Grab a chilled glass from the fridge, pull out a bottle or flask (it's BYOB) and do what comes naturally. Cut and spark that cigar. Offer your neighbor a drink. Turn on the game. Do whatever you want to make yourself at home — because you are. 5360 Southwest Avenue, St. Louis, 63139. 314-776-4455, www.hillcigarco.com.
Studies have suggested that plants respond to sound, which might explain what we saw a few months back at Colors of Spring: an employee crouched over a tray of violets, gently pouring some water into one corner, coaxing, "Come on, now!" to a droopy bloom. Though it's unlikely that each plant, tree, flower and shrub gets talked to daily, the exquisite level of care given to living things at Colors of Spring is evident at every turn. Cascading blooms spill out of hanging planters (nary a dead head in the bunch), cheerful vincas perk up the gloomiest day, and the gorgeous prearranged mixed baskets will make you look like a container-gardening genius. If your lawn and garden needs are beyond what a few hanging plants can remedy, the Lindenwood Park shop will draw up a landscaping plan for your yard for free — provided that you purchase from the nursery, of course. The staff is knowledgeable and easy to work with: After all, if they pay that much attention to a single wilted flower, imagine how lush and beautiful an entire yard would be! 3298 Watson Road, St. Louis, 63139. 314-781-0765