Best Downtown Smells

Santa Fe Oxygen & Healing Bar
102 W San Francisco St., Ste. 14, 660-9199

Sure, distinct scents abound in our downtown district—from desperation on an unsuspecting tourist about to pay way too much for a piece of pottery to Pagosa Springs busker BO—but none sweeter than those coming out of the O Bar. Stickers on the staircase teasing herbal-infused cocktails and "aroma-flavored oxygen" lure you to an upstairs oasis, where on any given day, oxygen at one buck a minute to healing treatments like the "belly bliss" and aromatherapy as far as the eye can see commingle. Noah Kass mans the place alongside his mother, siblings, and Roger, the goldfish. "People don't realize that when they come to Santa Fe, at 7,200 feet, there's actually a quarter less oxygen in the air," he says (Kass, not the goldfish). "So, receiving oxygen is gonna boost your energy levels and relieve your altitude sickness." Combine that with one of the specialty drinks like the O2-infused "mojito boost," and it also gives you a pretty trippy, all-organic high. Witnesses who reported seeing me speaking to the wood posts along San Francisco Street upon my exit can attest to that. (EL)

Best place to realize there are guitars out there that aren’t Fender or Gibson

Borrego's Guitars and Music Supply Co.
1636 St. Michael's Drive, 471-9043

They're the new kids on the block and the kind of store that is hard to understand at first, but mark my words when I say that Borrego's Guitars is going places. And they're doing it while offering Santa Fe guitar brands that we've either never thought of playing or never even heard of, a classy move in that they chose to go this way in an effort to not compete with existing music supply stores. It's all from the minds and hearts of former Candyman employee David Borrego and musician/guitar monster Sean Healen. That this new business can offer up decades of experience and the advice of a currently working live musician while teaching our fair city that Reverend guitars are absolutely beautiful and mind-bogglingly versatile is a thing of beauty. It will hopefully foster some experimentalism and friendly competition and, if nothing else, a little bit of freedom from the shackles of the big dog guitar companies who, let's face it, have been cutting corners on their less-than-top-tier equipment for years due to mass-production needs. If you don't believe the difference can be that huge, swing by and talk to them. Play an Alvarez or Breedlove guitar, or check out their local consignment deals. Learn about something new that you just might love. Lord knows it wouldn't hurt. (ADV)

Alex De Vore
Alex De Vore | Alex De Vore

Best place to shop for that cool person in your life who still rocks their correspondence old-school

Let's face it: handwriting is a dying art. You don't see many millennials walking down the street with their heads buried in a notebook and pen—although we're pretty sure there's an app for that. The few and proud handwriting obsessives left in the world, champions, really, deserve the best stylus and paper the world has to offer, and both can be found at Santa Fe Pens in Sanbusco Center (500 Montezuma Ave., Ste. 111, 989-4742). From journals and stationery to practical and limited-edition pens, they've got you covered. Their Santa Fe Pen Fair at Sanbusco every March is New Mexico's largest gathering of pen manufacturers, pen aficionados and general writerly geeks like us. (RDW)

Best guy to visit when you just can’t make your stupid guitar (or bass) sound like you want it to

Sal Rael
820-0694

We've all been there. It's show day, and you thought that just because you've played the guitar for a thousand years, you could try a new kind of string or attempt to adjust the action yourself. Big mistake. Now the higher frets are buzzing, your truss rod is doing something weird and whatever the hell polymer coating they put on these strings is ruining your life. What's a musician with literally zero other marketable skills to do? Better call Sal (gross) Rael. A Santa Fe institution, Rael has been kickin' around since the dawn of time, but when performing in bands failed to provide him with the same thrills it once had, he switched gears and became a guitar surgeon. It made a lot of sense, in that he's also a jeweler and is fascinated with how the intricate bits and bobs of jewelry can also relate to the insides of an electric guitar or the precision needed to properly adjust an acoustic instrument. This is a guy who builds his own guitars, too, and each one seems to sound more beautiful than the last. So please, we're beggin' you—don't try to handle it yourself. You will screw it up. Take it to Sal Rael and be prepared to say things like, "Whoa. That sounds, like, a million times better!" (ADV)

