Best Of 2009


Private House Party
You might be shy, so you don't want to be seen publicly trying to discern the difference between a bullet and other buzzing buddies. You might just need an excuse to get your girlfriends together for drinks and dinner. Either way, a private shopping party for sex toys fits the bill, so to speak. Sales reps and consultants join the party guests and provide expertise about their products, which range from the innocent and necessary massage oils and lubricants to the more exotic massagers and battery-powered magic wands. And if you and your friends are still a little, well, restrained, Jackie Dahn, for instance, who works with Pure Romance (, has a few tricks for making the crowd relax. She and other consultants are part sex educators, part confidantes, part engineers, part comedians at the events, helping women get more comfortable with the idea of playing with plastic. And no, you don't get to take a test drive.


Detroit Comics
23333 Woodward Ave. Ferndale; 248-548-COMX

Oh sure, it's still a great place to get your Green Lantern on, but the incongruously named Detroit Comics (it's actually in Ferndale) has none of the creepy mega-nerd vibe of your average android dungeon. Credit married owners Brian and Lori Kelly for creating a bright, hip and uncluttered storefront, stocked with all the graphic novels you'd expect, but also neat-o urban vinyl toys, clothing, accessories, yummy goodies from Bellyache candy and records, and the irresistible Art-O-Matic vending machine. Plus, Brian holds court with a jovial, geeky rock 'n' roll dad charm that's truly rare in a trade better known for surly clannishness.


B.D.T. Pipe and Tobacco Shop
27419 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-776-5238; 21640 John R. Rd., Hazel Park; 248-542-6110

Do some research and you'll find everyone has a fave head shop. A few might mention Ann Arbor's Foggy Bottom Bayou, a beautiful spot best known for its deluxe handmade glass pipes; others will mention Purple Haze in Birmingham (wait, B'ham has a head shop?) or In Flight, the Station, the Grove Shop and Stairway to Heaven. But when it comes to local, Detroit-area places, B.D.T. — the moniker is taken from the original owners' initials — appears to be the place. In business since 1973, it's one of the oldest such establishments still running, featuring every kind of pipe and accessory one could need. They offer body piercing ... which they probably weren't doing in 1973. On the other hand, aside from black-light rooms featuring posters of Disney characters smoking huge hookahs, not much has changed about head shops over the decades ... well, aside from "pee test" kits and gadgets. B.D.T. has most everything the happy, um, tobacco camper may be seeking.


Aerial Yoga at the Detroit Flyhouse
The FD Loft Building, 3434 Russell St., #302, Detroit; 313-674-6424;

A growing fitness trend, aerial yoga replaces the downward facing dog with mid-air acrobatics performed using silk curtains hanging from a high ceiling. Think Cirque du Soleil and you've got the picture at the most advanced level. Founder of the Detroit Flyhouse, Micha Adams, teaches aerial yoga in her Eastern Market loft, where classes cater to both newbies seeking a workout thrill and the more experienced looking to advance their gravity-defying moves. But don't be fooled by the circus-like aspect of the whole thing — it's still a workout! Maintaining your balance using nothing but curtains will strengthen your core, improve flexibility, increase muscle tone and make you very, very sore the first few times around. Eight classes at 90 minutes each costs $140, while dropping in for a trial run (fly?) is $25.


Royal Oak Flea Market
316 E. 11 Mile Rd., Royal Oak; 248-246-3276

You never know what you'll discover in this wild array of cool shit. Royal Oak's indoor-outdoor flea market fills up and spills onto the porch of the Farmers Market every Sunday morning (except major holidays). Inside, the dealer tables are crammed with vintage and antique jewelry, home decor, collectibles, books, records, watches, glass, art and a variety of alluring oddities. By eight in the morning, the gourmet coffee stand is hoppin' and mirthful shoppers are streaming in. Most Sundays, the market offers live music. Normally it's this dude with a guitar — who sounds kinda like what would happen if you mixed Jeff Buckley with James Taylor (?!) — who serenades you as you spend your last finster on that rare Engelbert Humperdink LP. Easy come, easy go.


Consignment Clothiers
42945 Seven Mile Rd., Northville; 248-347-4570

Consignment Clothiers is coming up on its 20th anniversary in May. And in two decades they've learned how to do fashion resale right. Loads of newer in-season clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories turn over weekly in this busy mid-sized shop. Pick up some mint condition, brand-name jeans and a pair of barely worn designer flats at a fraction of retail prices. You'll find names like Lucky, Liz Claiborne, Chico's, Levi's and more. Then explore their generous display cases that sparkle with gently used costume, silver and fine jewelry. There's always some treasure to be found on one of their sale racks of markdown items. They also offer coupons and weekly specials.


Bloomfield-Keego Resale Shop
3425 Orchard Lake Rd., Keego Harbor; 248-681-5424

A Dior dress for a third of the retail cost? C'mon. A pair of Donald J. Pliner pumps for 20 bucks? Yes, you heard right. Just head up Orchard Lake Road till you see the little red-and-white brick building next to the diner. One of northern Oakland County's best kept thrifty fashion secrets, Bloomfield-Keego Resale is the best place around to get unheard-of deals on previously owned high-end designer label clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories. It's the small shop with all the big names. They say this is where the rich folks bring the expensive outfits they wore once then pulled from their wardrobes. Their loss is your gain. Watch for tag sales and markdowns to save even more on clothing you're gonna love. Bloomfield-Keego also gets a limited selection of used household items, authentic designer purses, and even some brand-new clothing from closed boutiques and exclusive stores. Look for Armani, St. John, Versace and more.


