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GOODS & SERVICES

Best Men’s Clothing Store (Designer)

Christopher’s Clothing Store

Crossgates Mall, Guilderland

OK, you have been putting this off long enough. You need to get going on that career and you’re going to need to revamp the wardrobe; vintage T-shirts just won’t cut it anymore. Let the haberdashers at this fine clothier make you over. High-quality Italian-cut suits, custom-made shirts, and a great selection of ties, socks and accessories. Remember to bring your checkbook, cause this kind of quality doesn’t come cheap.

Best Men’s Clothing Store (Casual)

Cohoes Fashions

43 Mohawk Street, Cohoes

This is the only place in the Capital Region that carries cutting-edge designers. Armani, Dolce and Gabbana, Kenneth Cole and too many others to name, and—here’s the good news—all at discounted prices. They also have a huge selection of designer jeans. The next-closest quality shopping is NYC.

Best Women’s Clothing (Upscale)

Main Street

322 Main St., Great Barrington, Mass.

Main Street, located appropriately enough on Main Street in Great Barrington, is that rare find, equal parts Manhattan high fashion and Berkshire hospitality. Featuring unique brands, including Barami and Voxx, and including dazzling displays of accessories and jewelry, this store offers the well-dressed woman stylish choices far outside the mainstream. Feminine is the operative word here, but it’s femininity without the froufrou. Excellent service and competitive prices round out the shopping experience.

Some fashion: Diva de Loayza at her Some Girls Boutique.

Best Women’s Clothing (Funky)

Some Girls Boutique

17 Colvin Ave., Albany; 13 Second st., Troy

Some Girls is a fresh face in our landscape of mass-produced mall-bought clothing. Both owner Diva de Loayza and her clothing line, House of Bimbo, can be found at Some Girls looking as fashionable as ever. And you can usually spot the resident Pomeranian, Morsel, keeping a watchful eye on all occurrences in the Albany store. At the Web site, you can preview (and order) new items; and with their new Troy location, Some Girls is showcasing an even wider array of clothes and accessories, and we think that’s just swell.

 

Best Women’s Shoes

Saratoga Shoe Depot

385 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

It can be overwhelming to walk into Saratoga Shoe Depot if you aren’t sure what you are looking for. But that’s better than too little of a selection, right? With the wide array of shoes, heels, sneakers and sandals, it’s likely you’ll find exactly what you were looking for (or something you didn’t expect to be looking for but had to have). Prices are reasonable, whether it be name-brand or the latest trend. You just might find the perfect outfit there, too, to go along with those kicks.

Best Consignment Shop

New 2 You

1202 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham

Forget the notion that all consignment shops are repositories of somebody else’s shabby leftovers. New 2 You elevates the concept of gently worn to exquisite heights. The store has collected high-fashion labels, including Ghost and Calvin Klein, along with top shelf retailers like Ann Taylor and Lily Pulitzer, an outstanding selection at oh-so- affordable prices. In addition to clothing, the shop carries shoes, accessories and even stuff for the home, making it a one-stop-shopping mecca for the discriminating penny-pincher.

Best Jewelry

Elissa Halloran Designs

225 Lark St., Albany

Elissa Halloran’s eclectic jewelry dares you to flaunt your individuality, to design an entire look around a bold necklace or pair of earrings. The only challenge is narrowing your choices down to one, or two, or . . . well, you get the picture. This repeat winner has grown her business—as well as her considerable talent—each year, exploring new materials and different inspirations. We love how Halloran takes organic elements like shells and mother of pearl and combines them in such a way as to blend the architecturally modern with the gracefully feminine. In addition, her store is a cache of hidden treasures, ceramics, fabric handbags, consignment attire, and all-around tschochkes.

Best Downtown Shopping

Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs is a town that has it all. And in terms of shopping, that means that their independent boutiques (Saratoga Soles, the Clothes Horse, Recycling Red Dresses, etc.) and bakeries and restaurants (Circus Café, Mrs. London’s, etc.) live in harmony with some well-chosen chain stores like Ann Taylor Loft, Gap and Borders, and even a Starbucks. There’s something for everyone on Broadway in Saratoga Springs.

