CRITICS' PICKS ‌ Shops & Wares 

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Best Excuse to Stitch and Bitch
The Thursday Night Stitch and Bitch at Knit
87 Wentworth St. Downtown 937-8500
Stars like Gwyneth Paltrow have publicly professed their adoration for the craft of knitting. DIY publications are overflowing with scarf patterns and adventurous projects for nimble needlers. HGTV makes it look so easy, yet many of us find ourselves adrift in a sea of dropped stitches and frayed yarn at some point in our knitting careers. If this sounds familiar, check out Knit, the cottage industry shop with a cult following. They host an informal gathering of knitters (known as Stitch and Bitch night) every other Thursday at their new Wentworth Street location. The group ranges in size and skill level, but newcomers are welcome. --Ida Becker

click to enlarge Best Place to Pretend - youre Jackson Pollack: Artist & Craftsman Supply
  • Best Place to Pretend youre Jackson Pollack: Artist & Craftsman Supply

Best Place to Pretend You're Jackson Pollack
Artist & Craftsman Supply
434 King St. Charleston 579-0077
Don't, really. We tried whirling about amid the aisles of art supplies, dripping swirls and splotches of paint from open buckets on their floor in the style of Pollack, but it didn't go over well. That said, all the oils, acrylics, and gouache one could want can be found here alongside easels, frames, mat boards, brushes, charcoal ... the selection is staggering. Bonus -- it's a great place to meet fellow paint slingers. --Jason A. Zwiker

Best Elegantly Shabby Awning
Randy's Hobby Shop
515 Coleman Blvd. Mt. Pleasant 884-7411
With its fading, torn orange canvas hanging casually over the old gas pump island, Randy's Hobby Shop (a division of Randy's Model Aeronautics) stands as a wonderful reminder of "old Mt. Pleasant." Founded by Randy Dicks in 1974, the retail shop and its staff promote model building of all types. Now, if they'd remodel that awning just a smidge... --T. Ballard Lesemann

Best Way to Whip up an Artistic Frenzy
Spoleto Poster Window Display Contest
Leading up to the massive annual arts explosion known as Spoleto Festival USA, area shops generate a tremendous amount of buzz by decorating their windows with the official poster. Wonder if the marketing whiz who devised this program ever imagined it would become the sweeping competition it is today? We also wonder if anyone remembers back in the day when Steven Jordan had a gallery on King Street, and he decorated his window with a memorable animatronic dubbed "Miss Spole-Toad." That was fierce! The window display contest starts in mid-April, after the official poster is unveiled and two complimentary posters are delivered to participating businesses. From there, it's up to the retailers to imaginatively transform their storefronts into displays that celebrate all things Spoleto. A group of celebrity judges, drawn from area media folks, tour participating windows and dole out prize packages, while ballots for the "People's Choice" award appear in area newspapers. --Ida Becker

Best Place to Pick Up Ambient Candles
Urban Oasis
813 Savannah Hwy. West Ashley 852-0991
Although a car crashed through the window of the unique Avondale shop with the electric blue facade in early October, its name is truth in advertising: it is indeed an Urban Oasis. The family-owned furniture and home décor store boasts a variety of Polynesian-themed items, but it's the vast collection of candles that we love. Pillars, mesh-wrapped, wire-wrapped, votives, lanterns, and more overflow the shelves of the multiroom boutique. --Ida Becker

click to enlarge Peter Triplett, owner of Best Comic Book Store Atomic Comics, strikes the rocky pose (and he did it all with two right hands!)
  • Peter Triplett, owner of Best Comic Book Store Atomic Comics, strikes the rocky pose (and he did it all with two right hands!)

