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Best Shopping Center

Stuyvesant Plaza

Fuller Road and Western Avenue, Albany

The dirty little secret of malls and shopping centers today is that many of them aren’t “one-stop” retail destinations anymore; what’s more soul-crushing than having to cruise multiple malls on one shopping jaunt? This isn’t an issue with Stuyvesant Plaza, which has a broad retail mix from clothing and toys to books and wine; there’s even a U.S. Post Office. Stuyvesant’s restaurants offer everything from gourmet dining to comfort food to grab-and-go bagels and snacks. And it’s pleasant to walk, from one end to the other, on a sunny day.

Best Downtown Shopping

Great Barrington, Mass.

Great Barrington may have the only downtown around where you can spend an entire afternoon browsing cool, interesting shops—and not stumble into any chains.

Best Car-Free Shopping Ex


ience: Jay Street.

Photo: Leif Zurmuhlen

Best Car-Free Shopping Experience

Jay Street


“Jay Street . . . Schenectady’s biggest little street.” We at Metroland are big fans of the Electric City, in particular, this charming street. Where Schenectady is being reborn gracefully, Jay Street has always been cool. There are so many businesses to patronize, and all without the hassle of the pesky automobile. Hear live music, do or see some art, eat great food, buy cool stuff: It’s all right here on this little big street.

Best Men’s Clothing: Mark Thomas Men’s Apparel.

Photo: Leif Zurmuhlen

Best Men’s Clothing

Mark Thomas Men’s Apparel

5 Metro Park Drive, Colonie

Want to look like a model in GQ? Than what are you waiting for? Mark Thomas is the best men’s clothing store in the region. Buying a good suit is a necessity of life. When you go to Mark Thomas Men’s Clothing it is like seeing a specialist. Whether it is your first suit or your 20th, Mark Goldfarb and Tom Fagan will treat you like you are the most important customer they ever had. They dress the top judges, lawyers, doctors, basketball coaches and professionals in our region. Suits start at $299 and all tailoring/alterations are free. So experience one of the greatest joys a man can have. Let Mark Thomas fit you in a new Pal Zileri, Corneliani or Jack Victor suit. Also, an amazing collection of men’s sporty clothing, shoes and accessories.

Best Women’s Clothing

Main Street

322 Main St., Great Barrington, Mass.

Owner Saiid Daemi packs his boutique, a former bank, with just the right mix of all- and special-occasion dresses and separates, specializing in small fashion houses like MM Couture and the unexpectedly edgy, like Barami. A solid collection of funky handbags, perfect for weekending in either Soho or Nantucket, well-priced jewelry and accessories like belts, scarves and sunglasses, and fashion forward shoes, including Madden Girl, make this a veritable one-stop place to shop.

Best Jewelry

Elissa Halloran Designs

229 Lark St., Albany

Elissa Halloran is a perennial winner, for good reason. Her store, which is like a salon for thoughtful and eclectic shoppers, is chock full of Halloran’s own designs, often featuring strong-shaped stones and beads, all eye-catching, and a smaller array of well-chosen pieces by other distinctive artists working in upstate New York. Then, too, there are the giftwares, everything from framed art to china to tchotchkes, and an ever-changing selection of good vintage and consignment pieces. Halloran does custom work, too, and repairs, and is generally known as one of the most gracious business owners in the Lark Street area, making a trip to her shop like a visit with a cherished friend.

Best Florist

In Bloom at Schuyler Pond

727 Route 29E, Saratoga Springs

Where on Earth is My Favorite Things? Oh, they’re around . . . and better than ever. Like the elusive monarch butterfly, MFT has morphed yet again into something even more beautiful! This time they’ve landed in southern Saratoga reinvented as In Bloom at Schuyler Pond. Make no bones, the wonder twins, Chris Grigas and Donald Matthews continue to dazzle with their flora delights in a setting that’s as inspiring as their work. Serving the Capital Region, from a table for two to a full-on crowd, they’re always a pleaser.

Best Optician

Buenau’s Opticians

228 Delaware Ave., Delmar

A family-owned-and-operated business since 1915, family is exactly what you feel like when you enter Buenau’s Opticians. MB, Jeff, Ros and company project their good energy and their love for what they do on you to give you the most pleasant experience, service and selection possible. Specializing in hard-to-fit patients, they offer individualized service at competitive prices. They can’t be beat. Go see for yourself.

