By Marisa Demarco, Simon McCormack, Amy Dalness and Steven Robert Allen
It's the American way. Indeed, many of this year's voters have a predilection for venturing down the florescent aisles of the megachains—which is also the American way. But this is the Best of Burque, folks. So you're going to have to let the giant franchises go. Trust us. They can take care of themselves. Instead, raise your glass and swipe your credit card for the local businesses with unique goods and funky flare. Here's to the stores that have snagged your hearts—and a little something from your pocketbooks.
Best Independent Bookstore
Page One, the house of words in the Northeast Heights, wins again. Is it the coffee? The events? The selection? Take your pick. It's enormous ... and independent—and it doesn't get much better than that.
Bound To Be Read (RIP) got second-place last year, and someone's holding onto the memory; it got one sentimental vote. Let's toss a dog-eared paperback on its grave and move on. Give it up for Bookworks, wearing the silver medal, and Birdsong's self-described “barbarian antiquarians,” hoisting the bronze.
Best Place to Buy New Music
Regional chain Hastings strikes again, poised atop the music store heap with arms folded and a gleaming, golden crown on its kingly head. Loyal subjects will tell you about reasonable prices and all the latest, well-known releases. Now, if we could only get rid of that "Happy Trails" song that lets you know the store is closing.
Right under the champ? The local, independent and ever-knowledgeable Natural Sound. The people behind the counter know everything about everything, and you can listen to whatever you want before you buy it. But let's not forget about Downtown's Mecca, your third-place pick, with its selection of vinyl, tapes and CDs. Owner Rocky's extensive palate makes this song shop sing.
Best Place to Buy Used Music
Hastings, you longtime monolith, you unshakable king of the hill—your racks upon racks of used CDs have lured penny-pinchers through your doors for years. But Natural Sound is hot on your heals in this department. And Mecca was narrowly squeezed out of third place by Charley's Records & Tapes, with its ... er ... records and tapes. And CDs. And killer deals on trades. Take heart, Duke City. These stubborn indies, wealthy in personality, are hanging on.
Best DVD/Video Store
OK! You guys like Hastings. We get it. It's No. 1 again in the DVD/Video department. Admittedly, Hastings is one of the best places in town to rent or buy seasons of TV shows. And those late fees aren't terribly exorbitant. For those of us who wouldn't be able to return a movie within the alloted time frame if they were holding our grandmother hostage, this is very important.
Hollywood Video, a shop with an eye for cult classics and a section for foreign films, got hooked up with the silver. In a tight race, Burning Paradise stole third place right out from under venerable hometown favorite Alphaville. Is anyone else heartened by the knowledge that one can make a living off such cinematic greatness as The Stink of Flesh?
Best Thrift Store
Savers rocks, voters say. As one person put it, "It's all about the fragrance." But whether you're seeking a 20-pound calculator, fancy outfit or Army-issued camo pants, you can't go wrong with Savers. Thrift Town, with its even cheaper discount days, and Buffalo Exchange, thrift for the hip, tied for second. The Bargain Box rounds out the list at third place.
Best Vintage/Antique Clothing Store
What, exactly, distinguishes "vintage" clothing from "old" clothing? An Alibi staffer insists that it has something to do with how old something is. So if it's a slightly off button-up shirt from the '80s, it is not vintage. But if it's from before then, it gets its vintage badge. I'm sure an angry letter or two will clear this up for us.
The winner is Buffalo Exchange, for all your new, used, more used, very used and vintage (super-used?) needs. Thrift Town sidles in at second. Off Broadway, specializing in vintage and costumes, takes a seat and artfully crosses its legs at third.
Best Jewelry Store
Ooh! Aah! Jewelry
Looking for a big hunk of ice to show the love of your life how you really feel about her? Once again, Alibi readers prefer the simple quality of Ooh! Aah! Jewelry over and above the competition. The store now has locations both in Nob Hill and Downtown. Lilly Barrack swept up a second-place medal for jewelry mainly crafted with silver and semi-precious gems. Longtime local favorite Mati by Kabana got third place.
Best Men's Clothing Store
Free Radicals, a mine for the funky and the punky on Lead, plants its flag on the summit of this category. Robert R. Bailey, a shop so plush you can make appointments after-hours, fought its way in for second. The Lobo Men's Shop, somewhere between business and casual, found a home at third.
