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Best Shopping (Mall/Plaza)

Stuyvesant Plaza

As malls go, Stuyvesant is a tasteful one. Sure, it’s a big horseshoe with a vast parking lot in the middle, but it has a classy collection of shops and restaurants, it’s pleasant to walk around, and it never gives you that cheesy mall feeling.

Best Shopping (Downtown)

Great Barrington, Mass.

We do love Saratoga Springs . . . except for the end of it that, like in a horror movie, is being taken over by a creeping mass of . . . MALL STORES! RUN, KIDS! You won’t find that in Great Barrington. What you will find is several walkable blocks of independent shops, restaurants, an excellent food co-op, a beautifully restored theater and an art-house movie triplex right smack in the middle of it all. Its reputation as a tony retreat for New Yorkers aside, Great Barrington and its restaurants and shops actually run the gamut from pricey to quite affordable. It’s only an hour’s drive from Albany—and a lovely drive at that—so if you live here, make a day trip of it.

Best Men’s Clothing

Mark Thomas Men’s Apparel

5 Metro Park Road, Colonie

A repeat winner. Mark Thomas Men’s Apparel is the place to shop in Albany when you’ve made it, or if you’re on the way there. This is shopping the way it should be: A relaxed high-end, high-quality men’s clothing store where the customer is treated like a family member. Owner Mark Goldfarb and partner Tom Fagan have created an atmosphere that harkens back to another era. Experience the joy of trying on a Pal Zileri suit. It is like sitting in a new Mercedes Benz. Once you shop at Mark Thomas, say goodbye to Macy’s.

Best Women’s Boutique (Day to Night)

Main Street

322 Main St., Great Barrington, Mass.

Here’s a Metroland fashion-shoot secret: Our models go gaga over the clothes submitted by Main Street. So much so, that we fear a catfight over who gets to wear which darling dress by MM Couture by Miss Me, or which up-to-the-minute Barami suit. So much so, that, rumor has it, they make the hour-long trek west to spend the big bucks they made posing and voguing in this ultra-charming retail oasis. Hot labels and dazzling styles that appeal to women of all ages and pocketbooks; bonus points for power bags and unique jewelry.

Best Women’s Boutique (Funky)

Some Girls

17 Colvin Ave., Albany; 13 2nd St., Troy

Department-store shopping is as “tired” as last year’s low-rise jeans. If you’re longing to be “OMG fierce,” Some Girls Boutique continues to be the dream store for you. The two Capital Region stores carry of-the-moment clothing, shoes, bags, and accessories from names like Bizz, See You Monday, Miss Me Shoes, and Oboe—pieces that are as original and one-of-a-kind as you are, and as late Some Girls founder Diva DeLoayza. Diva’s love of fun, quirky one-of-a-kind style and discerning eye lives on through the staff and great boutiques. You go, Ms. Fabulous!

Best optician: buenau’s opticians.

Photo: Alicia Solsman

Best Optician

Buenau’s Opticians

228 Delaware Ave., Delmar

Phonetically pronounced “bee-news,” they really should be called ¡Buenos! That’s exactly what your experience will be from the minute you through the door. MB, Jeff, Roz, Faith and company love what they do, and are more then happy to help you pick just the right pair of glasses to frame your face. They also have the ultra-cool Smart Mirror, a computerized camera that allows you to visualize your appearance in frame selections—very cutting-edge. Buenau’s is muy bueno!

Best Jewelry

Elissa Halloran Designs

229 Lark St., Albany

We know, we know—been there, done that. But seriously, is there any competition to Elissa Halloran’s individualistic, often quirky and always quality baubles? Hers are the pieces that warrant notice, from Lark Street to Park Avenue (believe us). Halloran’s talent and range have grown with her business, and her spanking brand new digs suitably showcase her prowess with amazonite, rhodonite, and fresh water pearls.

Best Tattoo (Ensemble)

Dead Presidents Lounge

1092 Madison Ave., Albany

Sick tatties? That’s all you’re gonna get here. Tattoo shops have been popping up like weeds over the past few years, but this one was opened by four well-known area artists, all under the age of 30! DPL is a truly impressive shop, chock full of ridiculous talent. Plus, it doubles as an art gallery from time to time.