DSE @ Grand
202 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-963-0533;

The strip of Grand River that runs through Harmonie Park is becoming something of an independent retail haven, a small but sweet walkable shopping district of boutiques selling clothing, shoes and accessories (not to mention the upscale furnishings available at Mezzanine). The brainchild of Detroiter James Morris (a designer and entrepreneur only in his mid-20s), DSE @ Grand features T-shirts from designers located throughout the country, such as Chillers Clothing, Destroy, Exact Science, King Poetic — many brands that can't be found anywhere else in the state — as well as DSE Lifestyle, Morris' own line. Many of his shirts are Detroit-centric (he even designed a limited edition T-shirt when the Final Four was in town), popular picks include a simple black shirt emblazoned with the words "Support Detroit" and another that says "A Detroit Thing," inspired by the movie Do the Right Thing. The diverse selection is sure to appeal to the urban fashionista. Online shopping is available, and dig Morris' blog for sneak peaks at new arrivals and designs.


The Town Peddler Craft and Antique Mall
35323 Plymouth Rd., Livonia; 734-513-2577

From Victorian lampshades to vintage baseball cards, the Town Peddler offers 24,000 square feet of reasons to spend your hard-earned dough on some dusty treasure you must have but never knew you needed. With hundreds of partner dealers, this mammoth mall takes much more than an afternoon to fully explore. Some of the booths are literally packed to the ceiling with antiques and rarities that will fascinate even the quirkiest collectors. The staff's amiable, and they also offer estate appraisal services. And don't worry — if you find that perfect oversized art deco dresser, the Town Peddler will even help you get it home.


European Tanning Club
15228 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-945-9220

A fresh towel, complimentary sanitized goggles and a pillow on every tanning bed. European Tanning Club is a posh place to get a summer glow. They've been in the bronzing biz for more than ten years. The Club has 23 beds and stand-up booths, including a few fancy high-pressure machines for fast tanning with reduced risks of getting burned. They stock the latest lotions and bronzers including trendy lines like Ed Hardy and Swedish Beauty. Tanning "advisors" are on hand to help seekers of bronze skin choose the right products and programs for optimum results. Best part is their hours: Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. till 11 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. till 8 p.m. And if you want to show off some dance moves with your new tan, the Club also sells a variety of DJ, techno and house music. Their beauty salon, European Hair Design, is on the premises with a full range of services from haircuts to body waxing.


Book Beat
26010 Greenfield Rd., Oak Park; 248-968-1190

The underrated Book Beat has a magical feel. You step inside and feel like you're in another world, one that you could go exploring forever, lost in the written word. The eclectic shop is a longtime fave among writers, poets and artists. Its shelves are packed with everything from new fiction to out of print art books and obscure periodicals. Tribal art, photography and Mexican folk art give even more character to this space, which feels haunted by ghosts who are probably just as curious as we are about how owner Cary Loren amassed such a beautiful collection of stuff to read in one little storefront. The Book Beat carries plenty of local lit, and it's also a great place to catch a reading or an art exhibit. They keep a schedule and blog of happenings on their website,


Thomas Video & DVD
4732 Rochester Rd., Royal Oak; 248-280-2833

A few film freaks have been dismayed recently by the sight of an abandoned husk where the area's greatest shrine to movie mania had been. But fear not cinephiles, Thomas Video is alive and well, and still serving up the big hits, indie gems and cult classics they're famous for, just in a spiffy new spot less than a mile from their old haunt. After more than 30 years in the business, 20-plus of it in Clawson, owners Jim Olenski and Gary Reichel decided to shuffle down 14 Mile to slightly smaller, more affordable digs. The new joint's decked in warm orange and greens hues, sports a huge portrait of John Waters, and is still the best place ever to find obscure titles and rap about flicks with a hyper smart and witty staff whose motto remains "Our rudeness means we care."


Peoples Records
3161 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-0864
The Record Graveyard
2926 Caniff, Hamtramck; 313-870-9647

Back in the vinyl heyday, Detroit had much more going for it than just Motown. Thousands of tiny labels sprang up in the '50s, '60s and '70s pressing small runs of soul, R&B, jazz, gospel, country, blues and rock 'n' roll records that are now the stuff of legend. Don't bother looking for them on the Internet; some of these discs are so rare that the only place you'll find them is in this pair of one-of-a-kind used record shops. And have no fear: the prices are often not only reasonable, but at times are rock-bottom, assuring a steady clientele who travel from as far away as Japan and Europe to find those long lost classics. But these wax museums have more in common than the obscure aural artifacts they unearth on a daily basis: both have recently expanded their operations into brand-new locations, and in both cases, the moves have been for the better. Peoples, run by renowned soul DJ Brad Hales, was forced out of its original Forest Arms location when the building burned down. The new storefront on Woodward Avenue boasts more square footage for vinyl treasure hunting. Likewise, the Graveyard, run by longtime local wax hound Jeffrey Garbus, used its move to fully organize its once-scattered stock for optimum browsing and buying. Start digging!


Melodies and Memories
23013 Gratiot Ave., Eastpointe; 586-774-8480

Detroit's lucky because it's a city whose cultural heritage rests on shoulders of music giants, from McKinney's Cotton Pickers to Jack Scott to Marvin Gaye to Iggy Pop to Eminem. So of course there are many, many, many lovely musical things about this town, and one of them is its high number of good record stores, whose doors remain open in a crap music economy. Aside those mentioned in this issue, we offer up some lip service to Dearborn Music, Stormy Records in Dearborn, the Record Collector in Ferndale, Solo Records & Tapes in Royal Oak, Buy-Rite in Detroit, Rock of Ages in Garden City, Rock-a-Billy's in Utica, Flipside in Clawson, Encore in Ann Arbor and so on. Some of us here at MT spend gobs of paycheck coin in each of those stores.

But the best store, overall, under the umbrella of most titles stocked and range of genres, Melodies and Memories cannot be topped. It's too big, too ingrained in the city, to bin-diver friendly and too important of a music institution (Em was in there recently reminiscing about how he'd come in and hang show fliers back in the day) to be topped. The stock inside this building of foxhole-like rooms is worth millions, literally, and its crammed wall-to-wall and on ceilings. Ask Dan, Bob or Gary for those albums that can make our hearts skip beats, those songs that we use for our own personal definitions and to summon memories. Just ask those guys and see what they say because it's all here.


