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Best Smile-Bringer and Marketing Genius
Carl Oxley III

Buildings, buttons, pillows, patches, cookies, canvas, recycling centers, the cover of Metro Times, the Leno show — is there anyplace this guy won't put a grinning cartoon monkey, bunny, bumblebee or giraffe? Hopefully not. No matter how many times you spot some member of his candy-colored menagerie, it's always a welcome burst of instant happy for your tired eyeballs. Items are for sale on Oxley's Web site, popartmonkey.com. Pick up a pillow at Bureau of Urban Living, 460 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-833-9336.

Best Shop Owner
Cuba's Little Shop

6717 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-895-1359
A couple of minutes in Cuba's Little Shop and you've already smelled half the store. Owner Jose Diaz will have brought two pairs of genuine leather boots to your nose and popped the caps on Johnson & Johnson shampoo so you can take a whiff of the chemical bouquet. This new store may sell ordinary sundries — you know, Tupperware, curtains, scissors, nighties — but "ordinary" doesn't sufficiently describe Diaz, who, if he really likes you, will try to give you stuff for free. (Perhaps not a good practice for someone who just opened the store two weeks ago after closing a pawn shop down the street.) While there's not too much that's authentically Cuban about his retail selection, the salsa sound of Celia Cruz on the CD player, a selection of sequined, Miami-style flip flops and the generous, animated personality of this Santiago native is a great taste of the country, worth way more than a few bucks.

 

Best Oldest Place to Get Your Hex On
Discount Candles

1400 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; 313-566-0092
Oh, they've got candles, alright, but that's not all this Eastern Market shop carries. On most days, a steady stream of customers passes through Discount Candles in search of occult wares used by voodoo, hoodoo and Santeria practitioners, like money candles, voodoo dolls and spiritual — or "working" — oils made in-house. Discount Candles is a no-frills kind of place, more than 100 years old. Rows of house oils with names like "High John" or "protection" line the wall behind the counter, and candles, incense and other implements are arrayed in bins and on racks throughout the store. Some are pre-prepared candles designed to bring the user money or luck, but others are au nautrel, waiting to be dressed with the appropriate oil to take on spiritual significance. Owner Donna Adams says most patrons are after one of five things: love, luck, money, protection or help with a court case.

 

Best Signage
Peoples Records

615 W. Forest, Detroit; 313-831-0864
Brad Hales, proprietor of Peoples Records, has an eye for folk art and graffiti. After noticing that many of his favorite business signs throughout the city were painted by the same guy, Herman Weems, when he first opened his shop, he made do with one simple sign. He was waiting to find the man whose work he admired so much. Along the way, Hales' admiration grew as he discovered more about Weems, who also designed the famous cover of the Temptations' Psychedelic Shack LP and was a record producer in his own right. Finally, Hales found him, and this year the exterior of Peoples Records has exploded with hand-painted signs that give a good indication of the local and obscure soul the store specializes in. In one sign that Hales had been daydreaming of ever since he opened, a treasure chest bursts forth with 45s that feature the names of coveted labels. Nearly a dozen large signs bloom across the brick facade, bright with color, conveying all that sings inside. Some dreams do come true.

 

Best Selection of Niche Vinyl (Bet You Almost Thought We Forgot To Mention It)
Peoples Records

615 W. Forest, Detroit; 313-831-0864
The fact that customers travel from as far away as Japan and Australia to sample their vinyl wares on all speeds — 45, 33 and yes, even 78 rpm — only affirms that Peoples offers discs you'll find nowhere else, including the best selection of rare Detroit soul anywhere, bar none. But casual fans should not be scared away: To say their prices are fair would be a gross understatement. In fact, it's a great place to learn about music — even their dollar records are often killers, the sign of a store intent on putting hard-to-find music into grateful hands.

 