Best Tattoo (Solo)

Don Demers

Full Effect Tattooing, 460 Broadway, Troy

Don Demers is the man. Ask anyone.

Best Home Theater

Hippo’s Home Entertainment

Stuyvesant Plaza

Over the years, Hippo’s has retreated from being a something-for-everyone electronics store and concentrated on what they do best: Selling high- quality electronic entertainment systems with an emphasis on knowledge, service, and expert installation. If you want it done right, Hippo’s is for you. If you want it done on the cheap, they’ll just send you to Best Buy.

Best Florist

My Favorite Things

454 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

To keep things fresh, like the flowers, My Favorite Things has evolved and is blossoming in the downtown marketplace of beautiful, historic Saratoga. Still maintaining their space in Albany as a work studio, Chris Grigas and Donald Matthews continue to awe and inspire with their innovative and ever-so-pleasing floral design. This dynamic duo continues to take the area by storm, one bouquet at a time. Today Saratoga, tomorrow the world!

Best Art Supply Store

Arlene’s Artist Materials

57 Fuller Road, Albany

Always and forever our favorite, Arlene’s is your local Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for the artist crowd. You name it: easels, canvas (stretched or by the yard), aisles and aisles of brushes, paints and palates, inks, pastels, artisan papers, technical pens, templates, printing blocks, clays, wire—everything you need to make your art come true. They’ll even help you make it look great when it’s done, with the assistance of their custom framing department and the largest variety of open-stock mat board in the area. Their selection, prices and knowledgeable staff can’t be beat.

Best Costume Shop

The Costumer

1995 Central Ave., Albany; 1020-1030 Barrett St., Schenectady

We’re reporters. Sometimes we need to go undercover; sometimes we need to throw an opulent masquerade ball. Whatever we’re up to, when it comes to finding a proper costume for the occasion, this is where we do it. They have a huge selection (they’re one of the country’s top costume companies), offering wigs, makeup, prosthetics, costumes, rentals and accessories. So watch out—that nun with plastic nun chucks, space boots, and a handlebar moustache just might be a Metroland reporter.

Best Bookstore

The Book House

Stuyvesant Plaza

The Book House wins every year because, well, they have a wide (and smart) selection of books in almost every genre and format. Their staff is knowledgable and helpful, and the overall experience is relaxing. FYI: Rumor has it that, come fall, they will have outlasted yet another of the big chain stores. You just can’t beat ’em.

Best Children’s Bookstore

The Little Book House

Stuyvesant Plaza

For your favorite little lit-lover, the Little Book House right next door offers the best of the best in children’s literature, education and fun. With a perfect balance of classic and contemporary books for the kiddos, the knowledgeable and staff will help you or your little reader find just the right book. All in a fanciful atmosphere that should remind even the stuffiest grown-ups that books are a magical, colorful wonderland.

Best bookstore (antiquarian): lyrical ballad bookstore.

Photo: Leif Zurmuhlen

Best Bookstore (Antiquarian)

Lyrical Ballad Bookstore

7 Phila St., Saratoga Springs

If you want to get lost in time, then wander through the underground vault that is Lyrical Ballad. They have a wide selection of antiquarian books, maps and ephemera, including the vaunted locked room of first editions. No “day out” in Saratoga is complete without a visit.

Best Bookstore (Time Warp)

I Love Books

380 Delaware Ave., Albany

Sure, we love the new-fangled technologies, the nanobots and all that. But sometimes we wax nostalgic for the bright familiarity of days gone by. And when we do, I Love Books is the only place to get our book and nostalgia fix. Yes, it’s a bookstore, and a good one at that, but it’s also one-stop shopping a la a 1950s pharmacy (just with books instead of codeine). Their selection of toys and gifts is fantastically kitchy, their jewelry artistic, and their greeting cards selection is one of the best around. They even have big glass jars full of candy sticks. Go on, be a kid again.

Best Used Bookstore (Bohemian)

Dove & Hudson Books

296 Hudson Ave., Albany

There’s always something new-old at Dove & Hudson, a literary hipster’s oasis in Albany’s Center Square neighborhood. Their selection is top-notch—probably because they’re so selective about what the buy to sell.