David Michael Audio
4300 Delemere Blvd., Suite 201, Royal Oak; 248-259-7017;

For the second year straight, David Michael Audio snags an MT Best of Detroit, and for good reason. In a time when audio is getting worse because of poorly mastered CDs and crap-sounding downloads (but TVs look great!), and when the economy's tanking, David Michael Audio is actually growing by selling what are often considered luxury items. But they're not luxury items for those who really love music, keen to hear it as it was intended by the artist. Sure, high-end audio stuff ain't cheap, but if you're spending more time at home, what price can you put on getting the most from your prized music collections? DMA owner David Kasab is a considerate guy who'll help you cobble together a cost-effective and mind-blowing stereo, even if you've no idea what you want, or what you're looking at. He carries aesthetically and aurally pleasing hi-fi products from such vaunted manufacturers as Luxman, Bryston, Martin Logan, Rega, and the jaw-dropping UK-made Harbeth loudspeakers (considered by many to be the world's finest) in an non-elitist environment.


323 East Gallery & Boutique
323 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248- 246-954;
Bureau of Urban Living
460 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-833-9336;

A little Lower East Side and definitely a bit of Brooklyn, both 323 East and the Bureau share an uncanny transformative quality — there just aren't two shops like these anywhere near Detroit. The Bureau's historic Canfield setting, with old brick and exposed ceiling, makes for a funky foundation, and the constant play of owner Claire Nelson's iPod makes it easy to stay a while, but what really makes the place so crucially cool is the stuff on the shelves. City Bird products (soaps, lamps, pins, etc.) and other Detroit-centric home goods are found alongside clean and contemporary wares (porcelain plates, chrome pepper grinders, etc.) that can give anyone's digs more to dig. Stroll into 323 East, (the narrow, green building that looks like it belongs somewhere south of Eight Mile) on a Saturday, anytime after 4 p.m., and you'll notice a DJ spinning funk, hip-hop and techno cuts from the back of the room. The walls and shelves are chock-full of art — paintings, prints, sculpture, clothes, jewelry, books. Most of it leans toward the pop variety, and all of it is for sale. Better yet, it's all made in Detroit by Detroit artists.


American POP
175 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-837-2127

Stepping in American Pop is kind of like discovering the coolest garage sale that ever was, minus the chipped Hummels and smelly stacks of baby clothes. The walls of this funky little shop are packed to the rafters with all manner of kitschy memorabilia — movie posters and board games, Pee-Wee Herman toys and wind-up robots, cocktail shakers and Monster finger puppets, Hula dancer lamps and more tacky coolness than the human eye can absorb in one visit. Proprietor Wyll Lewis has been at it for years, accumulating plunder to display in his fashionable Ferndale location — now including a basement full of lovely vintage furniture — and it's only growing.


Western Fruit & Meat Market
447 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-546-7288;

We apologize in advance to all the vegans and vegetarians among us — and truth be told, we don't consume a lot of red meat ourselves. But damn if this terrific little market in the heart of downtown Ferndale doesn't make all kinds of meats look tasty and succulent in its display case, even in its raw form. We especially like the various marinated meats one can purchase there, many in kabob form — and we hate to give away the "secret," thereby making it a rarity in the future, but the roasted garlic chicken kabobs are delicious and to die for. We also like the turkey (or beef, if you eat it) meatloaf that's already prepared; all you have to do is take it home and put it in the oven. The meat-cutting staff is professional and friendly. And the fact that there is almost always a long line waiting with numbers in hand (we recently spotted Chris Handyside buying some ground round there) speaks to its popularity.


Birmingham 8
211 S. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-644-FILM;
Birmingham Palladium 12
250 N. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-644-FILM;

Time was that a "cheap" movie theater often meant a "crummy" movie theater, with sticky floors, torn-up seats, foul odors and, perhaps worst of all, second-run movies. This is true of any major city (one MT editor remembers going to see Total Recall at a "cheap" theater in Los Angeles and having to get an usher to remove the passed-out bum on the floor so his party could sit down) — and that's why Birmingham's two premier theaters are such a matinee treat. Most first-run theaters only have the first screening of the day (which can be as early as pre-noon) discounted on weekends and holidays — but the B'ham theaters feature what they term "Movie Madness," whereby every screening is $5 before 6 p.m., seven days a week. And, of course, it's all first-run flicks. And as that first great Depression proved in the '30s, people want to see movies for escape in times of economic turmoil. This, ladies and gentlemen, is not a bad deal at all, especially with as many as 20 different flicks to choose from on any given day.


TJ's Sweet Repeats
1600 Rochester Rd., Royal Oak; 248-542-7767

The eponymous T.J. has been selling vintage clothing around town since 1999, a consistent presence at vintage shows and festivals such as Dally in the Alley. But it wasn't until December that she acquired a permanent location, celebrating the grand opening of TJ's Sweet Repeats just in time for the New Year. The store is small and jam-packed, but the racks of men and women's clothing are organized by size (from petite to a healthy selection of plus sizes, a rarity at most vintage shops), making it easier to dig out that perfect '70s jumpsuit, and the stock is continually replenished by a seemingly endless backroom supply. Thanks to frequent sales, the prices can be damn near unbelievable, especially considering the quality — on a recent shopping trip we walked out with three Jackie O.-type dresses for less than $30. The shop also features men and women's shoes, jewelry and a cabinet of lingerie, and on the first and third Saturday of every month hosts a Vintage Bazaar, with various vendors selling assorted goods in a side room.


