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GOODS & SERVICES

Best Shopping Center

Stuyvesant Plaza

1475 Western Avenue, Albany

Stuyvesant Plaza is truly a one-stop- shopping destination. This shopping center offers a broad retail mix from wine and books to toys and clothing, and a U.S. Post Office to boot. Everything from grab-and-go bagels to gourmet dining is offered at Stuyvesant’s restaurants. And on a sunny day the walk, from one end of the horseshoe to the other, is very pleasant.

Best Downtown Shopping

Great Barrington, Mass.

We can think of other downtowns that specialize in antiques or nightlife, and at least one that overflows with activity at this time of year, but Great Barrington is just about the only one in the region where you can spend a day sampling interesting and varied shops, galleries and restaurants without ever stumbling into a chain.

Best women's clothing: Circles.

Photo: Alicia Solsman

Best Women’s Clothing

Circles

Stuyvesant plaza, Albany

There is no need to go all the way to New York City to find couture fashion or the hottest new looks. Circles offers a beautiful array of woman’s clothing from top designers for every taste and cosmetic lines right off the New York City runways. The knowledgeable and fashion-forward staff will make you feel like you have your very own personal stylist to assist you in looking uber-chic. From shoes and formal wear to accessories and lingerie, you’ll leave feeling like you’ve found a touch of Manhattan right here in Albany.

Best Men’s Clothing

Mark Thomas Mens’ Apparel

5 Metro Park Road, Albany

Mark Goldfarb and Tom Fagan know how to do men’s clothes right. From the minute you walk through the door you feel like your in a an old-world environment that harks back to days of the classic haberdasheries. They carry quality lines such as Pal Zileri, Corneliani and Jack Victor, as well as an amazing collection of sportier clothing, shoes and accessories. Whether you’re just starting your career, running a top law firm or coaching basketball, Mark Thomas will have you looking like a millionaire.

Best Jewelry (Artisan)

Elissa Halloran Designs

229 Lark St., Albany

You want a one-of-a-kind abalone-and-vintage-bead necklace? How about a funky Calderesque skeleton mobile? A bracelet fashioned from vintage typewriter keys? A hip pair of sunglasses, a retro handbag, charming hostess gift or just a general pick-me-up by way of something pretty, fun and completely fab? For years, Elissa Halloran Designs has been the go-to place for all of the above, and more. New pieces, de-signed by Halloran herself as well as some of the area’s top jewelry designers, arrive weekly, and the prices are very reasonable.

Best Jewelry (Fine)

Drue Sanders

1675 Western Ave., Albany

Here’s where you go when the jewelry must be special. Really special. Drue Sanders’ eclectic and elegant pieces reflect a sound understanding of craftsmanship and a discerning eye for detail, notably her stunning Evolution collection. In addition to providing such beautiful jewelry, the staff at Drue Sanders prides itself on top-notch customer service, an altogether increasingly rare commodity.

Best Optician

Buenau’s Opticians

228 Delaware Ave., Delmar

With the latest in frames and contacts, the crew at Buenau’s are consummate professionals, and fun folks to be around! Family-owned and -operated since 1915, Buenau’s specializes in hard-to-fit patients at competitive prices. Let them take care of you like you were one of their own. You and your eyes will be glad you did.

Best Sunglasses

Tommy Shades

411 Kenwood Ave., Delmar

This designer sunglasses boutique specializes in fashion, lifestyle and sports eyewear, including couture brands such as Tom Ford and Chanel Eyewear. Offering sunglasses for nearly every sport and standing at the forefront of the metropolitan trends, Tommy Shades provides an exclusive buying experience.

Best Cigar Shop

Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe

1645 Central Ave., Albany; 528 North Greenbush Rd., North Greenbush

The cigar experience has been elevated in the Capital District by the new Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe on Central Avenue. In addition to carrying all the quality cigars, pipes, tobaccos and accoutrements of quality you’ve come to expect from Habana, the new space boasts one of the largest humidors in the Northeast, a sexy smoking lounge, a fine selection of gentleman’s gifts, daily cigar-rolling demonstrations and regular aficionado events.

Best Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll Boutique

Déjà Vu

145 Wolf Road Shoppers Park, Albany

For 40 years, Ray Chiras and crew have been titillating your senses, one sense at a time. We know you’ve been there. You’ve seen the array of naughty and nice options they have to bring out your inner rock star . . . and you loved it. It doesn’t matter what grooves you: clothes, tickets to shows, smoke or sexy-time fun, it’s all under one roof here. . . . Oh yeah.