Best Art Supply Store

Arlene’s Artist Materials

57 Fuller Road, Albany

Always and forever our favorite. With everything from watercolors to washi available at reasonable prices—they stock more than 40,000 in the Albany store—Arlene’s is an artist’s wonderland. A veteran artist is sure to find the perfect armature or additive, the novice can count on expert guidance from the skilled staff. Everyone who wanders in is sure to find something to fuel their creative urges.

Best Photo Lab

McGreevy Prolab

376 Broadway, Albany

In these days of digital photography, it’s easy to horde photos on hard drives or post them to Flickr and forget about them. But, just like the family photos of generations gone by, your photos are treasures—memories made tangible, moments and perceptions trapped in time. So skip the instant photo kiosk and trust them.

Best Photo Printing

Digital Artist’s Space

265 River St., Troy

High quality is an understatement for the fine arts services provided by Digital Artist’s Space. Aside from having a top-notch Epson printer, co-founders Karen Schlesinger and Chris Jordan have extensive knowledge of the printing process itself. Both graduates of RIT, they bring tech-savy art sensibility to the services they provide. You can choose from several fine papers, including silk or cotton fabrics. Print as large as 44 inches wide, generally unlimited length, archival. They offer high resolution negative scanning from 35mm up to large format; adjustments and retouching are available. The space is also a gallery, showcasing local art on a regular basis and actively participating in Troy Night Out. Workshops in Photoshop or Alternative Digital Printing are offered, and you can work with your own files. Truly, this is a great space for artists.

Best Camera Store

Stuyvesant Photo

Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany

While you won’t find your top-of-the-line digital SLR camera here, you will find a more than adequate supply of accessories for it. Stuyvesant has hard-to-find supplies to complement your professional gear. Before ordering a part online, see if Stuyvesant has it first. You might be pleasantly surprised. Find studio lighting pins, hot shoes, reflector tables, and light stands. They also have a complete range of dark room supplies and offer instant passports, film processing and video transfer service. The staff is extremely helpful and won’t hesitate to offer relevant advice or demonstrate equipment for you. Stuyvesant Photo is a small space with big finds.

Best Bookstore

Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza

Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany

Our perennial favorite, the Book House is a bookworm’s paradise. With an enthusiastic and well-read staff overseeing a careful and compelling selection, this place just can’t be beat.

Best Children’s Bookstore

The Little Book House

Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany

Books are a window into infinite realms of wonder and wisdom, and the folks at the Little Book House make reading as enchanting for the little ones as it is essential.

Best Used Bookstore

Book Barn

200 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham

We don’t mind if our used books show a few scars from the love of readers past. What we want in a used bookstore is a vast and varied selection that offers a good chance of either finding what you came looking for, something you forgot you’d been looking for, or something unexpectedly captivating. We also like prices that practically guarantee you’ll walk out the door with at least one new-to-you volume. This place is all that.

Best Antiquarian Bookstore

Lyrical Ballad

7 Phila St., Saratoga Springs

A perennial fave. We love old stuff; especially nice old stuff that’s valuable. You can get lost in time here as you peruse the many books, maps and ephemera, with a surprise waiting around every corner. And of course, there’s the crown jewel of the store’s collection, the locked room of first editions.

Best Comic Shop


412 Fulton St., Troy

For the folks who frequent them, your friendly neighborhood comic shop is more than just a store. It is a haven for comic geeks—from the pimply kid in the foam Hulk hands to the closeted professional hiding the Wolverine T-shirt under his oxford button down. At Aquilonia, Bob Lupe and crew have honed the haven to perfection. This place is like a community center for fanboys. Whether you’re there to debate what dead superhero will become a Black Lantern or discover something new, the knowledgeable staff and vast selection are sure to satisfy.

Best Record Store

Last Vestige Music Shop

173 Quail St., Albany

Vinyl-record heaven in the heart of Albany’s college neighborhood. Want to have your mind blown? Go to their Web site ( and check out the text-only master list of their LP stock. If you’re looking for a first pressing of ELP’s Tarkus, or the Association’s eponymous long-player with the original Warner Bros.-Seven Arts green label, they’ve got ’em! Better yet, drop in and browse their huge collection of LPs, 45s, CDs, DVDs and other, more esoteric fare. Get some new needles for that Victrola while you’re there, too.