Recycled Treasures
12101 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-330-7076;

Started in January 2007, Recycled Treasures sells the usual mélange of goods — from the barely used to the slightly abused — found at any thrift store: coffee mugs, paperback novels, pots and pans, furniture, knickknacks and the ephemera of closets cleaned out and attics emptied. But the store also takes a larger role by helping the environment and directly servicing the local community. Donated items that, at first glance, seem unusable are rehabbed and sold. The store also provides emergency assistance to individuals who are referred by local social service organizations; gives away all beds, stoves, refrigerators, washers and dryers; and offers discounts to residents of Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park on purchases over $10. Recycled Treasures also features the "redo studio" an area where volunteers can restore donated items or use crafty skills to turn discarded junk into something lovely and new. Info on all programs can be found at the website.


Street Corner Music Unlimited
17620 W. 13 Mile Rd., Beverly Hills; 248-644-4777

Detroit's a crate-digger's nirvana. On any day of the week you can count the British and Japanese vinyl heads — and expat Detroit DJs — scouring racks in shops around the Motor City. Short of vinyl hunting in rough, south-side Chicago hoods, there isn't a cheaper place in the country to dig through scads of classic soul, funk, hip hop, jazz and rock than here. The former arsenal of democracy had enough well-paid factory workers to turn Detroit into the arsenal of soul and classic vinyl.

Of all the sweet places for vinyl in these parts (including the spanking-new Hello Records at Bagley and Trumbull) the best place for cheap platters is Street Corner Music. On top of their extremely reasonable vinyl prices, their dollar bin is also always full with great finds. (Note: At the beginning of July, 2009 they'll be moving next door to Book Beat in Oak Park, so all that money you save on vinyl you can blow at one of Detroit's coolest book stores.


Record Time
27360 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-775-1550

Have you ever stepped into a Best Buy and asked a staffer for Funkadelic on CD only to get a cockeyed return gaze followed by the word, "Who?" Well, we've made that mistake — one time. Never again. Indie record stores may appear to be dying, but they are truly vital, not only for the welfare of the city but also to pull you from the toxic blue glow of your computer screen and into some damn social intercourse about music. On Record Time's well-stocked floor you can query or verbally spar with a host of knowledgeable workers, including a schlock-music apologist, a metal deconstructionist, an up-to-the-moment hip-hop nerd, an alt-country ally, and a guy who knows more than you do about the Pretty Things and Carl Craig. Sometimes you can find all that stuff in the same person. Try that out, Mr. Big Box.


Archer Record Pressing
7401 E. Davison, Detroit; 313-965-9545;

With so much negative talk in the media about Detroit lately, one wonders if the naysayers ever consider the fact that we possess at least one thriving business that many cities don't: our own record-pressing plant. One of nine left in the world, the experience of walking past the presses to deliver your master tape to Mike Archer — Senior or Junior — is a veritable rite of passage for renegade musicians in Detroit. And while the industrial neighborhood that Archer is located in tells the sad and graphic story of our country's downward manufacturing spiral, this east side institution tells another one: that quality workmanship and an unwavering commitment to community pay off. With more potential clients than they can take on and no plans for expansion, Archer is still the quickest, best and friendliest pressing plant in the world. That's pretty good for an industry that many people may not know even still exists! But they've been at it since '65, and, thanks to a steady stream of techno 12-inches, rock 'n' roll 45s and albums of all kind, they're staying right here, where they belong, in Detroit.


621 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-414-5277;

This Royal Oak boutique achieves a charmingly modern eclecticism, where disparate items find harmony on adjacent shelves, and the cognitive dissonance that many overwhelmingly overstocked gift shops can produce is avoided entirely. Goods for sale include high-end candles and beauty products, stylish housewares, swanky jewelry, contemporary home decor — even retro pajamas can fall into the mix. And while many of the items are high on the trend factor (read: will this polka-dot platter look stupid in one year?), just as many appeal to the aesthetic of the timelessly fashionable. It's one of the few places that makes shopping for gifts easy and enjoyable, and the kind staff's more than happy to help you find the perfect gift, whether its an $8 bar of luxurious soap or a $125 tote bag. Limited shopping is available online, but a trip to the shop shouldn't be skipped.


Zaccaro's Market
Formerly located at 3100 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-3400;

It's going to take a whole hell of a lot more than fine wines, imported cheeses, garlic-infused olive oil and other gourmet oddities to kick start any real revitalization, especially in this "new economy." But it was a valiant effort. Cindy Warner, the proprietor of Zaccaro's (which you can still visit in Traverse City) should be commended for her bravery. But we have to be honest. Though Zaccaro's was a beacon of progress, there are steps that could've been taken that would've, at the very least, delayed the inevitable. The location was just OK. And keeping the quaint, Up North-y vibe didn't really feel like Detroit. And who are the Zaccaro's? One of the things we've always liked about places like Sweet Loraine's, Hiller's Market and Christine's Cuisine is that Loraine, Christine and Jim Hiller are people you see out and about in the community. All we need are the basics; a decent deli counter and a small flower department would be nice. Bring in baked goods from Avalon, stock Detroit-made products, talk to some vendors at Eastern Market. We can learn from this. Next time will be better.


Penzeys Spices
17712 W. 13 Mile Rd., Beverly Hills; 248-647-6177;

Mark Bittman, one of our culinary go-to authorities, recommends dumping all your spices for a fresh lot once a year. That's extreme for our pocketbooks, but we heed his sniff test: if you open a jar and whiff more dust and must than savory, it's time to replace. For a generation, your best bet for intoxicating variety and low prices was Eastern Market's Rafal Spice. But, alas, Rafal is kaput. Rocky Peanut down the street has boosted its spice offerings significantly, but spice connoisseurs will want to check out Penzeys in Beverly Hills, one of the national chain's two Michigan stores. What constitutes variety here? Well, 13 varieties of chili peppers, six chili powders, eight cinnamons, nine curries, etc., etc. Compared to the old Rafal, Penzeys feels more like a boutique and less like funky bulk goods store; the prices are a notch higher, but your celery seed comes in a jar instead of a baggy. And there are all sorts of spice samplers that are handy gifts and a means to spread appreciation for the finer spices of life. Hours, we should mention, are somewhat limited: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.


