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Best of Goods and Services

by The Staff on July 19, 2012

Best Women’s Clothing


Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany

High-end fashion lovers frustrated with the Capital Region’s sparse offerings will find relief at Circles. The shop features hard-to-find items from top designers like Elizabeth & James, Nanette Lepore, and Diane Von Furstenberg. They’ve got a to-die-for denim selection, a killer cosmetics department, and their welcoming staff is the icing on the cake.

Circles. Photo by Julia Zave.

Best Women’s Clothing (Diverse)

Truly Rhe

1 Broadway, Troy

This store is literally filled with merchandise, but not in a cluttered, hoarding type of way.  Everywhere you turn, there’s just more great stuff to look at. It’s nearly impossible to not find something that you like because owner, Rhe Potenza tirelessly scours the country for items that you won’t see anywhere else in the Capital Region.


Best Men’s Clothing Store

Mark Thomas Men’s Apparel

5 Metro Park Road, Colonie

There is a reason every time you go into Mark Thomas Men’s Apparel, there is a prominent local figure buying cloths. Whether it be a local judge, senator or college basketball coach, the heavy hitters in Capitaland know where to shop. It’s a business model that everyone should practice. Carry the best high-quality lines (Pal Zileri, Cornneliani, Sanyo, Jack Victor), treat the customers like they’re gold and offer amazing service and tailoring.


Best Downtown Shopping

Saratoga Springs

Before there were shopping malls, there were downtown areas like Saratoga Springs where you could pop your head in boutiques that specialized in everything from toys to hats to yarn, then have your pick from an array of fine dining and snack options. Maybe take a spin on the carousel. That kind of place still exists in Saratoga.


Best Outlets

Manchester, Vermont

Lacking in the this-is-kind-of-a-mall vibe that plagues almost every other outlet on the planet, Manchester has a small town feel that is a welcome treat. The layout is spread out across several intersections, so prepare for a bit of walking. Enjoy killer outlets and killer deals at stores like J.Crew, Coach, and Brooks Brothers, and certainly don’t forget to stop at the holy grail of all things suited—Theory.


Best Jewelry

Elissa Halloran Designs

229 Lark St., Albany

If you’re looking for a unique piece of handcrafted art that is (lo and behold!) also wearable, you’ve got to get to Elissa Halloran’s shop. It’s sparkly. And addictive. Beware.


Best Consignment Shop

The Closet Shop

337 Delaware Ave., Delmar

A jam-packed boutique of resale brand-name goods, this small store holds clothing in every style, and you won’t have to paw through mounds of shabbily used items to score a sizzling cocktail dress, the perfect picnic capris, or to-die-for sandals. And ladies, do know that this Closet is handbag heaven, featuring luxurious bags at far less than department store prices. Even if your taste runs to Chanel, you can shop without the sticker shock.


Best Vintage Shopping


Whether you’re looking for a hip pair of jeans, an entirely too-expensive velvet cape (what?), or just, well, looking—Hudson is a great place to scour for days on end for vintage finds with any price tag. Don’t confine your search only to Warren Street—although there is plenty there. Delve a bit deeper and you’ll find some other hidden gems around town, most notably Five & Diamond Vintage on Columbia Street.


Best Antiques

Ballston Spa

A quaint area nestled between Schenectady and Saratoga on Route 50, it’s easy to stop in Ballston spa for a sunny Saturday romp of affordable antiquing. With a handful of shops like the Ballston Spa Antique Center, Broadway Antiques, Dean’s Antiques, the Stone Soup Antique Emporium and countless others you’ll definitely find that special something you’re looking for. And don’t forget to check out the National Bottle Museum.


Best Book Store

The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza

Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany

They’ve outlasted the dead and dying major chain stores with a great selection and a smart, friendly staff. They probably have something to please you but will of course special order, too.


Best Used Bookstore

The Book Barn

200 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham

Sure, we’ve placed a box of books in front of owner Daniel Driggs and watched the pain cross his face as told us they had too little resale value to interest him. On the other hand, he knows his stock and has saved our ass by plucking a book from the shelf and saving it for us. The place is large and well-tended and quickly becoming a much-needed anachronism in the internet era.


