Best of Santa Fe 2012

There's a lot of buzz about shopping locally—how it creates a multiplier effect that stimulates the local economy, fosters relationships with the people who sell you gardening supplies and designer shoes, etc. But Santa Feans don't really need to be convinced: We're all about the local thing, and we're passionate about the shops and businesses that define our city. Take Collected Works, the perennial winner of the "Best Local, Independent Bookstore" category, which will order any book you want and offer nonalgorithmic suggestions about what else you might like. Or Big Jo True Value, another frequent favorite for its similarly personalized and conscientious customer service. Sure, it's fun to buy online now and then—but in a city as fiercely different as Santa Fe, why would you want to shop where the rest of the world does?

You're from Santa Fe if…

By Chicken Joe
…you stockpile liquor on Saturday for Sunday morning
…you think Subaru is the lead auto maker
…you exclaim EVERY TIME you see a black person
…tuition is taxable
…you drive like a tourist, year-round
…the saying downtown is "don't blink"

 Best Local, Independent Bookstore

1st: Collected Works Bookstore
202 Galisteo St. 988-4226

It's hard to enter Collected Works without immediately joining the cult of the indie bookstore. Shelves upon shelves of lovingly cared-for, painstakingly curated titles allow for nearly endless browsing; a barista quietly serves expertly prepared teas, coffees and pastries; and the clientele and staff have the ability to subtly convince other customers of their natural intelligence: You found this place. You know something. Of course, Collected Works also epitomizes the indie bookstore by acting more like a good corporate citizen than any corporation that actually uses that phrase, helping out with local events and hosting diverse speeches, readings and discussions for the public to enjoy, free of charge. Has ever done that for you? (AS)

2nd: Garcia Street Books
376 Garcia St., 986-0151

3rd: The Ark Bookstore
133 Romero St., 988-3709

 Best Local Women’s Clothing Store

1st: Cupcake Clothing

322 Montezuma Ave. 988-4744

You've been downtown, perused the shops and have come to the conclusion that Santa Fe skimps on the cute clothing stores, so what's the point of even going on a girlie shopping spree anymore? Ladies, this is the point: the small dot on Google Maps—Cupcake Clothing. The white walls really make the clothes pop, and the spunkiest girls helpfully assist you in trying on outfit after outfit. Prepare yourself for a day of shopping as if you were the star of an '80s movie, and montage after montage features you trying on shirts, skirts and getting your ears pierced while Whitney Houston sings "How Will I Know." (TS)

2nd: Maya
108 Galisteo St., 989-7590

3rd: Bodhi Bazaar
500 Montezuma Ave., Ste. 117, 982-3880

 Best Local Men’s Clothing Store

1st: Harry's Clothing
202 Galisteo St. 988-1959

Established more than 40 years ago for people who "appreciate fine clothing," Harry's has carved a permanent name for itself thanks to its policy of staying away from fads and opting for a more timeless look. "Things don't change too quickly in our industry," owner Greg Voida says, measuring tape hanging from his neck. "Sure, cuts have gotten a little trimmer, and flat-front pants are now more popular than pleated, but nothing really changes overnight." That approach has garnered a strong civilian and celebrity following, with folks like Alan Alda, Gene Hackman and Arnold Schwarzenegger ("back when he was still with Maria") in Voida's client roster. Whether you stop in for a whole new wardrobe or just to hem some jeans, Voida is sure to give you the celebrity treatment. Trust us, you'll be back. (EL)

2nd: Santa Fe Mountain Sports
1221 Flagman Way, Ste. B1, 988-333

3rd: Corsini
107 W San Francisco St., 820-2300

 Best Local Optical Shop/Dispensary

1st: Acoma Optical
3530 Zafarano Drive, Ste. C1 471-2020

Eyeglasses have come a long way since the days of pince-nez, monocles and (not too long ago) Coke-bottle lenses. And they're no longer just an inconvenient necessity: Brian Boddy, of Acoma Optical, emphasizes glasses' role in creating identity and accessorizing. He and his wife, Cyndi, are co-owners of the only free-form eyeglass designing company in the state. The experts at Acoma Optical not only tailor customers' glasses to their particular lifestyles and needs, but also grind the lenses themselves. As if that weren't enough, Acoma also stresses the customer experience, from the moment you enter the door. "We have a deep understanding of the business, but we also want you to come in and have fun," Boddy says. (KF)

2nd: Botwin Eye Group
444 St. Michael's Drive, 954-4442

3rd: Eye Associates of New Mexico
2947 E Rodeo Park, 983-6613

 Best Consignment/Vintage/Thrift Shop

1st: Double Take
320 Aztec St. 989-8886

Small statues of a mule, a saddle and a Native American adorn the entrance of Double Take, one of Santa Fe's premier vintage Western shops. Inside, customers can browse around collections of contemporary pottery, Native American jewelry and a full wall of secondhand, high-end cowboy boots. But almost hidden around the corner is the consignment section, a full room dedicated to clothes, books and houseware. Owner Suzanne Wissman-Moore says the items are "things that people need on a daily basis." Kids, for instance, can find school uniforms, fancy dress wear and casual clothes. Clean outdoor wear and "nice men's designers" are also on offer. "We have all price ranges," Wissman-Moore tells SFR. "We know how to service the customers with what they need." (JP)