Sal Rael
Sal Rael | Sal Rael

Best Place to Make a Spectacle Outta Yourself

Ojo Optique
125 Lincoln Ave., 988-4444

It was the piece of news I've been dreading my whole life: Donald Trump running for president. The second worst? Coming to terms with the fact that I needed glasses. Dad wore glasses. My mom does too, along with most of my siblings. For years I'd taunt them all by reading billboards from afar, always winning the license plate game during every road trip and ordering from a menu on the table next to us. I was goddamned bionic! Until recently, when squinting all day erry day became my new normal. Luckily, the boys at Ojo were there to help. "We only do independent eyewear, and we basically want to have something for everyone if possible—from mild to way over the top wild," co-owner Adam Tate Hoffberg says. Best part is, given the uniqueness of the 1,200-plus stock of frames, there is bound to be a pair perfect for you. Adam and Co. left me looking and feeling hot. Turns out boys do make passes at other boys who wear glasses. (EL)

Enrique Limón
Enrique Limón | Enrique Limón

Best Place to Indulge in Your Vinyl Obsession

Guy in the Groove (inside A Sound Look)
502 Cerrillos Road at Manhattan Ave., 699-3332

As the music industry is continually forced to anticipate the needs of the consumer, so too does vinyl grow more and more popular. Countless labels are now opting to release their records on vinyl due to growing popularity, but in a town like Santa Fe, it can be hard to start (or continue) an obsession with the medium. Enter Dick Rosemont and his glorious mini record store, Guy in the Groove. Cheaper than other stores we shan't name and with more knowledge than the ridiculousness of Hasting's, Rosemont has a clear love for all things vinyl, and he'll not only help you find that release you're looking for, he'll provide some of the most stimulating music conversation you'll find this side of a music journalist (some of us notwithstanding). He's a little tricky to find, but those who truly love records won't care even a little bit, and he should absolutely be in your Rolodex (assuming your vinyl love translates into a love of other old things) for the next time you realize you somehow don't own Queen's A Night at the Opera. (ADV)

Jane Rosemont
Jane Rosemont | Jane Rosemont

Best Place to Get Your Period [Costume]

Santa Fe Vintage Outpost
202 E Palace Ave., 690-1075

When longtime friends jeweler Julienne Barth and vintage collector Scott Corey decided to team up last August and open a small storefront near downtown, it was to put a swinging door on the businesses they'd both basically been running from home offices/studios. The end result is a sweet little store with plenty of character and an immaculately curated collection of Southwestern apparel and jewelry. The storefront, and its by-appointment-only warehouse that Corey continues to operate, is frequented by those looking to costume Southwestern period pieces, including Manhattan and Longmire. (EM)

Best Place to Purchase a Smoothie and a Shovel

Modern General
637 Cerrillos Road, 930-5462

If Modern General were a song, it would be "I'm Too Sexy," but instead of this shirt or car or party, it would be too sexy for this shovel, wheelbarrow or household kitsch found in other function-over-fashion hardware stores. Or, for that matter, your squeezed-sometime-last-month smoothie. The shop looks like a Pinterest aficionado's dreamland, stocked with household sundries that pack a stylish punch in everything from gardening tools to cookbooks, pottery and cacti. Need a refreshment after all that dream-home planning? Sample from their all-day breakfast menu or freshly made smoothies. (EM)

Best construction store in which to keep it local

Empire Building Supply
1802 Cerrillos Road, 982-2646

One of the most harrowing retail experiences known to all humankind is the act of looking for help inside a big-box home improvement store. While there are many, many great people who staff our local DIY warehouses, the most delightful in my experience can be found at Empire Building Supply, which has been open since 1954. I suspect that too many Santa Feans think Empire only serves contractors and building professionals, but on dozens of occasions, I have been meticulously guided through my layman remodeling projects by their employees. I don't enter their doors worried that I might not know the difference between a carriage, lag and flange bolt (although it's helpful to do your research), because someone is always happy to walk me through what I need. Also, a great yard crew means you don't have to carry a thing (until you get it home). For this sense of empowerment, my somewhat sensitive homebuilder ego is infinitely grateful. (TEL)