Best Shopping Day Trip

Northampton, Mass.

Sure, you can make a day of outlet shopping in Manchester or Lee, or get all earthy-crunchy down in Woodstock, but none of them is as interesting and full of surprises as Northampton, a mere hour and a half away. The city’s varying influences—college hipsterism, New York sophistication, New England practicality—have somehow fused into an energy that supports a thriving arts scene, a tone of restaurants, and an eclectic mix of downtown merchants. Scour Main Street and the marketplace at Thorne’s, but don’t forget to poke your head down all the side streets. We’ll be shocked if you don’t come back with a hot new dress, a cool antique or a bushel of used books.

Best Book Store

Book House

Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany

The Book House is so close to the hearts of Metrolanders that some people worry we are a bit overattached. We can think critically about the store, however, and we think the Book House could be more like the box stores in one way: We wish they could be open late into the night. Oh, who are we kidding? We wish they would never close. Keep your eyes open for an upcoming Metroland feature dealing with our office’s obsession with the Book House, titled, “Do I Have To Leave? But I Have Nowhere Else to Go!”

Best Used Bookstore

Dove and Hudson

296 Hudson Ave., Albany

As soon as you walk in, the tranquility of the place takes hold setting the stage for the ultimate book shopping experience. With its perfect balance of our favorite classics and modern novelties, it’s almost impossible to walk out of this store without buying a book or two—or five. If you can’t find something on the shelves, all you have to do is ask, and the owner will search high and low to see whether he’s got it somewhere in the store. The biggest plus is that, unlike many other places, you won’t spend half your day poring through junk, because it’s just not there (not that there’s anything wrong with a good trashy novel).

Best Children’s Bookstore

The Little Book House

Stuyvesant Plaza

Good books. Better books. Best books yet. Little tykes’ only problem is which to get. Apologies to Dr. Seuss, but kids can’t go wrong in this comfortable, well-stocked and friendly perennial winner. Making the Little Book House that much more spectacular is that its staff really, really knows, likes and can recommend titles.

Best Comic Book Shop

Aquilonia

412 fulton st., troy

It isn’t easy being a comic geek these days. Sure, comic books have infiltrated all forms of popular culture, movies, television, and videogames but at the same time finding interesting, mature, well-written comics to read has become harder—that’s where having a helpful comic-book guru comes into play. Bob and Mark at Aquilonia always have something new, well-written and involving to recommend, and they don’t seem to mind spending an afternoon chatting about their recommendations, like The Walking Dead, Transmetropolitan, Loveless, Ex Machina, 100 Bullets, Battle Pope and yes, even good old Captain America.

Best Record Store (used)

Last Vestige

173 Quail St. Albany

Last Vestige, you are our one joy left in this world. Please let us continue to buy out-of-print Marc Bolan vinyl and trade in our Freejack soundtrack. Let us run our hands softly between your albums and press your pert headphones against our ears. XOXOXO


Truly retro: Jim Barrett in the River Street Beat Shop.

Best Record Store (Rummage Sale)

River Street Beat Shop

197 River St., Troy

Jim Barrett’s little nook in the antique district is truly something of the past–disorganized and dusty, it makes us nostalgic for the old old days, when a man was a man and a record store was a record store . . .or something like that. You may not find exactly what you went looking for, but you’ll find something, no doubt. Thanks for keeping the dream alive, Jim.

 

 

Best Record Store (Last Stand)

White Knight Records/Tune Street

288/294 Main St., Great Barrington, Mass.

As music downloading becomes ever more popular, especially among younger consumers, the brick-and-mortar record store’s days seem numbered indeed—some, like Albany’s venerable Music Shack, already have cried Uncle and closed up shop. So it’s fascinating to see two longtime rivals still holding down their respective forts two doors apart on Great Barrington’s Main Street. To be fair, Tune Street isn’t just a record shop—but it offers a sizeable and well-chosen selection along with the home electronics and DVDs. White Knight, meanwhile, harkens back to groovier times with its casual clutter, poster-covered walls and stacks of uncategorized used vinyl—and bless ’em, they do somehow draw a youthful clientele. It no doubt helps that downtown Great Barrington itself draws a steady stream of shoppers; whatever keep ‘em going, long live the record store.

