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Desert Companion

What's in store

If you've ever gone half-mad navigating the cavernous aisles of a crowded big-box warehouse outlet, you know shopping can be a chore. But with the right store, the right people and the right price, shopping can be a pleasure. Maybe even an art. That's what inspired our What's In Store feature. Here we share our favorite stores in the valley, whether it's where we go to indulge a sweet tooth, pick up a drop-dead gorgeous dress or furnish a living room. From homegrown mom-and-pops to specialty stores to food and drinks produced right here in the valley, our What's In Store list will give you good reason to spend some quality time at some quality valley businesses. Read up - and shop on.

B Sweet Candy Boutique

Old-fashioned sweetness: B Sweet Candy Boutique

In The Market LV at Tivoli Village, 440 S. Rampart Blvd., Walking through the doors of B Sweet Candy Boutique takes you to a simpler time. A time of jukeboxes, soda shops and small-town coziness. A time when storeowners remembered your name and your favorite candy. Achieving this feel was a key ingredient in owners Arlene and Victor Bordinhao's recipe for their store's design. "We were inspired by old-fashioned candy stores and candy boutiques that you see in cities like San Francisco, Paris, London and little towns, where customer service was key and making sure the customer loves the sweet treats they choose," says Arlene.

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The result: A real-life Candyland that will satisfy every sweet tooth. The stunning white walls are filled with row after row of apothecary-style jars brimming with licorice, gummy bears, gobstoppers - and classic childhood favorites such as Astro Pops, Abba-Zabas and Razzles. They even make fresh handspun cotton candy with edible glitter. On my visit , I saw a classic "kid in a candy store" scenario. Eyes wide, a timid boy clapped in delight as he perused each jar before finally deciding on a Coke-bottle gummy. As Arlene placed it in a bag, the look on the kid's face might as well have been filled with rainbows and sunshine. He hugged her leg and skipped off to enjoy his treat. Where else could you witness joy like that? CM

True Foods Salsas

Whole Foods and Fresh52 Market

True Foods Salsas isn't a shop, but a purveyor of artisanal salsas that distributes right here in Las Vegas. While you may not be able to wander to their storefront, you can find them in the salsa cases of your local Whole Foods or at Tivoli Village's Fresh52 Markets Friday through Sunday. True Foods offers five salsa variants: Death - that'd be the hot one; House, a mild red reminiscent of a standard Mexican restaurant table offering; Pico 2.0, their play on a Pico de gallo; Taco Shop Green, a salsa verde with a surprising kick; and my favorite: Guacamolito. Guacomolito? Imagine the crazy love child of guacamole and salsa with a bite to match its insanity and you've got a vague idea. JB

Village Meat and Wine, 5025 S. Eastern Ave. #23, 736-7575,

Entering Village Meat and Wine is like an expedition into Noah's Ark. A very tasty Noah's Ark. If it flies, gallops, hops, sprints, scurries or even just kind of meanders about, then they've most likely got it. Seriously, their meat case reads like Ted Nugent's trophy room: alligator, antelope, duck, elk, kangaroo - and that's only halfway through the alphabet. Besides the exotic meats, Village Meat and Wine showcases practically every house-made sausage imaginable. Standards such as brats and Italian sausages are housed alongside English bangers, Cajun boudin and andouille, and Portuguese merguez. They also butcher any cut of beef to your liking and carry free-range turkeys for your upcoming Thanksgiving celebrations. Seafood appears to be the only protein missing from this carnivore's smorgasbord.

Sure, the place is called Village Meat and Wine, but the wine selection is vastly overshadowed by the myriad of meats. This isn't a bad reflection on the spirits, but rather a testament to the diversity of the meat menu. I suggest a new name: Village Meat and Meat has a nice ring, doesn't it? JB

Alien Tequila

Without a doubt, the best place to drink Alien Tequila is at Mundo, where if you have a few too many Alien Margaritas, the awe-inspiring environs of World Market Center might have you thinking you're on another planet. Since the vibrant Latin fusion restaurant shares the same ownership as this smooth elixir (also available at Lee's and Total Wine stores) it's kinda the unofficial Vegas headquarters. It's made in Tepatitlan, Mexico, from agave grown in the highlands. Once distilled, it's aged in whiskey barrels for at least 16 months. These are the factors that give it a cognac-like richness and a warm, vanilla flavor, and won its anejo tequila gold medal honors at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. But the most important things to remember: Though it's available in 19 states now, this is Las Vegas tequila, hence the Area 51-influenced branding, and it tastes better than you think tequila should. BR

Rocket Fizz

Rocket Fizz, 9410 W. Sahara Ave., 889-4292

Sugar and nostalgia are the fuel blend here. If you ever long to spoil yourself (and your teeth) absolutely rotten, you can't miss with this boutique soda-pop shop and candy-store franchise, with a location now in Summerlin. And if you're a parent, there's no way your little monsters will resist the gauntlet of Salt Lake City-made Taffy Town gourmet taffy in bins lining a wall of the store, with more than 40 flavors - buttered popcorn, caramel cheesecake, fresh apricot, to name a few. The sodas are equally encyclopedic in terms of taste, ranging from the refreshing (apple pie, peaches & cream) to the downright bizarre (bacon, buffalo wing, PB&J). You'll also find yesteryear sweets (Mallo Cup), quirky treats (gummy rat) and, for the conservatively sweet-toothed, everyday delights. Reinforcing the shop's throwback charm are faux vintage tin signs featuring pop-culture icons like the Jack Kirby-rendered Fantastic Four and cola-glugging femme fatales from the '40s. JK


