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2007CriticsShopping

Best (Glassy) Blow Job for Spectators
Glassy Knoll

How could we resist such prurience when some standard operating equipment in the field includes the "glory hole" and the "lip wrap" (rods and blow-hoses notwithstanding). You'll have to ask the gleeful gaffers at Glassy Knoll about all that, though. All's we know is they got mad skillz. If you've ever wondered how that gleaming, towering beauty your roommate has stashed under his bed was made, Glassy Knoll will show you the way. With their many torches, punts, tubes of glass, and rods of colors, these pros demonstrate their artsy glassblowing techniques on a daily basis through a window in the store, allowing you to observe, firsthand, the process that creates such elegance. While you watch in wonder, check out the fruits of their many labors: wine glasses, beads, and, of course, long, hard pipes you can puff on.

Glassy Knoll, 1713 S. First, 512/447-8199

Best Auditory Heaven
Whetstone Audio

Never mind the big-box stores with 1,000 multipiece systems all from the same mold. If you love the sound of music when it comes across warm, clear, and true, there's a system at Whetstone with your name on it. Isoblue! Rega! Cyrus! Music to an audiophile's ears – but without the snooty snottiness. A treat for the eyes, too, as each tower is an architectural feat of art and machine. Can't decide what to play? Proprietor Brian stocks an impressive collection of vinyl worthy for such towers. The local brainpower that's geeked out to the tunes of well-honed gear here cannot be measured in decibels. What can be measured is the trust, knowledge, reliability, and customer service that has kept this shop of audio dreams in business and a local favorite for 13 years.

Whetstone Audio, 2401 E. Sixth #1001, 512/477-8503, www.whetstoneaudio.com

Best Bike Handle-Horns
Longhorn Bikes

Rene Martinez’s fame started to grow when he replaced the handlebars of an old cruiser bicycle with a pair of longhorn steer horns just for fun. Who would have thought the style would become the new chic of bicycle accessories? Martinez’s little Eastside bike shop that specializes in low-rider bikes built from kits became famous when he turned down an offer from Jesse “Monster Garage” James of $200 for one of the $500 longhorn bikes. Besides the Texas-themed bikes, Longhorn Bikes also sells new and used bikes and parts.

Longhorn Bikes, 2308 E. Cesar Chavez, 512/542-9505, www.longhornbikes.com

Best Clip Joint
State Surplus Property Store

photo by Celesta Danger

It is hard to believe that a pair of nail clippers would be considered a dangerous weapon, but after September 11, 2001, it was added to a list of banned items like knives, box cutters, scissors, toy guns, and knitting needles that were confiscated from carry-on luggage at the nation’s airports. Where do all these forfeited items end up? Well, several Texas airports send the prohibited goodies to a warehouse in East Austin where they join other government surplus items for sale back to the public. In addition to pocketknives for $1, you can browse through jewelry that was never claimed from the lost and found and a storeroom stacked to the rafters with old desks, filing cabinets, and other office furniture.

State Surplus Property Store, 6506 Bolm, 512/463-1990, www.tfc.state.tx.us

Best Design, Decor, and Style
Mercury Design

Mercury Design Studio owner Steve Schuck has created a world of his own in the 2nd Street District. Noted for, among other things, an inventive and eclectic assortment of vintage furniture and accessories, as well as surprising gifts and small personal luxuries – colorful silk pillows, fun ceramics, fine leather goods, vintage jewelry, beautiful art and design books, and great seasonal finds. Believing that vintage is the new modern, Schuck says, "We believe in living with the past, not in it."

Mercury Design Studio, 209 W. Second, 512/236-0100, www.mercurydesignstudio.com

Best Goth and Punk Clothes Less Than $30
Secret Oktober

photo by Celesta Danger

26 Doors? Davenport Village? The Domain? Where's a self-respecting goth girl to shop? Well, thank God for Secret Oktober. This veteran South Austin shop with fierce vintage fashions, vinyl-and-mesh hot pants, compacts shaped like bats, spiderweb necklaces, skull earrings, leopard coin purses, gargoyle T-shirts, stickers, patches, and pins – even goth-wear for infants and toddlers – is one happenin' place. Owner Cassandra Davis knows exactly what her customers want and what they want to pay.