Best Women's Clothing Store
Wow. Some of us really like our women's clothing shops. Some of us have very strong opinions about these shops. But none of us can really agree on which are best. The spread of answers on this category was so wide even yo' mama's behind couldn't compete.
Competition was fierce, but Free Radicals has won Alibi readers over once again. Coming in second, Ruby Shoesday got plenty of props. And you can never go wrong with a stalwart like Buffalo Exchange, which got third.
Best Shoe Store
Shoes on a Shoestring
The feat for feet, the clue for cats clad in clodhoppers, readers overwhelmingly seek solace at Shoes on a Shoestring. Coming in second, Ruby Shoesday is also purported to pedal pleasant footwear. And, for a spring in your step, many citizens select Z-coil, which came in third.
Best Computer Store
Geeks and their gadgetry—it's the boy and his dog for the 21st century. And the informed among us prefer Sandia Computers. It was a three-way tie for second between Baillio's, Computer Corner and I-40 Computers, Inc. Finally, PC Magic on Eubank got plenty of kudos and came in third.
Best Comic Book Store
Astro-Zombies has toys, toys and more toys for you—I'm sorry, "collectible figurines." They even have a Napoleon Dynamite one coming soon that looks pretty sweet. Addicted to Comics, Lobo Anime and Comics/Noble Collectibles have to share the honor of second place. Comic Warehouse rode off into the sunset with third.
Best Furniture Store
American Home Furnishings
Once again, American Home Furnishings is our reigning champion. Their wide selection of all kinds of contemporary furniture, coupled with their numerous other departments ranging from home décor, patio and grills to bridal registry and futons made this store a lock to repeat as No. 1 on our readers' list. American Home also has a stellar reputation for customer service, as does our runner-up, TEMA Contemporary Furniture. TEMA also receives high marks for their affordable and innovative furniture stylings. Mor Furniture—for less—finished strong in third place.
Best Antique Store
Quality, quantity and a s-load of fine Persian rugs make Morningside Antiques tough to beat in the world of first-class antiquing. Our readers enjoy rummaging through the spacious store, located at Morningside and Central near Nob Hill, where they can find oil paintings, period furniture, ornaments made of sterling silver and a sales staff that's been in the biz for 18 years. If your appetite for the hoary needs further satiation, head on over to Classic Century Square, where dozens of dealers are looking to hock their wares and bargains are abundant. The Antique Specialty Mall, with its 60-some venders, wins third place.
People's Flower Shops
As spring fast approaches, young hearts turn to matters of the heart and what better way to show that special person how much they mean to you than with an edible, sexually themed cake. On the other hand, you can always go with the old standby: flowers. Our readers agree that the people who know flowers best are at People's Flower Shop, where they'll put together a ravishing bouquet featuring carnations, daisies, lilies, roses and whatever else your heart desires. Melba's Flowers on Menaul came in second and Manning Florist rounds out the top three.
Best Plant Nursery
When it comes to plant nurseries in New Mexico, Osuna is large and in charge. They're the biggest nursery in the state and, as such, they have the largest selection in the Land of Enchantment. Their knowledgeable staff is ready and able to help you with all of your plant-related inquiries, and their prices are low enough to compete with the juggernauts of the home improvement world. Alameda Greenhouses & Nursery came in second with cries of "we want Rowlands back" and "Rowlands RIP" coming in third.
Best Eclectic Gift Store
Although the award for most mischievous response in this category goes to the clever computer vote caster who entered "Castle Superstore :)," the winner for Best Eclectic Gift Store emphatically goes to Beeps. In addition to their tchotchkes galore, which include a variety of items for young and old, Beeps also has the only known selection of greeting cards with cartoons that might actually induce laughter. From the delightfully absurd to the unapologetically crude, Beeps is the place to go for humor via greeting card. Ultra-hip and über-chic Hey Jhonny and Martha's Body Bueno come in second and third, respectively.
Best Toy Store
Out of the Blue
For the child in all of us, Out of the Blue is the place Alibi readers trust for their local toy fix. From sports gear for tiny tykes to juggling paraphernalia, this place has got kids of all ages covered. Beeps also made a strong showing, as did various "adult" toy dispensers, of which Castle Superstore received the majority of the wanton responses. Astro-Zombies received third place for their array of collectible and out of the ordinary action figurines as well as their nerd-friendly atmosphere.