Western Fruit & Meat Market
447 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-546-7288;

If you're not near one of the local Whole Food Markets, this family-owned and -managed establishment just might fulfill your needs and wants when it comes to food. They have a great produce and fruit section, all reasonably priced; great wine selections and microbrews; and a large assortment of organic foods, among other things. In business for 25 years, Western is hardly a supermarket; in fact, it's quite small for a grocery store. We might label it a boutique market, and yet, considering its smallness, it stocks a great and wide array of foods in that space. We're especially fond of the prepared foods — great place to go if you're in the mood for a fresh salad (a nice variety on display) or soup. They have five types of the latter on sale every day. We're big fans of the white bean chicken chili — but we're also pleased they have fresh Weight Watchers Garden Vegetable Soup (it's a patented recipe and zero points for the weight-conscious calorie-counter keeping score) on sale every day of the week. And one may need it to counter those boxes of delicious brownies they try to tempt you with near the checkout lane.


Dynamic Rehabilitation
1800 W. Big Beaver Rd.; Troy; 888-396-2642; for more locations, see

We featured this place in our last Best of Detroit issue. But when a place actually works, we believe it can't be mentioned enough, especially given that chronic back and neck pain are one of the nation's biggest health problems. You've probably seen the ads for Dynamic on TV, the ones that argue all physical therapy isn't created equally. And they have a point. Dynamic — which is helmed by a team of doctors, physical therapists and trainers — doesn't adhere to the standard physical therapy modalities, including things like ultrasound, whirlpools, etc. Instead, they have their patients work strenuously on strengthening the muscles in their problem areas via the McKenzie Method of stretches and, most importantly, the patented Med-X machine that isolates and then builds said muscles. Sometimes you will hurt more immediately afterwards than you did when you first got there … but this is one of those cases of "hurting so good." Dynamic doesn't promise to "cure" the patient but their ratio for making you feel "better" is very high (and anyone who suffers knows that "better" is often good enough).


Various locations, see

OK, you do have to pay for an annual membership — but won't that come in handy should you need new tires, a case of vino or smokes, or simply more mac 'n' cheese than you could ever down in a lifetime? Anyway, many on-lot Costco gas stations will always have gasoline that's significantly less expensive than the other regular stations. Not only that — but it's quality octane (one may not realize that even with gasoline, sometimes you get what you pay for; we know someone who once had an engine nearly destroyed by bad ethyl!). The day this item was written, our local Costco in Madison Heights was charging $1.88 a gallon, when most other stations were charging anywhere between $1.99 and $2.20. P.S. — If your budget doesn't include a Costco membership for 2009, you can also check out the website to find the best fuel prices in your hood.


Meijer Generic Brands
Various locations throughout Michigan

With all due respect to Faygo, which is forever associated with Michigan as a local institution and a brand recognized world wide (and only partly thanks to Insane Clown Posse), here's a little secret: You might like Meijer's brand better. In fact, every flavor we've tried so far (with the possible exception of orange), be it their version of Red Pop or 7-Up/Sprite, has been way better than the pop it's supposedly mimicking. The flavor is just … well, brighter, and stronger. In fact, we no longer can live without the Diet Grape soda ... and Meijer's Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. M is so far superior to the Dr. Pepper original that we can no longer settle for the original ... which is why the latter soda — which, like all Meijer pop varieties, is bottled and canned in Grand Rapids — is sometimes so disappointingly hard to find in stock, especially on busy weekends. Great stuff! No kidding!

The Real Deals - Reader Picks


Lost & Found Vintage
510 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-548-6154;

Stop digging through your eccentric aunt's closet for vintage clothing and accessories. Lost & Found has enough backward-gazing apparel to teleport you into the past faster than a Family Guy flashback. The eager-eyed, gracious staff makes even the most inexperienced vintage neophyte feel like an old hand. Lost & Found prides itself on selling only the most authentic clothing from the 1920s to the 1980s, thanks to the owner's frequent shopping pilgrimages to all points Michigan.


Showtime Clothing
5708 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-875-9280;

For 20 years, Showtime Clothing has been a kind of staple for Detroit's boho underground — a not-so-quiet treasure trove of original and idiosyncratic garb, a winning collection of new retro, ersatz couture, rock 'n' roll, slutty, vintage, killer footwear and more — for nearly every rank of artist and musician. Its walls and racks are crammed. Some of it resembles the psychedelic boutiques of Swinging London's '60's, with fabrics and clothes that would've hung on Hendrix or Funkadelic or the Stones' Brian Jones. Showtime's owner, Dan Tatarian, has been called a "visionary" among Detroit-area indie merchants.

See, this shop, which sits almost clandestinely on Woodward Avenue near Wayne State University, is becoming a kind of cultural fixture too; an indie shop on which to hang identities and, like a good record store, a place for self-definition.

Is that a lot to assign to a clothier? Maybe. But Tatarian says his place "has been a stomping ground for all manner of hippies, glam, and all manner of rock n' roller. Really, everybody."

For Detroit "everybody" is a mighty diverse bunch, from rap and rock stars to street urchins and stage hags. "We've had pimps buy business suits and rings," Tatarian says. "Businessmen from downtown who want an alternative lifestyle — all walks of life."

So Tatarian is commemorating 20 years of serving Detroit's alternative scenes. He must be feeling like a relic. "I don't feel old, if that's what you're saying. No, I feel strong. Strong as a slug."

In its 20 years, Showtime is one of the last indies amid the dismal glitter of large chainstores (um, Hot Topic anyone?) that long ago hijacked "rock 'n' roll appeal" for kids who didn't see its moneyed manipulation. Showtime's an indie and proud of it.