Best Sheet Music Store

Schenectady VanCurler Music

Proctors Arcade, 432 State St., Schenectady

This Electric City institution is the place to get the sheet music of songs and scores in every genre, from Diane Warren to Stephen Sondheim to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and everything in between. They carry a substantial in-house inventory, but can also order anything that’s available. The service is friendly and, more important, knowledgeable.

Best Musical Instrument Store

Parkway Music

1602 Route 9, Clifton Park

Parkway is still our favorite place to go when we need a serious gear fix. They offer a wide selection of top brands and a laid-back atmosphere to try them all out in. Add to that great service and competitive prices, and, really, what more do you need?

Best Flea Market

At the Warehouse Albany Flea

20 Learned St., Albany

There’s a new bazaar in town: At the Warehouse Albany Flea offers 10,000 square feet of everything under the sun. Inside browse to the tune of live music, sign up for a Yoga class, or grab a bite from local, specialty food vendors. You’ll find jams, pickles, honey and more. The warehouse is a mixed bag of used books, vintage jewelry, clothing, and stained glass. It’s loaded with great local art, crafts, potted plants, and salvaged local building pieces. Outside is an unusual assortment of garden statues and go-carts. Stone tables and chairs are showcased in old, iron fences. If you look closely, you might find the entire merry-go-round that resides in pieces scattered throughout the property. The warehouse is both people and pet friendly, so bring Fido along; Salvage, the warehouse cat, won’t mind. It’s the prrrfect Sunday venue.

Best Antique Center

Coxackie Antique Center

12400 State Route 9W, West Coxackie

Not for the faint of heart (or those with severe dust allergies), this 15,000-square-foot antiques warehouse brings 100 vendors under one roof for a single antiques superstore where browsers can lose themselves for hours exploring everything from fine furniture to eclectic collectibles.

Best Architectural Salvage

Historic Albany Foundation Architectural Parts Warehouse

89 Lexington Ave., Albany

The Capital Region is teeming with historic architecture, and the folks at Historic Albany Foundation are dedicated to preserving it whenever they can. For two decades, their Architectural Parts Warehouse has stocked an inventory of salvaged and donated architectural “parts” of historic significance—doors and windows, tubs, moldings, fixtures, hardware, mantles, keys—the supply is a do-it-yourselfer’s dream, and an artist’s inspiration. The not-for-profit warehouse keeps the fine craftsmanship of days gone by out of the landfills and in area homes where the trappings and treasures belong.

Best Antique District When Furnishing Your Condo


The antique district that has flourished along River Street in downtown Troy offers fantastic finds for the discerning deal hunter.

Best Antique District When Furnishing Your Chalet


If you want a $36,000 dining room set from France circa the 1760s, then this strip of world-class antiques dealers lining Warren Street is the place for you.

Best Gift Store

American Pie

41 Main St., Chatham

American Pie is becoming somewhat of an institution in Columbia County. And like most institutions, it’s easier to get in to than out of. At least without an armful of their dazzling and often funky array of gifts, cards, kitchenware, jewelry, edibles and wearables.

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

It just doesn’t get better than Benson’s for your favorite furry friend (or feathered, finned or scaled). Whether you’re looking for a nutritious diet or supplement, a spiffy new home, or the perfect toy, training aid, or wonder cleaner, the folks at Benson’s probably have what you’re looking for. And pets of all sorts are welcome in the aisles, so Baron Von Weiner can pick out his own birthday treat.

Best Kitchen Supply Store: Different Drummer’s Kitchen.

Photo: Leif Zurmuhlen

Best Kitchen Supply Store

Different Drummer’s Kitchen

Stuyvesant Plaza; 374 Pittsfield Road, Lenox, Mass.

Cookware, bakeware, dinnerware, cutlery, kitchen tools, cookbooks . . . They have just about everything you can imagine, and best of all, it’s good-quality merchandise at reasonable prices. If you love to cook, you’ll love this store.