Best Employee-to-Rock Star Ratio at a Record Store
Car City Records

21918 Harper Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-775-4770
One toadying French fan of Motor City din once wrote in asking us this: "Does Matt Smith really work at a record store in Detroit? Oh, wow. What a great place to live in!" Now that's downright neat-o. Leave it to local musicians to glamorize our glorious burg in far-off lands while keeping up workin'-stiff appearances between gig coin and royalty checks. And kudos to Car City chief Bob Setlick for employing the barely employable. Affable producer-songwriter Matthew Smith (THTX, Volebeats, Outrageous Cherry, etc.) does indeed punch in at this winning and storied (nearly 20 years) east side record shop. As does ex-Go man and Tranziztor Deon Fischer, Dirtbombs' skinsman Ben Blackwell and the uni-monikered punk star sideman Heath. John Nash (Electric Six, Witches, Volebeats, etc.) still fires up the register on occasion, as does Chad Gilchrist (ex-Outrageous Cherry, Blades of Grass, etc.). Others who've schlepped its bins and swept its floors include Mike Alonso (Electric Six, Aquarius Void), DJ Head (Eminem, D12), DJ Daddy Riff (12-Tech Mob), Ralph Valdez (ex-DJ, THTX, Algebra Mothers, Retro, etc.), Liz Copeland (violinist, DJ), Bootsey X (Lovemasters, Rocket 455, Coldcock, Ramrods, etc.), Melissa Elliott (Dirt Eaters, the Jills, His Name is Alive), Geoff Walker (Gravitar), Tom Potter (Bantam Rooster, Detroit City Council, Dirtbombs), Len Bukowski (avant-jazz saxophonist), Tom Lynch (Dirtbombs, Rocket 455), DJ Houseshoes, and the late, great Detroit keyboard wiz Larry Rosa.

 

Best Overall Record Store
Melodies and Memories

23013 Gratiot Ave., Eastpointe; 586-774-8480
Jack White put it perfectly earlier this year when he said from an L.A. stage, "Let's hear it for music that you can actually hold in your hand." One could spend hours in this shop browsing, er, going cockeyed, through tens of thousands of jazz, rock 'n' roll, blues, folk, country, Motown, electronic, dub and techno releases, vinyl or CD (8-track and cassette too!), lots of it out-of-print, much of it rare. With its various rooms and cubbies crammed full of melodic joy and dusty pop-culture relics (2300 lunch boxes, natch!), the shop works the senses. Support your local record stores. Keep your money in the Detroit area. The world is flying. Make it stop and let us off at the door of Melodies and Memories. Breathe and look and listen. That's what such dudes as ?uestlove (who's known to unload thick wedge here when he's in town) or other known M&M shoppers — Eminem or the late J. Dilla — would do.

Best One-Stop Geek Shopping
Stormy Records

13210 Michigan Ave., Dearborn (upstairs); 313-581-9322
Green Brain Comics
13210 Michigan Ave., Dearborn (downstairs); 313-582-9444
Some collectors are obsessive, laser-targeted on their specific little fetish totems, but most lovers of cool junk love all kinds of different stuff. One location in the metro area serves the eclectic needs of cultural treasure hunters with two unbelievably great stores. Though they are owned and operated separately, they share a front door and spiritual symbiosis, each dedicated to the pursuit of the strange, unknown and the exceptional in their respective fields. Specializing in "weirdo music" (their words, not ours), Stormy Records is the lovechild of Windy and Carl, true musical connoisseurs with 19 years in the biz and an ear each for the coolest future stars and forgotten grooves of indie, soul jazz, etc., etc. Equally ardent are Dan and Katie Merrit of Green Brain, winners of previous MT awards, promoters of neat events like the Snap! Indie Expo and big supporters of small press and zines. So if you need the latest issue of Optic Nerve or are itching for that perfect slab of Joe Tex vinyl, you know Dearborn's the place to be.

 

Best Rock 'n' Roll Toys and Novelties
Dearborn Music

22000 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-561-1000
It hasn't happened yet, but the music industry naysayers are all predicting that CDs will soon be a thing of the past, going the same route as vinyl, cassettes and the 8-track tape. So how will music retailers survive? One way is to branch out, and while this music store — one of the best in the city — has a great selection of CDs, both new and used, it also has an extensive supply of rock 'n' roll toys and novelties. We're talking everything from lifelike action figures of legendary rock stars to Elvis Presley clocks to KISS cocktail glasses. And it's not limited to just music figures but pop culture figures, such as The Simpsons and King of the Hill characters, as well. You can have a blast in this store and not even begin looking at the music they have for sale in the CD bins.

 

Best Motor City Splurge
SoundArt Canvas speakers

The days of decorating barren walls with loud prints are back. Literally. A group of art and audio-loving geeks have managed to combine the two into one device with SoundArt stylish canvas speakers. Featuring one or two speakers, a subwoofer, and your choice of any canvas print, like that tacky photo of your dog you had Warhol-ized or the serene Ansel Adams print you saw at the DIA last spring. Either way, SoundArt eliminates the need for bulky black boxes and adds flair to your home decor. Just hang on your wall, plug in your music source and enjoy the space around you. From music to movies the audio options are endless. Almost any audio source can be played through it — your Hi-Fi, iPod, DVD, CD or use the output on your AV system. The one potential drawback is it costs $3,700, but it's well worth it if saving space is a priority in your home.