"Showtime and Noir Leather in Royal Oak are some of the only shops left in Michigan that cater to the truly alternative," Tatarian says.

Others beyond the 313 understand. In fact, gobs of out-of-state bands (many from the UK and Europe) shop Showtime each year. Vinnie Dombroski from Sponge and Crud has been donning Showtime apparel since the early '90s. "If I went out to a gig tonight and I walked out there without my Showtime clothes," the singer says, "I wouldn't have a thing to wear, you know? I mean, the clothes I buy from Tatarian are my wardrobe, man.

You know, it takes time to get somewhere," Tatarian says, talking about his 20-year run so far. "But when you do, you find something real. And hopefully Showtime is real.

Purchase an item for $50 or more to enter the Showtime (5708 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-875-9280) raffle. The winner will be picked on Friday, May 1. First prize is a Fender Stratocaster. —Kent Alexander


Salvation Army

The Salvation Army's the granddaddy of all resale stores, the place where bargain hunters, the broke, and the teens and tweens who've recently discovered ironic '80s T-shirts come to browse the myriad of goods on hand — kitchenware, clothing, shoes, furniture, books, records, audio supplies, kitschy knickknacks ... the list goes on. All items are donated and then sold for cheap, with the proceeds going to fund the organization's adult rehabilitation centers, long-term residential facilities that rehabilitate through a program of work and religious indoctrination. So when you buy that T-shirt with the bedazzled lions on it, you're not just adding whimsy to your wardrobe, you're helping society's unfortunate and spreading the good word, all religious dogma aside. Hallelujah!


Mr. Alan's
24734 Southfield Rd., Southfield; 248-559-7818; for more locations, see

It may be difficult to disassociate Mr. Alan's from its well-known commercials — sensory assaults that featured an enthused narrator proclaiming the ever-memorable, "29 or two for 50." But there's so much more to Mr. Alan's than the hyperactive commercials and cartoon logo. What began in 1974 as a small boutique with an emphasis on customer service has expanded into a chain of eight stores selling the latest kicks and freshest hip-hop threads to the fashion-savvy throughout metro Detroit. But despite its expansion, Mr. Alan's has retained its commitment to both superlative customer service — as evidenced by their knowledgeable and damn-near obsequious staff — and to affordable prices, best witnessed at their legendary sales, where designer names can be found at bargain-bin rates.



160 S. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-723-1900; for more locations, visit

Since Richard Golden, one-time owner of D.O.C. and dancing star of their sexy specs ads, started SEE (Selective Eyewear Elements) in 1998, the store spread from coast to coast, outfitting the fashionably nearsighted at more than 20 locations from Boston to L.A. The concept is simple — one-of-a-kind, designer eyewear at reasonable prices, what Golden refers to as "hip without the rip." The company built its rep through its trend-savvy merch, personal service — customers receive personalized thank-you notes — and a commitment to community.


Victoria's Secret
Various locations, see

We're sure everyone frequents the website and the stores for the affordable but high-quality lingerie, not necessarily the models. Right. Regardless, the Ohio-based retailer's a fave for fetching styles, colors and sizes that hold up well (no pun, mister!), perhaps designed for actual wearing and not just quick removal 30 seconds after they're modeled.


Curl Up & Dye
4215 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-833-5006

After a long day at the office, wouldn't you love to just curl up and dye? That's exactly what metro Detroiters are doing to relax at Midtown's newest salon. Co-owners Jennifer Willemsen and Ginny Smith opened up shop in early December and already have more than 500 new clients (not to mention their two Best Of wins). Along with cuts, color, trimmings and tamings, you can throw in a little extra pampering with a manicure, pedicure, waxing, massage or facial. And with smile-inducing prices, why not grab a few impulse buys, such as Curl Up & Dye's own private line of completely organic products.


Dixieland Market Place
2045 Dixie Hwy., Waterford; 248-338-3220

A scavenger's dream, Dixieland Market Place is the place to find whatever gem you're searching for, whether it's a 1944 Schwinn Starlet bicycle or a 1960s dining set. Not on the hunt for anything specific? Just browse the massive amounts of jewelry, clothing, electronics, antiques, musical instruments, rare coins and sports memorabilia up for grabs. Admission and parking are free, so shoppers can while away the hours without having to spend a dime. Store hours are Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, so it's best to start early and leave late.


Various locations, see

Started in Toronto in 1984, Make-up Art Cosmetics, better known simply as MAC, has become one of the leading cosmetic lines of the fashion industry, thanks to its dizzying array of vibrant hues and its durability. MAC — now a subsidiary of Estée Lauder — built and maintains its chi-chi status through a gaggle of celebrity endorsements, getting the seal of approval from the likes of Boy George, Sandra Bernhardt, RuPaul, Missy Elliott and even Barbie. The company's committed to social issues too, raising money for people living with HIV/AIDS, an eye toward recycling and creating lines of cruelty-free makeup.


Noir Leather
124 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-541-3979;

Get your stimulus package at this kinky suburban establishment our dear readers never get tired of lauding. Is it the selection of masks, paddles and milking sticks? Strap-on dildos for your girlfriend or bend-over boyfriend? The sexy clothes? The bimonthly fetish parties? Ah, Detroit, the New Depression can't dampen our libidos! One Grosse Pointer in our poll admitted to shopping there for her repeated bridesmaid duties: nipple stickers to prevent her little buttons from popping through all those silk dresses!


Eternal Tattoos
27590 Plymouth Rd., Livonia; 734-425-0428; for more locations, see

Apparently, our readers' love for Eternal Tattoos is as permanent as the ink they've received there (wah-wah-waaah). This perennial winner has been altering the bodies of metro Detroiters since 1980, now operating five locations and even providing laser tattoo removal. Eternal's founder, Terry "Tramp" Welker has a line of machines of his own design, available online along with Eternal ink and the brand new Welker power supply (oh, goody!). Last but not least, Eternal also hosts the annual Motor City Tattoo Convention, which brings top-notch artists here every winter.