Best Wine Store (Price)

Empire Wine

Target Plaza, Colonie

Don’t let the amazing prices fool you—this is also an excellent wine store, with a great, thoughtfully chosen selection.

Best Wine Store (Selection)

All-Star Wine & Spirits

Latham Farms

Besides the vast array of traditional red and white wines offered in this newly expanded store, All-Star also offers superior selections of such specialty categories as Champagne and sparlking wine, port and sherry, and sake.

Best Beer Store

Oliver’s Beverage Center

105 Colvin Ave., Albany

A beer lover’s paradise—and we do mean a beer lover, not just someone who drinks a lot of beer. This is the store for someone who savors a lot of beer—and a lot of different kinds of beer. Hundreds of different kinds. By the bottle, if you so choose.

Best Food Co-op

Honest Weight Food Co-op

484 Central Ave., Albany

When the Troy Community Food Co-op finally gets itself together, Honest Weight might have some competition in this category, but it’s not just the fact that they’re the only game in town that earns Honest Weight this honor. One of the longest-running co-ops in the country, it’s the envy of many an out-of-towner. Where else can you find a comparable variety of local organic produce, bulk grain, natural cosmetics and cleaning products, gourmet cheese, and vegan prepared foods? Nowhere, that’s where.

Best Farmers Market

Troy Waterfront Farmers Market

There is no better way to start a lazy Saturday than with a trip to this farmers market. The Waterfront Farmers Market boasts a wide variety of vendors and musicians, and plenty of hot food vendors dishing out a late breakfast.

Best Fresh Food Market

Guido’s Fresh Marketplace

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

Besides the most heavenly produce displays in the region, both of the locations have terrific meat and seafood sections, bakeries, delis, and bulk and packaged foods. The fact that they also sell wine pretty much completes the one-stop food-shopping experience.

Best Neighborhood Market

Cardona’s Market

340 Delaware Ave., Albany

While in many ways Cardona’s is an old-fashioned Italian neighborhood market stocked to the gills with pastas, sauces, olive oils, sausages and cheeses, it’s also a reliable sources of fresh, all-natural meats (cut to order), fish, and fresh produce. Throw in the sumptuous deli take-out and the friendly staff (many of them in the family), and you have both a neighborhood stop-off and a destination.

Best Asian Supermarket

Asian Supermarket

1245 Central Ave., Albany

This place roared into town with a bright, clean look and an unprecedented expanse of offerings, including the usual array of fresh fish and odd vegetables and adding a terrific produce department, a butcher shop where you’ll find items Price Chopper won’t touch, and canned goods covering all manner of Asian cuisines and even a tasty and economical buffet.

Best Butcher

Rolf’s Pork Store

70 Lexington Ave., Albany

There’s no glamour at this old-school German meat mart. But there is an expert and friendly staff and a meat selection to make any carnivore swoon—more than 60 varieties of the naturally smoked, homemade coldcuts, wurst, & hams, and every fresh cut of beast you can imagine.

Best Bakery (Bread)

Perreca’s Bakery

33 N. Jay St., Schenectady

What sets Perreca’s bread apart from the rest and thus makes it a perennial winner is its ability to be recognized anywhere. The balance of hard crust and dense ‘meat” are fresh-baked perfection, sheer perfection! Pop in for bread and other necessities at Perreca’s and stay for a meal right next door at the new(ish) More Perreca’s.

Best Bakery (confections): Villa Italia Pasticceria.

Photo: Martin Benjamin

Best Bakery (confections)

Villa Italia Pasticceria

226 Broadway, Schenectady

That brown box with the gold lettering all tied up with a pretty little bow always gets us excited. Why? Chocolate mice! But that’s not all Villa Italia has to offer. This pasticceria has been making delicious, authentic Italian, cakes, confections, pastries, and cookies for more than 40 years. So stop in and grab a mouthwatering selection to go, or sit and relax with a cup of espresso and your favorite pastry as you window shop their display case for your next treat.

Best Candy Shop

The Peanut Principle

1158 New Loudon Road, Cohoes

In addition to the signature gourmet peanut butter, the Peanut Principle offers homemade fudge, chocolates, hard candy, roasted nuts and dried fruit. They are also known for their gift baskets for those of us with a sweet tooth. Stop in, say hello and pick up something good to snack on.

Best Kitchen Supply Store

Different Drummer’s Kitchen

Stuyvesant Plaza; 374 Pittsfield Road, Lenox, Mass.

A cook’s paradise, with well-made merchandise at reasonable prices. Check out the newly expanded Stuyvesant store, which now offers cooking classes.

Best Home Theater

Hippo’s Home Entertainment

Stuyvesant Plaza

You might get a better price at a chain, but you won’t get the top-quality installation and service. A repeat winner.