Best Place to Learn How to Be a Responsible Historic Homeowner
The Preservation Society Shop
147 King St. Downtown 722-4630
A book in the window of the Preservation Society Shop on the corner of King and Queen streets should be required reading for all local residents: Manual For Owners of Historic Buildings. The handy guide is full of solutions, tips, photographs, diagrams, and technical information that can help building owners correct problems while protecting the historic integrity of their structures. And the Preservation Society should know: since 1920, they've been dedicated to preserving Charleston's unique architectural and cultural heritage, and the shop is an outstanding repository of regional history, culture, architecture, and customs. Fortunately, the book costs only a few bucks, so after you've sold your kidney to pay your property taxes, you'll have organs left over for mad money. --Ida Becker

Best Place to Buy Milkfish
First Asian Oriental Market
5611 Rivers Ave. N. Charleston 747-7925
When we can no longer suppress our craving for milkfish, the "best place" to score a few grams is right in North Chuck. We say "best" because Hugo, the owner, and his crew are always friendly and helpful and can speak to you in the language of your choice. Best, too, because, as with a certain burger chain, you can get it (almost) any way you want it. Prefer your milkfish canned? No problem; it comes bathed in soybean oil, with just enough hot chili powder. Want it frozen for when guests pop in? For a mere $3.99 you get the whole deal: eyes, scales, tail, everything a milkfish has to offer. Milkfish (also known as "bangus") is the Philippines' national fish -- we knew there was a reason for this. --Roy Freedman

Best Local Produce Purveyor
Heirloom Tomato Guy
Mt. Pleasant Farmers' Market (Coleman Blvd.)
All we know about him is this -- he's got the tomato goods. As for where he is, you're just going to have to find him yourself. He lurks in the Midlands up around Cross, but never mind that. Just be prepared to pony up seemingly high prices for the best examples of this fruit (or is it a vegetable?) money can buy. Get a few German Yellow Striped and a couple Purple Cherokees, and make sure you put aside a few seeds for next year. Ours just went into starter pots, and we can't wait for June. --Scott Goodwin

Best Places to Not Be Caught Dead Wearing Sweats
Harris Teeter
290 East Bay St. Downtown 722-6821
Newton Farms
515 Freshfields Dr. Kiawah Island 243-3276
Whole Foods
923 Houston Northcutt Blvd. Mount Pleasant 971-7240
This triumvirate of haute grocery store shopping demands respect. While discriminating customers flock to these grocers for their selections of organic produce, choice cuts of meat, and artisanal cheeses, these particular stores have also become impromptu social hubs where a shopper is liable to see practically every person she knows. So don those dark glasses, slap on some lipstick, and grab your most impressive handbag -- it's social shopping like you've never seen! --Ida Becker

Best Throwback to the Old Red Dot Days
Brabham Liquor Store
751 Coleman Blvd. Mt. Pleasant 881-1732
Since buying the old package store in 1996, David Brabham and his staff have quietly built a loyal customer base with some of the most welcoming and uncluttered service "this side of the bridge." Situated in a small plaza on Coleman Boulevard, the guys at the counter by the front door habitually greet each customer with a "Hah-yah doin', big man?" or "Hello, deh, young lady!" "This place is a living, breathing thing," says Brabham. "We're not like those new, fancy places, but it's like an old baseball glove that just feels right." --T. Ballard Lesemann

Best Place to Emulate Van Gogh
The Tavern Wine and Spirits
120 East Bay St. Downtown 722-4800
This old-world liqour store, situated on the corner of East Bay and Exchange (near the Old Exchange), is the oldest continuous liqour establishment in the States, according to owner and proprietor Gary Dow. Dow and his wife, Lisa, run the store, and they and a friendly gentleman named Eduardo will be glad to inform you about the wide selection of unique international spirits they have on the shelf. They have scorpion mescal, a potent Mexican brew with a real scorpion in the bottle, a few sugarcane-based liquors from South America, Maraschino liqueurs from Italy, and over next to an antiquated window, the little green fairy herself -- absinthe. We can hear you scoffing, "but absinthe is illegal!" Well, this stuff, imported from England, has replaced the toxic, brain-decimating wormwood of traditional absinthe with a related plant called Southern wormwood, making it the first legal absinthe available in America since 1912. So raise a glass of the glowing green stuff, and keep your ears firmly attached to your head. --Sara Miller

click to enlarge Josh Farrah Man Keitt plays the one millionth shopper at Grannys Goodies
  • Josh Farrah Man Keitt plays the one millionth shopper at Grannys Goodies