Popped Gourmet Popcorn, 9480 S. Eastern Ave. #110, 998-9234

Like toast, popcorn - practically lacking in any distinct flavor itself - serves as the perfect vehicle for toppings. While salt and butter are a damn fine baseline, cheddar cheese, caramel, or the wonderful combination of those two commonly referred to as Chicago are both tasty and readily available at Popped, a Henderson gourmet popcorn store. Then they see your Chicago and raise you with flavors such as Buffalo Hot, Dilly Pickle, Salt & Vinegar and even S'mores. While they no longer offer Blue Cheese (Blue Cheese and Buffalo Hot were transcendent!) you can get Buffalo Hot and Ranch for your very own taste of the 716. Interested in New Mexico? The 505 is the house-prepared combo of caramel and Hatch chiles. Best of all is Dirty Vegas, representing the 702 with a combination of all the flavors Popped offers. And then there are the "special" flavors in constant rotation. Oishi Nori and Ling Hing Mui were recent Asian-inspired flavors. What's next? You'll have to check it out yourself. But can I suggest Pepperoni Pizza? JB

Greenland Market, 6850 W. Spring Mountain Road, 459-7878

Our ever-blossoming Chinatown has always been fortified by treasure-laden ethnic food markets, but the arrival of Greenland Supermarket in the Korea Town Plaza (owned by the Lee’s Liquors family) added new dimensions. Huge, bright, fast and squeaky clean, Greenland is a model of convenience, packed with massive produce and fresh seafood sections, a full service butcher department, a bakery, and rows and rows of noodles. All the Hawaiian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese specialty products you could possibly explore create a colorful wonderland of grocery shopping. There’s even a prepared foods display near the meats, a mini-mall of kimchi and fish cakes. Extra bonus: Greenland’s got a wild, vibrant food court, a place where even the hardiest Chinatown culinary adventurer will experience new levels of authentic eats. BR

Ron’s Market
, 6085 S. Fort Apache Road, 431-6444

The unassuming Ron’s Market, located in a southwestern strip mall, offers every Eastern European edible you could think of. Their deli cases offer a variety of European meats — including Hungarian salami, Polish ham, and German bologna — while abounding with cheeses. Need to make adjarski khachapuri at home? They’ve got your suluguni, a pickled Georgian cheese integral to the dish. Craving saganaki? They carry kasseri, the highlight of the classic Greek flaming cheese dish. And then there’s the feta. They have a LOT of feta. Ron’s also serves a number of freshly prepared plates. The lahmejun, or Armenian pizza the size of a tortilla, is a steal at 90 cents. The prepared plates, meanwhile, take about 20 minutes each to prepare, but worth the wait — especially the chicken thigh kabob plate. BTW: Don’t bother trying to get free lahmejun by telling them you know Ron, because he doesn’t exist. They just made up the name because it sounded cool. The more you know. JB

1888 barbecue sauce, Available in select stores, 241-5590

Bob Hutchings of Henderson, formerly of Portland, Ore., didn’t invent barbecue sauce, nor did his “great great great grandpappy.” But grandpappy did concoct a pretty killer recipe many, many years ago — hence the name 1888 — and Hutchings may have perfected it. His four sauces and three seasoning rubs were first available locally three years ago at Glazier’s Food Marketplace, and more recently have taken over the aisles at Albertsons. “They’re the top-selling barbecue sauces at every store they’re in,” he says proudly. The pride is deserved. He’s been crafting, bottling, labeling and delivering the goods by himself up until now, and is set to expand into California stores soon. The flavors of 1888 sauce are much better balanced than those big-name bottles, blending sweet and spicy without going overboard in either direction. “I’ve been barbecuing all my life, and I know the flavors I like,” Hutchings says. And now, so do you. BR

Polish Deli, 5900 W. Charleston Blvd., , 259-2008

Hookah lounges and nail parlors and sushi joints come and go, but the Polish Deli is forever. Well, not exactly, but it has held down the storefront for nearly a decade — pretty close to forever in Las Vegas strip mall terms. The narrow, utilitarian space is packed with products from Eastern Europe: a half-dozen varieties of (unexpectedly tasty) frozen pierogis, glass bottles of vividly colored fruit nectars, tins of “breakfast pork ham” and every darn thing you can possibly do with beets. And, of course, many varieties of pickles in giant glass jars with dill blossoms and chunks of garlic floating near the bottom — pickles as they were meant to be, and as far from your mass-supermarket variety as Warsaw is from Summerlin.