Secret Oktober, 1905 S. First Ste. B, 512/462-9217, www.secret-oktober.com

Best Little Flora House in Texas
Flora & Fauna

Who can resist the lure of fine wine, lush designer bouquets, and chocolate? Flora & Fauna bets you can't. Tucked away at the corner of Lamar and 12th, this romantic little shop serves up estate wines, microbeers, handmade gourmet chocolate, selected teas, gorgeous nibbly things, dreamy creamy body lotions, bath scrubs, and the steamiest cup of Illy coffee for miles around. Sure, you can't buy love, per se, but nothing says you can't tempt the hell out of it.

Flora & Fauna, 904 W. 12th, Ste. B, 512/480-0414, www.floraandfaunasofaustin.com

Best Men's Clothes
Mercury Mens Fashion House

The new Mercury Mens Fashion House in South Austin brings unexpectedly edgy menswear to Austin with fresh new looks from Buckler menswear, Romain Kapadia, and Persona Non Grata that are virtually ignored by larger retailers. Not to be confused with the also-fabulous and equally as stylish "Best of Austin" award-winning Mercury Design Studio, this Mercury trains a white-hot spotlight on men's retail. Owner Karen Rhee selects her merchandise from the New York and European markets with an exacting eye for style and quality and offers exquisite customer service, as well.

Mercury Fashion House, 512/577-5460, www.mercuryfashionhouse.com

Best New Keeper of the Neighborhood Flame
Home Girls Furnishings

Long known as the heart of church-lady resale-shop finds, the Burnet Road shopping strip is the frontier of a new kind of funky Austin, a bit more discerning, a little less random, but no less authentic. One morning we went out to explore and, after grabbing a smoothie at Pacha, wandered into Home Girls to poke around. Falling in love with a 1950s Paul McCobb bar, we marveled at the very deliberate selection of both original and refurbished midcentury modern sofas, chairs, and end tables. A neighborly chat with the mother half of the mother-and-daughter owners revealed that the furniture is obtained mainly from estate sales, with a keen eye for construction, beautiful design, and affordability. The pieces may be precious, but the prices are not. So however you feel about what some have called a "cuteness afoot" on Burnet Road, Home Girls gives us faith that some torchbearers of unpretentiousness remain.

Home Girls Furnishings, 4634 Burnet Rd., 512/420-2647

Best New Second Street Neighbor
Girl Next Door

She just moved in this summer, but this chic and stylish new girl on the Second Street block is perfectly matched with Estilo, Sana, and Shiki, due to all of the charm of her original Joel Mozersky-designed store. This new location, however, is a perfect example of going to where the customer is. With lines such as Mara Hoffman, Alice + Olivia, Nieves Lavi, and Foley + Corinna, Girl Next Door fits right in.

Girl Next Door, 250 W. Second, 512/322-0501, www.girlnd.com

Best Options When There's More to Love
Wardrobe

photo by Celesta Danger

Pricey but a lifesaver, Wardrobe provides options for those of us on the larger side or who've just been around for a while. While they carry a wide array of all sizes (even the occasional petite), their selection of terrific separates not specifically targeted to the twentysomething set is a must-see for the larger gal trying to fill out her closet. But don't mistake that for dowdy. Wardrobe is fashion-forward with high style, great fabrics, great size ranges, and terrific personal service – even an on-site jeweler to accessorize your new look!

Wardrobe, 1715 W. 35th #101, 512/458-3846, www.wardrobeboutique.com

Best Outdoor Festival Retailer
SoLa

SoLa, the shop, is practically a pioneer in South Lamar's emerging SoLa shopping district. It has a dedicated following that seeks them out both at their retail location and at festivals such as Austin City Limits and Old Pecan Street. And they reward these loyal clients with quirky, fun, and hard-to-find selections, including By Boe jewelry and NYX cosmetics and fun paper products from Rock Scissor Paper and Bob's Your Uncle. The store offers the options of a personal shopping assistant or scheduling a private shopping party with friends. One of the coolest things is that they sell products by Toms Shoes, a company that donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold.

SoLa, 2005 S. Lamar, 512/441-7370, www.solastyle.com

Best Purveyor of Feel-Good Liquids
Junior's Beer & Wine

photo by Celesta Danger

For years, Junior's has offered cut-rate kegs and a fine selection of sudsy beverages, including myriad imported beers, loads of domestic microbrews, and venerable ales from across the nation. But this year, Junior's began selling another brewed liquid by the gallon, but this one's not for drinking. Forging a partnership with local start-up Austin Biofuels, Junior's now retails biodiesel – more accurately 99% biodiesel, typically made from soybean or cottonseed oil and 1% petroleum diesel. Junior's even uses biodiesel in its graffiti-emblazoned King Daddy Ice delivery trucks. Now drivers of any kind of diesel vehicle (no modifications required) can roll up to Junior's, score a six-pack of good beer, and fill up with a fuel that's good for the environment and national security. God bless 'merica.