Best Place to Learn How Much Butter Chef Fred Neuville from Rue de Jean Uses in His Steamed Spinach
Charleston Cooks!
194 East Bay St. Downtown 722-1212
Each month, celebrated area chefs take turns leading informative cooking classes at the Maverick Collection's kitchen emporium, Charleston Cooks! So how much butter does Chef Neuville use? A lot. Damn. --Ida Becker

Best Place to Outfit Your Kitchen
Berlin's Restaurant Supply
5051 Rivers Ave. N. Charleston 744-4499
Wondering where to find the best place in the area to help you accessorize the ultra-expensive stainless steel fridge, dishwasher, and stove you just bought? Berlin's has everything in matching gun-metal grey, from pans to cans, and from forks to ... um ... bowls. And it's a cheap alternative to Williams-Sonoma, especially when you can't cook a lick anyway. --Bill Davis

Best Custom-Made Onesies to Cultivate Character in Your Young 'Un
Spinster Design's Custom Baby-Suits
Available at Poe Studio in West Ashley and MaxJerome downtown, Adrienne Antonson's custom baby-suits are a delightful alternative to cookie-cutter baby layettes and rompers. Antonson's one-of-a-kind designs first caught our attention when she hand-stitched items for a favorite yoga instructor's Buddha baby, and we've heard of other fans who are attracted to the personalized baby gear. Although Antonson sews adult clothing, the baby-suits represent true originality. --Ida Becker

Best Way to Dress Your Traditional Child
Pixie Lily
48 Society St. Downtown 579-0364
When designer Leda McIntosh Jackson's daughter was born, she dressed her bambino in an heirloom gown that had been created in 1887 for her great-great grandfather, Count Hughes Jules de la Vergne. From that illustrious trousseau was born the idea to produce "tiny couture creations" worthy of being passed from one generation to the next. Available locally at Charleston Child, Pixie Lily outfits have sparked a loyal following among celebrity parents who desire the most luxe accoutrements for their precious bundles of joy. --Ida Becker

Best Place To Score Green Baby Stuff
268 King St. Downtown 723-4418
Known for its offbeat style, Worthwhile has been steadily stocking more and more items for their savvy shoppers' children. Their organic cotton flannel blankets by Barefoot Dreams get our nod as the best, most environmentally sound blankets around. --Ida Becker

Best Geek Fest
Green Dragon
7671 Northwoods Blvd. N. Charleston 797-2052
If we need to drive clear to N. Charleston to satisfy our ongoing need for Emily the Strange trinkets, graphic novels, and the latest gaming goods, then by Goth, drive we will. Whether you thought Shaun of the Dead was "dead-on" or "a bit bitey," the pleasantly skewed staff at Green Dragon can steer you toward entertainment you can sink your teeth into. We like any place where we can browse a shiny array of martial arts paraphernalia before flipping through some Conan the Barbarian paperbacks, reading up on the things that ooze and snap out of the world of H.P. Lovecraft, or just shopping for some die-cast warriors to lovingly paint before placing in harm's way. --Jason A. Zwiker

Best Fusion Between Fashion and Sport
248 King St. Downtown 723-0256
Not long after Lacoste opened the doors of its miniature Charleston Place boutique, people stamped with the image of the beast flooded the college campus and local tennis courts. Recently named official apparel sponsor for the Family Circle Cup, Lacoste's crisp, tennis-inspired apparel is poised to continue setting trends across the city's social strata. Our picks for must-haves: the fitted polos for ladies in peppermint green and azurine blue along with short sleeve polos for men in black, white, navy, and pink; pop the collar at your own risk. --Ida Becker

click to enlarge Gary Dow, owner of the Tavern Wine and Spirits, does his best to emulate Van Gogh
  • Gary Dow, owner of the Tavern Wine and Spirits, does his best to emulate Van Gogh

Best Place to Blow Cash on a Sports Nut
Sporting Gift Shoppe
115 S. Main St. Summerville 875-5115
Yep, this is the same building that once housed Summerville pool hall S&S Billiards, right across from the historic town square. We dig the hot WPBA (Women's Professional Billiard Association) mints they keep on the shelves. With one of them lodged between tongue and cheek, we feel like we can make a combination shot (with the custom cue we bought at SGS, naturally) look as easy as Allison Fisher does on ESPN. Lots of fare for the golf nut, baseball aficionado, darts devotee, and football fan as well. Clemson and Carolina followers alike will find plenty to roar or crow, respectively, about in this snazzy lil' gift shop. --Jason A. Zwiker

