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Best of Boise

2006 Goods and Services Readers' Choices 

Readers' Picks

Best Store

Boise Co-op

The Boise Co-op wins again. Well, duh. Where else are you going to find everything from vegan delicacies to chafing dishes, natural hair dyes to fresh lox, gourmet everything and environmentally friendly cleaning supplies? It's everyone's favorite place for deli items, the best place to go for beer and, with the addition of the Flipside Cafe, it's a place you could practically live in if only they didn't kick you out at the end of the day. Healthy, hip, holistic--the Co-op isn't just a store, it's a landmark.

888 W. Fort, 472-4500

Second Place: Record Exchange

Third Place: Costco

Best Secondhand Store

Idaho Youth Ranch

Find yourself some new-to-you treasures while helping support a good local cause. The Idaho Youth Ranch tops the list for best secondhand shopping. Climbing their way to the top from third place last year, IYR has three stores in Boise ready and waiting to help you find your new wardrobe, tire iron, smut novel or prospective family heirloom. And donations to IYR are tax deductible for federal and state taxes.

1417 W. Main St., 343-2506

250 N. Orchard St. 378-8081

1501 S. Five Mile Rd. 375-1242

Second Place: Lux

Third Place: Savers

Best Women's Clothing

Macy's

From petite to plus-size, you can buy defiantly sexy clothing and a scarf and sunglasses to match, all in one trip. If you catch one of their glorious one-day sales, you can probably pick up a cute tweed jacket and a handbag to add the finishing touch to your Friday night outfit. Shoe selection is plentiful as well, and you are guaranteed to feel five times better about yourself after buying that surprisingly flattering dress that does wondrous things for your figure.

One suggestion: If you end up at the register of the Juniors' section at the Boise Towne Square location, look up. One segment of the ceiling slowly alternates fluorescent colors, and it's quite soothing. This could potentially serve as a highlight to your Macy's at Boise Town Square experience if you are not a fan of the mall. Even if you are, it's still pleasant to gaze at for a moment.

918 W. Idaho St., 388-7000; Boise Towne Square, 373-6000

Second Place: Anne Taylor Loft

Third Place: Dragonfly

Best Men's Clothing

Macy's

No, really. That's what you guys voted for. So let's psychoanalyze it. First off, of course, you like riding escalators--that's easy. You also like being able to get it all--jeans, sweaters, work shirts, socks and, heck, they've even begun carrying Carhartt canvas gear--without having to stop at more than one store. After all, that would mean you've been "out shopping." You also like to see what kids, clubgoers and cruisers are wearing, even if you've only gotten made fun of when you tried to wear those things yourself. Best of all, the salespeople will be honest with you if you really ask them. But since they're not here right now, we'll take a crack at it: Lose the pleated pants, dorkus. And if we ever see you in tube socks and dress shoes again, you're getting a beating.

918 W. Idaho St., 388-7000; Boise Towne Square, 373-6000

Second Place: Dillard's

Third Place: Funktion

Best Appliances

Jim's appliance & furniture

Jim's Appliance is a Boise institution whose name is a bit of a misnomer. Sure, they have refrigerators, ovens and dishwashers, but they also have couches, chairs, dining room sets and anything else you need to furnish your big new house in Haughty Acres, plus a selection of used appliances if your budget is a bit on the smaller size. Part of Jim's popularity (and surely a major reason why they win this category every year) is that the store has been around for over 30 years and has been "family-owned and operated" since day one.

1115 Lusk St., 345-7711

Second Place: Home Depot

Third Place: Sears

Best CD/Record Store

Record Exchange

We get it. You like them, you really, really like them. The public has spoken and once again named The Record Exchange the fave place to put down bucks for beats in Boise. Cheers to the gang for some kick-ass customer service, for always knowing what band it is who played that song and for carrying so much music you can't find anywhere else in town, we'd say it was embarrassing to their competition--except they have no competition. Everyone say it with us, "Record Exchange, YOU ROCK!"

1105 W. Idaho St., 344-8010

Second Place: Hastings

Third Place: Best Buy

Best Gardening/Nursery Store

Edwards Greenhouse

What do you get when you mix more than 75 years of experience and over 10 acres of land? Edwards Greenhouse, our readers' favorite place for all things green. And you know this means something, because Boiseans are passionate about their gardening.

This year-round greenhouse and florist is a family affair--the third generation of Edwardses are at the helm now. With every kind of flora from azalea to zinnia--many of them grown on those family-owned 10 acres--Edwards also has all your horticultural accoutrements by way of pots, tools, soil, fertilizer and pretty gewgaws to put in the garden once it's planted. Take a peek at the people they hire and you'll see an abundance of green thumbs--all the better to teach classes, lead workshops and give advice to their customers.