Best Large Appliance Store

Cocca’s Appliances & Home Electronics

158 Railroad Ave., Albany

Whether you’re looking to chill your beer, broil your bluefish or fluff your bloomers, Cocca’s has the largest selection, best service and greatest deals around. And that unbeatable three-year warranty.

Best Specialty Appliance Store: Lexington Vacuum.

Photo: Joe Putrock

Best Specialty Appliance Store

Lexington Vacuum

997 Central Ave., Albany

Lexington Vacuum really sucks, like only the best vacuum store can. With three-generations of expertise behind their sales, parts and service, these guys know their stuff. They’re passionate about vacuums, and they back their sales with comprehensive guarantees that keep folks loyal.

Best Bookstore

The Book House

Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany

The Book House snags this one every year thanks to their smart and varied selection, regular literary events and friendly service from an extremely well-read staff. Their recent remodel has made the book browsing experience even lovelier.

Best Children’s Bookstore

The Little Book House

Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany

Not only does the Little Book House offer a children’s selection to rival any megachain, they do so in a kid-centric, literary wonderland that makes reading feel like the exciting adventure it should.

Best Booktique

Open Door Bookstore

128 Jay St., Schenectady

For more than 30 years, this booktique has been gracing the streets of Downtown Schenectady. The perfect destination to pick up a thoughtful gift for a loved one and the latest and greatest book for yourself, recommended by Amy on WAMC’s Roundtable or any of the other knowledgeable staff, it’s a stop you won’t want to miss.

Best Used Bookstore

The Book Barn

200 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham

Dan Riggs has crafted his used bookstore for the ultimate in selection and value. What its strip-mall location lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in miles of books at rock-bottom prices. And with constant turnover, you can always unearth something new (to you). We have yet to walk out without an armful of literary treasures.

Best Bookstore (Antiquarian)

Lyrical Ballad

7 Phila St., Saratoga Springs

You could get lost for hours in here amid Lyrical Ballad’s amazing collection of old books. The rareties, ephemera and first editions make this place special; so does the fact that every time you browse, you find a delightful new surprise.

Best Beatnik Books

Down in Denver Books

874 Route 43, Stephentown

Dan Lorber runs this used bookstore out of the rambling civil-war era Clark House, where he lives with his wife Dale. Bibliophiles are welcome to warm their minds exploring the inventory of more than 14,000 literary treasures, antiquarian volumes and quirky ephemera that mingle on the winding shelves and nooks of the original warm wood walls. It’s packed full of words, discovery and personality befitting its Kerouacian allusion.

Best Used Textbooks

Mary Jane Books

215 Western Ave., Albany

Mary Jane Books is truly the college student’s best friend. They sell used—and some new—textbooks at prices that are a lot friendlier than the obscenely inflated markups found at college bookstores. And they do it with a smile, right in a neighborhood where many of said college kids live.

Best comic book shop

Aquilonia Comics

412 fulton st. troy

There is no ‘tude at Aquilonia. Guys who work in comic book places generally don’t have the right to have attitudes, but some do and it generally ruins the whole experience of spending your hard-earned dollar on something so frivolous. But it is not an issue at Aquilonia. Bob Lupe, the purveyor of the store, and his associates are simply helpful, informed and conversational. We can’t promise the stray arrogant comic-book customer might walk in and kill the buzz of picking up the latest issue of The Walking Dead, or a Planetary hardcover. But we can promise you will get the best assistance, one can find from any local comic shop and you won’t feel dumb for asking a question.

Best Record Store

Last Vestige Music Shop

173 Quail St., Albany

We were in a restless mood one recent Saturday afternoon. We wanted to hear some new music; or, more specifically, we wanted some old music that was new to us. The only place to go was, of course, Last Vestige Music Shop, where rare used vinyl surrounds you (as well as CDs, DVDs and the odd VHS tape). It’s musical nirvana. Oh, yeah, we bought some Loretta Lynn, Eric Burdon, Hank Snow, and Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66—and it made everything better.

Best Musical Instrument Store: Parkway Music.

Photo: Leif Zurmuhlen

Best Musical Instrument Store

Parkway Music

1602 Rt. 9 Clifton Park

There is no more reliable one-stop-shop for amateur and professional musicians in the region. Featuring great guitar lines, impeccable service, lessons and a knowledgeable staff, Parkway delivers better than box stores like Guitar Center. Think of Parkway as the arsenal that provides tools of the rock to our area’s disaffected young suburbanites.