Best Children’s bookstore

The Little Book House

Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany

The perfect book store for a literary fanatic in training. Huge selection, new and classic selections, an indoor playhouse; fans of this independent establishment have come back year after year. Some return with children of their own.


Best Used Textbooks

Mary Jane Books

Quail Street and Western Avenue, Albany

They know the textbook business better than some of the college bookstores do, which is why, for price, selection and service, Mary Jane Books remain a student’s best friend.


Best Antiquarian Books

Lyrical Ballad

Saratoga Springs

Wander into the labyrinthine rooms that make up Saratoga’s Lyrical Ballad, and be transported into a pre-Internet (hell, pre-telephone) world of books. You’ll find things you didn’t know you were looking for.


Best Stylist (Hair)

Robert Thomsen (Shapes and Colours)

65 Wolf Road, Albany

Thomsen’s work is meticulous, garnering him such a positive reputation in the area that getting an appointment with him means that you must have amazing hair karma—it could take weeks. He’s the stylist that other professionals go to for perfectly coifed tresses, which means simply that he’s got the touch.


Best Stylist (Make Up)

Kyle Garcia (Make Me Fabulous)

32 Front St., Ballston Spa

Weddings, television commercials, or fetish balls—whatever the occasion, Garcia’s hands have transformative powers. After years with MAC Cosmetics, Garcia became a fully licensed stylist dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of liquid liner and fake eyelashes for the rest of us regular folks.


Best Barbershop

Duke’s Barber Shop

807 Madison Ave., Albany

Forget all the hype about metrosexuals; real men go to barbershops, not salons. Duke’s on Madison is one of several new barbershops that seem to have cropped up in downtown Albany of late, but don’t be confused into thinking it’s just another place to get a crew. Inside, Duke’s is clean and comfortable, in the kind of cushy-leather seating and hot-rod-and-bodybuilding-mags way that your father (or grandfather) would have recognized and appreciated. The barbers are low-key and confident in their ability to handle a straight razor or clippers, and the prices are a friendly reminder, especially in these uncertain times, that quality cuts don’t have to break the bank—or involve perfume or pedicures.


Best Optician

Buenau’s Opticians

228 Delaware Ave., Delmar

For the comprehensive in-office eye exams, specialty services for hard-to-fit patients, an outstanding selection of stylish frames, and the friendly and knowledgeable staff, a well-deserved repeat win.


Best Optical (Selection)

Hughes Opticians

411 Kenwood Ave., Delmar

A locally-owned store that features Tom Ford, Oliver Peoples, Dior, Marc Jacobs, Paul Smith, and what . . . Chanel?! Is this a joke? No, this is Hughes Opticians. A world of high fashion right in our backyard (Delmar).


Best Toy Store

The Parent Teacher Store

515 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham

The Parent Teacher Store is one of those vanishing toy stores where it’s OK for your child to roam freely. While half of the space houses classroom tools, the other half is dedicated to high-quality toys and games. You’re unlikely to find Barbie and Ken, but there are rows and rows of toys geared towards creative play. They also have a frequent buyer reward card and will gift wrap your purchase for free.


Best Bike Shop

Downtube Bicycle Works

466 Madison Ave., Albany

Whether you’re looking for a bike or you broke the one you already own, Downtube is where it’s at. There are a lot of other shops popping up in the area, but this Albany institution rolls over the competition.


Best Kitchen Supply

Different Drummer’s Kitchen Co.

Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany

Stocked with functional and beautifully designed kitchen tools that you didn’t even know you needed, you might just up your culinary skill set after a trip here. If you need more than just equipment to get on Top Chef , these guys offer cooking classes as well.


Best Farmers Market

Troy Farmers Market


There are so many farmers markets in the Capital Region to choose from, but the Troy Farmers Market still seems to have an edge. Whether it’s at the Troy Atrium, the streets of downtown Troy, or next to the Hudson River—it’s always well organized and extremely walkable. It’s hard to leave empty-handed because there are so many top-notch vendors offering produce, fish, meat, cheese, soaps, sweets, and ready-to-eat options.


Best Food Co-op

Honest Weight Food Co-op

484 Central Ave., Albany

There is so much to say about Honest Weight because it simply is amazing. The bulk goods, the cheese selection, and the prepared foods; it’s making our mouths water just thinking about it. But in a really healthy way. You know, that healthy type of drool.