Best Place to Buy New Musical Instruments/Gear
Grandma's Music & Sound
On my latest trip to Grandma's, I was in search of a new drum set. As I wandered past the guitar, pro-audio and keyboard sections, I eventually came across the Yamaha Stage Custom drum set. After a quick check with the manager, a Grandma's employee gave me the go-ahead to test the hell out of the thing, and the rest is drum purchasing history. Grandma's very friendly and knowledgeable staff is low-pressure but professional in their approach, and the store's enormous selection of all types of gear makes them tough to beat in this category. Guitar Center was next on the list for their massive selection of (you guessed it) guitars, along with other musical equipment.
Best Place to Buy Used Musical Instruments/Gear
Music Go Round
For those looking to build a band on the cheap, Music Go Round is a must. They have everything from the obvious, such as guitars, drum sets and basses, to the somewhat unexpected, like keyboards and percussion equipment (e.g. maracas and tambourines). You can also sell your stuff at Music Go Round and get some cash to upgrade your equipment, bail your drummer out of jail, etc. Grandma's Music & Sound snagged second place in the category for their wide variety of used instruments and, although you won't get cash for your used Les Paul, you can trade it in towards the purchase of Grandma's gear. Guitar Boy won third place for their selection of used guitars, basses and the appropriate electronic equipment to plug them into.
Best Dry Cleaners
Route 66 Cleaners
If you're anything like me, you have quite a few suit jackets, slacks and other classy garb with food, grime and booze stains on them that you continue to wear because you're too cheap, stubborn or scared to take the clothes to the dry cleaners. Well, it's time for all of us to face our fears and head over to Route 66 Cleaners, where they take the hassle and expense out of the dry cleaning process. Not far behind in the battle to cure dry cleaning headaches are Comet Cleaners, who finished second, and Hangers and American Pride Cleaners, who both tied for third place.
Best Ethnic Supermarket
Ta Lin Super Market
For the Burque's Best respondent who asked, "what the hell is an ethnic supermarket?" I have two words for you: Ta Lin. This ethnic supermarket paradise is on the corner of Louisiana and Central, and visitors can easily spend their entire day roaming through Ta Lin's aisles. Everything from fried bananas to live lobster to Japanese sponge cake desserts are there for the taking. Each of the store's aisles corresponds to a different point on the globe and their seafood department has a ton of fresh fish while their deli has an entire section dedicated to salami. 99 Bahn Oriental Supermarket on Gibson received second place.
Best Tattoo Parlor
Star Tattoo and Body Piercing
Need to get inked? Star Tattoo is where it's at. For five years, Star Tattoo has taken top honors in this category. Everyone likes a tattoo parlor with a good rep, and Star's got loads of street cred. Custom Tattoo Co. ranked second this year with Route 66 Fine Line Tattoo right on its tail for third. Maybe one of the tattoo artists at Star will get “We're No. 1” inked across his chest. I'd like to see that.
Best Piercing Parlor
Evolution Body Piercing
If you like to get poked (and who doesn't?), Evolution is the place to get metal inserted into various parts of your body. Evolution is another body modification shop that has passed the ultimate test—word of mouth. Other parlors to tell your friends about are Star Tattoo and Body Piercing, which got the second-most votes, and Sachs Body Modifications, coming in third. You should all be commended for not writing in “at home” or “my best friend's bathroom” or some such silliness.
Delana Veirs at Mar y Sol
Wow. The sheer volume of nominees in this category is staggering. Albuquerqueans do love a good shampoo, cut and color, and, according to your votes, there are a number of great stylists around town. Delana Veirs is still making people look fabulous at Mar y Sol, capturing the top hairdresser honor for—what is it now?—seven years running. Coming in a really, really close second is Jessica Retskin at Chez D'oR and not far behind is Greg at Laru Ni Hati. “The chick” at Super Cuts got another vote this year, as did “Mom.”
Betty's Bath and Day Spa
Day spa. Those words are almost as good as “paid vacation” or “Don't worry, I'll take out the trash, then rub your feet while you sit and watch your favorite TV show.” They all equate to pure bliss, and Betty's knows bliss. La Bella Spa & Salon also knows how to help Burque relax, earning them the second-place slot. Taking the bronze is the Tamaya Mist Spa & Salon in the Hyatt Regency (we know, it's basically in Bernalillo, but more than a few of you find it worth the drive), and an honorable mention goes to Chez D'oR.