2nd: Act 2
839 Paseo De Peralta, 983-8585

3rd: Goodwill

3060 Cerrillos Road, 424-9726

 Best Local Store for Children

1st: TIE:
Merry Go Round/Toyopolis

150 Washington Ave., 988-5422

Moon Rabbit Toys
112 W San Francisco St., 982-9373

As every five-year-old in Santa Fe knows, we lack a Toys "R" Us. Sure, there are a few big-box alternatives, but this is Santa Fe. We shop local—and here's the upside: There are two wonderful options. Both located downtown, Merry Go Round/Toyopolis and Moon Rabbit Toys both offer an eclectic selection of distractions for your little ones. Though both retailers sell great local fodder, Moon Rabbit features some fantastic handmade stuffed animals, while Toyopolis tends to stock some more recognizable names in toys. Additionally, Toyopolis has merged with Merry Go Round to sell children's clothing, like some really cool rain slickers that make your toddler look like a dinosaur. But kids need more than mindless Hot Wheels and dolls, so both stores offer plenty of those "science" type toys that trick kids into learning while having fun. (RHD)

2nd: Gypsy Baby
318 S Guadalupe St., 820-1898

3rd: Play (in Sanbusco Market Center)
500 Montezuma Ave., 820-3338

 Best Local Shoe Store

1st: On Your Feet
530 Montezuma Ave. 983-3900

Last time I went into On Your Feet, I ended up in a conversation about the earrings I was wearing with a very engaging and pleasant lady. It took me a minute to figure out she worked there. But remarkably, instead of using her charm to seduce me into buying two pairs of practical yet stylish kicks, she let me meander around the store in peace. It happens that I know a great many women who appreciate this balance of friendly customer service and space, and they all shop at On Your Feet. Or maybe they are drawn by the massive selection of Dansko clogs, which nearly everyone who works in the service industry swears by. Regardless, these folks have the shoe business dialed. (LH)

2nd: Goler
125 E Palace Ave., Ste. 125, 982-0924

3rd: Running Hub
527 W Cordova Road, Ste. B, 820-2523

 Best Local Gardening Store

1st: Santa Fe Greenhouses
2904 Rufina St. 473-2700

For more than half of its lifetime, Santa Fe Greenhouses has been voted the best gardening store in town. This year, for the store's 26th birthday, Santa Fe does it again. A vast selection of native xeric plants and the arrangements of living gardens draw locals and tourists alike to this expansive nursery. Whether you are in search of beauty, knowledge, plants or supplies, an informed and friendly staff is happy to help you find what you are looking for. However, if all you need is a pleasant amble among the exhalations of flowers and grasses, trees and shrubs, succulents, vegetables and herbs, Santa Fe Greenhouses is glad to give you that, too. (MRC)

2nd: Agua Fria Nursery
1409 Agua Fria St., 983-4831

3rd: Payne's Nurseries and Greenhouses

304 Camino Alire, 988-8011

 Best Local Pet Supply Store

1st: Critters & Me
1403 Agua Fria St. 982-5040

In Santa Fe, pets are sometimes held in higher regard than close siblings. As such, though the big-box stores sell "premium" food, even this isn't good enough for most. Critters & Me understands. Its large selection of high-quality, all-natural foods and supplies is the pet's equivalent of Whole Foods Market—and maybe even better. While all of the products are the best your pet can eat, specialty foods, such as grain-free chow, are also available in abundance. Critters & Me is committed to customer service as well, with a loyalty program and a $15-per-use dog-washing station in house so that you can reclaim your bathtub for humans. (RHD)

2nd: Teca Tu
500 Montezuma Ave., Ste. 116, 982-9374

3rd: Zoe and Guido's Pet Boutique
607 Cerrillos Road, Ste. A, 988-2500

 Best Outdoor Store

1st: Santa Fe Mountain Sports
1221 Flagman Way, Ste. B1 988-3337

With its new space in the up-and-coming Baca Railyard area, Santa Fe Mountain Sports has actually had some trouble attracting locals because it's in an obscure location, says owner Dan McCarthy. Nevertheless, the new store is an improvement: a 5,500 square-foot, two-floor shop that, unlike the old shop, allows McCarthy to display summer gear (bicycles and accessories) along with winter gear (skis, snowboards and warm clothing) during all seasons. That will help McCarthy put a dent in the customer base of his big competitor, REI, though other employees emphasize that service makes SF Mountain Sports stand out. As shop manager Deven Gonzales notes, the employees themselves are actually skiers, snowboarders and bikers. "This is something they love," Gonzales says. (JH)