Best Specialty Clothing Store

Caballero Boots & Fashions
1915 Cerrillos Road, Ste. 2, 473-1217

Baptism. It's one of those Catholic rites of passage that bestows upon you the ability to be forgiven, to reveal yourself to God on a personal level, to even rise from the dead, for Christ sake, once your time is up. So it's only fitting that your parents buy something nice for you once the priest splashes water all over your forehead, and you can't get a better deal than at Caballero Boots & Fashions, which has the cutest and whitest outfits for both boys and girls who are about to receive the first in a long line of sacraments. The place also deals in genuine leather belts from León, Guanajuato, a universal standard-bearer of such products, and they only run $21. And if you want one of those cool Mexican hats, or gorras, to blend in with the cool kids, they run $18. My favorite in particular is that of Jesús Malverde, narco saint and Mexican equivalent of Robin Hood. Órale, oo-de-lally. (TR)

Best new store that helps you realize video games have become a baffling ordeal and makes you long for a simpler time

8-Bit Retro Video Games
1964 Cerrillos Road, 820-0629

Opened recently by über-nerds Josh Ramos and Gary Cordova, 8-Bit Retro Video Games comes with an easy-to-miss but built-in lesson about the gaming industry—the classics never go out of style. Y'see, we live in an age where the game consumer demands the height of graphical excellence but doesn't understand that this comes with the cost of cutting corners to turn a profit. So if we look back to the era of the Super Nintendo or Genesis systems, we begin to notice stylistic choices and design decisions that were forced to work within limitations that sparked the type of creativity and art direction that still works to this day. Ramos and Cordova know this all too well, and thus, their new store was born. "As a '90s kid I was always playing my [Nintendo] 64 or my older bother's NES, and I guess I just never really grew out of it," Ramos says. "With the only retro stores in the state that I know of being in Albuquerque and Las Vegas, why not bring a retro store to Santa Fe?" Adds partner Cordova, "It's a grand way of bringing the community of Santa Fe and retro games together." Oh, and they do carry semi-newer games as well, so don't freak out, younger gamers. Look, just visit 'em, OK? (ADV)

Josh Ramos
Josh Ramos | Josh Ramos

Best Place to Find Everything You’ll Ever Need

Five & Dime General Store
58 E San Francisco St., 992-1800

Take a stroll through the Five and Dime, and you'll find everything. From cowboy hats to cigarettes, Star Wars lunch boxes to Southwestern spices, hodgepodge to bric-a-brac, there seems to be nothing lacking in the local establishment. Some stuff is striking simply because of the context you find it in—like extension chords or plastic coverings for electrical outlets. A lot of it is striking because you don't know where else you could find it—fake IDs of B celebrities, what may be the most comprehensive collection of John Wayne mugs in the country, redneck bottle openers or toy Pan flutes. It is their aim, I'm certain, to make sure everyone finds some token, souvenir or necessity that best suits their needs. In the end, I cave and buy light coverings in the shape of red and green chiles. With these, it can be Christmas all year. (NA)

Best Jesus-Approved Sunshade

Cornerstone Christian Books, etc.
1716 St. Michael's Drive, 473-0306

If ever you need your faith reaffirmed in the shape of religious night lights, self-help books and a statue or two, there is only one place you should go: Cornerstone. Inside its expansive St. Mike's locale, you'll find everything from silicone spatulas emblazoned with messages like "Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)," tomes like The Bible Cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome ($6.99) and vanity plates that let everyone in the parking lot know who's boss ("Jesus Inside" reads one, riffing off the Intel logo). Summer is upon us, and while some of you go for those big-box pop-up shades in tones of silver (the color of choice for heathens), I opt for a holier-than-thou Inspirational Auto Shade. At just $14.99, they come imprinted with slogans like "Pray more, worry less," the Star Wars-themed "May the Lord be with you," and my personal fave, "My lifeguard walks on water." Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, my backside will not scorch upon touching the seat. (EL)

Enrique Limón
Enrique Limón | Enrique Limón