Best Home Theater

Hippo’s Home Entertainment

Stuyvesant Plaza

The chains they come and go, but Hippo’s stands firm as the region’s best stop for high-quality home electronics with an emphasis on service and installation. You can get it done cheaper—but not better.

Best Bike Shop

Downtube Cycle Shop

466 Madison Ave., Albany

Gearing up for a big bike race? Ditching your car and commuting to work by bike? Going out for a weekend ride with the family? If you’re looking for the best in customer service, mechanical abilities, and quality selection (including Trek, Gary Fisher and Seven Cycles), you’ll find none better or more knowledgeable than Eric and his staff at the Downtube Cycle Shop. Stop in and see why they win Best Bike Shop year after year.

Best Bike Repair/Instruction

Troy Bike Rescue

51 3rd St., Troy

15 Trinity Place, Albany

Say you bent a rim or broke a chain and don’t have the dough to drop on professional maintenance or the know-how to fix it yourself. All is not lost. The bike rescue, with a satellite branch in Albany, won’t just fix it up with the parts they have lying around, they’ll teach you how to do it yourself. Additionally, the volunteer-run program gives free bikes to kids, organizes games of bike polo, sponsors film screenings, and generally fights the good fight for a more bike-friendly city.

Best Holistic/Wellness Store

Peaceful Inspirations

384 Kenwood Ave., Delmar

So we’re still all on that metaphysical journey. . . . Best to explore one’s options while on this long path. Anne at Peaceful Inspirations is always super-knowledgeable and more than happy to guide you through an impressive array of books and accompaniments designed to help you on that quest. Enlightenment not your pleasure? Fair trade gifts from many cultures, as well as locally made items are also available at this stop.

Best Yoga Studio

Heartspace Holistic

747 Madison Ave., Albany

Superlatives, like all that other ego stuff, shouldn’t mean much to those on the spiritual path, but it’s still nice to get recognized. And Heartspace is certainly deserving. Offering anusara, kripalu, jivamukti, pilates, a variety of healing arts, and periodic kirtan, the studio makes its small space go a very long way. They recently won our Readers’ Picks poll, so we know we’re not alone in this.

Best Gym

Best Fitness

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

This is one of those highly subjective categories—what if nobody on the committee is working out? But for those who have been toiling away over the years, it’s often a matter of following the instructors. And good hours, affordable rates, attractive mix of classes, and ample room for weightlifting. OK—there’s a lot that goes into finding that one gym that makes you want to keep up with your fitness resolutions, and around these parts, that’s Best Fitness. With several locations, attention to details like cleanliness and recruiting inspiring instructors, and nifty packages and bonus opportunities, Best is your ticket to a better, fitter you.

Best Wine Store (Price)

Empire Wine

Target Plaza, Colonie

A repeat winner, Empire Wine keeps the prices affordable (on the liquor too) and the selection huge. You can’t miss here.

Best Wine Store (Selection)

Delaware Plaza Liquor Store

Delaware Plaza

A longtime fave of many locals before the explosion of fancy new wine stores, Delaware Plaza Liquors is worth a revisit—considering the modest size of the place, the selection therein is expertly chosen and truly remarkable.

Best Beer Store: Oliver’s Beverage Center.

Photo: Julia Zave

Best Beer Store

Oliver’s Beverage Center

105 Colvin Ave., Albany

Until someone starts boasting the 1,000-plus beers they have in stock, Oliver’s “over 999 different brands” is going to reign supreme in these parts. The Brew Crew calls itself a “beverage center,” but who are they kidding? This place is a warehouse full of beer. And for that we are thankful (and thirsty).

Best Cigar Store

Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe

1537 Central Ave., Albany; 528 North Greenbush Rd. (Rt. 4), North Greenbush

We believe that owner Scott Bendett is infusing his love for his trade into all the cigars and tobacco he sells and, for that reason, Habana Premium Cigar Shoppes are so good. No matter your fancy or the extent of your knowledge, Scott and staff aim to please and love to help. Don’t forget to check out Scott’s radio show and all their events

Best Bakery (Bread): Perreca’s Bakery.

Photo: Leif Zurmuhlen

Best Bakery (Bread)

Perreca’s Bakery

33 N. Jay St., Schenectady

Italian bread like it oughtta be: Crusty on the outside, chewy and delicious on the inside. Maybe it’s the fact that they’ve always baked it in coal-fired ovens. Doesn’t matter; the bread is sublime.

