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BEST OF GOODS AND SERVICES:

Best Shopping Destination

Saratoga Springs

Shopping malls? We don’t need no stinking shopping malls! Not when we have downtown Saratoga Springs to suit our every possible consumer fetish. Buy a cutesy outfit for the young’uns at Gee Willikers, hit Borders for your best-sellers, browse Lyrical Ballad for your rare first-edition reads, stroll into Saratoga Soles for your highfalutin’ footwear, tap the Gap or Banana Republic for your trendy duds. From one end to the other (and even on the side streets in between), the retail strip on Broadway in Saratoga Springs is jam-packed with high-end boutiques, lower-end vintage, hippie stores, smoke shops, bookstores and even specialty sporting goods retailers. Nowhere will you find such a harmonious convergence of chain and locally owned retail and eating establishments. And the best part about it: You get to shop in a bona fide Main Street setting in the heart of one of the prettiest, most happening downtowns in the Capital Region.

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Best Antiquing If You’ve Got $100,000 to Blow in a Weekend

Hudson

If you’re like us, you’re not exactly in the market for a late 18th-century Louis XVI bookcase, silver-plated water cooler or 1800s Satsuma vase. But if you are, the city of Hudson is the place to shop. The city is saturated with antiques shops, most of them geared toward the well-heeled and very-well-to-do.

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Best Antiquing on an Average Salary

Route 50
Between Scotia and Ballston Spa

This stretch offers a plethora of antique shops, and we guarantee that you’ll walk away with a treasure.

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Best Unlikely Place to While Away a Saturday Afternoon

Chatham

There’s no visible geographical reason for its existence—even the trains that chug through seemingly every half-hour don’t ever stop there. But Chatham’s teensy-weensy downtown, which basically consists of one street, is so full of interesting life and commerce that you can spend an entire afternoon browsing and eating and sipping coffee and knocking back a pint and never once wish you were someplace bigger. And if you really do find yourself wishing you were someplace bigger, you can always hop on the train . . . oops, no you can’t.

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Best Musical Instrument Store

Hermie’s Music Store
727 State St., Schenectady

Guitars to the max: Hermies. Photo By John Whipple.

Step into Hermie’s and you’re stepping back in time. Instruments, accessories, sheet music, books and more fill every corner of the store, which first opened its doors in 1945. Walk slowly and watch your head because it canget crowded in some of the tightly packed aisles. The best thing about Hermie’s is that you’ll always find something unusual, interesting—or just plain outdated. With its friendly atmosphere and no-pressure sales tactics, Hermie’s defines the term “Mom & Pop Store.” Guitar, piano, sax, clarinet, trumpet. New or used. Whatever you’re looking for, the folks at Hermie’s can help you get it. The antithesis of the chain music store.

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Best Gift Store

Pearl Grant Richman. Photo by Teri Currie.

Pearl Grant Richman
Stuyvestant Plaza

Situation: You were invited to a friend’s wedding shower/graduation/engagement party/what have you, and you completely forgot until just now. You have exactly four hours to find something to wear, make yourself look pretty and—gulp!—find the perfect gift. To make matters worse, you are a hopelessly indecisive moron. Solution: Don’t waste your time going to the mall and searching through the gift departments at Macy’s and Lord and Taylor and everywhere in between. Go to Pearl Grant Richman, where the selection is so wide and varied you really can’t go wrong. The store is divided into specialized sections that’ll make your shopping adventure manageable: kitchenware, barware, artsy gifts, stuff for the pet freak, silver and china, sushi sets, gourmet coffees, teas, candies—need we go on?

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Best Vintage Clothing

Trink 20th Century Modern Furniture
122 Remsen St., Cohoes

Not only does Trink have the best selection of retro, space-age lounge furniture (displayed in a really neat, easy-to-browse showroom setting), it also happens to have a really funky—albeit smallish—selection of vintage clothing and accessories. Every time we visit, we are amazed at how quickly we stumble across a cool ’70s denim jacket, a pristine pair of saddle shoes or 1940s wedges, vintage Levi’s jeans and cords, a fun vintage purse. The best thing about the clothing selection at Trink: All the items that make it to the showroom are carefully selected, so you won’t have to sift through piles of flea-bitten merchandise to find that one perfect, needle-in-the-haystack beautiful vintage item.

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Best Used Books

Dove and Hudson Old Books
296 Hudson Ave., Albany

A repeat winner in the used-books category, Dove and Hudson Old Books in downtown Albany still manages to impress us every time we visit. It’s well stocked with both classic and modern literature and poetry, and it’s got stacks and stacks of art books, history books, philosophy texts and even literary criticism. The selection is varied and often scholarly, most of the books are in impeccable condition, and the prices are always reasonable. To sweeten the pot, the good folks who own this shop know their merchandise cold. Looking for a copy of Ulysses but didn’t see one on the shelves? Hankering to read some Langston Hughes? Want to butt heads with some postmodernist thinkers? Ask proprietor Dan Wedge. We rarely go home disappointed.