Best Place to Pretend You're a Pirate
The Brass Pirate
40 N. Market St. Downtown 425-5850
Avast, ye scurrilous mateys! As Charleston's only pirate store, The Brass Pirate, located in the Rainbow Market, is the place for wannabe swashbucklers. This seaman's wet dream specializes in nautical gear and is the best place to find spyglasses, dive helmets, pirate garb, and parchment treasure maps. If you're feeling adventurous, the Brass Pirate will soon be hosting treasure hunts for families. The store also offers complete pirate birthday party kits for $38 that include pinatas, compasses, and eyepatches. From bookends to portholes, The Brass Pirate is where you'll find your booty. --Anna Claire Hodge

Best Affordable Suit
Jos. A. Banks
328 King St. Downtown 723-9770121 Belk Dr. Mt. Pleasant 216-3422
The quality at Josays (which is how the preppy class refers to it) is great for the amount of money you spill. And with regular clearance sales, it's like a men's warehouse for guys who really want to look like they spent a lot more. We guarantee it. But beware, like Brooks Brothers before it, Banks allowed some shoddy clothes to sneak onto their shelves when it went national a few years ago. Touch the jacket before you put it on; if it feels nice, go with it. --Bill Davis

Best Place to Look Like You Just Stepped Out of a Music Video (Ladies)
Ellen B
152 Civitas St. Mt. Pleasant 856-0760
P. Diddy, the rap and clothing impresario with more monikers than the most inbred Charlestonian, has a line of women's fashion, Sean by Sean Combs, that is available locally at Ellen B. With international sexpot Penelope Cruz serving as the face of the brand, the silhouette-skimming fashion has been described by industry insiders as "urban edge." Who said residents of I'On don't know how to be ghetto fabulous? --Ida Becker

Best Place to Look Like You Just Stepped Out of a Music Video (Men)
Puma Store
285 King St. Downtown 723-2203
Although Ludacris once dazzled us with his fondness for fashion ice (sample lyric: "Watch out for the medallion; my diamonds are reckless/Feels like a midget is hangin' from my necklace"), he's since taken a lesser-known career track for black rappers: he's designing sneakers. Heh. Actually, Ludacris is the perfect pitch man for the urbane fashion house masquerading as an athletic company. His deft transition to the world of acting with a breakout role in last year's hit movie Crash has earned the multitalented artist new respect. Never heard of Ludacris, but want to add some fresh flavor to your stale wardrobe? Duck into this King Street shop. --Ida Becker

Best Place to Score Eye-Popping Bling Cufflinks
Reuben's Mens & Boys Wear
480 King St. Downtown 723-5421
One of our favorite bon vivant personalities discovered the case of eye-popping cuff links at Reuben's on upper King, and we had to see it for ourselves. Sure enough, their range of accessories is pretty hot. Vintage Cartier be damned, this bling is where it's at! -- Ida Becker

Best Place to Buy Used and New Vinyl
Monster Music and Movies
946 Orleans Road. West Ashley 571-4657
The art of record hunting requires three things: bargain-spotting eyes, patience, and a well-stocked store. While we can't give you any new virtues, we can point you toward the two best places in town to pick up all kinds of vinyl. Monster's used selection has more than the typical Pat Boone records that someone accidentally grabbed when they were trying to swipe their parents' Black Sabbath albums, and their new selection is vast and spans most genres (if you can't find what you're looking for, they'll also special order if you ask nicely). --Sara Miller

Best Place to Buy Indie Vinyl
52.5 Records
75 Wentworth St. Downtown 722-3525
When you're in a mad rush and looking for those deeper cuts, old stalwart 52.5 Records, Charleston's crown prince of all things indie, will almost certainly have that Animal Collective 7" you've just got to throw on at DJ night tonight. --Sara Miller