At the cash register, the blonde proprietress is absorbed in voluble Polish conversation with a customer as she wraps up an order of wedding sausage. Behind the counter is a mural of a dancing couple in traditional Polish dress; below that, shelves of floral face masks, herbal eye creams and exotic varieties of Nivea. Bags of candies are packaged with adorable cartoons of rosy-cheeked farm boys or Bambi-eyed cows — even if you don’t know the flavor, anything so cute must be delicious. LTR

Valley Cheese & Wine
, 1570 Horizon Ridge Parkway #140, 341-8191,

Valley Cheese & Wine is no hidden treasure; local gourmands have been pillaging its well-stocked Henderson shelves for six years now. But in case you didn’t know, it moved: conveniently, just down the street. Now it’s the farthest thing from hidden, fronting Horizon Ridge Parkway in a nice new space with extra, well, space. Does bigger mean better for a store that already serviced visitors from all over the valley with an expansive wine selection and tough-to-find-elsewhere artisanal food products? But of course. The Valley Cheese & Wine experience will now include more cheese and wine during your experience, which is to say the bigger space affords expansive (and free!) in-store tastings. (Don’t worry, the weekly wine classes aren’t going anywhere.) It was already temptingly easy to spend an afternoon getting lost in deliciousness here; now, it’s all but mandatory. BR

Clothing, couture and design

Home sleek home
, 3901 West Russell Road, 616-9280,

“The best kind of design is design that you appropriate into your life, that makes you happy and makes your life a little better,” says Unica Home owner Hugh Fogel.

Spoken like a true … scientist? Yes: Fogel actually studied molecular biology in college, financing his education by buying and selling art in the bygone era before eBay. Fogel eventually gave up the microscope, but kept his keen eye. He started UnicaHome in Birmingham, Mich., and moved the business to Las Vegas in 2002 to have access to a greater range of product. They now represent more than 400 brands, big and small. And they do this quite well. Some of my favorite pieces: pillow pancakes and butter pads (made by local artists Todd von Bastiaans and Brian McCarthy), Rubik’s Cube salt and pepper shakers, and a low-profile couch with textured taupe upholstery that feels like you’re sitting on the most comfortable packaging ever created. DM

Creative Space
, 1421 S. Commerce St., 439-3923

The showroom at Creative Space is one of those places where, yes, you might find that one unique piece that defines a room, but more importantly (and much more fun), you might discover what you like. I was mesmerized by a purple print of Yul Brynner from “Westworld,” in all his scary-kitschy glory. That would define any of my rooms. But the boutique showroom is just the tip of Vegas native Hayley Hunter’s design iceberg: she’s got a giant warehouse/workshop where she’s customizing inspired furnishings, sculpting funky figures and generally just plushing things up. If you’re the type who wants to tell your guests that you picked up that classic-cool armchair at this crazy little shop downtown, that can be accomplished here. But if you really want to spend some time on it, match up your personal aesthetic (or define it) with a bold upholstery choice and unique structure, well, now we’re talking. Now this chair is yours in every sense. That’s probably why she calls it Creative Space, right?

Glassic Art
, 2972 S. Rainbow Blvd., 875-5111

Leslie Rankin won’t tell you how she’s able to color glass without heating it — that’s a trade secret she spent eight years developing — but she will beautify your home with her Glassic Art creations. Rankin custom-designs everything from the sculptures to waterless waterfalls and more functional items such as floor tiles, backsplashes and light panels. A gorgeous ocean-inspired bathroom has glass countertops, recalling incoming waves that pour into sink vessels, above driftwood cupboards installed by another local shop, Artesia Kitchen and Bath. Glassic Art recently found a new home in Artesia’s showroom — an obvious union since the companies often collaborate on projects. Both Glassic Art and Artesia have adapted to the economy. Artesia, which used to be strictly high-end, now carries Lowe’s and Home Depot products. As for Glassic Art, by avoiding the costly kiln process, Rankin can sell her wares for less than you’d think. “My biggest challenge is that people figure they can’t afford it,” she says. “They rob themselves of the opportunity of having something spectacular, when we’ve fit into budgets for 26 years.” CC

Mina Olive Boutique
, In The Market LV at Tivoli Village, 440 S. Rampart Blvd.

“No two brides should ever be alike.” That’s Megan Thompson's motto — and she takes it as seriously as, well, a wedding vow. In a world of mass-market production, Mina Olive owner Thompson believes in quality, craftsmanship — and uniqueness. “I want each dress to be one-of-a-kind and a perfect representation of each bride. … I love being able to give the brides more options and ideas than they ever thought was possible.” The journey to the perfect dress begins with a bride-to-be walking in the doors of Mina Olive — and lots of questions. Thompson quizzes her on her personal style, likes, dislikes — even her favorite band — to get a feel for her personality. After perusing fabric samples and designs, Thompson sketches preliminary designs, and moves on to fitting when she nails the right look. Brides don’t just get a dream dress — they get a deep sense of satisfaction in being part of the fun. “They really get to experience the whole process of making their dress from start to finish,” says Thompson. No objections to that union. CM

, The District at Green Valley Ranch, 2235 Village Walk Drive, 242-1029

Stylish and perky stay-home mom Bobbie Helseth needed something to do when her son went off to school, so she found herself a spot in The District — where Henderson moms like to treat themselves — and opened a women’s clothing boutique. Eight years later, Colorz has a steady stream of chic and loyal moms, some of whom drop in weekly, which is as often as new items arrive. It carries (you guessed it!) colorful clothing that can’t generally be found elsewhere in Vegas, and includes four lines. Bird & Vine features California-style loungewear of the softest fabrics — sweats, tanks and hoodies — blinged-out mommy-style in rhinestone hearts. Sky is a slightly pricier but popular line: a stylish, tie-dyed maxi dress costs $140. Desigual (of Europe) is Helseth’s newest fashion-forward line. But the store’s all-time bestseller is a long ruched skirt by Elan that Helseth stocks year-round. The best part about Colorz is Helseth’s eagerness to make Mom happy. You don’t like the rhinestone hearts? Prefer cherries, or baseballs or spiders? Helseth will custom-order to suit your taste. CC