Best Used Bookstore (Selection and Value)

The Book Barn

200 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham

Dan Riggs has stocked his spacious used-book store to the gills with a huge selection of volumes for his bibliophile clientele, and he’s priced the books to move, so the stock is always changing. Antiquarian and foreign- language volumes, literature, reference, cookbooks, how-to manuals, history, cinema, gardening, sci-fi, cookbooks, drama, it’s all there. And he has one of the best selections of used kids’ books we’ve seen. Last time we were there we picked up an Arabic typing manual and a hardbound 1961 edition of Winnie the Pooh. We love this place.

Best Comic Book Store

Aquilonia Comics

412 Fulton St., Troy

Aquilonia is a comic-book shop for people who actually like to read comics. Yes, people still do that these days, because many comics are well-written satires of modern culture. And if you don’t buy that line take a trip to Aqui and ask for a recommendation or two. You will be hooked on the latest edgy series from Mark Millar, Warren Ellis, Brian Wood, Robert Kirkman or Geoff Johns. Aqui also offers weekly tournaments for gamers, and it’s is in close proximity to other businesses that help sustain them (like Shalimar and First Choice).

Best Record Store (Shopping)

Last Vestige Music Shop

173 Quail St. Albany

It’s the only game in town. And it’s awesomer than 52 FYEs combined. ’Nuff said.

Best Record Store (Hangout)

The Beat Shop

197 River St., Troy

This is your dad’s record store, but your dad is Jim Barrett, and Barrett is cool. He’s been cool longer than most of you’ve been alive. And just like him, his shop is laid-back and casual, and welcoming to anyone who just wants to hang out or browse.

Best Hardcore/Punk Clothing

Punk Rock Reptile

340 Central Ave. Albany

Looking for an Icepick shirt, maybe a Stigmata hoodie, or a Section 8 CD? Punk Rock Reptile has swept in to offer a hearty selection of punk, hardcore and metal apparel, as well as hard to find discs and scary movies. Their wardrobe racks make us salivate like we’re 12 years old again, hanging out at Music Shack. Word has it they also have the occasional live show.

Best Pet Supply Store

Benson’s Pet Center

197 Wolf Road, Albany; 12 Fire Road, Clifton park; 3083 Route 50, Saratoga Springs; 118 Quaker Road, Queensbury

We sure do love our pets, and when it comes time to shop for food, toys, and assorted supplies, this is where we do it. Benson’s offers a huge selection of pet needs for fish, reptiles, birds, small mammals, cats and dogs. Their pet-food supply is unbeatable, offering a premium array of healthy, natural and organic lines, and nutritional supplements. Is Bubbles a finicky eater, terrified of thunderstorms? Does Mr. Biscuits pee on your carpet or demolish toys? The knowledgeable staff will help you find the perfect foods, toys, treats and behavioral aids for your precious (or problem) pet. And their rewards program offers you future savings for every dollar you spend.

Best Antique Store (Upscale)

Living Room Antiques

274 River St., Troy

You know how some houses are full of antiques and they just feel cluttered and old, and some houses have that perfect antique treasure to highlight their contemporary, bohemian décor? Well, Living Room owner Elizabeth Young will help you shape your house into the latter, pairing her eclectic selection of exquisite antiques, with her interior design services. Young has a truly artistic eye, and a step into her shop with prove it.

Best Antique Store (Eclectic)

Coxackie Antique Center

12400 Route 9W, West Coxsackie

If you’re looking for something, but you don’t know exactly what, you can probably find it here. With antiques available from 100 dealers, this 15,000-square-foot warehouse has something for everyone: vintage clothes, war memorabilia, furniture, toys, jewelry, records, books, gadgets, you name it. Come prepared to rummage; that’s half the fun.

Best Gift Store

American Pie

41 Main St., Chatham

Gifts, jewelry and accessories, cards, kitchenware. . . . It’s almost a mini-department store with a gift-shop feel, artfully arranged, easy to navigate, with lots of eye-catching stuff to stop you on the way. The kind of store you pop into to buy a birthday card and end up browsing for a half-hour, forgetting the card but leaving with a bagful of other things.

