A fully loaded cocktail bar. A mint-condition 1940s skirt suit. A set of Spode Christmas plates. A crystal perfume atomizer. The list of finds is endless, as is the array of baubles, furniture, clothing, and the curious, from dozens of different local vendors.
We've gotta say right up front that voters in this category who handed this victory to the Bob Bullock must certainly be members of our Texas State History Museum. Why? Well, a membership entitles members to a 10% discount on any of the many Texana tchotchkes available inside. And our readers, as usual, are right on the money: This totally Texas-themed gift shop rivals runners-up, previous winners, and impressive contenders like Congress Avenue Card & Gift, Capitol Gift Shop in the Capitol Visitors Center, and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
Catering to all tastes and interests from Dr. Atkins to Zen, BookPeople has served bookworms of every stripe for more than 30 years now with no signs of stopping. Come by for a latte or for a sexy book reading or just to indulge your love of the written word.
Buffalo Exchange, strategically located near quirky collegiate students, caters to the funky, bold, and cheap shopper. With their prices on trendsetting retro resale clothing and accessories, it's possible to pick up a cool outfit for a cool $30. By George, by contrast, is the favorite of the high-end ensemble addict. Their breezy casual chic is expensive, but not gaudy. The price is in the details: rich fabrics, creative cuts, and clean lines.
Dragon's Lair, the once and future king of comics, consistently rolls high hit points for service, selection, and special events. Since its inception in 1986, the Lair has grown bigger and stronger, swinging down its mighty warhammer on all pretenders to the throne. Aside from their arsenal of comics, cards, and RPG accessories, the proprietors have devised a special-order service for those hard-to-find items (buxom bad girls not included), and they've posted their entire inventory online. A Lair like this truly is … my precious!!!
In the shadow of the dot-com bust, at the point where MoPac dwindles into the near-northern suburbs, under the sign of the gargantuan piano – rises Fry's, the store where computer maniacs of every shape, size, and pocketbook go to shop, schmooze, or just drool. From the Hardware Corner to the Land of the Giant TVs, from Mac Heaven to the glistening Rattlesnake Queue, and whether you're a newbie or an old hand, you could spend a day, an evening, or a whole weekend in Fry's and still discover new, cool gizmos to puzzle over, try out, or take home.
Yeah, it's corporate, OK. But that whole aisle of "As Seen on TV" stuff? The collection of dancing hamsters? The stacks of impulse buys waiting for you at the counter? The $5 radios? And oh, the cosmetics section, how it goes on and on. Take your time getting your prescription filled – for 20 bucks you can have a major fun time scooping up the latest, greatest Walgreens specials. Don't forget to test the perfume and lotion samplers.
Whether your wishes are for a Wassily in black or clear rubber and chrome or a chaise that ol' Le Corbusier'd be proud to plop his ... errrr, corbusier in, both of these popular retail joints can make them come true. Eurway's sleek, modern take on design has made Austin homes tasteful for the better part of two decades, as has vintage vantage point Room Service, a wall-to-wall bonanza of postmodern madness. Dallas-based Eurway stocks brand-new items, and our local Room Service offers classic cultural wares from a number of local dealers.
One of the longest surviving independent businesses on the Drag, with a location in the tastefully packed Central Park shopping center near Central Market, the Cadeau kicks up elegant gift-giving a notch, with pretty, decorative picture frames, candles, and upscale fashion – not your everyday teddy bears or knickknacks. Emeralds (not unlike the Cadeau, with an amped-up sense of humor and sultry array of clothing and shoes) is another great place to wander the aisles with loved ones in mind. Feminine and feminist, it's the urbane outfitter for any self-respectiing modern woman.
The Cadeau, 2316 Guadalupe, 512/477-7276
Despite the rapid incursion of big-box home-improvement stores, Breed & Co. maintains a loyal clientele because their employees are uniformly knowledgeable and always willing to help out the neophyte weekend warrior. If you don't quite know what you're doing, stop here first.