, In The Cosmopolitan, 698-7605

DJ Vice’s sneaker boutique CRSVR (“crossover”) offers limited-edition men’s and women’s sports shoes and frilly-free clothing in a laid-back lounge atmosphere complete with a “Beats by Dre” listening station. Shoppers get free music CDs with each purchase. Fashionistas can find court-ready Nikes, including Air Jordans and the latest model from Kobe Bryant, plus Supra and Native footwear displayed as wearable urban art. There are comfy cool threads and lids (hats) from Five Four Clothing, And Still La Brea, Brixton, Krew, and SLVDR. CRSVR’s street-ready gear has a casual hip-hop vibe that’s both colorful and chic. The store, which first opened in Santa Barbara, has since exported its brand of culture, fashion and fun to The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. CRSVR also has occasional in-store events such as a recent June 9 meet-and-greet with super-DJ Steve Aoki. TI

, In The Market LV at Tivoli Village, 440 S. Rampart Blvd.

Imagine all the best Pinterest boards — everything you’ve ever repinned and favorited — brought to life and placed in one stunning gallery. Better yet, all the items are repurposed, upcycled and eco-conscious. That gives you an idea of what Artifact offers. The brainchild of Molly Gaddy-Walters, this boutique brings local artists together with artists from across the country to create a blend of home furnishings, gifts and clothing.

“I wanted to create an accessible art gallery,” says Gaddy-Walters. “Everything I carry is made by an artist. I don’t go through any vendors or any distributors. Everything is bought from an artist or consigned by an artist.” Really good artists — such as Ryan Boase, whose ReAcoustic line features iPod and iPad speaker docks that turn vintage brass instruments and gramophones into acoustic amplifiers that, amazingly, require no electricity. Local artists hold their own in this gallery of wonders as well. Joel Spencer’s one-of-a kind retro TV mirrors may not be delivering Nielsen ratings anymore, but they’d rate highly as wow-inducing conversation pieces on any wall. CM

Amarai Boutique

Amari Boutique
, 10271 S. Eastern Ave. #114 in Henderson, 476-3900

Nestled in an unassuming shopping center on South Eastern Avenue sits Amari Boutique, a specialty dress shop. What makes Amari so special? It all begins with the owner Marisela Altamirano’s sharp sense of style. Amari Boutique focuses on contemporary, affordable pieces designed by up-and-coming talent and not typically carried by major retailers. “Vegas is about being social,” Altamirano says. “It’s about looking put-together and presentable all the time. I wanted women to be able to stop into a neighborhood boutique and find something chic to wear to work, to cocktail hour — and then that they could dress up to for evening.” The designers carried include some of her favorites, such as Mink Pink, Keepsake the Label, TFNC London, Cameo, Finders Keepers and JJ Winters. CM

Candy Beach Swimwear
, In the Fashion Show Mall, 866-5950

In the center of the Fashion Show Mall is a display of such vibrant color that you can’t help but take notice of the itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, Colombian-cut, hand-finished bikinis that adorn Candy Beach Swimwear’s kiosk. They work just as effectively poolside — and if the gorgeous colors don’t get you noticed, the brilliant patterns and unique embellishing will. Think of so many beads and rhinestones, sequins and sheers, frills, laces and unlikely fabrics coming together to make up elaborate little (and I do mean little) pieces of art to dress up your most personal parts. But it’s the cut of the suits that owners Candice Severino and Marcela Chica credit for the popularity of their product. American-made swimwear is generally cut rounded in the tush, but these suits, imported from Colombia, are cut straight (like small triangles) to fit better and avoid any unpleasant sagging. Candy Beach carries four different designers — Agua Bendita is the fanciest; Phax has an impeccable fit — and prices range from $100 to $200. Since they order only three of each design (one each in small, medium and large), it’s unlikely you’ll end up in an embarrassing “Who-wore-it-best?” tabloid shot. CC

Electric Lemonade

Electric Lemonade
, 220 E. Charleston Blvd. 776-7766

Nestled in the heart of the Arts District, this sunlit, clean, super-cool boutique store (its name is a reference to Ken Kesey’s “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”) is a million light years away from the lowly concept of downtown thrifting. Sisters Courtney and Kinsey Peters make an adorable and friendly team. They’re always rockin’ rad threads themselves and are nonstop busy — watching them joke with each other while wrestling pants onto a not-so-manly mannequin is a hoot. Indeed, these retro-savvy redheads hand-pick every item displayed in their “vintage fashion bodega,” from ’50s-era railroad denim men’s jeans to a carbon-dated ’80s-metal Quiet Riot sleeveless T. Nothing here could be unearthed at Savers. Prices are right, too, from cowboy boots to high school letter jackets to name-brand accessories that once ruled Cold War America. Here, Vegas’ urban-hipster elite comes to get garb — Lady Silvia bartenders, Globe salonists and any musician worth her indie-rock salt. JK

