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2011ReadersShopping

Best Antiques/Collectibles
Uncommon Objects

This imagination-stoking SoCo favorite houses the peculiar and beautiful wares of 24 separate antiques purveyors. Their titular Objects are arranged into surprisingly lovely milieus, and the resulting effect is of wandering through the living rooms of artists, eccentrics, and oddballs. Now, if only there were an afternoon tea service ….

Uncommon Objects, 1512 S. Congress, 512/442-4000, www.uncommonobjects.com

Best Car Dealership
Howdy Honda

It's true that in these hard economic times, people are looking for a good car value for their hard-earned bucks, but it is also obvious that Howdy Honda is more than a standard depot for efficient cars at affordable prices. Its long-standing reputation for quality and personal, no-pressure service brings back memories of a long-lost, sticky-as-heck 1980s radio jingle and has kept readers bestowing the locally owned stalwart with "Best of Austin" awards for seven years running.

Howdy Honda, 5519 E. Ben White, 512/443-4300, www.howdyhonda.com

Best Clothing
Strut

Clothes, shoes, accessories: Were that all, it would be more than enough to suffice for the everyday fashionista. But Strut takes it to a new level with its unique gotta-have-it stylings, making certain the "perfect little something" is perfectly easy to find. Four Austin locations means you're three times closer to getting your fashion fix.

Strut, 3500 Guadalupe, 512/374-1667, www.shopstrut.com

Strut, 3100 S. Congress, 512/707-1523, www.shopstrut.com

Strut, 2200 S. Lamar, 512/326-2303, www.shopstrut.com

Best Comic-Book Store
Austin Books & Comics

Turn the page; wash your hands. Turn the page; wash your hands. That may be extreme, but the staff at this comic-book heaven have approached that level of reverence, and it's this dedication that keeps Austin Books & Comics your fanboy/fangirl favorite year after year.

Austin Books & Comics, 5002 N. Lamar, 512/454-4197, www.austinbooks.com

Best Computer Store
TIE: Apple Store; Discount Electronics

A tie for Best Computer Store is a bit like apples and oranges when you're dealing with Macs vs. PCs. But the readers have spoken. If you have a Mac, fixing it up couldn't be more convenient than swinging by the store, grabbing a ticket, and entertaining yourself with new gadgets while waiting for service. The eagerly hip sales help seems so young to know so much more than we do that it's humiliating … but in a good way, because they get the Mac products repaired or replaced quickly. Discount Electronics only handles Dell, but Dells are pretty big business here in Austin, so it's terrific to have a store dedicated to maintaining them.

Apple Store, 2901 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/634-0520, www.apple.com

Discount Electronics, 1011 W. Anderson, 512/983-9989, www.discountelectronics.com

Apple Store, 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, 512/691-4800, www.apple.com

Discount Electronics, 9711 Manchaca Rd., 512/458-8612, www.discountelectronics.com

Discount Electronics, 1001 S. I-35, Round Rock, 512/637-7051, www.discountelectronics.com

Best Convenience Store
Whip In

Since 1986, the mighty Whip In has been a cut above your average convenience store. A walk into this eclectic, family-owned and -operated shop gives the sense of being invited into the Topiwala home, complete with a cozy cafe serving up exotic takes on typical Tex-Mex fare. Its worldly selections of beer, smokes, and produce, paired with a chill, take-your-time atmosphere, ensure convenience doesn't come at the cost of comfort. Whip In good.

Whip In, 1950 S. I-35, 512/442-5337, www.whipin.com

Best Drugstore/Pharmacy
Peoples Rx

Peoples Rx embraces the charms of yesterday's neighborhood drugstore and pairs them with the knowledge and technology of today. Picking up a prescription? Need it compounded? Looking for alternative health care advice? Meds for your four-legged companion? How about lunch? All this is served up in an environment where you're never ever a number.

Peoples Rx, 3801 S. Lamar, 512/444-8866, www.peoplesrx.com

Peoples Rx, 4018 N. Lamar, 512/459-0845, www.peoplesrx.com

Peoples Rx, 13860 Hwy. 183 N. Ste. C, 512/219-9499, www.peoplesrx.com

Peoples Rx, 4201 Westbank, 512/327-8868, www.peoplesrx.com

Best DVD Rental/Purchase
TIE: I Luv Video; Vulcan Video

When the night is still, as we slumber in our beds, old VHS tapes come out and take to the streets, crawling to the windows of these hallowed DVD juggernauts and staring longingly into their packed aisles with an envy unmatched by the greenest of monsters. No envy's needed, though; both centers of rentable cinema boast incredible catalogs of VHS gems. Sometimes we're rendered slack-jawed because there are just too many choices. Choices are hard.

