The best of 2012: Retail and fashion
All week long, Metro will be highlighting our selections of the city’s best — from dining spots to nightlife destinations — of 2012. Check back tomorrow for our picks in health and beauty.
Best place to learn about wine while drinking it: The Urban Grape
303 Columbus Ave., Boston
It’s not easy picking out a wine — that is, of course, unless you put yourself through the palate-101 process at the new South End outpost for everything grapey.
Best place to shop for a “Mad Men” costume: Artifaktori Vintage
22a College Ave., Somerville
Love vintage but don’t have the patience to sift through flea market trunks? This small, artsy boutique is full of ’50s and ’60s frocks, plus other retro trinkets. If Davis Square is a hike for you, check out the new Beacon Hill location or the Artifaktori Etsy shop online.
Best shop for keeping your head covered in style: Salmagundi
765 Centre St., Jamaica Plain
Right in the middle of oh-so-alternative J.P. sits this classic hat shop “for ladies and gents,” whose aesthetic is so contrary to the organic, DIY, thrift shop stereotype we just lazily associated with the neighborhood that it may actually be the hippest spot there. These hats, in such models as the standard fedora and 1920s flapper-girl, are custom-made for the shop, ensuring both classiness and uniqueness. The only problem may be that your new hat will be so slick you won’t have an outfit to justify it — but that isn’t Salmagudi’s problem.
Best place for a girlie day out:Louis/Salon Mario Russo/ Sam’s
60 Northern Ave., Boston
Call it a mini “Sex and the Ci-ty” vacation all under one roof. Hanging out at Louis in the har- bor means a day of shopping, indulging in a hairdo at Salon Mario Russo and following up with drinks and dinner upstairs at Sam’s, where you can raise a glass and propose a toast to a credit card that hopefully has a comfortably long line of credit.
Best store for smiles and service: Barneys
100 Huntington Ave., Boston
Maybe the members of the staff just enjoy working in the Boston Barneys store. Whatever it is, please keep it up, be-cause it’s nice to be greeted with warm smile — even when we’re only browsing — not a blank stare. Maybe because the full name of the store is Barneys New York, the management has launched a kill-’em-with-kindness campaign to try to get us all to just quit it with that whole “Yankees Suck!” thing already. Not a bad idea!
Best British invasion since the Beatles: Ted Baker
201 Newbury St., Boston
With apologies to Duran Duran, Oasis and now One Direction, those weren’t invasions. That happens every decade, and when it does, it’s really just an imposition. Kidding! What we love about Ted Baker, however, is that the store brings the best of Brit cheeky attitude and streetwise fashion and adds a personal Boston note in its Mad Hatter’s Tea Party decor.
Best planet-friendly clothing (large scale): H&M
100 Newbury St., Boston
While we’re speaking British, let’s discuss H&M’s organic cotton knickers. Sorry, using that word might have been confusing. These panties aren’t the Bridget Jones granny variety. These are pretty, and they not only help the planet, but they don’t hurt the pocket either. This three-pack costs about the same most lingerie shops charge for one pair. So what if they’re a big chain? If all big chains were this eco-conscious, the world would be a better place.
Best planet-friendly clothing (smaller scale): Envi
134 Beach St., Boston
Shopahalics can acquire more material possessions guilt-free at this eco-conscious boutique. Organic material and sweatshop-free manufacturing explain the higher-than-average prices, but bargain hunters can go green (and save some green) by skimming the sale rack.
Best place to dress up junior fashionistas: The Red Wagon
69 Charles St., Boston
There are certain adorable things you can only pull off when you’re in the single digits, so wear them while you can, kids. Like cable-knit sweaters with puppies and trucks on them. This is also a go-to spot for baby shower gifts that will make everybody else at the shower look like horrible gift-givers. Do you really want to do that though?
Trendiest workout wear: Lululemon
337 Newbury St., Boston
Everybody knows it’s easier to get your butt to the gym when you have a closet full of cute racer-back tanks and moisture-wicking yoga pants. And this chain offers great perks: Dis-counts if you work in the health industry, and complimentary hemming for everyone.
Best mid-century mod knick-knack shopping: The Gropius House
68 Baker Bridge Rd., Lincoln
One of Massachusetts’ most stylish imports, Mrs. Gropius, wife of Bauhaus originator Walter, knew a thing or two about real style. The gift shop at the Gropius House has a selection of jewelry inspired by Mrs. G., and other cool mod stuff, too.