Best Paradigm Shift
Millennium Music
372 King St. Downtown 722-1000
Millennium Music came up with a creative response to some of the typical challenges facing modern record shops. Last spring, they announced a unique offer that takes a new approach to the familiar buy/sell/trade practice: they sell new iPods and iPod accessories and services, but with this offer, they'll also accept used CDs or DVDs as payment. The idea was to "evolve into a futuristic music store full of iPods while at the same time building on its old-school independent music store flavor" by adding thousands of used CDs for $5.99 and $6.99. And the idea worked.--T. Ballard Lesemann

click to enlarge Rollin the dice: the guys at Green Dragon (Best Geek Fest) put their game faces (and fingers) on
  • Rollin the dice: the guys at Green Dragon (Best Geek Fest) put their game faces (and fingers) on

Best Place for a Girl to Learn to Hook 'Em Good
The Charleston Angler
654 Saint Andrew's Blvd. West Ashley 571-3899
Home to the Damsel Fly Fishers, the Charleston Angler offers day-long fly casting workshops that cater to ladies only. Owner Caroline Rhodes (who co-owns the shop with husband Malcolm) is an avid fisherwoman and blazes the trail for every gal who wants to venture into the world of casting, knots, and flies. The store also carries just about everything, including the largest selection of G. Loomis rods and reels in South Carolina, so you can wander in uninitiated and walk out geared up like a pro. And don't forget to check out the hermit crab flies (they're so cute!). --Ida Becker

Best Place to Get Your Dog Enlightened
All is Well
1409-D Folly Road James Island 795-2001
Pampering your pooch has become so popular these days that there are entire stores dedicated to offering jewel-encrusted collars and cashmere sweaters just for the canine set. Now there's a way for dog owners to give Fido a break from the rat race: pet massage, complete with acupressure and "animal communication." But the beauty of All is Well is that it's not a cutesy boutique catering to a strictly upscale clientele. Owner Marlene Pine always has a homemade treat for a four-footed visitor (canine or feline), and good advice for people, too, with shelves full of organic, healthy pet food, snacks, and chew-toys. Ask for Tracy Ripley, who attended the Pet Massage Institute in Toledo, Ohio, to give your pup a dose of pet stress relief (and maybe he'll finally stop chewing all those expensive shoes). --Sara Miller

Best Place to Float Into the Mystic
Jumping Water Metaphysical Books and Gifts
1956-C Maybank Hwy. James Island 573-5006
What's not to love about a place where we can buy a bumper sticker that proclaims, "Witches Parking Only: All Others Will Be Toad," or stock up on sun and star wind chimes, gemstones, Hoo Doo Candles, and tarot cards? We're all about the eclectic workshops and events offered at Jumping Water -- belly dancing, yoga, and Reiki are among the interests we can delve deeper into while meeting like-minded friends. And JW has always been friendly to local artists. We dig their ever-expanding social calendar packed with open-door invitations to the public, their very cool feminine/goddess vibe, and the fact that they have yet to turn a single member of our staff into a toad. --Jason A. Zwiker

Best Post Office
78 Sycamore Ave. West Ashley 766-4031
If you're in a rush, the Pinepoint Plaza post office off Ashley River Road is too small, the James Island one is always too busy, and the Folly office is, well, on Folly Time. Sycamore Avenue's the place to go, where the mail-mongerers are as efficient and friendly as government employees can possibly be. Even in the thick of the holidays, the line keeps moving and the workers don't get grumpy, so you won't go postal. --Nick Smith

Best Place for Funny Cards
Atomic Comics
451 King St. Downtown 534-2866
For years, the best place in town to pick up a funny card for a birthday or a similarly solemn occasion was at Metropolitan Deluxe. But now that Atomic Comics carries the full line of MikWright greeting cards -- you know, the ones with the vintage '50s photos on the front and the insanity on the inside -- there is no better place in town to pick up a card. And while you're there, you can price the first edition Radioactive Man you always wanted. --Bill Davis