I Luv Video, 4803 Airport, 512/450-1966, www.iluvvideo.com

Vulcan Video, 100-A North Loop, 512/478-5325, www.vulcanvideo.com

Vulcan Video, 4411 Russell, 512/326-2629, www.vulcanvideo.com

Best Furnishings/Home
TIE: West Elm; Room Service Vintage

On the surface, this year's champs represent two poles of the home-decorating world: Room Service for off-beat, quirky, and vintage tastes, and West Elm for newly manufactured comfort. The color stories are unique, from the citrons, mauves, and medium browns of Room Service to the whites, silvers, and dark chocolates of West Elm. A room incorporating both is not the concoction of some Janus-faced interior decorator, but rather the foundations of good design. Natch!

West Elm, 1011 W. Fifth, 512/320-5415, www.westelm.com

Room Service Vintage, 107 E. North Loop, 512/451-1057, www.roomservicevintage.com

Best Gardening Store
Natural Gardener

This sprawling organic wonderland located on the western edge of town may be all-natural, but don't try to tell us there isn't some magic involved, too. Every time we wander the gorgeous grounds – taking in the goats, the fresh greens just begging to be planted – we feel a little like the Natural Gardener put a spell on us. We hope we never wake.

Natural Gardener, 8648 Old Bee Caves Rd., 512/288-6113, www.naturalgardeneraustin.com

Best Green Business
House+Earth

Is there anything green that Austin doesn't love? OK, maybe mold. But that never need be a problem if you use materials from locally owned House+Earth, Austin's green building material store. What separates House+Earth from Austin's other building material retailers is its commitment to human health and the environment. Find everything from cabinetry, flooring, countertops, paints, and sealants to natural clay plasters, LED lighting, nontoxic cleaners, and unique, artisan-crafted products. Plenty of friendly and knowledgeable staff can guide you through your project. Green is good.

House + Earth, 1214 W. Sixth #120, 512/300-0484, www.houseandearth.com

Best Jewelry/Accessories
Kendra Scott

Talk about "local girl hits it big!" With her South Congress flagship store, a new store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and a soon-to-open store in Dallas, jewelry designer extraordinaire Kendra Scott is riding the crest of national attention. From Paris Hilton to Queen Latifah, celebs are snapping up Kendra's statement jewelry. Her spare and chic stores feature hundreds of her easily identifiable signature looks, plus a DIY "color bar" with stones and settings to design your own shockingly affordable jewels. This noted philanthropist also enjoys an ever-increasing, loyal following.

Kendra Scott, 1400 S. Congress, Ste. 170-A, 512/499-8400, www.kendrascott.com

Best Liquor Store
TIE: Twin Liquors; Spec's

Oh, Spec's! Oh, Twin Liquors! Just shake hands and embrace the fact that Austin loves you both so much it can't chose an absolute favorite. Both companies strive to offer the best in party favors for the good times. These faves pride themselves on wooing their regulars. Austin-born Twin Liquors is great for the why-not-buy-two pit stop on the drive home, and Houston-hatched Spec's will help you acquire the extra perks for a great cocktail soiree, from fine cheeses to smart glassware. Both happily boost our need for liquid confidence while hooking us up with discounts on large purchases and featured products.