Best Hand-Crafted Gifts

The Paper Sparrow

288 River St., Troy

A newcomer to the downtown Troy boutique scene, the Paper Sparrow has already carved a distinct niche for itself, and become a huge hit with Trojan shoppers. The bright shop is stocked with a wide array of handcrafted items: jewelry, handbags, baby clothes, soaps, artwork, toys, home décor, even local honey. Meticulously selected from the works of local and national artisans by proprietor Kate Eggleston (whose handiwork makes up much of the stock), the merchandise is contemporary, artistic and distinctive. Eggleston presents monthly exhibits by local artists in the shop’s back-room gallery, and even offers classes for those inspired to explore their own creative streak. If you’re on the hunt for a one-of-a-kind gift for that hard-to-buy-for someone, or just a special treasure for yourself—this is the place to find it.

Best Bike Shop

Downtube Cycle Shop

466 Madison Ave., Albany

Our perennial favorite, the Downtube offers all your cycling needs, whether you’re headed down a mountain or down the highway. Downtube’s knowledgeable staff will help you find the perfect ride—they’ll even let you take a test-drive through Washington park. And once you’ve found the bike of your dreams, they’ll help you fit it just right, and suit you up with all the best accessories. Need a tune-up? The Downtube offers extensive repair and maintenance services, as well as classes so you can care for your two-wheeled baby at home or on the road.

Best Wine Store (Selection and Price)

Empire Wine

Target Plaza, Colonie

We knew Brad Junco was itching to display and sell more wine that his great little store in Center Square could handle, and when he moved into his spacious new quarters in the Target plaza—wow. Wine as far as the eye can see—and carefully chosen wine at that. Best of all for the consumer, Junco seems to have started a pricing trend that has everybody lowering their markups to keep decent wine affordable.

Best Wine Store (Service and Knowledge)

Nejaime’s Wine Cellars

444 Pittsfield Road, Lenox, Mass.

Note that there are two other locations as well—in the villages of Lenox and Stockbridge—but this is the location where owner Jim Nejaime seems to be found most often, and he sets a high standard of service and knowledge for his staff to aspire to. There is hardly a bottle in the store he doesn’t know, his descriptions of the wine’s style are concise, not cliched, and—best of all—if you visit with any regularity, he remembers what you like and makes suggestions accordingly.

Best Wine Store (Personality)

The Wine Shop

265 New Scotland Ave., Albany

This cozy shop is the place to go for a great $10 bottle of ice-cold Spanish sparkling wine—or a $90 bottle of exquisite French Champagne. A neighborhood institution, the Wine Shop has a small, but carefully chosen, selection of wines, liquors and liqueurs at all price levels. There are bottles lining the walls from floor to ceiling, and the friendly owners will help you find just what you’re looking for.

Best Wine store (New York)

The Wine Seller at Harmony House Market Place

184-190 Remsen St., Cohoes

Think global, drink local. That’s our motto. And there’s no better place to stock up on local wines than at the Wine Seller at Harmony House Market Place, a pivotal part of Remsen Street’s ongoing renaissance. The Wine Seller stocks more than 350 labels, all of them from New York state wineries. Proprietors Jane LaCivita Clemente and Diane Conroy LaCivita offer their friendly expertise, along with monthly exhibits by local artists, and wine tastings every Friday. Last Friday we happily tasted a wine made from indigenous New York grapes—and then drank a bottle of it at home.

Best Cigar Store

Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe

1537 Central Ave, Albany; 426 State St., Schenectady; Parade Ground Village, Malta

Scotty at Habana has had a busy year: He opened a beautiful Downtown Schenectady location, with a fourth location in East Greenbush due to open in late August; he also hosts The Good Life on talk-radio station 1300 AM, every Saturday afternoon. With all this going on, he still manages to kick back, do some “research,” and indulge in one of life’s best pleasures: a cigar. His own, and his staff’s, knowledge of product is unparalleled, with price and flavor to satisfy any taste.

Best Tobacco Store

EdLeez Tobacco

Stuyvesant Plaza

A favorite of the roll-your-own crowd, because the selection is outstanding and the staff are very customer-oriented and knowledgeable about all things tobacco-related—they’ll even fix your lighter if you ask. They also have a good selection of imported cigarettes.