BDT Pipe & Tobacco Place
21640 John R Rd., Hazel Park;
248-542-6110; 27419 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-776-5233

Now that the Mitten has made medicinal marijuana legal (oh, joy!), the demand for new and interesting ways of ingesting said medicine is destined to increase. Enter BDT Pipe & Tobacco Place. BDT owner and former employee Randy Hauck has experienced first-hand an increase in vaporizer (smokeless ingestion device) sales due to the recent passing of the law. On the recreational end, BDT provides everything the smoking connoisseur may need ... except tobacco.


Lucky Monkey Tattoo Parlour
308 S. Ashley St., Ann Arbor; 734-623-8200;

The professional staff is continually getting certified and sent to seminars to make sure they are giving you exactly what your heart, lip, ear, eyebrow, tongue and health desires. Using the highest quality titanium products, the passionate piercers here will make sure that, from start to finish — and even in the weeks to follow — you get exactly what you want, where you want it and how you want it.


Better Made Chips
Found at party stores, supermarkets, bars and in our readers' cupboards;

Since its conception in 1930, Better Made Chips have been a staple of backyard barbecues, the sole nourishment at drunken house parties, the favored pick of office vending-machine raids and the ultimate munchy satisfier. The preeminent Detroit snack food is made from Michigan-grown potatoes and is also the official chip of the Pistons, the Lions and the Tigers.


Green Brain
13210 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-9444

Nearly a decade in, Green Brain owners Katie and Dan Merritt like to think of comic books as a form of literature and conduct business as such. You won't find rare first additions locked away in a five-inch thick steel vault, but what you will find is a clean and family-friendly atmo with an emphasis on reading and using your brain.


John K. King Used and Rare Books
901 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-0622;

He's opened satellite stores in Detroit's Cultural Center and Ferndale because, well, the four floors of his main building and the warehouse he bought next door just weren't big enough to house the million-or-so books John King has for sale. Sure you can search the company's website for titles, but getting lost in the stacks is a Detroit tradition. Go in for a book, come out with a dozen others and $1 cardboard black-and-gold moose head like one of our readers did.


Thomas Video & DVD
4732 Rochester Rd., Royal Oak; 248-280-2833;

In case you missed it, Thomas Video moved back to their roots in January, leaving its Clawson location of 17 years for Royal Oak (a whole half mile down the road!). If you missed the moving sale — where thousands of rare, out-of-print, new and used movies from Thomas' legendary collection were sold — well, you've shot yourself in the foot. And if you missed the grand reopening sale, you shot yourself in the other foot. As it stands, Thomas still offers more than 40,000 titles — mainstream hits, foreign films and the weirdo cult flicks the place has been known for since opening as the first video rental store in the country way back in 1974.


Various locations, see

There's something to be said about being the world's largest video game and entertainment software retailer — GameStop has all of the newest hardware and software, as well as unlimited resources for novice gamers. It also owns the intensely popular Game Informer magazine and has used its 5,100 locations to create the "GameStop Nation," which consists of thousands of gamers. Instead of using those beat-up games as coasters and Frisbees, gamers can sell them to GameStop and purchase used games at reduced prices. And GameStop has yet to feel the Vulcan nerve pinch of the economic slump, recording record sales and earnings in 2008. Wow.


Modern Skate and Surf
29862 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-545-5700; 1500 N. Stephenson Hwy., Royal Oak; 248-546-PARK;

So you want to be the next Rob Dyrdek, but you don't have the proper gear? You can do one of two things: find an enormous, ex-military friend to create a show with or go to Modern Skate and Surf and buy all the essentials for transforming yourself into a true thrasher. Modern Skate and Surf was established in Royal Oak in 1979, and soon became one of only 30 stores in the world to carry in-line skates. With a team of professional skaters called Team Modern and a skate park built by world class X-Games ramp builders in their home town, Modern Skate and Surf caters to those in need of a serious session.


Record Time
27360 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-775-1550;

Forget about rock stars who frequent the joint. Forget that Kid and Em browsed the racks, buying records that may have aided their journey on to riches and infamy. Forget about the back room where the Detroit electronic music scene was basically birthed, headed by Richie Hawtin, Jon Aquaviva, DJ Munk, Dan Bell and Claude Young. Forget that the place has been around more than a quarter century. Forget all that junk, 'cause Record Time's a great place to buy records. Period.


Guitar Center
31940 Gratiot Ave., Roseville; 586-296-6161; for more locations, see

For a chain store, this place has street cred. Many employees are local rock stars who can answer tech questions that some huge dude eating a sandwich behind a glass counter probably wouldn't know. Guitar Center encourages customers to touch the merch, and they have a glorious room dedicated to the most beautiful-sounding instrument of all — that'd be the acoustic guitar, kids. They want customers to play before buying (and why wouldn't you?), but don't sit down play the intro to "D'yer Mak'er," because no one cares about your knowledge of Page licks.


The Hub of Detroit
3611 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-879-5073;

The Hub of Detroit grew out of Back Alley Bikes, a youth program designed to get low-income youths their very own bicycles. The volunteer organization needed a way to fund their philanthropic endeavors and saw a need in Detroit for a bike shop. So the Hub was born, killing two birds with one ultra-cool stone. Not only do Detroiters now have a place to purchase a used bike, fix up an old set of wheels and to buy biking accessories, but all proceeds from the shop go directly to Back Alley Bikes. The staff — which consists primarily of volunteers —runs a variety of classes and programs for area youth, including having kids 13-18 clock volunteer hours in the shop to earn their own bike.