Best Musical Instrument Store

Parkway Music

1602 Route 9, Clifton Park

There haven’t been any major changes in this market, and that’s just fine by us. We’re going to have to make them a plaque soon.

Best Farmers Market

Troy Waterfront Farmers Market; Saratoga Farmers Market (tie)

Troy Dock and Marina, River Street; High Rock Park, Saratoga Springs

We love both of these excellent farmers markets for the exceptional produce from farms all around the region, as well as breads, meats, cheeses, preserves, you-name-it. And they’re great social gathering spots, as well.

Best Fresh Food Market

Guido’s Fresh Marketplace

1020 South St., Pittsfield, Mass; 760 S. Main St., Great Barrington, Mass.

There was talk of a third location in Albany a couple of years back; that fell through, but if your business or pleasure takes you to the Berkshires, the Guido’s experience is not to be missed. An exceptional array of fresh produce, along with artisan breads and cheeses, all-natural meats, an excellent fish market and gourmet packaged goods. In its quality, quantity and freshness, it is one of a kind in this region.

Best Co-op

Honest Weight Food Co-op Inc.

484 Central Ave., Albany

Stop by the co-op for a free workshop, lecture, cooking class or even just a sample of cheese from Gustav. It’s a pleasurable experience to shop for organic grocery, bulk grains, personal products and vitamins, soy products and did I mention cheese? Nicole, the deli manager, will help you out with some prepared foods if you need more than just ingredients. Honest Weight is open to new product suggestions, and their very helpful Web site is updated regularly in case you miss their monthly sales flyer!

Best Place to Buy Bulk Tea

The Whistling Kettle Tea Lounge

24 Front St., Ballston Spa

We tea drinkers love our tea, and the wimpy brown secretion boiled from a tea bag just ain’t gonna cut it. We need that strong, aromatic experience that only a full-bodied brew of fresh leaves can offer. At the Whistling Kettle Tea Lounge, we can sip our steaming cups of Oolong Orange Blossom or Snow Dragon in the company of other tea lovers. Or, if we need to stock up, we can slip in and choose from their collection of over 80 bulk teas. And for those of us who are dedicatedly misanthropic, the lounge sells their teas online, too.

Best Cheese Staff

Honest Weight Food Co-op

484 Central Ave., Albany

We were going to say best cheese selection, because it is mighty impressive. But what’s selection worth if you can’t tell manchego from asiago? The astonishing Gustav and his crew at HWFC not only can, but will, take a full 20 minutes to discuss with you the perfect cheese for that recipe with feta that you want to make for someone who hates feta. And if you’re going to spend $12 a pound on cheese, starting with good advice (and samples) is pretty much always worth it.

Best Prenatal Exercise

Debra Goodman’s Maternal Exercise Classes

4 Wilson Lane, Cohoes

Yes, we like yoga too. But when Deb Goodman puts on her physical therapist hat and explains in detail which ab muscles you want to strengthen and which you should be leaving alone, you’ll get more out of any movement you do with that pregnant belly. And she has managed to finally demystify Kegel exercises to some of us with decades of touchy feely women’s health experience. She probably shouldn’t put a guarantee on the word on the street that her exercises will shorten your pushing time drastically, but we hear circumstantial evidence that it has happened . . .

Best Art Supply Store

Arlene’s Artist Materials

57 Fuller Road, Albany

The longtime supplier of choice for local artaists, Arlene’s carries all the serious stuff, with very friendly and helpful staff.

Best Bridal Shop

Angela’s Bridal and Formal Fashions

1811 Western Ave., Albany

Some bridal shops in the Capital District push their ideas of what a bride should look like. Angela’s is not one of them. While they are friendly and helpful, the saleswomen also have a hefty supply of patience. Between the brides who try on every dress in the shop (there are hundreds) and those who can’t decide between cowboy boots or red ballet slippers, they never rush brides out or scoff at nontraditional selections. We appreciate it!

