Some might consider it absurd to say that shopping can be personally fulfilling, but, yeah, just went there. When I say shopping, I’m not talking about compulsive indulgence in raw consumer want, or stoking that weird hoarding impulse that fuels warehouse stores and discount chains. I mean something at once more discriminating and expansive, curatorial and broad-minded. You see something fine, or beautiful, or true, or even useful. In nature, the rule is to let it be. In the city, there’s the option to buy. (Isn’t civilization great?) In the best shopping scenarios, you get something of lasting value that gives your life a sense of upgrade — a little psychic boost.
It’s more than about acquiring things, of course. It’s about the experience of the exchange. We’ve all withered a bit under the lost, vacant gaze of the robo-clerk at the big-box store checkout lane, or sampled the miasma of spiritual defeat that hangs like a pall over most fast-food restaurants, and we’ve thought, You know, I’d be willing to pay a few bucks more to not feel like my soul is slowly dying. The mantra of the 21st century is that experiences have value, and it’s true whether you’re backpacking through Europe or buying a new sofa. That’s why I’ve always liked small businesses. Not only do they make the experience count, but the personal service they so often provide can make you feel like a VIP with inside access.
Those were among our simple criteria when we chose 45 of our favorite shops in the valley — from ethnic delis to design boutiques to hobby stores. We also asked: Do they provide quality goods or services? Are they decent, interesting people? And are they in it for more than just the bottom line, to make the community, maybe even the world, a better place? In the pages that follow, you’ll find a longtime local jeweler helping Ugandan women escape poverty, a design boutique that sells eye-popping, upcycled pieces from independent artists, and a bookstore owner who believes reading matters more than ever in our data-addled age. (And when you’re done pleasing the angel on your shoulder, there are also some cool places that sell meat and cigars.) Start browsing on page 51.
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Congrats — to us! Desert Companion took home 14 awards at the Nevada Press Association banquet, held Sept. 22 at The D Las Vegas downtown. The annual statewide journalism contest recognizes excellence in writing, reporting, photography and design — and we got some serious love. I’m particularly proud of our first place winners: Jarret Keene for Best Feature Story (“Chairpunk!,” April 2011), Heidi Kyser for Best Explanatory Journalism, Amy Kingsley for Best Investigative or In-depth Story or Series (“Fight This Feeling,” April 2011), Desert Companion Art Director Chris Smith for Best Overall Design, and Aaron McKinney for Best Illustration (“Talk Hard Die Free,” September 2011). I’m grateful to have such a wealth of talent filling the pages of Desert Companion every month.
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We want your brains. Okay, make that your thoughts. We’re launching a monthly reader survey to get your take on the latest issue of Desert Companion — what you enjoyed, what you thought could be better, and what you’d like to see in future issues. (Of course, if you want to use it to lavish undiluted praise on us too, you’re more than welcome). Think of it as your turn to play armchair editor — and as a reflection of our commitment as a public media company to continue publishing a magazine of quality and integrity for Southern Nevadans.
The monthly online Desert Companion Reader survey is quick, simple and best of all, you could win a $100 dining certificate at a great local restaurant. Watch for the survey to be posted on our website during the middle of each month — that way, you’ll have time to have thoroughly enjoyed your issue of Desert Companion.