503 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, 248-398-5130; 1300 Broadway, Detroit, 313-964-5777;

Between the banana tree and the refrigerator of fresh flowers at the downtown location, we found colorful vases we just had to have. Perhaps we were poisoned by the sweet smells or enchanted from the sunshine pouring in the windows on two sides of the store. Tucked in a corner location between Gratiot Avenue and the stadium area, the Detroit location is the smaller of the two Blumz — the larger Ferndale site is where most of the wedding orders and bigger arrangements are done. But both stores offer potted plants, fresh bouquets, delivery services, cards and other assorted accessories that will brighten up your home and office.


Tapper's Diamonds & Fine Jewelry
6337 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield; 248-932-770; 27716 Novi Rd., Novi; 248-465-1800;

Founded by brothers Howard and Steven Tapper in 1977, Tapper's Diamonds & Fine Jewelry offers a large selection of high-quality diamonds, designer fine jewelry and luxury timepieces — otherwise known as really expensive watches. The 16,000-square-foot location in West Bloomfield, complete with a beautifully immense showroom, signals Tapper's status as one of the premier independent jewelers in the country, achieved through superlative customer service (including a no-hassle return policy) and a selection that's wide enough to satisfy almost anyone's taste.


Abracadabra Jewelry & Gem Gallery
205 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-4848;

Specializing in jewelry design and high quality gemstones, Abracadabra has operated in Ann Arbor — in one form or another — for 35 years. Owner Steven Lesse and his staff help customers design their own bling or choose from one of the shop's custom lines, such as the popular Celtic-inspired wedding bands. Abracadabra also sells Mokume-Gane rings, which are made using an ancient Japanese metalworking technique. Hell, nothing says I love you like a wedding band fit for a samurai's sword.


Art Van Furniture
Various locations, visit

Art Van is a Michigan exclusive and the prices in their Clearance Center make it easy to scrap your old hand-me-down furniture and splurge on a couch that doesn't smell like ass or long-dead pets. Web surfers can view what's hot in the Clearance Center online and shipping prices are relatively low — even free on select pieces. There are 30 locations and the free online room planner allows customers a chance to make a virtual blueprint of any room before they buy a single piece.


Best Buy
Various locations, see

Upon the collapse of one of its leading competitors, this monolithic audio and video chain has grown yet more powerful. But no worries, Best Buy will match any local competitor's prices on just about everything in the store — while there are still competitors left, that is. And sure, loads of anecdotal Internet grumbling and a class-action lawsuit in New York question how Best Buy puts their price-matching policy into practice, but if all you need is a hi-def TV or a new car stereo — no questions asked — Best Buy's staff will hook you up.


Geoffrey Fieger
19390 W. 10 Mile Rd., Southfield; 248-355-5555;

"I've been covered in the media in flattering and unflattering ways," he says in his commercial. Now in his 30th year of practicing law, Geoff Fieger (brother to Knack leader Doug) continues to be Metro Times reader fave. That's saying something, with Detroit Free Press counsel Herschel Fink fighting for the watchdog journalists there, William Goodman managing the Detroit City Council's legal affairs through the mayoral scandal and University of Michigan's Bridget McCormack tackling wrongful convictions without the luxury of DNA in her cases. To keep up with Fieger's work, dig on his blog:


Middle Earth
1209 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-769-1488;

The array of products available at Middle Earth can be succinctly summarized by the shop's slogan — harming only the humorless. From mugs to bumper stickers, Middle Earth offers seemingly endless opportunities to amuse and bemuse with products adorned with a snappy and irreverent slogan.


Jax Kar Wash
28845 Telegraph Rd., Southfield; 248-353-4700; for more locations, see

This family-owned business has been making cars sparkle since 1954. Currently, Jax boasts six locations in the metro Detroit area, where its innumerable sales and promos — free washes on birthdays, a 48-hour clean guarantee, weekly coupons to the email list, monthly and weekly passes, punch cards, Ladies Day Wednesdays (just to name a few) — make it a recurring Best Of winner.


Howard Cooper Imports
2601 S. State St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-3825;

Excellent customer service, superior sales, top-quality training and high facility image are the major criteria in which a dealer wins Honda's most prestigious and coveted award — the Honda President's Award. Howard Cooper Honda has snagged the award seven times. Dig Cooper's website; browse new and used rides and other car needs.


Motor City Harley-Davidson
24900 Grand River Ave., Farmington Hills 248-473-7433,

Whether you prefer a Street Bob or a Fat Bob, a Night Train or a Cross Bones, southeast Michigan's fave motorcycle dealer can help. Motor City Harley-Davidson has brand-new bikes and pre-owned rides along with a full complement of accessories. The maintenance department will keep your bike purring. If you're new to riding, try the "Learn to Ride" program. If you need a refresher, there's a "Skilled Rider" course. And if you're worried about supporting businesses that support others, Motor City Harley-Davidson along with its HOG Chapter are among the nation's leading dealerships for charitable contributions.


Whole Foods
2918 Walton Blvd., Rochester Hills; 248-371-1400;; with locations in Ann Arbor, Troy and West Bloomfield

Smokehouses, grills, wine bars, brick-ovens, gelato bars, coffee bars, cooking classrooms — the various extras that Whole Foods provides has transformed grocery shopping from a chore into an experience. The exact list of amenities varies from store to store, but every location offers huge selections of organic produce (with emphasis on locally-grown) hormone-free meats, artisan cheeses, fresh seafood, gourmet prepared foods and an extensive line of cruelty-free bath and body products. Each store also hosts a variety of events and specials throughout the week, from store tours to massages (yes, massages).


Holiday Market
1203 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-541-1414;

If fresh sushi, cheese, wine and pastries are your comfort foods, then a trip to Holiday Market might soothe you into contentment. Easily accessible, not too pricey, offering a variety of healthy and sinful treats and staples, the Royal Oak grocery is more a way of life than a place to shop. It's got cooking classes, a wine club and an online newsletter to remind you just how good a trip to the grocery can be. We've gone in to grab lunch from their deli and walked out with enough treats for an hors d'ouvres spread for the neighborhood. Beware!