Patina Décor
, 1211 S. Main Street, 776-6222

Patina Décor on Main Street has everything from gleaming mid-mod barware to sparkly Hollywood Regency lighting to industrial-chic furniture, but the eclectic mix is bound by a simple philosophy. “Everything in our store is a carefully curated object of desire,” says co-owner Kate Aldrich. Her partner Tim Shaffer — as laid-back as Aldrich is poised and placid — has his own word for it: “Groovy.” Opened in April, the fine vintage furniture and decor store has quickly become a must-shop stop for the new urbanites putting roots downtown and 'burb-dwellers dressing up their homes — and for good reason: “Tim has a phenomenal eye for beautiful things,” says Aldrich, whose own relaxed elegance and curatorial instincts hint at her former life as a plate designer for five-star hotels and restaurants. But their shared vision goes beyond just a successful store. They chose Main Street for Patina Décor — with the support of neighboring shop Retro Vegas — to plant the seed for something bigger. “If you have just one business, you’re a destination,” says Aldrich. “We want to be more than a destination. We want to be part of a larger business district on Main Street, where it’s shop, shop, shop, coffee, shop, shop, lunch — a place where you can spend the entire day around these hip little stores.” When this portion of Main Street grows up into a buzzing design district, you can guarantee it’ll be impeccably furnished. AK

Arts, literature, music and leisure

NinjabotRevenge of the nerds, Ninjabot, At Maximum Comics, 520 Marks St. and 5130 S. Fort Apache Road,

Geek culture is cool now, but geeks always knew they would be cool someday. This is the conclusion I’ve accepted from admiring the quirky little works of Ninjabot, designs I feel the need to collect comprehensively because they’re just so cool. It’s tough to decide which playful iPhone cover you need more, the minimalist pop art innuendo of the steaming hot cocoa mug murmuring “Blow Me,” or the one recasting ’80s TV alien Alf as Chewbacca. These creations come from Estefania Rodriguez and Arnel Baluyot, First Friday regulars who are getting big; they’ll be vendors at this month’s New York Comic Con. It doesn’t get geekier. Luckily, we don’t have to travel to acquire these nifty prints and knick-knacks. Just go online and tell me you won’t compulsively order the Star Wars postage stamp set, brilliantly chronicling all six episodes. Resist, you will not. BR

Sunday Project Reset
, Various locations, 769-2991

Sometimes you need to push the reset button on life, to kickstart the person you know you can be. So, on the first Sunday of every month, leave your cozy womb of existential angst and get ready for some serious renewal. Welcome to the Reset Project, where doers show up at 7 a.m. to begin a transformative journey through the fivefold path. 1. Move: A walk, run or ride that challenges you no matter your level of physical fitness. 2. Stretch: A session to sate your inner yogi. 3. Meditate: Center those brain waves. 4. Act: Neurons fire as Alexia Vernon helps you find your moxie. 5. Eat: A communal breakfast for the Vegas vegans. Sunday Reset is held in various locations throughout the city and often sells out. Get on the mailing list — and get ahead of the holiday weight gain. MM

Violin Outlet
, 900 E. Karen Ave. #A122, 733-3028

If you ask Mara Lieberman, the owner of Violin Outlet, what makes her store so special, she'll tell you it's her staff, many of whom have been with her for decades, and several of whom began as young students in the store's music education program, such as her manager, Sabrina Saffel, who was 11 when she began lessons at Violin Outlet. If you ask Lieberman's staff, they'll tell you it's Lieberman who's kept customers coming back for 30 years: "I've never met a more honest woman, ever," says Barbara Gurley, a cello instructor with 28 years under her bow. Probably it's both — and then some other factors, such as the fact that Violin Outlet is the number one supplier for the Clark County School District's orchestra program, and that program is one of the largest in the country. That this store is one of the few to still stock an enormous selection of hard-copy sheet music — despite that it takes up space, and is more of a hassle than a moneymaker — might also have something to do with it. Violin Outlet sells, rents, and repairs more bowed string instruments — violins, violas and cellos — than any other store in Vegas. CC

The News
, 3720 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 590-9229

Crystals at CityCenter is supposed to offer a high-end shopping experience. So then why is there a grubby newsstand and sundry shop plopped on the first floor near valet? Well, actually, The News isn't an airport junk stall, where you only pick up a trashy celeb-sniffing mag to read during a flight. This is an elegantly designed — hey, check out the ceiling fixtures and the towering magazine displays — little shop that sells advanced items like wine, liquor and designer chocolates, not to mention a much wider array of magazines and newspapers, national and international. The News is perfectly positioned next to the Crystals coffee shop, The Cup, where you can guzzle java and flip through the New York Times or, if you lean the other way, the Wall Street Journal. Or maybe you'd like to veg out with the Globe and gaze at never-before-published pics of topless Lucille Ball. In any case, who says print is dead? JK

Kidrobot, Inside The Cosmopolitan, 698-7670

Kidrobot is bringing pop vinyl cool to Vegas. The 10-year-old collectible toymaker has a store inside The Cosmopolitan specializing in limited-edition artist figurines, plush objects and counterculture T-shirts. The inventory runs the imaginative gamut from subversive plastic items to tongue-in-cheek creations from Marc Jacobs and Nike. Designer Frank Kozik, for example, recently produced for the retailer a smoking rabbit in bondage with detachable dog collar chain. Kidrobot's launch of a new Dunny — or a customizable bunny figurine — can become a rock concert-like event. Collectors lined up late into the night in June to get a Dunny signed by artists Mad and Scribe. Toys sell from $5 up to $25,000, with many editions selling out fast. Kidrobot figurines have even been displayed at New York's Museum of Modern Art. But don't be intimidated: The store has a fun fanboy vibe that is lax and playful. TI

, In The Market LV at Tivoli Village, 440 S. Rampart Blvd.