 

Best Natural Hair Care Salon
Happy to Be Nappy Salon

18957 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-340-4247
If you wear your hair in any natural style, you need to get happy. One of the leading natural hair care salons in the United States is right under your nose in the D. Detroit native Ewanda Wyndella is both the owner and master celebrity stylist who specializes in 'fros, dreads, twist locks and all kinds of braids; Ewanda and her crew have styled such celebs as Erika Badu, gospel great Fred Hammond and the Oscar-winning Jennifer Hudson. Happy to Be Nappy's waiting room also doubles as bookstore and gift shop packed with all kinds healthy living reading material, hair products for all your Afro up-keep and other natural needs. Snatch up a power-fisted Afro pick.

 

Best Indie Video Store
Thomas Video

122 S. Main, Clawson; 248-280-2836
It's hard to fathom how major chains like Blockbuster survive in this new Netflix world, let alone small indie "Mom & Pop" stores. But Thomas Video, founded originally in 1974, continues to thrive. Its reputation really began to build, however, in 1984, when two of its employees, Jim Olenski and Gary Reichel (aka the leaders of a groovy little local band called Cinecyde, often credited with releasing Detroit's first-ever punk record) bought the business. Their key to success? Although you can find all the popular Hollywood hits and classic films of yore, Thomas has one of the most extensive stock of hard-to-find cult and foreign films among its more than 30,000 movies, including a nice collection of now-rare "adult films" from the '70s, '80s and '90s. You may have to settle for VHS instead of DVD (if it's not yet available in the latter format), but if it's ever been released, chances are excellent that Olenski and Reichel have it in stock. The $1-a-day late fee ain't too shabby either.

 

Best Stuffed-to-the-Gills Bookstore
Book Beat

26010 Greenfield, Oak Park; 248-968-1190
www.thebookbeat.com

Book Beat is so crammed with books vertically in the shelves, books horizontally atop the vertical books, books on the floor — we forgot to look up, but there were probably books on the ceiling — that it feels less like a retail establishment than someone's compulsive collection of cool stuff that just happens to be for sale to pay the rent. There's a flip-book of yoga asanas, here's a $2 stapled pamphlet of Rosa Luxemburg's writings published in 1980 by some small Detroit Marxist group at 2832 E. Grand Blvd., there's a CD of minimalist pioneer Tony Conrad, there's the late poet Ted Joans' Black Pow-Wow. Wow! An amazing children's book section, a dedication to Detroit authors, live readings and performances, the art gallery in the back ... those are just some of the distinctions of this place, a love-labor for Carey Loren (once of the group Destroy All Monsters), his wife, Colleen Kammer, and their staff. As they put it at myspace.com/bookbeatdetroit "... serving the collective unconscious in metro Detroit for 25 years."

 

Best Detroit Comics Shop
Green Brain Comics

13210 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-9444
Yeah, we know — "Again?" Look: Vault of Midnight is an excellent store all around, but it's in Ann Arbor. Detroit Comics is promising — attractive shop, supportive of local artists and stocked with unusual items like handmade tote bags — but the selection is too sparse in the indie/alt/art comics section. Bookbeat devotes a whole bookcase to artsy graphic novels and some manga too, but no good ol' superhero "floppies." Green Brain's selection is both wide and deep, with something for everyone from snobs to slobs.

 

Best Reason to Forgo Those E-mail Greetings
Avanti Press cards

Available at hundreds of metro Detroit locations
avantipress.com

Need a birthday wish for a feisty 55-year-old female and a ridiculously sappy card to sneak into Mr. Right Now's backpack? Look no further than the 400-plus Avanti Press racks around the metro area. The Detroit-headquartered company features cute cards for all occasions, notably with humorous animal pictures, but a fair share of funny humans too. Appropriately, one MT friend got a pick of three AARP-age women wearing sombreros and shaking maracas with the greeting, "Between the jalapeños and the flashes, you're pretty HOT."

 

Best Use of Metro Times
Cost Plus Wine

2448 Market St., Detroit; 313-259-3845
If you can't make it to one of our 2,000 metro Detroit newsstands to get a fresh copy of us each week, go buy some wine at this Eastern Market favorite. Your individual bottles will be handily wrapped in our latest issue. Call it the perfect multi-tasking: buying wine and getting a copy of our weekly rag. No comment on how consuming your purchase will affect your opinion of the paper.