4106 Sand Creek St., 342-7548,

Second Place: Zamzows

Third Place: Greenhurst

Best Car Wash

Metro Express

We were plenty pleased when this nifty car wash prettied up that rather unattractive little bit of Front Street near the Connector. Apparently you, too, love the retro-neon style of the building's signage and the promise of clean cars as far as the eye can see, not to mention the fact that it looks old-timey but is fully automated, so you can clean your car while keeping your keister parked in your bucket seat.

Goodness knows Boise's downtown has enough ugly buildings to make the most uncaring of souls ashamed (cough--City Hall--cough) so an outfit like Metro Express was a win for the good guys in the battle of downtown aesthetics. Plus, the carwash's proximity to the weekend cruise has certainly helped to keep countless spinners, spoilers and custom flame-jobbed Honda Civics in mint condition.

1300 W. Front St., 331-1301

Second Place: Dirty Harry's

Third Place: Mister Car Wash

Best Gym

Downtown YMCA

Nothing says "community" like the Downtown YMCA. Average Joe's Gruntin' Gym ain't got nothing on this place (that, and it's fictitious). Sure, parking in the lot can be challenging to say the least, but there's a reason for the Y's popularity: It's the best effing place in Boise to break a sweat.

1050 W. State St., 344-5501

Second Place: Gold's Gym

Third Place: Boise State

Best Antiques

Yard sales

Imagine if eBay had roads, traffic and cyclists hurtling in front of you at every turn--that's the Boise yard sale experience. Every homemade sign and newspaper ad a promise of adventure, every unidentifiable thingamajig a potential treasure.

You can find higher prices anywhere else, but it's hard to beat the ambiance, and the people are damn near always friendly. As for the ones who aren't ... you don't count in this award.

Second Place: Renewal

Third Place: Blue Moon

Best Book Store

Barnes and Noble

It's big. It's filled with more books than you'll ever read, you lazy beast. It's open late, and they serve coffee in the middle of the freakin' store. If Barnes and Noble ain't heaven, it'll do until the pastry tray arrives. Oh, and they sell CDs, DVDs, books on tape and magazines, too.

1315 N. Milwaukee St., 375-4454

Second Place: Trip Taylor

Third Place: Borders

Best Tattoo Parlor

Inkvision

There's a man in these parts who's made his mark on the denizens of our town. He's the quiet type, letting his art speak for him. He's so well-known by his art and so unknown by his visage that when a person sharing his name was arrested recently, folks far and wide wondered if it were truly he of the needles. The man is Erik Payne (not the Erik Payne who burned down his grandparents' trailer in Middleton), and the parlor where he does his work is Inkvision. Ask the most impressively inked renegade where he got his ode to Jesus backpiece, and it's likely he'll tell you proudly it's the work of Payne. Payne has become to the art of tattooing what Ansel Adams is to black and white landscape photographs.

1736 Main St., 383-0912

Second Place: Black Cat

Third Place: New Moon

Best Shoes

Dillard's

Let's get gender-specific for a spell: Husbands hate the shoe sales at Dillard's. They knows their wives will go, bringing home several boxes of shoes. Why is Dillard's so darned great? The selection and the sales. Alas, bankrupt us, those sweet, sweet sales!

A shoe addict could probably buy a house with what loyal Dillardtantes have spent on shoes. So many kids could have that college fund, so many families could retire early. Thank you, Dillard's, for stomping out dreams in the form of Steve Maddens, Gianni Binis and BCBGs.

And, Dillard's shoe section has something for everyone. For the outdoorsy types, there are Merrells, Tevas, Timberlands. Hippies be happy with Birkenstocks, Borns, Eccos. Fashionistas love Michael Kors, Franco Sarto, Donald J. Pliners. Life is too short to walk around in ugly shoes. Thank the shoe saints and the buyers for Dillard's--they're one in the same.

430 N. Milwaukee St., 321-4646

Second Place: Macy's

Third Place: Bandana

Best Smokes/Smokeshop

Hannifans

It's hard to watch prices inflate. A habit that used to cost mere pocket change now requires a checking account to support. Maybe you stay loyal to your brand, maybe you don't, but one thing you stay loyal to is your store. Your preferred spending ground? Hannifans--the classic choice. When you walk in that door, you know you've come home. The sweet scent of hickory-cured tobacco and Clove cigarettes embraces you. The familiar magazine rack offers erotic delights as well as news. You shell out the money without blinking. Topping the other shops once again, Hannifans is the smoker's choice. Maybe it's the great location, maybe it's the porn. Whatever it is, it just feels right.