Junior's Beer & Wine, 705 W. 29th, 512/474-9724

Best Rubber for the Sole
Motive807

Ever wonder where the ever-elusive specialty shoes can be found? Downtown Austin, baby. Selling specialty kicks like Nike Quickstrike, (ultra-hard-to-find) New Balance, Vans, Adidas, & Stussy and nonmall gear by aNYthing, J-Money, Acapulco Gold, Mighty Healthy, In4mation, Wings & Horns, Recon, and Subware, this is not so much a "store" but a vortex where urban fashion meets feet and cold turns cool by association. Stocking decks, hard-to-find indie mags, and other B-boy accessories, the crew that runs this shop creates the cutting-edge vibe that your body craves and your feet pray for.

Motive 807, 710 Brazos, 512/275-7385, www.motive807.com

Best Timekeepers
McGuire's Clocks

photo by Sandy Carson

Radio, key, or quartz? Bonnet, flat, or split pediment? Who knew that clock talk had such elaborate lingo? Well, perhaps your grandfather did. And McGuire's – Texas' oldest operating clock shop, in business since 1964 – could very well have been your grandfather's clock shop. And if you have a hankerin' for the classic as well as the cutting edge, you should definitely make McGuire's your grandfather clock shop, as they carry all manner of timepiece, from the ornate and imposing 7-foot granddad models (both antique and reproduction) to mod and innocuous wall units synced by radio signal with the cesium atomic clock, the world's most accurate clock. One step into their small yet impressive showroom is a trip into time, quite literally.

McGuire's Clocks, 4915 Airport, 512/452-4558, www.mcguiresclocks.com

Coolest Hottest Glass in Town
Aaron Gross, Austin Art Glass

A glass craftsman for nearly 20 years, Aaron Gross loves his work and loves dazzling his customers with his gorgeous creations. From magnificent paperweights to enormous, sprawling Chihuly-like installations, and everything in between, Austin Art Glass' SoCo location is one hot stop on the shopping trail. Classes and demonstrations available.

Aaron Gross, 1608 S. Congress Ave., 916-4527, www.austinartglass.com

Friendliest Thrift Store
St. Vincent de Paul

"Sweetie," "darlin'," "sugar," and "dear" are all names you should expect to be called upon entering the time warp that is St. Vincent de Paul's Thrift Store. "We pray, we party, and we cry together," says manager Paul (no relation to St. Vincent) of his staff of 63. Since 50 of these staff members are church volunteers and Ladies of Charity, they've got endearments aplenty to lavish on the clientele. People come in daily "just to visit," and you can even get hot sausage on a stick here on First Thursdays.

St. Vincent de Paul Store, 1327 S. Congress, 512/442-5652

Most Homey yet Chic Grocery
Cissi's Market

photo by Celesta Danger

From a quick snack to fully prepared meals, Cissi's team of chefs, caterers, food artists, food aficionados, foodies, and food dreamers makes this shop a gallery of edible art. With beer, wine, coffee, skin care, custom gift baskets you can order online, and household items that you won't find at Target, Cissi's purveys its goods with impeccable service and style. It even carries Hawaiian (and ex-Longhorn) John’s Kohana Coffee, an exclusive on the Mainland. Cissi's is the perfect complement to the 78704 lifestyle.

Cissi's Market & Wine Bar, 1400 S. Congress, 512/225-0521, www.cissismarket.com

Shadiest Ladies
The Lamp Shoppe

Call it yard sale lighting syndrome: You've nabbed an amazing, surely one-of-a-kind lamp for $3. Now try to find a shade for it. Thankfully, the lighting mavens at the Tudorishly named Lamp Shoppe are there to help. They stock a huge range of shades in all the classic shapes, sizes, and colors, and their helpful staff lends its full attention and expertise to guide you to mind-blowing lamp nirvana. Our visits there have been overseen by ladies who exhibit the perfect blend of professional expertise and motherly investment in our happiness; repairs are fast and affordable, and, yes, they sell lamps (with shades), as well.

The Lamp Shoppe, 10710 Research #136, 512/345-1609

Critics: Services
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