Twin Liquors, 1000 E. 41st, 512/451-7400, www.twinliquors.com

Spec's, 5775 Airport, 512/366-8300, www.specsonline.com

Twin Liquors, 519 E. Seventh, 512/476-9982, www.twinliquors.com

Twin Liquors, 8030 Mesa, 512/346-1861, www.twinliquors.com

Twin Liquors, 3652 Bee Caves Rd., 512/327-0315, www.twinliquors.com

Twin Liquors, 5505 Balcones, 512/323-2775, www.twinliquors.com

Twin Liquors, 850 N. Bell Blvd., Cedar Park, 512/335-4244, www.twinliquors.com

Twin Liquors, 12400 Hwy. 71 W., 512/402-0333, www.twinliquors.com

Twin Liquors, 701 Capital of Tx. Hwy. S., 512/347-1299, www.twinliquors.com

Twin Liquors, Main office: 107 W. Stassney, 512/442-8395, www.twinliquors.com

Spec's, 4978 Hwy. 290 W., 512/366-8260, www.specsonline.com

Spec's, 10515 MoPac N., 512/342-6893, www.specsonline.com

Spec's, 201 University Oaks Blvd., Round Rock, 512/341-9066, www.specsonline.com

Spec's, 9900 S. I-35, 512/280-7400, www.specsonline.com

Spec's, 13015 Shops Pkwy., Bee Cave, 512/263-9981, www.specsonline.com

Spec's, 739 Old Bastrop Highway, Bastrop, 512/308-0250, www.specsonline.com/

Spec's, 3550 S General Bruce Dr., Temple, 254/771-1518, www.specsonline.com/

Spec's, 4970 W. U.S. 290 SVC Rd, www.specsonline.com/

Best Local Bookstore
BookPeople

Our favorite books often become tangible reminders of where we've been – grains of sand in the pages, a scribbled note in the margins, an old picture used as a place marker. It's the same physical realness that we love about shopping at BookPeople: the conversations with sales people, flirtations with bestsellers, and hopeful leaps of faith into new printed worlds.

BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar, 512/472-5050, www.bookpeople.com

Best Local Hardware Store
Breed & Co.

Unless you were born Bob Vila, hardware stores probably make you feel dumb. Breed & Co. will not make you feel dumb. In fact, the knowledgeable folks there will make you feel rather brilliant, helping to empower the inner builder (or fence-fixer or wall-painter or whatever) you always suspected was in there somewhere, maybe buried beneath your crippling fear of power tools. Now power tools shudder with respect for you. Thanks, Breed & Co.

Breed & Co., 718 W. 29th, 512/474-6679, www.breedandco.com

Breed & Co., 3663 Bee Caves Rd., 512/328-3960, www.breedandco.com

Best Music Gear
TIE: Strait Music Company; Guitar Center

Strait up now baby, we're gonna love you forever. With your indie feel and snazzy deals like the restring for $12 plus the cost of strings, musicians know where it's at. And if you're a size queen, Guitar Center turns things up to 11 with its vast inventory of auditory delights. For those of you who supply us with the tools to rock, we salute you.

Guitar Center, 2525 W. Anderson #200, 512/419-1717, www.guitarcenter.com

Guitar Center, 5300 MoPac S. #103, 512/891-0297, www.guitarcenter.com

Best Naughty Business
Forbidden Fruit

The missionary position can be quite continental, but Forbidden Fruit is a girl's best friend. Adam, Eve, and Steve know when they need a little more spice in their life, they can always turn to our trusty neighborhood kink shop – now exclusively on North Loop – to fulfill their needs with a rubber helping hand, a wink, and a smile.

Forbidden Fruit, 108 E. North Loop, 512/453-8090, www.forbiddenfruit.com

Best New Local Business
TIE: Green House; Blackbird

Two very different color palettes; two ends of North Loop. A nice lady known as Puppett stocks Green House's retooled fashion for bod and home. One step inside and you're in the nostril of a unicorn who's snorted one too many rainbows. The "green" herein suggests the A-Z of "re"s (-cycle, -purpose, -use, etc.) as well as greenhouse as incubator; it hosts so many art shows and backyard to-dos. Around the beloved curve of North Loop looniness to the west resides a sophisticated store in black. "Eighties goth?" you ask. Close. Here at Blackbird, it's closer to the 1880s, when Poe was God and no one had heard of the Cure yet. The lovingly curated displays scream vintage and antique, but don't get too lost in the mise-en-scène. Blackbird touts hot, new, old-fashioned couture in modern, Texas-friendly fabrics, as well as sizzlingly hot new jewelry by local designers.

Green House, 701 E. 53rd, 512/614-0140, www.greenhouseaustin.com

Blackbird CLOSED, 112 E. North Loop, 512/904-9114, www.blackbirdaustin.com

Best Pet Store
Bark 'n Purr Pet Center

The gang at locally owned Bark 'n Purr love our furry friends inside and out, offering the best quality pet products at the best price. To make the experience even easier, it has online shopping and free delivery in Austin. Repeat customers have come to expect quality products such as Orijen, Holistic Select, and Flint River Ranch. We're spoiled by the serious, doting attention for our pets' well-being, with staff consultants who can guide us through everything from raw diets to natural flea control. At Bark ’n Purr, health is the alpha dog.