Best Bakery (Confections)

Villa Italia Pasticceria

226 Broadway, Schenectady

Villa Italia Pasticceria has been a fixture in the Downtown Schenectady resurgence since it opened its doors and hearts to the community in 2005 (it previously was in Rotterdam for 40 years). This is the perfect location to sit back with a cappuccino on a rainy day, get some pastries for a dinner party, order a cake for that special event or grab some lunch, complete with homemade gelato! With a modern Italian flair and a nod to old world charm and service, right down to those waxy little European napkins, you’d swear you’re in Milan.

Best Candy/Chocolate

Catherine’s Chocolates

260 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, Mass.

A several-generation family business with roots in New York City, Catherine’s Chocolates has been in the Berkshires now for something like 50 years. Try the many chocolates and cookies and—especially—the mouth-watering fudge. If you like homemade choclates, this stuff is to die for.

Best Edible Art Gallery


197 Lark St., Albany

It’s not just that the gelato and dessert tarts are such a treat—it’s the care that Claudia Crisan and husband Ignatius Calabria put into them, so that not a false note is sounded in any of their confections. Everything looks spectacular, and when you see Claudia’s spun sugar creations, you’ll understand how deliciously evanescent art can be.

Best Fresh Food Market

Guido’s Fresh Marketplace

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

A perennial winner, largely for having the best selection of outstanding produce around, but also for the bakery, fish market, all-natural meat market, eclectic selection of packaged foods, etc. A one-of-a-kind . . . make that two-of-a-kind market.

Best Asian Food Market

Lee’s Market

1170 Central Ave., Albany

Lee’s puts the bazaar back in bazaar. One part discount food store (who can beat $2 bottles of soy and ponzu sauce?) and one part hall of oddities (dig the shoes, bootleg Hong Kong films, and creepy fish case), with a little bit of courage, this is the go-to spot for lotus paste dumplings, fried gluten balls, and plenty of other imported delectables hiding behind inscrutable labels.

Best Deli

Gershon’s Deli & Caterer

1600 Union Ave., Schenectady

Gershon’s RULES! ‘Nough said.

Best Meat (Traditional Cuts)

Cardona’s Market

340 Delaware Ave., Albany

The back corner of this exceptional neighborhood market features an old-school butcher operation—with one important new-school feature, all-natural meats. Watch as they cut and beautifully prepare and your meat to order. All the usual beef, pork, chicken, lamb and veal, as well as rabbit and homemade sausages. For a good deal, try one of the combo packages.

Best Meat (Exotic)

Adventures in Food

381 Broadway, Menands

While this market is by no means just a place to buy your meats—the store offers cheeses and chocolates and grains and veggies aplenty—the variety of exotic meats is what we think is fantastic. Game antelope, bison, caribou, boar, elk, gator, crocadile, llama, snake, rabbit, turtle. Many of God’s creatures can be found at this specialty store, ground or as a filet.

Best Farmers’ Market

Troy Waterfront Farmers Market

There is a surplus of farmers’ markets to choose from in the Capital Region, and each has its own charm and practical value. Out of all of these, however, the farmers’ market in Troy stands alone in variety of selection and consistency of vendors. And now, with the Tight Knit crafters’ market up on Broadway offering the best of artisans’ wares, Saturday mornings in downtown Troy are a great family friendly place to be. After you finish at the market, you can while away your afternoon on the deck of Brown’s enjoying the Capital Region’s best fresh-brewed beers.

Best Food Co-op

Honest Weight Food Co-op

484 Central Ave., Albany

We love Honest Weight more than ever (and we’re going to love them even more when they have a bigger space and a nicer café!). Special kudos for their ever-increasing commitment to stocking regionally grown and made foods.

Best Theoretical Food Co-Op

Troy Community Food Co-Op


We’ve been waiting for years for the fabled co-op in downtown Troy. Downtown Troy needs a grocery store. The board of the co-op has been working hard, applying for grants and loans for years, and trying to meet the 1,000-member mark they need to take to the banks. And we have our fingers crossed. We want to believe that it is going to happen, but we’re getting hungry.


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