2nd: Alpine Sports
121 Sandoval St., 983-5155

3rd: New Mexico Bike 'N Sport
524 W Cordova Road, 820-0809

 Best Bicycle Shop

1st: rob and charlie's
1632 St. Michael's Drive  471-9119

The goal of rob and charlie's bicycle shop is to get as many people in Santa Fe riding bicycles as possible, says Stephen Newhall, the manager. A cynic might note that's an opportune goal for a store whose bottom line depends on people riding bicycles. But the employees there are dedicated and knowledgeable about their craft: selling and fixing bicycles. Conveniently situated near the St. Mike's stretch of the Rail Trail, rob and charlie's has been in Santa Fe for three decades, and its diverse product line—carbon fiber road bikes, big-wheel mountain bikes, trick BMX bikes, classic bikes with baskets and bells—is part of the secret to the small but well-stocked shop's success. "We try to have a bicycle for everybody," Newhall says. (JH)

2nd: New Mexico Bike 'N Sport
524 W Cordova Road, 820-0809

3rd: The Broken Spoke

1426 Cerrillos Road, 992-3102

 Best Local Ski & Snowboard Store

1st: Santa Fe Mountain Sports
1221 Flagman Way, Ste. B-1 988-3337

If you're planning to hit the slopes this winter, check out the extensive collection of skis and boards Santa Fe Mountain Sports has to offer. The shop devotes warehouse-like resources not just to selling, but also to waxing, tuning and mounting your skis or board, whether you're a free-heeling backcountry skier or a first-time snowboarder. Perhaps what's best about this store is that its employees are all avid snow-sport maniacs, so they can point you toward a powder stash or send you on a backcountry adventure, depending on your needs. There's also plenty of gear and clothing to stock up on while you're here—and unlike some other outdoor stores, it's local. (AS)

2nd: Alpine Sports
121 Sandoval St., 983-5155

3rd: Beyond Waves
1428 Cerrillos Road, 988-2240

 Best Hardware Store

1st: Big Jo True Value

1311 Siler Road 473-2255

Big Jo True Value has a lot of the same products any hardware store offers: tiki torches, lawn mowers, sledge hammers, waffle makers, potting soils, braces, nuts, bolts, drills and Radio Flyer wagons. But what differentiates it from the big boxes is that it's not overwhelming, and there's always prompt service. You can be in and out without walking through a maze of aisles dedicated strictly to drill bits, and the employees are trained to know every product in the store. And if you can't find what you're looking for, Rick C de Baca, one of the store's owners, says that the folks at True Value will happily put in a special order for you. They'll even deliver anything in the Santa Fe area without charge. (JH)

2nd: Ace Hardware
2006 Cerrillos Road, Ste. 1, 424-9343

3rd: Empire Builders Supply Co. Inc.
1802 Cerrillos Road, 982-2646

 Best Local Solar Energy Company

1st: Positive Energy Solar
801 Cerrillos Road 428-0069

As SFR has reported, New Mexico is the fourth-sunniest state in the union, which means it offers huge potential for solar power to become a viable alternative energy source. Indeed, many Santa Feans have already taken advantage of the abundant sunshine by installing solar panels across their conveniently flat roofs—and time and again, they call Positive Energy Solar. The company offers competitive rates and outstanding customer service in a time when many small businesses are either cutting services or closing altogether. And as the first business to install an electric-car charging station in Santa Fe, this is a company that believes in what it's selling: green—er, all-the-colors-of-the-visible-spectrum-and-some-other-kinds-of-solar-emitted-radiation-you-can't-see—tech. (RHD)

2nd: Affordable Solar
4840 Pan American Frontage Road, 944-4220

3rd: Solarwise
2754 Agua Fria St., 690-0749

 Best Place to Buy Home Décor 

1st: Cost Plus World Market

550 Montezuma Ave. 955-1700

I know what you're thinking: World Market is the equivalent of a fancy-schmancy big-box home accessories store. But scratch beneath the sandalwood-scented surface, and you discover an American success story that started off in the 1950s in the other SF, San Francisco, when a businessman-cum-world-traveler started selling goods by the shipload at a 10 percent markup (hence the "Plus" part). A shit-ton of baskets and 259 stores later, the company has managed to bring the color, textures and handmade quality of the globe's most exotic bazaars to stateside living rooms while still maintaining rigid social compliance norms, offering customers a sustainable window to cultures and customs far and wide. And what, if not that, is uniquely Santa Fean? (EL)

2nd: Jackalope
2820 Cerrillos Road, 471-8539

3rd: Design Warehouse
101 W Marcy St., 988-1555

 Best Place To Buy Western Wear

1st: Double Take
320 Aztec St. 989-8886

You want cowboy hats? They've got 'em. You want concha belts? Step right up. You want to drop two grand on a pair of exotic boots? Do-se-do on down, partner. Hell, they've even got a baby Jesus porcelain figure rocking handmade silver sandals. "It's really become a family destination," owner and manager Suzanne Wissman-Moore—who also runs the upstairs art gallery—boasts. Be it for city-slicker theme parties or real-life dude ranch dwellers, Double Take has got every possible inch of your body and home covered. Case in point: a $1,600 cowhide-covered sofa. Just refrain from raising your feet up on the matching trunk coffee table, buckaroo. Rule here is: If your spurs rip something, you buy it. (EL)

2nd: Kowboyz
345 W Manhattan Ave., 984-1256

3rd: Back at the Ranch
209 E Marcy St., 989-8110

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