Best Food Market

Guido’s Fresh Marketplace

1020 South St., Pittsfield, Mass.; 760 S. Main St., Great Barrington, Mass.

Never mind those national chains with market-tested words like “Fresh” and “Whole” in their names—Guido’s is the real deal, with the best, freshest produce you’ll find anywhere, as well as outstanding meat and seafood sections, bakeries, delis, and bulk and packaged foods, and wine. And a strong commitment to the Berkshires’ local-food-and-farm community.


Best Neighborhood Market

Cardona’s Market

340 Delaware Ave., Albany

Since 1945, the Cardona family has been serving the Delaware Avenue neighborhood with the finest Italian ingredients and prepared foods. From Boar’s Head meats to imported olives and cheese, Cardona’s is one big Italian feast. Don’t skip on the homemade cannolis.


Best Artisanal Bakery

Our Daily Bread

54 Main St. and 33 Hudson Ave., Chatham

Our Daily Bread has long been the source of the best bread around. Not limp, tasteless supermarket abominations, and not inedible “peasant” doorstops, but crusty, sophisticated artisanal breads in a dizzying variety of styles, using traditional methods and natural ingredients (locally grown where possible). As Columbia County residents and farmers market customers from Schenectady to Manhattan can testify, ODB make a mighty fine loaf. And all you celiacs out there, don’t despair, you too can share in the bounty. Their coffee, and breakfast and lunch offerings are mighty fine too.


Best Beer Selection

Oliver’s Beverage

105 Colvin Ave., Albany

Undisputed champions in the heavyweight division for beer selection and expertise, Oliver’s Brew Crew will almost certainly have that obscure label your craving and a bunch more you’ve never heard of and ought to try.


Best Wine Store (Mall Country)

Empire Wine

Northway Shopping Center, Colonie

A repeat winner for an amazing selection and equally amazing prices.


Best Wine Store (Neighborhood)

Capital Wine

Lark and State streets, Albany

Like we said last year, this is an adorable space, owned and operated by neighborhood folk, and staffed by neighborhood folk. Nice selection for the limited square footage, and if you can’t find something you’re looking for, they’ll try to find it for you. Knowledgeable, friendly staff. A valuable Center Square resource.


Best World War

The Great Supermarket Smackdown

Shop Rite! Trader Joe’s! Whole Foods! Rumors of Wegman’s! With all the new entrants into this highly competitive field, is it any wonder that Price Chopper and Hannaford are quaking in their boots—and giving some of their stores fresh facelifts and brand-new services? Who knows, maybe Grand Union will rise from the dead and rejoin the fray . . .


Best Asian Supermarket

Asian Supermarket

1245 Central Ave., Albany

There’s nothing like this place. You think you’ve seen everything, and here’s a pharmacy section. It’s become the secret shopping stop for many area chefs, who know they can get fresher and more unusual items here than at any other local store. Need some kaffir lime leaves for a Thai dish? They’re here. Lemongrass for your Vietnamese cookery? Check. A takeout meal? More sauces and condiments than you ever thought existed? Stop by. Prepare to spend some time and money.


Best Artisan Cheese

Washington County Diary Farms

Delaware Avenue Farmers Market

Represented by the Cheese Traveler (Eric Paul), these delectable farm-to-table cheeses from a collective of farms up north offer everything you could want in handcrafted cheese, from fresh mozzarella to goat, sheep, and raw cow’s milk cheese, ripened as Camembert, brie, chevre, feta, even Welsh-style Caerphilly, along with herb spreads and organic yogurts. Cheese Traveler also offers customized cheese plates and tastings.


Best Youth Center

Railroad Street Youth Project

60 Bridge St., Great Barrington, Mass.

Created more than a decade ago after a series of tragedies, RSYP was designed to support and empower local youth, in large part, by helping them integrate into the community—with amazing success stories.


Best Community Center

Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center

340 Whitehall Road, Albany

A repeat winner for its cultural programming, community classes, summer camps, senior programs, state-of-the art fitness center, three pools (indoor and out), sports leagues, farmers market and the area’s largest child-care center.