Don't let the displays of ceramic pottery and well-crafted boxes of rare wood fool you: This elegant store is also a prime bastion of more accessorizing bling-bling than you can shake a loupe at. Engagement rings, wedding rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets: You name it, they've probably got it – and handmade by such masters as Colorado's Stephen Dixon and quite a few local artisans, too. Our readers agree that this is the one place that rules them all.
Psst, Victoria? Here's the real secret: You ain't seen nothing yet if you ain't been to Forbidden Fruit. Yes, it's the place where the definition of lingerie expands to include masks, gags, clamps, and spreaders (huh?), not to mention your regular run-of-the-mill body stockings, corsets, 75-inch mules, and, of course, handcuffs. Be sure to ask about their Lover's Circle Passport Club for discounts and specials!
With 16 locations to choose from, you’re bound to find a Twin Liquors just around the corner. But geographical convenience isn't the only reason Twin Liquors has won this category four years running now. You also dig their 70-year local lineage, good prices, in-store tastings, always-eager staff, and distinct personality to every store, which is why Twin Liquors feels like your neighborhood liquor store, and not just the liquor store around the corner.
Whatever your musical need, Ray Hennig is here for both the serious rocker and the inexperienced first-timer still trying to build up the proper guitar calluses. However, don't go there looking for froufrou; the "Wall of Famous Musicians" is about as close as it gets to decoration. Do go there for the excellent service; a wide array of just about every guitar, amp, and string ever made; recording and mixing equipment; banjos; mandolins; etc. They will even create custom sound systems.
Ray Hennig's Heart of Texas Music Inc., 1002-1004 S. Lamar, 512/444-9750
Newly acquired as part of the Cash America empire, actual "BOA" winner Doc Holliday's has earned a special ranking throughout the years with "Best of Austin" voters. Local flavor with a wide assortment of quality merchandise makes this, and now all of the Cash America pawn shops, the first stop for the shopper with an eye on economy.
Since 1955, Bark 'n Purr's learned staff has helped us humans make informed decisions about food, grooming, flea treatment, and umpteen other pet needs. It's the next best thing to having a pet that talks.
An oasis off South Congress that provides inspiration and motivation for even those folks with thumbs o' brown, the grounds of these Great Outdoors are a virtual fairyland at Christmas, a riot of color in spring, and a cool refuge in summer amid the waterfalls, swings, and fragrant herbs.
Run by music lovers for music lovers, Waterloo proves a “record store” can still exist even if its namesake is on life support. Their vast selection of local music, expert employee recommendations, and frequent in-store performances (with free beverages!) make Waterloo a shopping experience that’ll never be replicated by pointing and clicking.
Susan Post and her bevy of erudite feminists have made Book Woman the bedrock of Austin's progressive community for 25 years. The children's book section alone – stocked with colorful ways to teach little ones about the Earth, gay families, racial equality, and self-love, is worth some long hours of browsing. If corporate book-marts get you down, come to Book Woman to discover the wonderful realm of a local reader's community – all genders welcome. A visit to Book Woman has the marvelous effect of making you feel right at home, and rousing your will to change the world – or maybe just your world.
Both of these organizations greatly benefit Austin citizens. Goodwill helps give a leg up to those facing employment barriers. Top Drawer funds services for those living with AIDS. Plus, they both have great stuff. Goodwill is best for those of you who like the enormous sifting process, with eight jumbo stores in Austin (not to mention a very spiffy new logo). Top Drawer offers that intimate shopping experience with treasures and regular discounts and sales packed into a cute little location on Burnet Road.
The used-CD selection at Cheapo is best approached with an open mind. It takes time and patience to dig through the vast “recent arrival” stacks organized by arrival date instead of artist, but this is where to find killer deals on discs you didn’t even know you wanted.
We hated to see the Red River store go, but from the look of things, Blue Velvet on the Drag is holding it down. Our readers vote them the best in hip threads, kitschy collectibles, and outrageous rental outfits all on the cheap. And its presence next to a skeletal Sound Exchange is all the more reason to fight off the faceless chain-i-fication of the Drag. Let's Keep Austin Fashionable.