Strategize your next purchase at ChessNGames, one of the many small retail stores nestled in Tivoli Village's newly opened The Market LV. Capture (well, actually, you have to buy them) lion-headed chess chairs sufficient to intimidate any opponent. In the mood for a more elegant game? Then consider GO, the original Japanese art of war in which, on a 19 x 19 grid, opponents employ black and white stones to grab territory and ensnare enemies. My own personal wish list includes Diplomacy, JFK and Kissinger's favorite game, no doubt because it's far more Machiavellian than Risk: Players conspire with each other only to turn quisling in their quest for world domination. ChessNGames plans on hosting game nights at The Market LV, so be prepared to mate the competition while indulging in crudités and cotton candy. MM

Martin Lawrence Galleries
, In The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, 991-5990

You've got extra cash, you want art, a big-name artist and maybe a little something that matches the sofa. (It's okay. A lot of people want something to match the sofa when buying art; they just don't say it out loud.)

If that's your criteria and you don't want to leave town or deal online with Christie's or Sotheby's, an option might be Martin Lawrence Galleries in The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Its on-site inventory has works by Erte (lots of Erte!), Warhol, Picasso, Chagall and Murakami, to name a few. Works by Keith Haring, Alex Katz and Roy Lichtenstein are always great to see without being bombarded by sales clerks in the 26,000 square-foot gallery. Also in stock are original paintings by lesser-known artists and an occasional treat like the arrival last month of Calder's "Spiral, 1966 (‘No! to Frank Lloyd Wright')." If the Chagall and Picasso etchings, lithographs or serigraphs aren't doing it for you, ask what the company might have in its 10 other galleries throughout the United States — from San Francisco to New York City and down to New Orleans. And since we're not talking about multimillion-dollar originals, you can get something lovely for the living room for under $10,000. (I'd go with a Katz.) KP

Battlezone Comics & Gaming
, 7910 Tropical Parkway #120, 645-7249

Some comic stores have rows upon rows of graphic novels, alphabetized bins of comic books and corners packed with dice and card packs, but some, like BattleZone Comics & Gaming, seem to sense that too much merchandise can be downright overwhelming. Instead of opting for in-and-out customer sales, this northwest Las Vegas shop has created an open and inviting atmosphere that encourages community over consumerism. No comic store would be complete without a wall of the newest comic books, a variety of strategy games and a large supply of gaming supplies, but BattleZone's in-store gaming tables and scheduled events make it an experience, not just a shop. There are about 40 regular players (mainly guys) who frequent BattleZone to roll dice and strategize through imagined scenarios, but anyone is welcome to participate in organized play days for games ranging from Magic: The Gathering to Game of Thrones. If your adventure of choice isn't on the schedule, stop in on an open gaming day and grab a table for your self-conducted play of Dungeons & Dragons, War Machine or whatever else grabs at your inner geek. JH

Pololu Robotics and Electronics
,920 Pilot Road, 262-6648

"Engage your brain" is owner Jan Malášek's mantra (and the name of his blog). Fact is, you have to be one smart cookie to be a Pololu customer, as the intellectually faint of heart will drown in their sea of electronic components and boards just jonesing to become robots (or robot armies). To pursue their dreams of engaging the high-end robotics community, Jan and his cohorts moved from Boston (and MIT specifically) to bask and thrive in Nevada's low-tax, libertarian mecca — now with more than 50 employees to boot. On Pololu's website, you'll find a host of sensors, controllers, gear boxes, motors, breadboards and regulators to piece together your own robotic hedgehog. They sell online only, but local enthusiasts opt to drink in the culture and pick up parts at their south valley HQ. Pololu is also home to the LVBots robotic club ( and the host of SYN Shop's beginner maker classes. Solder on! MM

Dead Poet Books
, 937 S. Rainbow Blvd., 227-4070

You know how an old book can stop you in your tracks? And, having blown away the dust, you open the cover and the words seize you until the world falls away? The same sort of thing happens when you step into Dead Poet Books. Linda Piediscalzi, the sweet lady who's owned this used bookstore with her husband, Rich, since 1994, wants it to be "a place to step away from the outside for a while."

So, with the traffic whizzing by on Rainbow, children nestle in pint-sized chairs to get lost in fairytales while their parents peruse the classics in the literary section of the calm and peaceful shop. There are also plenty of books on metaphysics and religion, and a whole table of books for a dollar. Dead Poet takes mass market paperbacks on trade, but it's been a while since Piediscalzis have been able to buy books from the public.

"It's a struggle," she says of trying to keep the shop in the face of ever-advancing technology, where downloading literature is cheap and convenient. To compete, the store hosts community events, writers' groups, science fiction fantasy groups and art workshops, to attract browsers and sales. "It's hard to watch this whole thing unfold," says the soft-spoken Piediscalzi, before she warns: "If people want books to continue, they're going to have to support their local bookstores — used or new." CC


Alligator Soup
, Paper and Gift Boutique, 9350 W. Sahara #130, 804-0544

"Alligator soup, alligator soup / If I don't get some I think I'm gonna droop," goes the children's rhyme from which this charming stationery and custom invitation shop took its name, in 1982, when Sharon Carelli and Helen Edell opened their doors. The shopkeepers credit the quality products for their success — for many years, Alligator Soup was one of the only shops in Vegas to carry the superior Crane & Co. invitations. Oh, and their specialized service.