 

Best Salon for a Sewn-in Weave
Little Willies

21579 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-531-4200
How does that damned Beyoncé do it? One day the mane magician is in Manhattan shopping at Bergdorf Goodman's with an auburn shoulder-length hairdo and the next she's in Germany strutting her stuff on stage with ass-skimming blond curls. Stylist extraordinaire Lil Lady at Little Willies salon says the bootylicious babe is obviously rocking a sew-in, and for a moderate price, she'll give all you apprehensive types Mariah's long look or Rihanna's new carbon crop without the commitment of coloring or cutting your own hair.

 

Best Eyebrow Salvation
Tricho Salon and Spa

18900 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-271-2000
Remember that time you thought it would be OK to tweeze a few stray eyebrow hairs and ended up looking like you had Mickey D's golden arches on your forehead? At Tricho salon, rest assured you won't have that problem again. Their resident guru, Hanady, expertly tames any pair of rouge eyebrows into neat and stylish ones that fit your face. The salon only uses hypoallergenic products for facial waxing and a bevy of botanical skin soothing products to ensure you don't walk out with that red and stunned "Yes, I just got my eyebrows yanked out, alright?!" look on your face.

 

Best Martial Arts Studio
Mizudo Academy of Martial Arts

13244 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-5803
The melting pot, nay, the tossed salad of southeastern Michigan martial arts, Mizudo Academy draws students from Detroit, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, Westland and beyond. We tested a few places before we found that Mizudo prides itself on being more culturally diverse and community-minded than a number of its roundhouse-kicking counterparts. From training in the park, to various holiday food and clothing drives, Mizudo gives more back to the community than highly skilled and disciplined students of karate and Brazilian ju-jitsu. Further, Mizudo opens its doors to non-members for free self-defense seminars several times each year. The next Mizudo self-defense class, a parent-child safety seminar, is Wednesday, Oct. 24, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

 

Best Jazzercise Alternative
E-Fitness

House of Bastet, 2233 Brooklyn St., No. 126, Detroit; 313-879-5446; exoticise.net
An aerobics class + striptease = E-fitness. Founded by Detroit native Kaniah Kennedy, E-Fitness is an organization that promotes fitness, well-being and sensuality through exotic dance classes and workshops. Classes are held in both Southfield and downtown Detroit during the week and on Saturdays. The fall-winter class schedule includes pole dancing, lap dancing, strip tease and sexy hip hop. Sorry, fellas, this is a ladies-only affair!

 

Best Alternative Health Food Store
Natural Food Patch

221 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-546-5908
Yes, there's actually another health food store besides Whole Foods! As long as you don't suffer from claustrophobia, you'll love being squished ass to ass with other health-conscious metro Detroiters in the cluttered aisles of Ferndale's Natural Food Patch. The Patch makes up for its limited space by providing the best selection of dairy alternatives, supplements, fair-trade and organic foods, including vegetarian and vegan food options at great prices. They have an extensive line of house goodies, such as delicious vegan cookies, sesame snacks and vegetarian "beef" jerky. Dietary exclusions are not a requirement to squeeze your cart through the Patch. There are plenty of flavorful options for those who just want to come out and support an essential local business.

 

Best Place to Achieve Sugar Coma
Yummytown

16745 21 Mile Rd., Macomb Township; 586-477-2100
Behind the doors of this unassuming Macomb Township storefront is a trip that's one-part nostalgia, two-parts sugar buzz. Young and old alike will delight in the panoply of sugary sweet treats this two-year old candy shop peddles. At first glance, the store seems small, until you realize how much candy lines the walls. From candy lips to Big League Chew to more upscale British and Canadian confectioneries, Yummytown is like all the dime store treats your folks would never let you buy. Co-owned by husband and wife Michael Canich and Vanessa Loftis-Canich, Yummytown is also one of few metro area retailers selling Dunnies, Japanese collectible toys that have rapidly achieved cult status.

 

Best Place to Achieve a Sugar ... No Wait — There's Another! Best Place to Shop For Candy Without Looking Like Some Sort of Sugar Junkie
Bellyache

www.bellyachecandyshoppe.com
You ever get that feeling when you're a grown-up kid in an adult's world that something you genuinely love is just so frowned upon? C'mon. It happens when you sneak a smoke or skulk into a liquor store before, say, 1 p.m. It happens every time you try a pair of stilts. And it certainly happens when you throw on an NFL jersey or some other lame excuse for a costume and hit the trick or treat highway with your newborn. Sure, it's for the kid. Well there's another way. Bellyache Candy. It's an online store. Your anonymity is as sure as any online joint that ships its products in a brown paper wrapper. Started by rockers with a righteous love for current, nostalgic and cool candy, it's a little bit of online Neverland for those of us afflicted with a serious jones for high fructose corn syrup in these raw times. Pez, Wonka Bars, candy smokes — the whole nine. And get this: They release compilations of jams too. Their latest is a Halloween-themed monster party double disc featuring contributions from the brightest lights in the 313-rock firmament. Hit 'em up at www.bellyachecandyshoppe.com.