Bark n Purr Pet Center, 4604 Burnet Rd., 512/452-3883, www.barknpurr.com

Best Record/CD Store
Waterloo Records

Whether you're looking for new adventures in lo-fi or songs in the key of Gaga, Austin's beloved Waterloo Records is your one-stop shop for everything music that Kris Krosses your mind. And if you can't tell Lou Reed from Doug Yule, don't fret; the scoff-free staff will be happy to help you figure it out. Hip-hop hooray!

Waterloo Records, 600-A N. Lamar, 512/474-2500, www.waterloorecords.com

Best Shoe Selection
Nordstrom

We all have a little shoe whore in us. When the heel devil creeps up on our shoulder, enticing us with some retail therapy, Nordstrom's foot-fetish beacon shines like a bright, holy light. Fear not: The price range is down-to-earth, but the selection out of this world. Jessica Simpson. Toms. Fendi. Steve Madden. Nine West. Burberry. From crazy shapes and colors to simple, cozy Uggs, you can definitely find a satisfying pair for the ol' hoofs at our readers' favorite hot (foot) spot.

Nordstrom, 2901 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/691-3500, www.nordstrom.com

Nordstrom, 9607 Research, 512/651-6180, www.nordstrom.com

Nordstrom, 5601 Brodie, Sunset Valley, 512/697-2600, www.nordstrom.com

Best Small Record/CD Store
End of an Ear

We've heard enough talk of the end of the record store to fill the Library of Congress, but what proprietors Blake Carlisle and Dan Plunkett are more concerned about is the end of your ear. They have enough knowledge, Mo'Wax, and Wax Trax to get past your earwax, so relax, don't do it when you want to download.

End of an Ear, 4304 Clawson, 512/462-6008, www.endofanear.com

Best Thrift Store
Goodwill

Yarrrrr matey, welcome to the good ship Goodwill! Ahoy, scurvy scalawag, are ye searchin' for treasure? Look ho! Thar be a pair o' sea-farin' booties! And thar! A net to catch ye a sea beastie, and a loverly pair o' knickers for your ill-temper'd wench! And if ye be hornswoggled or mutinied, the good ship will get ye back on ye landlubbin' feet. Shiver me timbers!

Goodwill, 2800 S. Lamar, 512/442-8802, www.austingoodwill.org

Goodwill, Main office: 1015 Norwood Park Blvd., 512/637-7100, www.austingoodwill.org

Goodwill, 836 Airport, 512/389-3277, www.austingoodwill.org

15 more locations

Best Video Game Rental/Purchase
Game Over Videogames

Aside from being the name of a hooker we know in New Orleans, Game Over is a local chain way into vintage and classic video games. At this "crazy experiment in video game nostalgia," you can buy, sell, or trade games, accessories, and collectibles, or unleash your inner teenager at the free retro game tournaments. Now with an online store as well as locations in San Antonio, Round Rock, Sunset Valley, and North Austin.

Game Over Videogames, 911 W. Anderson #106, 512/454-4263, www.gameovervideogames.com

Game Over Videogames, 110 N. I-35 Ste. 200-A, Round Rock, 512/246-6837, www.gameovervideogames.com

Game Over Videogames, 3005 S. Lamar Ste. B-105B, 512/326-4263, www.gameovervideogames.com

Game Over Videogames, 1504 Aquarena Springs Dr. #110, San Marcos, 512/878-4684, www.gameovervideogames.com

Best Vintage
Room Service Vintage

Within these Technicolor walls and strategically placed partitions, there is a very far-out time machine set to a unique era in which only the very best designs of bygone days have survived. Anyone can be a member of Generation Room Service, where groovy poly blends mix into soft denim dreams, art-deco furniture meets funky orange shag, and, somewhere in the stack of gently worn magazines, your dream girl is on the cover of Playboy. For 30 years, Room Service Vintage has provided Austin's characters the means to affordably fashion our everyday costumes and to create the bold and eccentric stages for our lives.

Room Service Vintage, 107 E. North Loop, 512/451-1057, www.roomservicevintage.com

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