"We are etiquette-centered," says Carelli. But the crowd that recently gathered for Alligator Soup's elegant 30th birthday soiree leads me to believe it is these two lovely women who keep their customers loyal. "We did wedding invitations for them, and now we're doing their children's bar mitzvahs, or their grandchildren's birth announcements," says Carelli.

Jam-packed with specialty paper, novelty items, precious gifts and personal treats, Alligator Soup makes for wonderful browsing, even if you don't have an event coming up. Stop by — you don't need an invitation. CC

Peloton Sports

Peloton Sports
, 911 N. Buffalo Dr. #101, 363-1991

OK, let's say you're serious about road bicycle racing or anywhere close to pro level. Then you may want to consider a trip to this hardcore haven for bike nuts in outer Summerlin. (Quick test: If you think a Giro is what you inhale at Mediterranean eateries, skip this one.) Here you'll find elite, handcrafted machines, like the $3,500 2013 Trek Domane 5.2 C or a less pocketbook-damaging but still pretty sweet pair of $150 Bontrager RXL road shoes. More importantly, for those of us who love to ride but somehow lack the repairing gene, there's an on-site service department staffed with techs who can get you overhauled or finely tuned, and walk-ins are welcome. Of course, racing foodstuffs are almost as strangely compelling as astronaut ice cream. In other words, don't walk out of this shop with too many organic Honey Stinger chocolate waffles like we did. Forget doping — check Lance's waffle levels! JK

Desert Rock Sports
, 8221 W. Charleston, 254-1143

If you want to buy outdoors gear in Las Vegas from a local shop staffed by experienced mountaineers with tons of local knowledge, there's only one place to go. Literally. Desert Rock Sports is Las Vegas' only locally owned outdoors retailer, and their small shop, just 15 minutes from Red Rock, is packed to the rafters with top-quality rock climbing and expedition gear. Not only do they have an impressive selection of goods, from bolts to backpacks, they have the expertise to tell customers exactly what works best for each adventure. Of course, expertise comes with a price, and Desert Rock Sports sells its wares at full MSRP. But the buying experience makes it worth every penny. Whether you're climbing or mountaineering, Desert Rock Sports' staff knows that their customers' lives will depend on the equipment they're buying, and they go the extra mile to make sure that people get precisely what they need. That effort brings peace of mind you just can't get at a big-box store. JK

Gotta Getta Map
, 1566 Western Ave., 678-6277

"Whadda I gotta getta map for?" you ask. "I've got GPS!"

"If you think you're gonna just use GPS, get a map and bring plenty of water," says Kurt Wippler, a genial, gray-bearded fellow who has been the proprietor of Gotta Getta Map for more than a decade. "Give me a map and a compass and I won't get lost."

Even if you're not planning a road trip into Death Valley, Gotta Get a Map has plenty to peruse. The small shop is crammed floor to ceiling with maps, from "Streetwise Athens" to a regional map of Tuscany to full-color cartography of French Guiana, along with maps for fishing and hunting. There are globes, relief maps and guides from "Paiute Valley ATV Trails" to "Where to Find Gold."

"There's over 50,000 maps in here, easy," says Wippler. Their most expensive? "Afghanistan," he says. "It's life-threatening to try to go there and map it. That's why the price is high, as far as maps go." Most popular? The Directions Street Guide, a turn-by-turn explanation of how to get everywhere in town. "I used it all of the time back when I was making deliveries," says Wippler. Who better to help you figure out where you're going than someone who spent a chunk of his younger years looking for unknown addresses? LTR

Bone Appetit
, 4985 Fort Apache Road, 644-3644

Animals have it so easy. While our taste for fine food forces us to trek all the way to the Strip, Fido can get his foodie fix by hitting the nearest strip mall. Only holistic and organic brands of kibble line the shelves of this natural foods pet shop. If you're browsing their selection and think you heard an oven timer go off, you'd be right. Unlike the pet treat aisle of your nearest big box store, Bone Appetit's in-house bakery provides a range of fresh-baked goods that have been known to make humans drool. Start with a bacon Parmesan muffin, move on to a slice of pizza, and finish with a peanut butter cookie for dessert — not you, the dog! The shop's behavior and training classes don't cover table manners, but if your pet gets crumbs caught in its fur, they can be cleaned off afterward in the shop's grooming station. DL

Samy's Grooming Salon
, 693 N. Valle Verde Drive, 435-0667

Entrusting your animal to a groomer is the same as searching for a babysitter — you want to keep your "kids" safe, calm — and it doesn't hurt if they have a little fun. Well, drop 'em off at Samy's. You'll feel at ease the moment you open the door. You're greeted by soothing music, and the clients being clipped all seem to have happy looks on their faces. It's a bona fide pet sanctuary. Not only do Samy's works of art come alive on all dog breeds, but cats will be making a fancy statement as well — and, as anyone who's looked for a good cat groomer knows, it would be easier to climb an active volcano. The lion cuts are priceless, and not only will they keep your kitty cooler, they'll reinforce good grooming habits — worth the price of the cut alone. Once Samy and his staff have worked on your pet, you'll want for no other groomer. JP

Well Rounded Baby Boutique, 6000 S. Eastern Ave. #9A, 795-2500

Time was, the only breastfeeding supplies a new mother needed were the ones nature gave her. Throw in a pink or blue baby bag and some diapers, and you were good to go. But something about those plastic diapers bugged. Today's moms are blessed with a bounty of earth-friendly nursing and nurturing options for their newborns that would make Dr. Spock's head spin. From the birth experience itself (bed or birth-tub?) to the best way to wear your baby (Mei-Tai or Moby Wrap?), the choices are endless.