Best Musical Instrument Store Renaissance

Drome Sound

3905 State St. Schenectady

The area once again has a homegrown music shop that provides an excellent selection of the top brands. A recent trip to the joint revealed to us a marvelous selection of Fender and Gibson at ridiculously reasonable prices—with guitars priced about $100 less than the competition. The prices drew us in, but the gorgeous looking Jaguar and Jazzmaster they had on display made us fall back in love with the store that sold at least one of us our first Fender Stratocaster. Rock on!

Best Art Supply Store

Arlene’s Artist Materials

57 Fuller Road, Albany

Arlene’s is the eternal victor in this category—an art supply store run by artists, this place has everything you could possibly need from acrylics and armatures to architects rulers, not to mention custom framing service and a quirky supply of gifts catering to the aesthetically inclined.

Best Photography Supply

Photo Images

19 Gelnridge Road, Glenville

Do you miss actually shopping for a camera and getting to handle one and have it explained to you by a real photographer? Photo Images in Glenville is just about the only place that caters to amateur and professional photographers equally well, and Steve Fogel is the guy who can tell you what you need to know and consider. A professional photographer himself, Steve can converse intelligently about different makes and models of camera gear and point you to the best selection for your needs and ability level. Steve keeps up on the latest technology and puts it to work; they also do great printing and offer occasional classes and tutorials.

Best Junk Shop that’s Really an Antique Store

(No Name)

Corner of Broadway and Third Street, Rensselaer

You’ll have to look for it by its dusty front window on the corner of Broadway and Third Street because there’s no noticeable sign, but don’t be fooled by the junky-looking exterior: this small-but-crammed shop carries almost everything you’d find in a prestige antiques store, from Victorian tables and cabinets to political memorabilia to vintage clothes and glassware. On a recent visit, Elvis was in the house. A mint-condition, 1960s Elvis doll, in its original box. Dealers from Hudson have been raiding this place for years, but intrepid bargain hunters can buy direct and beat the mark-up.

Best Holistic (wellness)

Jean’s Greens

1545 Columbia Turnpike, Schodack

Sometimes there’s nothing better than sitting back with a nice cup of tea. But if that tea is from Jean’s Greens, rest assured it’s great for you too! Whether you want to cleanse your body, clear up your skin, get rid of those headaches, or have a great night sleep naturally, they offer an all-natural tea to help. And if you don’t see what you need, just ask the lovely and helpful staff and they’ll create a special blend just for you. With books, essential oils, baby and pet-care products, tea cups and pots, do it yourself kits, herbal essentials, and much more, healthy living is just a sip away.

Best Holistic Store (Metaphysical)

Peaceful Inspirations

384 Kenwood Ave., Delmar

If you haven’t started looking inward yet, time’s a tickin’! What better way to start on your quest then to have Anne at Peaceful Inspirations show you the way. So many avenues to explore, the shop boasts a little bit of everything to start you on your way. Fair-trade and locally crafted gifts also available. As in life, the store is ever-changing and evolving, now with a great space in the back of the store for reading and classes. Go to relax, shop and enjoy.

Best Community Center

Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center

340 Whitehall Road, Albany

With cultural programming, community classes, summer camps, senior programs, a state-of-the art fitness center, three pools (indoor and out), sports leagues, a farmer’s market and the area’s largest childcare center, the JCC really is “the place to be.”

Best Gym: Best Fitness.

Photo: Julia Zave

Best Gym

Best Fitness

911 Central Ave., Albany; 2330 Watt Street, Schenectady

With huge, immaculate facilities, friendly staff, knowledgeable trainers, positive energy and an amazing selection of weights, exercise and aerobic machines, Best Fitness is a gym that caters to every level of exerciser. Tanning, boxing studio, and exercise classes with great instructors round this gym out with everything one could possibly want.

Best Bike Shop

Downtube Cycle Shop

466 Madison Ave., Albany

The well-loved Downtube Cycle Shop has expert staff, excellent customer service, quality bikes (Trek, Gary Fisher, Seven Cycles) and accessories, and offers custom fitting services. A perennial winner for Best Bike Shop, their loyal customers know it’s the place to go to keep their wheels spinning.

Best Pet Care

Head to Tail Pet Wellness Center

1604 Union St., Schenectady

Their card says it all: “Complete grooming service for dogs & cats; day care adventure; holistic, natural & organic food & treats; spa treatments relaxation & rejuvenation treatments; Reiki; sports agility warm up & wind down sessions; Jog-a-dog treadmill; training; behavior consultation; toys & supplies; gifts; fresh baked biscuits . . . and LOVE!” And with expansion on its way, there’ll be even more for you and your pet to love!

 

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