Best 'Crappy' Service
Scoopy Doos
Tired of stepping in all the land mines in your yard? Kostas at Scoopy Doos created an ingenious solution. For a reasonable fee, he and his pooper scooper crew will come to your home and remove any animal waste that's been getting in your way. Not only does his service make your yard more fun to play in, it can also make you and your pets more healthy. Dog poop is one of the most common sources of hookworms and parvovirus, and can also contaminate groundwater. Here's to Kostas for making dog owners' lives easier and making sure all of Chucktown has less shit to deal with. --Anna Claire Hodge

Best Place to Get Your Map On
The World Traveler
161 1/2 King St. Downtown 853-6277
In a place as geography-centric as Charleston, cartography is an art, and The World Traveler is Charleston's only one-stop map shop. Boasting an impressive range of globes, antique maps, flags, and photography from local award-winning photographer I. Wilson Baker, the shop occupies the former Cousins clothing store in the thick of the downtown antiques district. Need a landmark? Look for the blue globe painted on the window. --Ida Becker

Best Place to Score Old World Style on a Budget
Lowcountry Flea Market and Collectible Shows
77 Calhoun St. Downtown 849-1949
Once a month, the Nelson Garretts stage an antiques show at the Gaillard Exhibition Hall. Although the venue is commonly referred to as "The Gag," we are reminded to not judge a book by its cover each time we stumble across a new "must have" accessory treasure amid the bountiful items available at the show. Although vintage clutches have been our prize of fancy, a handsome pair of cuff links for the gentleman or a decadent piece of costume jewelry for the lady are always available -- and at a good price. --Ida Becker

click to enlarge You mean we can pay this guy (best service ever: Scoopy Doos) to de-poop our backyards?
  • You mean we can pay this guy (best service ever: Scoopy Doos) to de-poop our backyards?

Best Alterations in a Jiffy
Hi Fashions of New York
375 King St. Downtown 577-3021
Although the building that houses this outstanding tailor service recently changed hands, we're still taking our alterations to this jam-packed men's clothing store located next to the newly opened Urban Outfitters (which, incidentally, is not the paragon of finished details). We just pray we're not getting measured for our inseam next time an earthquake strikes. The shelves at Hi Fashions are stacked so high, it might take weeks to dig out from beneath the mountain of silk, polyester, and rainbow-colored shoes. --Ida Becker

Best Replacement for Your Old Smelly Birks
Basically, this has become the shoe for the no-shoe set. In hysterically vibrant colors, these slip-resistant sandals mold to your feet and weigh less than half a pound, even in Shaquille O'Neal sizes. Crocs are made of a Proprietary Closed Cell Resin (PCCR) that warms and softens with the body's heat (that's how the molding magic happens) and the PCCR has an even better advantage over most shoes: since it's made of closed cells, it is strongly odor-resistant and discourages sweating. Hell, even celebrity chef Mario Batali wears 'em, and anything that touches his body must be good. --Bill Davis

Best Shoe Shopping
King Street
Have you noticed the shoe explosion? What're you looking for? The latest color Croc or comfiest Euro-geek sole? How about Frye cowboy boots or pointy-toed heels? Maybe you're a whore for Prada, or you're like Seinfeld and wear only running shoes. Whatever your style, King Street is inundated with a fantastic array of shoe stores. Take Pete Banis, Bob Ellis, Steve Madden, Susan Michele, Mephisto, Nine West, Copper Penny Shooz, The Extra Mile, Puma, Oscar Thompson Shoes, Phillip's Shoes, Rangoni, Farushga, Footloose, then add in all the clothing retailers that sell shoes too -- Urban Outfitters, Half-Moon Outfitters, Luna, Nula, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc. -- and you've got one hell of a selection for the shoe lover in you. --Stephanie Barna

Best Resurgence
Boutiques on King Street
The boutique boom just keeps on going. A few years back, Nula proved there was a market for upscale trendy, and then came others like Bella Rose, Goga, V2V, Willy Jay's, and Rosita Jones. In the last year, we've seen even more shops pop open -- B'zar, Mio Stile, Point Break, Vanity, HandPicked. Then again, maybe this isn't necessarily a resurgence, as Pete Banis, Bob Ellis, Christian Michi, Copper Penny, Luna, and a crapload of others have been kicking ass for years on our very unique little shopping drag that continues to dazzle visitors and locals alike. Hopefully, the advent of Urban Outfitters won't spell the doom of the little boutique, because we sure do like to buy local. --Stephanie Barna