Best Massage Therapist
Maurice Chavez at Gambei Wellness Spa
It's the Albuquerque Rub-Down Challenge! Who will win? Who will lose? Who can I call when my back feels like an over-cooked prime rib? When it comes to the best massage therapist, Maurice Chavez at Gambei Wellness Spa got the most votes in this year's poll. The six-way tie for second place goes to Dan at the Natural School of Therapeutics, Debbie Oliver, Ivy Rose, Kim Purse, Kim Telles and Victoria at La Bella Spa & Salon. A big shout-out and third place goes to all the massage therapists practicing in the Duke City—you make us feel sooo good.
Best New Car Dealer
Garcia Automotive Group
Although only one person technically voted for Garcia Automotive Group proper, the fact that so many people voted for one dealership or another under the Garcia name convinced us that they deserve the No. 1 spot in 2006. To help feed the potential sibling rivalry, Garcia Honda got the most votes. Nanny nanny boo boo. Karl Malone Toyota is Albuquerque's second-favorite place to shop for a new ride, and Galles and Davis Motor Co. Inc. rounds the corner for third. An honorable mention goes to “the one that bulldozed Madstone.” You got a few votes (of a sort), too.
Best Used Car Dealer
Carmax Auto Superstores, Inc. and Cross Country Auto Sales
Last year, Cross Country was the only used car dealership to show any voter majority. This year's tally was like a mad house! Is the raise in the gas price causing more people to buy used cars or sell them? Or both? Cross Country shares the title with Carmax as this year's best place to buy something other than a lemon. Top Auto Sales wheeled and dealed its way into second and Don Chalmers Ford and Houston Wholesale tie for third. Apparently, “Shark-eating sharks with lasers” is a really good used car dealership, too, but only one person seemed to think so (smarty-pants).
Jessica Bourque ... Burque ... Borque
Cultural pundits claim that mechanics rate just below pond scum and just above lawyers on the ladder of trustworthiness. Let's face it--unless you know how to take apart a carburetor yourself, it's hard to be certain whether you're getting hosed by your mechanic. And, hell, if you knew how to take apart a carburetor, you'd just do the job yourself anyway, right? Most voters loved someone named Jessica B. They just couldn't agree on how to spell her last name, and, consequently, we couldn't find out where she works. Lame! Jessica, if you're reading this, give us a call. Apparently, you're the best in town, but we have no idea how to find you. Tom Quirk Automotive got silver. Bobby Joe's Auto Service goes home with the bronze.
Best Alternative Health Care Practitioner
Dr. Jan Jay
When your mainstream doctor fails you, and you just don't know where to turn, what do you do? If you're like thousands of Burqueños, you search out the wide range of alternative health care professionals that call our city home. Dr. Jan Jay, an acupuncture and Chinese medicine specialist at the Desert Mountain Wellness Center, took home the prize this year. Aaron Kaufman of the Integrative Medicine Clinic got second place. “That guy who gave me the stuff” and “my psycho Aunt Betty” each got one vote.
Best Item You Can Make Out of a Weekly Alibi
As usual, the most popular answers included toilet paper, bird-cage lining, campfire starter and pirate hat, but we were looking for something a little more creative. “Shoe protectors at work” was interesting, if somewhat puzzling. “Rifle silencer” was disturbing but not nearly as terrifying as “condom.” Ugh! Gross. Really. “You self grandising (sic) bastards” got one well-deserved vote. “Knee brace,” “disciplinary tool” and “blood soaker-upper” were other interesting ideas.
Best Anything We Forgot
Daniel T. Cornish wins Best Dog for the picture we published in our letters section a couple weeks ago of his adorable pooch Bruce. Other suggestions were Best Boyfriend (yuck), Best Boarding Kennel, Best All-Ages Venue, Best Animal Rescue Shelter, Best Director, Best Comedian, Best Outdoor Activity, Best Place to Run into Someone You're Trying to Avoid, Best Nincompoop, Best Local TV Commercial, Best Local Nonprofit, Best Place to Take Out-of-Town Guests, Best Thing City Government Could Do to Improve Life in Burque, Best Vet, Best Part of Town to Live In, Best Gym, Best Way to Get Around Town and Best Local Radio Program. Some of these are excellent suggestions. We'll definitely steal a bunch of them next year, and not give you any credit.