 

Most fun at a grocery store
Honey bee La Colmena

2443 Bagley St., Detroit; 313-237-0295
Honey Bee La Colmena is where you can roll your cart along the aisles to the tune of Mexican music and a friendly clerk will come take that overly ripe avocado out of your hands, replacing it with one that'll be ready in an hour. For the best homemade salsa that bursts in your mouth, for not-so-sour, oh-so-creamy sour cream, for cactus, banana leaves, mango, organic milk and imported laundry detergent, all at unbelievably cheap prices, shop at Honey Bee La Colmena Market. The buzz about this store is big. As their T-shirt slogan claims, "Wake up and smell the chorizo."

 

Best Way to Spice Up Your Life - Pricey
Penzeys Spices

17712 W. 13 Mile Rd., Beverly Hills; 248-647-6177
Wisconsin-based Penzeys Spices began as a mail-order outfit in the 1980s, found a niche serving home cooks as well as restaurants and now has 35 physical stores up from five in 2001. Those include Michigan stores in Grand Rapids and Southfield. Penzeys sells only its own products, including plenty of prettily packaged and pricey exotics. ("Whole Indian Celery Seed," for comparison to Rafal, goes for $2.79 for a 4-ounce bag.) They also have lots of pre-packaged spice sets that seem as much intended as gifts to give as goodies for personal use. Example: eight jars of hot spices (a couple ounces each, from ground Pakistani red pepper to hot Cajun seasoning) for $39.95, or a 20-item "Pasta and Salad Seasonings Crate" for $89.95. It's a spice store that feels like a boutique.

 

Best Way to Spice Up Your Life - Budget
Rafal Spice

2521 Russell St., Detroit; 313-259-6373
Once when we asked, proprietor Don Rafal tallied up 120 (and counting) hot sauces, 20 or so chilies (whole, ground and crushed) and umpteen prepared mustards plus two in powdered form. How many items are crammed into the one-aisle Eastern Market spice-lovers heaven? Uncounted thousands. It began around 1960 with an oddball assortment of items from pantyhose to dream books to tobacco. But a sideline selling sausage seasonings to mom and pop shops changed and grew while the dream books and hose faded away. Asian, Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Italian, African and regional American spices are here, along with scads of teas and coffees. And compared to your local supermarket, the prices can be astoundingly low. Celery seed, for example, goes for $1.59 for 4 ounces.

 

Best retail wine & beer in Oakland County
Cloverleaf Fine Wine & Spirits

29673 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield; 248-357-0400
Not often do you stumble upon a retail outfit more anxious to win over a convert than make a quick buck. Cloverleaf Fine Wine & Spirits is doing business the old way. Expect to see both seasoned customers and wine newcomers gathered round the cash register curious about the latest Burgundy vintage or what wines pair well with roasted winter squash. At Cloverleaf everybody learns. Tom, Terry or Putnam will determine your taste preference and offer up a handful of wines to match. Peruse their large selection of natural wine or sign up for the weekly newsletter. Then there's the exceptionally thoughtful beer selection. It's the complete drink-buying experience.

 

Best New Age Emporium
Earth Lore

15076 Middlebelt Rd., Livonia; 734-762-0717
Never thought you'd find that colorful statue of monkey-headed Hindu deity Hanuman or a 200-pound smoky quartz crystal ball? Look no further. Earth Lore is a mecca of multicultural oddities. With more than 10 years of experience as a new age retailer, it's like a little Zen oasis in a sweltering corporate American desert — you won't find gas station-style incense by the stick or votives from any corporate company. This independently owned alternative gift store specializes in scents, sounds, jewelry and textiles from around the world.

 

Best Dog Whisperer
Lawrence Herzog

Grosse Pointe Animal Clinic, 15135 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Park; 313-822-5707
"O tell me your stories," Dr. Herzog softly says into the pooch's ear as a tail wags and trust is gained. Adopting out more than 250 stray dogs a year, this veterinarian has plenty tales of his own. Herzog takes in stray animals from all five of the Pointes — and these aren't necessarily pampered pooches who've broken free from their invisibly fenced lawns. He gets dogs from the city's notorious packs and abused animals as well. Always gentle and quick with a treat for the dogs, he's straightforward and financially fair with the humans.

Previous Winners

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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