Best Gift Store

Wits End Giftique

Parkwood Plaza, Route 9, Clifton Park

We’re not sure what a “giftique” is and there is no definition from Webster’s, so we decided to define it for you: every possible gift under the sun, under one roof with a very helpful staff. The “Wits End” part of the name is easy, when you are at your wits end trying to find a special gift for that impossible person this is the place. This is a big-box gift shop, without that big box feeling with an extremely attentive staff and a selection that is unparalleled. At Christmastime you will be amazed by the decorations.

Best Gift Store (Eccentric)

Rella’s

260 Lark St., Albany

This new little shop has a diverse and interesting collection of neat stuff to buy, for yourself or others. An old Elvis napkin dispenser? Antique hair clips with rhinestones? Unique martini glasses, with a slight tilt? See-through soap containing real teeth? From alternative baby clothes to collectable furniture, the boutique is full of unusual gifts somebody will enjoy.

BestHolistic/Wellness

Peaceful Inspirations

384 Kenwood Ave, Delmar

For your metaphysical journey, Peaceful Inspirations may be a necessity. Besides the meditation and yoga supplies, items for your path to enlightenment include drums, aromatherapy candles, books, handcrafted items by local artists and crafters, music and instructional CD’s for all ages, and fair trade items from Tibet. Anne DeClue’s warmth and sincerity resonates through out the whole store. Stop in and feel for yourself!

Best Massage

Balance Massage Studio

318 Delaware Ave., Delmar

If you are looking for a general good massage, Balance Massage Studio can help you. If you are looking for something a little different, the five therapists offer many unusual and nontraditional types of massages, from Thai yoga to reflexology and reiki. The tranquil rooms, with fountains and relaxing music, provide the perfect atmosphere to get out of your head for a little while. And Valentine’s Day week they added hot-stone therapy, gratis!

Best Yarn Store

The Spinning Room

190 Main St., Altamont

Knitters around here are lucky. We have a number of yarn shops, in every direction, so we rarely need to order online or head to New York City to find our dream yarn. But selection will only make a yarn shop so good. At the Spinning Room, you are treated like royalty. If you can’t figure out what is wrong with your cable design, or are looking for a pattern to get your needles flying, the staffers are more than willing to guide you. Be warned, though, they expect you to come back and show off your finished projects!

Best Pottery Store

The Broken Mold

284 River St., Troy

This charming pottery store and studio started last year, just in time for Troy’s Victorian Stroll. It features the works of 19 potters, two jewelers, two purse-makers, and five wall artists. It is a bright and cheerful environment, where a person feels comfortable stopping in to chat with the owners or to pick up a treasured coffee cup and saucer. Not content with just being a spectator? You are able to get your hands dirty there, too: Take lessons, either as an individual or in a group, or rent wheel time on one of their four throwing wheels.

Best Flower Shop

Pi Naturals

2217 Fifth Ave., Troy

Aiming to be more than only a place to buy flowers, this cool and collected studio and store serves the thriving community of area artists by hosting art openings, charitable events, and the like. The intimate, 100-year-old building in Central Troy has been lovingly rehabbed with a modern motif of metal and exposed brick, creating both a hip and welcoming space. Add to that the exotic flowers and thoughtful floral arrangements for sale, and you have the coolest flower shop around.

Best Hardware Store

Phillips Hardware Delmar

235 Delaware Ave., Delmar

In the land of big-box, serve yourself, and pay-more hardware emporiums, it’s nice to know that service, selection and knowledge still exist at this community-based store. They would rather fix your screen than sell you the kit to screw-it-up yourself, and you can actually talk to an intelligent, experienced staffer. We realize that the Lowe Depot’s have everything, but ask the small independent and they’ll get it, oftentimes less-expensive.


Bike gear: The Downtube.

Best Bike Shop

The Downtube

466 Madison Ave., Albany

There are three important things you need when you are buying a bicycle: selection, service and knowledge. This place has all three covered with room to spare. Whether you are purchasing a Gary Fisher full- suspension high-end mountain-climbing machine, a road bike to get to work, or a quality ride for the kids, this is the place.