1024 W. Main St., 342-7473

Second Place: Sturmans

Third Place: Big Smoke

Best Bank

Wells Fargo

How the Wells team withstood the "Free iPod when you open a checking account" promotion at Key Bank is beyond us. But the appeal of this bank isn't. What's not to like about a central location, fantastic online banking and an overdraft fee that's half as nasty as that bank we used to use? Perhaps most importantly to the voters, they're not stingy with the suckers, and on some special occasions you can even get mini-bags of red and yellow jelly beans.

877 W. Main St., 389-4010; 1205 Broadway Ave., 424-5019; 1400 S. Vista Ave., 338-5508; 6788 Glenwood St., 853-1361; 818 E. Boise Ave., 384-9516; 7700 W. Fairview Ave., 377-2076; 3301 W. Chinden, 344-1987; 421 Orchard St., 376-0016; 10342 W. Overland Rd., 322-0807; 3303 Elder St., 338-4640; 505 W. Bannock St., 345-1043; 4630 W. State St., 424-3580; 350 N. Milwaukee St., 375-6115

Second: Idaho Central Credit Union

Third: Bank of America

Best Creative Store

Boise Blue

To the army of regulars this Boise institution has built up over the years, it's like the coffee shop of art supply stores. You walk in, they know what you want, you have a nice chat and you go back to work happier and better prepared for whatever your next project is.

Of course, like any art supply store, it's also a great place to wander around and try out whatever strikes your fancy. Lately, our haunt has been the progressive mechanical pencil section.

In particular, there's an impressive .9-mm behemoth that we wouldn't kick out of bed for writing about eating crackers.

820 W. Jefferson St., 343-2564

Second: Quality Art

Third: Michael's

Best Grocery Store

Boise Co-Op

Who, exactly, is their competition in this category? Other stores are bigger and have a larger selection of brightly-colored cardboard boxes, but who else goes to the trouble of offering up organic foods, local specialties, free-range meats, gourmet cheeses and beer in the same place? Nobody--it's a rhetorical question. Granted, you don't get the thrill of playing "chicken" with a forklift at 3 a.m. at the Co-op, but them's the breaks.

888 W. Fort, 472-4500

Second Place: WinCo

Third Place: Costco

Best Hair Salon

Graeber and Company

We as a nation spend a small fortune annually on our tresses. We cut, color, condition, shape, shear and shampoo. Someone once said that no matter what you do, when you cut your own bangs, it always looks like you cut your own bangs. When folks in Boise want to make sure they don't have a DIY-looking coif, they head to Graeber's. The salon has been around for years and having your hair done there is akin to driving around in an Escalade or wearing Manolo Blahniks. You may be out a few bucks, but, damn, you'll look hot. And though Graeber's came in first, Tight Cuts was behind by only three votes and Beehive Salon was a close third. You could say (we're really sorry about this) Graeber's won by a hair.

350 N. 9th St., Suite 103, 343-4915

Second Place: Tight Cuts

Third Place: The Beehive Salon

Best New Store

The Projectionist

A business providing more than one service is not a new idea (the tailor/laundry/hair salon on Overland has been around forever). However, a business providing two cool services is not only a new idea, but a really good one. The Projectionist is the new kid on the ten-hundred block of Main and has added a dollop of big-city class to the downtown corridor. At the Projectionist, you'll find sharp, new, unique clothing and accessories by local and independent designers. While you browse through the nifty items, you might catch an independent film shown on the high-tech digital projector. The owners are super-sweet and they make the experience of shopping at the Projectionist as fun as your newly acquired treasures.

1020 W. Main St., Ste. 111, 342-8700

Second Place: Bed, Bath and Beyond

Third Place: Anne Taylor Loft

Best Furniture Store

Renewal

You may have walked past Renewal's unassuming storefront tucked away on a calmer bit of 8th Street, not realizing it was there. But once you know, the place is like a siren--if you like stylish and unique furniture and notions you can't find at the mall, that is. And we do (at least half the BW staff has purchased something at this store). And our readers do.

The floor space here is the size of a warehouse, but Renewal's contents are arranged into cozy little pods of temptation that temper any warehouse-iness. Need a couch? Take your pick of every size and style. Sideboard? Highboy? Rocking chair? Maybe it's a kitchen table you need--good luck picking just one. And don't even get us started on the textiles, dishes, pictures, lamps and all the little things you might find in your favorite little antique stores or flea markets. Once you've given yourself a critical case of the "I wants" on the first floor, you'll discover at the back of the store ... the entry to the basement, where you'll find even more furniture but at even lower prices.

Everything at Renewal is used--though usually gently so--which means the prices are totally reasonable and you're pretty much guaranteed not to have a "I bought those end tables at Pottery Barn, too!" moment.

517 S. 8th St., 338-5444

Second Place: Yard Sales

Third Place: Trading Places

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