Guidance and support and really cute cloth diapers — with names like Bummis and Fuzzibunz — are all in stock at the Well Rounded Baby Boutique, nestled within the Well Rounded Momma, dedicated to offering women "mind and body awareness during the transition to motherhood." Area midwives, like Well Rounded Momma owner Sherry Hopkins, doulas and herbalists have banded together with boutique owner Brittany Hollister, and together these passionate, knowledgeable women provide expert guidance for expectant mothers (and fathers) via classes and workshops on baby wearing, attachment parenting, cloth diapering and breastfeeding. And who could resist a business with a product line that includes "Fuzzibunz?" HM

Tobacco Leaf
, 9400 S. Eastern Ave. #105 and 7175 W. Lake Mead #120, 897-5977

Mark Twain famously said, "If I cannot smoke cigars in heaven, I shall not go." A better destination might be Tobacco Leaf. Tobacco Leaf is much more than your average smoke shop. Their two locations are staffed by knowledgeable, avid smokers, who share their customers' passion for fine tobacco products. The walk-in humidors are well-stocked with everything from Havana Honeys to Fuente's Opus X, all kept at a perfect 70 degrees and 70 percent humidity. What really sets Tobacco Leaf apart: their special events. Tobacco Leaf regularly plays host to some of the giants in the cigar industry at their customer appreciation events. In addition to meeting big shots, events regularly include free food and drinks, as well as giveaways ranging from free cigars to pricey humidors. Tobacco Leaf has even hosted a "Leave your wallet at home" free cigar day! As an added bonus, hang out for a while and enjoy your stogie in the back room, decked out with a big screen TV, comfy, oversized chairs, and plenty of ash trays. They'll even light your cigar for you. AG

Vegas Homebrew & Winemaking
, 5140 W. Charleston Blvd., 207-2337

The warm smell of earthy grains is the first indication that something is brewing in this small, utilitarian shop. Simple wire shelving heaped with plastic buckets, bags of bottle caps and glass bottles make Vegas Homebrew & Winemaking feel like the discount section of a neighborhood hardware store, but all these items have a purpose: To make the perfect batch of homebrewed beer. Though the store is also well-stocked with beer kits ranging from stouts to IPAs, winemaking kits for a variety of discerning palates and bags of malts, hops and flavorings (orange peel or licorice root, anyone?) for more advanced brewers, it is owner Steve Berg's passion for the art of homebrew that defines this store. He is quick to develop a rapport with anyone who walks through the door, happy to explain beer-making to newbies at a simple demonstration station and talk strategy to kitchen brewers with a few bottles under their belts. Steve even willingly and patiently answers questions and provides advice by phone for those brewing emergencies. We'll raise a glass to that. JH

Hi-Rollers Barbershop & Shaving Parlor
, 1120 S. Maryland Parkway, 382-6790

Pomp (as in pompadour) it up at this old-school barbershop on the edge of the historic Huntridge district downtown. Barber Martin Corona and his brothers-in-clippers will give you whatever you want — flat top, crew cut, high and tight, burr, bowl, businessman, whitewalls, fade or just a clean, warm-foamed, razor-bladed shave. (Nothing beats it.) Corona is such a cool cat, he plays guitar in rockabilly band Will & the Hi-Rollers, from which the shop takes its name. Sure, Hi-Rollers seems like a guy's place, what with the latest issues of Playboy and Lowrider within easy reach, and rockabilly music playing in the background. But scores of ladies, moms and kids, and suit-and-tie types from the nearby law and medical offices come for the retro atmosphere (original artworks adorn the walls) and great conversation. Oh, one more thing: If you're a "Mad Men" fanatic, you should know that no other place provides a better "Don Draper" 'do than Hi-Rollers. JK

MJ Christensen Diamonds
, 10400 S. Eastern Ave., 617-8818, and 8980 W. Charleston Blvd., 952-2300

You have to hear Jennifer Miller for yourself. It's almost as though her voice has bold, italics, underlining — all stylizing the font she speaks in, which might be called EARNEST ENTHUSIASM.

"In the bigger picture, we work for other people, our common brother — and that's how you have joy in life, by giving the opportunity for others to experience joy. And when you give others the opportunity to experience joy, you get a sense of purpose in your own life," she says. Sounds like the bubblings of a Peace Corps recruit. But Miller is in the jewelry biz. As director of marketing for MJ Christensen Diamonds, her job is to promote the store. Now she's joining the store's community roots with a global cause. Under her direction, MJ Christensen has taken on a cluster of iniatives dubbed "Ethical Affair" that ensure diamond producers get a fair shake. MJ Christensen's sales of BeadforLife bracelets and necklaces support business literacy education of women in Uganda; its participation in the Diamond Development Initiative ensures artisanal diamond miners are fairly paid; and it supports the Diamond Empowerment Fund to educate girls in Botswana.

"One of the guiding themes of our business has been to embrace the community," says MJ Christensen owner Cliff Miller. "Now we're extending our reach to embrace the world." — AK






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