Best Home Theater

Hippo’s Home Entertainment Center

Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany

When you’re ready to get serious about your home entertainment environment, the knowledgeable and skilled folks at Hippo’s are ready to bring the movie theater experience into your living room. They’re the best.


Best Video Game Store

Pastime Legends

292 Lark St., Albany; 37 Mohawk Ave, Scotia;  73 4th St., Troy

They’ve only been around for a few years, but Pastime Legends already seems like a Lark Street institution. They’re well-stocked with a wide variety of video games, and the prices are good. Buy, sell or trade—and they have a solid Blu-ray/DVD selection, too


Best Record Store

Last Vestige Music Shop

173 Quail St., Albany

Still glorious. An amazing collection of used vinyl, plus some old-fangled record machines to try your purchase out on. Strong local music section, too. Also CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays.


Best Comic Book Store


412 Fulton St., Troy

Perennial winners Aquilonia remain the best. The staff is courteous and knowledgable, and they have everything for the fanboy (and gal) on the go.


Best Art Supply

Arlene’s Artist Materials

A57 Fuller Road, Albany

Art students and art lovers all know that the Capital Region would be a dismal place without Arlene’s. This independently owned store has been around since before most of its current clients were born because they do what they do so well.


Best General Gift Store

American Pie

41 Main St., Chatham

American Pie not only calls itself “a general store,” but appears to take the appellation seriously. They have the usual array of quality gift store standbys of course; soaps and glassware, cards and scarves, etc. But how about a pair of reading glasses, a sauté pan, a toy for Junior, a chocolate bar or a potato peeler? If you need it, they probably have it. Many small towns have seen their Main Streets either wither and die or become expensive tourist traps; American Pie continues keeping it real in Chatham.


Best Gym

Best Fitness

911 Central Ave., Albany; 2330 Watt St., Schenectady

Most people pick a gym out of convenience or cost. Best Fitness fits into both of those criterias as they have two beautiful, large and affordable facilities in Albany and Schenectady. Weather you’re a hardcore bodybuilder, a triathalete or a senior citizen who is trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, Best Fitness is the fitness center for you. Great trainers, accommodating staff, and an immaculate facility.


Best Combo Business

Coccadotts Cake Shop/Dotts Garage

1177-1179 Central Ave., Albany

Who wouldn’t want a cupcake while they wait to get their oil changed?


Best Bike Transport

CDTA buses

Most CDTA routes

If you’ve never racked your bike on the bus, it’s much easier than it looks. Why risk heat exhaustion when you can hoist your two-wheeler onto the pullout bike holder at the front of most CDTA buses? It’ll get where you’re going—minus the long, and sometimes dangerous, stretches between cities, or, if you’re so inclined, just help you to avoid killer hills. At no extra charge, the only problem is that on busy routes, sometimes two racks per bus aren’t enough, but CDTA is in the processing of installing more.


Best Yoga Studio

Heartspace Yoga and Healing Arts

747 Madison Ave., Albany

Yoga studios are springing up like beautiful—and mighty flexible—weeds these days but Albany mainstay Heartspace still keeps one of the busiest and most diverse class offerings, not to mention a range of other healing arts including massage and reiki.

Heartspace Yoga and Healing Arts. Photo by Julia Zave.

Best Skate Shop

Seasons Skate Shop

211 Lark St., Albany

Seasons has serious swag—and you can too if you rep their gear. In addition to all the big brands in boards, wheels and decks, their line of shoes, hats and T-shirts is unrivaled. Check out their seasonal lines of T-shirt designs for some of the coolest local branding around.

Seasons Skate Shop. Photo by Julia Zave.

Best Tattoo Parlor

Lark Tattoo

278 Lark St., Albany

Anyone who’s had ink done is going to be partial to the artist they trust but if you’re shopping around for the first time look no further than Lark Tattoo. The service is top-notch and the quality is something you won’t be regretting 20 years down the road.


Best Musical Instruments

Parkway Music

1777 Route 9, Clifton Park

Simply put, Parkway is unrivaled when it comes to selection and service. That’s why they take home this honor pretty much every year.


Best New Vinyl

Fuzz Records

209 Lark St., Albany

Fuzz Records might be the best news local audiophiles have heard in a long time. Dealing exclusively in new vinyl, Fuzz has all the new releases (local and national) on the best format ever.