Best Massage/Massage School

Center for Natural Wellness School of Massage Therapy

3 Cerone Commercial Drive, Albany

Did you know that when you make an appointment at the Center for Natural Wellness School of Massage Therapy, you not only get a fantastic one-hour massage at a reasonable rate, but you help improve the skills of very talented, fledgling massage-therapy students? It’s true! The CFNW isn’t just a full- or part-time school for those looking to embark on a more tactile career; it’s a breeding ground for eager future “magic hands.” Take advantage of them while they’re still hungry. Your body, and the students, will thank you.

Best Wellness Day Trip

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

57 Interlaken Road, Stockbridge, Mass.

Just over the mountain and through the woods (sort of) is a peaceful oasis, the kind of hideaway it’s easy to miss, even if you’re a regular at nearby Tanglewood. Appropriately located at the top of a big hill overlooking Stockbridge Bowl, Kripalu is sort of like a pinnacle of wellness, offering classes in yoga, pilates, dance, drumming, and a plethora of “who knew?” opportunities such as The Spirit of India: a Bollywood and Henna Workshop and The Universal Experience: An Intimate Encounter with Your Own Death. The fellow partakers of all that Kripalu has to offer run the gamut from crunchy Birkenstockers to the Kate Spade doggy bag-carrying ladies who lunch. All, presumably, stock up not just on the spiritual benefits to be had, but the highly nutritious and amazingly yummy buffet.

Best holistic/wellness store: peaceful inspirations.

Photo: Alicia Solsman

Best Holistic/Wellness Store

Peaceful Inspirations

384 Kenwood Ave., Delmar

The metaphysical journey is a long one. So many questions, so much to ponder. But Anne at Peaceful Inspirations can help you get from here to there, wherever “there” may be. And if you’ve already reached enlightenment, why not celebrate and treat yourself to a nice gift? Drums, books (for you and your children), fair-trade items, and jewelry are only a small sampling of the many earthly pleasures you can indulge in here.

Best Fresh Food Market

Guido’s Fresh Marketplace

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

If you get to the Berkshires but have never checked out either of the two Guido’s locations. you owe it to yourself to see why we pick this market year after year. Bigger and more comprehensive that a neighborhood market, but more relaxing and human-scale than a contemporary supermarket, Guido’s dazzles with all manner of dependably fresh produce, as well as fresh fish, all-natural meats, bakery bread and other fresh baked goods, a deli counter, and aisles of thoughtfully chosen, minimally processed packaged foods. There’s no other market quite like Guido’s in the region, which is why it is loved by locals and weekenders alike.

Best Natural Foods/Vitamins

Paradise Natural Foods

1823 Western Ave., Albany

If you need flax-seed-oil supplements, some gluten-free food, or perhaps an ounce of mugwort, check out Paradise Natural Foods. They have a great selection of all things natural, including supplements, health and beauty products, foods, teas, and herbs. They’ve been open for almost two decades and have a friendly, knowledgeable staff. Happy health!

Best Food Co-Op

Honest Weight Food Co-Op

484 Central Ave., Albany

All the natural and organic items one could imagine stock the shelves at Honest Weight, as they have for years and years. Their selection of juices, for one thing, goes unparalleled in the Capital Region; and they stock loads of items from within a 100-mile radius of Albany. Also: great sandwiches.

Best farmers market: troy waterfront farmers market.

Photo: Shannon DeCelle

Best Farmers Market

Troy Waterfront Farmers Market

Hedley Park Place, River Street, Troy

This is the perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday morning: shopping for fresh produce and baked goods, discovering unique specialty items, listening to live musicians, and chatting with friends. The Capital Region offers a large selection of fantastic farmers’ markets, but what makes Troy’s so special is the large, diverse community that has grown dependent upon this year-round treasure.

Best Bazaar

At the Warehouse

20 Learned St., Albany

At the Warehouse is more than just an indoor farmers market and it is constantly growing and evolving. It’s the perfect weekend destination, rain or shine, to get inspired, hear some live music, grab a bite, support local artisans, or just plain ol’ connect and absorb some of those good vibrations that accompany cool people doing cool things. Vendors range from architectural salvage to sexy, vintage-style, custom-built aprons; from beeswax products to Tarot-card readings, and everything in between. Bring your lover, bring your neighbor, bring the kids—heck, bring the dog! You’ll be delighted you did.


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