Best Tobacconist

Edleez Tobacco

Stuyvesant Plaza

For more than 25 years Edleez has been serving the Capital Region’s tobacco needs with a welcoming smile, some witty banter and a bunch of knowledge. The selection and maintenance of the cigars are the best in town; the store boasts the largest walk-in humidor in the area, a huge cigarette selection from around the world, plus a large selection of pipes and tobaccos, lighters, humidors, and many other accessories. Everyone inhale and relax.

Best Cigar Store

Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe

1537 Central Ave., Albany

Ease into the humidor and you’ll soon find a salesclerk nearby—a salesclerk who, without being the least bit annoying, praises your taste in cheroots and then sells you something a little better. Because they know their stuff and they want you to be happy. Then take your stogie upstairs and puff away in their clubroom.

Best Home Electronics

Hippo’s

Stuyvesant Plaza, Guilderland

If your television is more than 3 inches thick, if your stereo isn’t 7.1 Dolby digital sound, if your DVD player can only hold one disc, and if you have a rats nest of wires running through your house, then it’s time to make some changes and Hippo’s is the place. TVs that look like pictures hanging on a wall, sound so crystal-clear you can literally hear that pin drop. And the most state-of-the-art components, installed so that no wires can be seen. A very knowledgeable and courteous staff is there to answer any of your electronic needs, and free in-home consultations are part of the service.

 

the best appliances for your home: Cocca’s.

Best Large Appliances

Cocca’s

158 Railroad Ave., Albany

A regular winner in this category, Cocca’s has it all: selection, price, friendly staff. And plenty of knowledgeable straight talk about what you’re buying.

 

Best Video Store

Deja View Video

279 New Scotland Ave., Albany

It’s all about customer service at this neighborhood video-rental store. E-mail updates on new releases and a few different rental plans make for a flexible and fun experience. A wide selection of foreign, art house and gay-themed selections in addition to all the latest hits.

Best Pet-Supplies Store

Pet Supplies “Plus”

1235 Western Ave., Albany

Good prices, friendly service and a big selection of food, toys and grooming supplies make this a Mecca for all of Fido’s and Fluffy’s needs. In addition to the gourmet brands, they carry all the tasty flavors of, for example, Fancy Feast, that your local supermarket doesn’t carry. Bring Fido and Fluffy for a visit, if you like—the store’s pet-friendly, too.

Best Wine Shop (Selection)

All-Star Wine and Spirits

Latham Farms, Latham

As their catch phrase states, “If wine were a religion this would be a church.” Whether you’re looking for that hard-to-find rare bottle, chances are they can get it. Need a gift for a real wine snob? This is the place. Want a quality wine for under $10? Look no further. Aisle after aisle, rack after rack, and bottle after bottle the selection is incredible. All-Star boasts a most-knowledgeable staff with a strong bent on service. Tasting rooms and wine classes are also a part of the experience.

Best Neighborhood Wine Store

Capital Wine and Spirits

348 State St., Albany

Small neighborhood wine stores often cater to neighborhood residents who either are looking for cheap hooch or are too hurried to care that they’re paying $2 more a bottle than they should be. Not so Capital Wine, which has an amazing selction of good wine for such a modest-sized store, with prices little different from what you’d find in a warehouse doing five times the volume. Brad Junco has done a marvelous job turning what once was mere convenience into a destination.

Best Beer Selection

Oliver’s Beverage

105 Colvin Ave., Albany

Hefeweizen? I.P.A.? Classic American brew? A keg perhaps? Oliver’s Beverage is the most convenient place to purchase beer for all of your imported and domestic needs. Once you pass the refrigerated section, you can find a wide variety of foreign brews sorted by country and a staff that can recommend a new brand to try.

Best Original Store Name

Cheeky Tiki Monkey

252 Lark St., Albany

Iambic pentameter aside, the Cheeky Tiki Monkey is the best store name we’ve heard in quite a while. We like wandering in there to look at all the pretty, colorful things, too.

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