Best store to give a little Bahston: Newbury Comics
332 Newbury St., Boston
When it comes to gifts that say Boston, Newbury Comics is the wicked-good-time-iest place to shop for friends. Oh, and they also sell music and comics and really any other new pop culture thing you could ever want.
Best four-season flea market: SoWa Vintage Market
460 Harrison Ave., Boston
The outdoor season is over until next summer, but you can still dig for retro treasures all winter long inside. This year the food trucks will be there too, in the restored power station next door at 540 Harrison Avenue every Sunday.
Best place to spoil Rover: Fish & Bone
217 Newbury St., Boston
This shop is one part Whole Foods, another part Brookstone for your furry, four-legged family members. There’s an entire wall devoted to colorful collars and leashes, and every treat a dog or cat could imagine. The staffers can also answer all of your pet nutrition questions.
Best chance to reunite with your beloved action figures of yore: Comicazi
407 Highland Ave., Somerville
Like most comic book shops, Comicazi has graphic novels, new issues of the week, geek gaming supplies, DVDs, etc., and a regular series of events, from game night to a 21+ “Drink and Draw” night (sounds hilarious). But what sets this place apart is the staggeringly comprehensive collection of mint-in-package action figures from the past three de-cades that sits in at the far end. Don’t worry if you’re rendered comatose with nostalgia — these guys are used to it here.
Best reason not to buy books from Amazon: Brookline Booksmith
279 Harvard St., Brookline
This bookstore makes it easy to support a local business. Visit to see big-name authors at events, get a top-notch reading recommendation from a staf-fer and peruse the Booksmith’s huge collection of used books in the basement.
Best bookstore for dabbling in the occult:Seven Stars
731 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
This shop is loaded to the gills with books on dubious-but-engrossing subjects like astrology, UFOs, alternative medicine, history, psychology, conspiracy theories, witchcraft and paranormal phenomena, as well as more mainstream religious and spiritual fare. The staffers also do tarot readings and have a case full of crystals. If you do not know what crystals do aside from look pretty, Seven Stars has lots of books on that also.
Best shop for aspiring chefs: KitchenWares by Blackstone’s
215 Newbury St., Boston
Don’t be deceived by this store’s tiny size. It’s well-organized and packed with kitchen essentials and fun gadgets, cookbooks and gourmet foodstuff. They offer classes, too.
Best record store for the hipper-than-hip: Weirdo Records
844 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
This record shop isn’t for the newly-minted college indie kid who just discovered Pavement — stay back kid, you haven’t even graduated from Newbury Comics yet. True to its name, this hole-in-the-wall specializes in the obscure, eccentric and outre. Looking for Brazilian fuzz-rock or Cambodian surf-pop from the ’60s? This is your joint. And by the way, col-lege indie kid, we were just ribbing — you should definitely check this place out. You’ll be totally over Pavement before you even know it.
Best store for creative gift-giving: Ward Maps
1735 Mass. Ave. Cambridge
Skip the gift cards and visit this Porter Square shop when birthday and holiday shopping. A vintage map of your mother’s hometown? Check! A shower curtain with the MBTA routes? Check! Thoughtful, unique presents for all? Check.
Best place to get dressed up in an outfit that might make people think you work at Saloon: Bobby from Boston
19 Thayer St., Boston
The problem with a lot of vintage clothing shops is that they tend to cater more to women than men, which isn’t surprising — women tend to have more clothes to begin with. Fortunately for us Bean-dwelling dudes, there’s Bobby’s, a vin-tage shop where the gender ratio is reversed. Films like “Titanic” and shows like “Boardwalk Empire” have patronized Bobby for the authentic period look, so you’re sure to find what you need to become a fixture at the Davis Square bar Saloon, which we praised yesterday for its old-timey authenticity. You could also fashion yourself as a robber baron or perhaps just a restrained Nick Carraway. Bobby from Boston is also old-fashioned in the sense that you will not find this store online. If you really need to find out more before visiting, on Yelp it has 69 positive reviews. One Yelper, Katie, wrote that visiting the store made her upset that she isn’t a man. Sorry, Katie.
Best bike-to-work motivator: Bikes Not Bombs
18 Bartlett Sq., Jamaica Plain
Zoom past all those cars lined up in rush hour traffic (but stop at red lights, please) and bike to work outfitted in gear from this haven for cyclists. Don’t stop there: Learn to fix your bike at one of the BNB mechanics classes, pick up some spare parts and support the shop’s mission for social change.