Best of Vancouver 2012 contributors' picks: Shopping & Style
For the Georgia Straight’s 17th annual Best of Vancouver issue, our editorial team has spent months on the lookout for good deeds, weird urban details, and various howlers to highlight. Here’s our contributors’ picks for Best of Vancouver 2012.
Best place to book yourself in
Is it finally time to trade in that well-thumbed copy of Fifty Shades of Grey hidden inside your nightstand? Fortunately, the cavernous shelves and stacks of the ABC Book & Comic Emporium (1539 West Broadway) have got you covered. A bibliophile’s dream, the shop near Broadway and Granville boasts a selection that encourages a dangerous amount of browsing (how about that ancient copy of Life magazine that was published on your birthday, suitable for framing?). And although the store is, sadly, in the midst of a going-out-of-business sale (closing November 30), if you don’t find something to tickle your literary fancy within the massive collection of fiction, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, magazines, graphic novels, comics, and nonfiction works, it’ll probably be because you—or the store—ran out of time.
Best approximation of a hardware store run by Hello Kitty
88 West Pender Street
Ever needed something but didn’t know where to get it? It’s probably at Yokoyaya123, a less intimidating version of its massive Richmond relative, Daiso (although it still clocks in at 8,000 square feet). Squishy circles that go under chair feet? They’ve got ’em. Net bags that prevent things like bras from getting destroyed in the wash? Yup. Posters that help you study the basics of Japanese? Check. That and approximately 20 varieties of drain covers, hook-shaped back scratchers, a massive selection of stationery, various and sundry plastic kitchen goods, and more is tucked into this store in International Village Mall. With most items priced at $2, it’s easy to justify stocking up on travel-sized bottles you can fill with shampoo or bento tools that help you cut luncheon meats into spaceships and planets. Where else are you going to find those?
Best place for guitar freaks to ogle Les Pauls in the ’burbs
The newish Long & McQuade outlet on Scott Road in Delta—situated smack dab between the rock ’n’ roll strongholds of North Delta and Surrey—is the ideal spot for suburban six-string fanatics to pop in and check out what’s new in the world of guitars (and amps). And the store, which celebrates its first anniversary in November, has a lot of other cool stuff, including accessories. For example, who knew you could pick up three sets of Fender electric-guitar strings for $10—and get a free Fender hockey puck to boot. Game on!
Best place to spot a Beckham off the field
It’s not every day that a former Spice Girl turns up at a Vancouver department store. So it’s no wonder that when Victoria Beckham made an appearance at Holt Renfrew in June to promote her namesake clothing label, Posh Spice fans showed up in droves. Despite arriving more than two hours late at the luxury retailer for her afternoon photo call (something about trouble at airport customs), the pop-star turned fashion designer rolled up looking stylish—and ever so skinny—at Holt’s to an onslaught of screaming, camera-phone–toting fans.
Best place for local kids clothing
Redfish Kids Clothing
851 Hornby Street
If you’re convinced that your darling little offspring has just as much star quality as Suri Cruise or any of those Jolie-Pitt kids, Redfish Kids Clothing is the place to scoop up luxe locally made kidswear. From kimono-inspired two-piece playsuits to arty party dresses and too-cool-for-school hoodies for your mini-me, Redfish is perfect for pintsize fashionistas. The children’s clothing line was founded by Vancouverites Lorraine Kitsos and Kristy Brinkley in 2005 but was only available online or in other stores until the retail location opened earlier this year.
Best place to have a nerdgasm
Golden Age Collectables
852 Granville Street
Specializing in everything nerdy and collectible, Golden Age Collectables is Vancouver’s mecca for the avid comic-book collector, lonely fanboy, and novice comic reader alike. Free from the judging eyes of the outside world, you can reacquire that certain Spiderman comic book you treasured as a child or obtain the missing action figure that completes your entire Justice League of America toy collection. Either way, Golden Age should have it. As a veritable smorgasbord of comic, movie, and toy paraphernalia, this store will not disappoint your inner nerd (child). And don’t forget: every Wednesday is New Comic Book Day.
Best all-American import
1088 Robson Street
In April, Vancouver’s preppiest fashionistas were on hand to celebrate the opening of the city’s first J. Crew store. The U.S. retailer took over a sprawling two-storey location in Vancouver’s most popular shopping district to house its men’s and women’s collections, including jewellery, accessories, and shoes. With a store filled to the brim with nautical stripes, polka dots, anchor prints, and plaid shirts, J. Crew was every yuppie’s wet dream because it meant they could stop shopping at the Gap.
Best use of wood and wire
Legions of local guitarists are used to thinking that most of the finest tools for the job come from somewhere down south, in the twangin’, clangin’ heart of the USA. But you don’t have to leave town to find top-shelf builders who’ll make you sound like you’re way better than you thought you were. Acoustic fiends with some money to throw around should take a close look at the elegant hand-built works of makers like Michael Dunn and Warren Murfitt. Those who prefer to run on electricity can get serious bang for their buck from a wide range of sleek models created by such brands as Prestige on Commercial Drive, Anchor in Railtown, and Sparrow near Hastings and Clark. And don’t forget to add some neighbour-rattling nastiness to your sound, courtesy of a Beelzebuzz fuzz pedal by cool East Van boutique wirer Union Tube & Transistor.