Best Denim Collection
Bella Rose
93 Society St. Downtown 723-0808
The denim emporium on Society Street has this category on lockdown. Featuring all of the hot, starlet-worthy brands that grace the pages of glossy tabloids, the cheerful boutique is an exercise in denim immersion. Thankfully, they carry only ladies' apparel; otherwise, our favorite would-be senator, whom we've fondly nicknamed "Denim on Denim" (for painfully obvious reasons), would likely suffer a mental meltdown brought on by the plethora of denim options. --Ida Becker

Best Luxury Gift
Cashmere Socks from Ben Silver
149 King St. Downtown 577-4556
It doesn't matter if your little piggies go to market or stay home as long as they are stylish and warm. Made from cashmere and found at stalwart haberdashery Ben Silver, your little piggies can revel in the Rolls Royce of socks. At $30 a pair, these socks are a delightful bit of unexpected luxury. --Ida Becker

Most Zen Sales Associate
Betty at Nula
320 King St. Downtown 853-6566
Betty, the three-year-old goldendoodle who greets shoppers at Nula, Noula Tassios' hipster enclave on King Street, isn't much help with dispensing fashion advice, but the sight of the shaggy sales assistant often brings smiles to the faces of shoppers. Perfectly acclimated to fulfill a stylish destiny, Betty's graceful yogi positions and long, bouncy curls are very "in." A hybrid dog, crossbred between a golden retriever and a poodle, Betty was rescued from the John Ancrum SPCA at seven months and has been a fixture on the fashion scene ever since. --Ida Becker

Best Place to Get Pet Food that Won't Kill Fifi or Felix
2 Windermere Blvd. West Ashley 852-5811
620K Long Point Road Mt. Pleasant 971-8650
114 E. Richardson Ave. Summerville 851-8173

The Diamond pet food contamination earlier this year claimed the lives of at least a hundred beloved pets and sparked a flurry of warning e-mails among animal lovers, not to mention a federal investigation. According to a Diamond press release, there was a "higher prevalence of aflatoxin in last year's corn crop. This information was communicated by many state Departments of Agriculture because of the weather conditions the corn crop experienced during its growing season." Evidently, contaminated corn made it into the pet food at the company's Gaston plant, and hundreds of pets died from liver failure. Dolittle's owner Ric Sommons made the decision not to carry pet foods containing corn in 1999, because he believes it to be an unnecessary filler. Now it turns out to be an unnecessary killer. Do your dog a favor, and don't buy food with corn as the main ingredient. --Stephanie Barna

Best Stripper Wear
Wet and Wild
2028 Pittsburgh Ave. Downtown 958-0578
We've always wondered where we could get a pair of Lucite stilettos with poker chips in the sole, and we finally found them at Wet and Wild. Located in the shop next to Thee Southern Belle (we know you know where this is), this store has a scintillating selection of dildos, DVDs, and the like, but they also have a room full of stripper clothes -- because sometimes Victoria's Secret is just too damn prim for the trashy whore in you (or your bed). --Stephanie Barna

click to enlarge Aargh. Cathy Croell poses at the Best Pirate Store, The Brass Pirate, in the Market
  • Aargh. Cathy Croell poses at the Best Pirate Store, The Brass Pirate, in the Market

Best Little Bit of Brooklyn
541 King St. Downtown 579-2889
We may lose some of our best and brightest to the Big Apple, but you don't have to visit your Brooklyn hipster friends to dress like them. B'zar, a quaint little shop with an inviting, mellow vibe, is stocked with a bevy of unique clothes, candles, CDs, and other bits of instant cool -- not to mention various items created by local artists and designers. The adorable married couple who own the store, Gustavo and Andrea Serrano, are happy to assist you in your purchasing or just to chat about whatever, and they've been known to throw a fantastic party at the store, too. --Sara Miller