Best furniture company that looks like IKEA butisn’t IKEA
1277 Robson Street
Interior decorating newbies who had outgrown their IKEA basics but weren’t quite ready to splurge on a $5,000 collection of custom-built living-room furniture breathed a sigh of relief when CB2 opened its first Vancouver location this year. The home-furnishings and décor retailer owned by Chicago’s Crate & Barrel chain only looks expensive. Stocked with items like organic bed sheets, bamboo-and-cotton bath towels, colourful dishes, and quirky housewarming gifts, it’s as hard to leave CB2 empty-handed as it is to leave IKEA without consuming one of those orders of Swedish meatballs.
Best place to see flying boobies (not the birds)
Long before news hit that Victoria’s Secret would open a giant retail location in downtown Vancouver, the U.S.–based lingerie brand opened its first B.C. store at YVR. Located in the airport’s U.S. terminal, the modest 795-square-foot boutique carries an assortment of bras, accessories, and beauty products, as well as 5,000 pairs of undies at the “panty bar”.
Best place to weather the zombie apocalypse
Metropolis at Metrotown
4700 Kingsway, Burnaby
Okay, when the eventual zombie apocalypse happens (which it will), where in Vancouver does one go to survive and start humanity anew? Our vote: Metropolis at Metrotown. This huge monument to consumerism is a rich bounty for all one needs to outlive the hordes of hungry, flesh-eating zombies. With about 450 stores and services, we’re sure you’ll be able to survive for an extended time—once you’ve cleared the zombies away from the entrances and exits (the only tip you’ll get from us). Another bonus: a House of Knives store located within the mall. Is there a better way to live out the end of days than going on a zombie kill spree with your blades of choice, surrounded by the latest designer fashions and trendy smoothie bars? We really don’t think so.
Best walk-in clinic for acupressure lovers
NLT Healthcare Centre
Capilano Mall, North Vancouver
In need of a little stress relief? Looking for a soothing treatment but don’t have time or funds for the spa? This neat little clinic is a welcome addition to all the usual joints you find in shopping malls. NLT is a stone’s throw from Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Dollar Giant, and Sears, but it’s a world away inside: quiet and calm. You can plop down in a big, soft leather chair for a tuina, or acupressure, session, during which a cordial practitioner brings you a cup of green tea and then starts you out with a warm foot bath before going on to work your legs from the knees down, applying firm and direct pressure with fingers, hands, and sometimes even elbows to relaxing and restorative effect. If only every shopping trip could end with a visit here. Half-hour tuina sessions go for $26. NLT also takes appointments for acupressure as well as acupuncture, reflexology, cupping, and skin-scraping.
Best Place to Embrace Your Inner Girl-Drink Drunk
The Gourmet Warehouse
1340 East Hastings Street
Don’t let those pathetic quitters at Alcoholics Anonymous convince you otherwise: drinking is fun, except for those nights when you’re driving the porcelain bus backwards at 70 miles per hour or sitting in the back of the police cruiser for beating up the family dog, Dozer. And what’s most fun is going that extra distance when it’s time to whip up an after-work cocktail or 12. There’s no dignity in throwing a splash of Five Alive and four ounces of Sailor Jerry into a glass; if you’re going to get polluted, put some effort into it. Think chocolate choo-choos with freshly shaved Congo cacao beans, or Kelbo’s scorpions with handcrafted passion-fruit syrup. Unfortunately, sourcing such ingredients is a pain. Enter the Gourmet Warehouse. The East Van specialty store is known for hard-to-find foodstuffs (i.e., black-fig vinegar) and high-end cookware guaranteed to give Bobby Flay an instant erection. It’s also a gold mine for amateur mixologists. At a loss as to where to find falernum for an authentic pearl diver’s punch? Or how about Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters for a newfangled spin on an Old-Fashioned? The Gourmet Warehouse has a shitload of specialty lines guaranteed to turn the most belligerent teetotaller into W. C. Fields. Cheers! And don’t forget to wave goodbye to your liver.
Best place to leave feeling like a million lira
208 East 49th Avenue
You’re on a mission to live life like the second coming of Suleiman the Magnificent, to the point where your diet consists exclusively of Turkish Delight, your headdress makes your cranium look bigger than the dude from that Jack in the Box commercial, and your harem would impress Hugh Hefner. The only thing separating you from realizing your dream is the answer to the following question: where would Suleiman go for a haircut in Vancouver? Thank Allah you’ve got Sultan Cuts to turn to. During the day, the storefront promises “Tip Top Hair Design” and a mysterious “Lady’s Section” (the lady, presumably, being Suleiman’s wife, Haseki Hürrem Sultan). It’s when the sun sets and the metal shutters roll down that the shop’s true specialty is revealed. Painted on the shutters are five wonderful words: Home of the Sultan Cut. Somewhere, Suleiman is, in between stuffing Big Turk bars in his pie hole, smiling.
Best place to catch crabs
T & T Supermarkets
Admittedly, your nearest T & T Supermarket isn’t the only place to get crabs in Vancouver. Head to any bar on the Granville Strip on a Friday or Saturday night, and you can land a batch that would impress the guys on Deadliest Catch. The problem is, you walk away wondering if the price was a little too high. Paying too much isn’t a problem, however, at the T & T Supermarket chain, especially if you’re okay with your crabs—the Dungeness variety—missing a limb or two. There are two tanks to choose from at the chain’s Greater Vancouver stores, one holding delicious ocean-floor garbage eaters that have all their claws and legs, and the other featuring “single-claw” crabs. Although they might not be as aesthetically pleasing as those crabs with all their appendages, what single-claw crabs are is a bargain—as in, up to five bucks a pound cheaper. And considering that it takes about 10 Dungeness to get about two mouthfuls of shelled crab meat, it’s not like you’re going to miss that one claw.