Best ladies' Loungewear Designed in Charleston
Spooney Wearever
We first noticed this line of loungewear because of its whimsical logo, which appears on one of the shirts in this clothing collection. Intrigued, we copped a pair and quickly discovered the most comfortable pajamas we've ever worn -- just as creator and Old Village resident Janice Fetter confidently predicted we would. Made from a micro blend performance fabric that's quick-drying and holds up well to the wear of everyday life, Spooney is perfect for the yoga mat, the quick trip to the store, or a long morning in bed. As the tagline says, it's perfect for wearever. --Ida Becker

Best Place to Buy Inexpensive Trendy Accessories
370 King St. Downtown 853-0023
There are two kinds of women in this world. Those who accessorize and those who don't. We must never speak of the latter. For those who do, your mecca lies at King Street's Vanity. This jewel box of a boutique, started by the Safa family's company, RAS Retail Group, contains enough shiny objects to make a seagull apoplectic. We're talking bangles, earrings, necklaces, sunglasses, and, most importantly, bags! Vanity has the best selection of hip, economical pocketbooks this side of NYC's Bleeker Street, not to mention fantastic sales. With finicky fashion fads continually changing, it's worth your dollar to forget Fendi and go for affordable at Vanity. --Kinsey Labberton

Best Way to Look Like a Million without Paying Big Bucks
Lula Kate
231 King St. Downtown 723-5885
Les Jupes
735 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. Mt. Pleasant 723-3274
The Dressing Room
427 King St. Downtown 723-7888
Sure, celebrities have a cadre of image consultants to make them appear flawless, but regular women can migrate toward the world of polished style by simply investing in a few custom-made or tailored wardrobe staples. Luckily, Charleston has a growing number of professionals who cater to the finished silhouette. From the proper pant hem to the perfect empire waist rouching detail on the dress you've only dreamed of, your wardrobe destiny is in good hands with these tailors. --Ida Becker

Best Place to Find Brass Hand-Cast Jewelry
Poe Studio
819 Savannah Hwy. West Ashley 573-4884
The line of Erica Weiner jewelry, exclusively available at Poe Studio, features an adorable array of vintage charms like lockets and baby whales set on delicate brass chains. Weiner lives in Hell's Kitchen in New York City, and works as a seamstress and creative consultant for New York-based fashion companies House of Diehl and Imitation of Christ. It's the innovative, handcrafted goods like this that have us returning to Poe often. --Ida Becker

Best Lip Gloss Nirvana
1740 Towne Center Way Mt. Pleasant 856-8500
For lips as shiny as glass, wander into Mt. Pleasant's makeup wonderland, Ulta. Tubs and tubes of every conceivable flavor, color, and shine intensity abound in this cosmetics emporium. It's sort of like the Target of the beauty world. --Ida Becker

Best Renewable Fashion Trend
Fashioning clothing out of bamboo fiber may sound Third World, but the fabric is softer than cotton and has a natural sheen similar to silk. Local company Bamboosa is riding the trend of consumer goods made from renewable resources, and they've launched a full line of bamboo fiber garments for women, men, and children. Clothing made from bamboo, which is one of the most sustainable and naturally regenerative materials on earth, contains an agent called "bamboo kun" that prevents bacteria cultivation and preserves the longevity of the apparel. We first came across Bamboosa at last year's Earth Day Festival, and have since learned that they also support global conservation efforts by donating to 1 Percent For The Planet. Incredible clothing made by an environmentally conscious and responsible company? Win, win!--Ida Becker

The Best Belly-Up Safeguard that We Thought Went Belly Up
The Best Friend Express
Although owner Jim Cunningham lost his website to a domain shark (which is why we thought this nifty service quietly faded into obscurity), the Best Friend Express celebrated its one-year anniversary this past January. Available to help distressed (i.e. drunk) motorists between 9 p.m. and 2:30 a.m., Monday through Saturday, the switchboard dispatches a driver who arrives at your location, packs his motorized scooter in your trunk, drives you and your vehicle home, collects a nominal fee, then returns to the dispatch location via the scooter. The drivers wear highly functional, dare we say flamboyant, suits that incorporate reflective material and integrated electronics for hands-free communications. We know several satisfied repeat customers, and, like them, we hope BFE is around for a long time to come. --Ida Becker


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