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Best Videos: Eclectic

Deja View Video
37 Central Ave., Albany

OK, so you won’t find 54 copies of Black Hawk Down or Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. But you will find plenty of other things that you wouldn’t find in your run-of-the-mill chain video store. On a recent visit, we noted entire sections dedicated to the work of Russ Meyer, Federico Fellini, Andy Warhol, Ed Wood, John Waters, Kevin Smith, David Lynch and other “cult” personalities. We found Felix the Cat cartoons, The Endless Summer and The Endless Summer Revisited, the Times of Harvey Milk, Torch Song Trilogy and Chicken Hawks. We also came across the usual selection of comedies, dramas, music videos, documentaries and new releases. And then there’s the foreign selection—divided by shelf into Russian, Spanish, French, French comedy, Norwegian, Danish, German, Japanese, etc. And then, of course, there’s the back room. It’s full of porn. Lots and lots of porn. Girl-on-girl, guy-on-guy, girl-on-guy, two-guys-on-a-girl . . . you can explore the variations on your own.

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Best Supermarket (Urban)

Hannaford
900 Central Ave., Albany

Who doesn’t love this Hannaford? It’s got the freshest produce we’ve seen in an urban supermarket, the widest-ranging natural foods selection this side of the Honest Weight Food Co-op and more ethnic-food selections than any other market around. The floors are clean, the meat is fresh, and it even offers all-natural, free-range chicken and beef. Best of all, unlike at another supermarket chain we could mention by name but won’t, you won’t spend an hour in line waiting to check out your solitary carton of milk while the cashiers talk among themselves, customers be damned.

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Best Supermarket (Suburban)

Price Chopper
1355 New Scotland Road, Bethlehem

It’s got great produce, which is huge. But it’s also got solid meat and fish departments, lovely flowers, a good magazine selection, fine prepared foods, a really cool sushi station, and—wonder of wonders—polite and friendly clerks. We don’t know what it is about service in the burbs—maybe the kids have been told that college admissions officers circulate secretly through the aisles checking for lapses in manners—but whatever it is, we approve wholeheartedly.

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Best Produce/Fresh Food Market

Guido’s Fresh Marketplace
1020 South St., Pittsfield, Mass.
760 S. Main St., Great Barrington, Mass.

Folks on the Massachusetts side of our border have it lucky, because food shopping just doesn’t get any better—or fresher. Never mind that you also can get excellent fresh fish, all-natural meat, scrumptious baked goods, freshly made pasta, etc.—the produce is the centerpiece of Guido’s, and from the raspberries to the rhubarb, from the tangerines to the tomatillos, from the jicama to the Jerusalem artichokes, you’re going to want to buy more than you can possibly eat before it isn’t fresh any more—and it’s time to go back.

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Best Farmers Market

To Market, To Market: Troy Farmer's Market. Photo by Teri Currie.

Troy Farmers’ Market
Troy dock and marina
River Street, Troy

Did someone say goat’s milk fudge? Where else can you find such delicacies but at the Troy Farmers’ Market? Why go anywhere else for your summer produce when this waterfront spectacle supplies such an abundant mount of mouthwatering fruits and vegetables? And if produce is not what you were after, there are plenty of other treats for you to indulge in, such as fresh-cut flowers, pottery and wool. Not to mention the music tent.

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Best Beer Retailer

Oliver’s Beverage
105 Colvin Ave., Albany

Oliver's Beverage . Photo by John Whipple

Walking through the stacked cases of beer at Oliver’s, it’s very, very difficult not to slip into Homer Simpsonism. We’ve all but exhausted our wills in attempts to keep from drooling and muttering in a low, delirious moan, “Beeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrr.” Oliver’s stocks more than 600 brands, from the standbys—yer Buds, yer Rolling Rocks, yer Heinekens—to beer-snob faves like Fin du Monde and Aventinus (the original weizen doppelbock!). Offering kegs and beer paraphernalia as well, Oliver’s has what you’re thirsty for.

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Best Record Store (Used)

Last Vestige
173 Quail St., Albany
437 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Both Last Vestige locations are packed to the gills with music, sweet music. They have tons of vinyl, the selection of which is superb and varied. Albany’s store boasts a whole vinylicious room full of jazz, country, folk, Irish and singles, and—mind you, we’re still talking vinyl here—the front room is filled with rock & roll, classic rock, garage, punk rock, folk . . . good God, we could go on and on. Both stores have a hefty selection of local music, plus, of course, CDs, cassettes, videos, posters, pins—the regular trappings of a record store—all served up by an extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff.

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Best Convenience Store

Stewart’s
Every-freakin’-where

It’s difficult to put into words our fondness for that local chain of stores known as Stewart’s. Its familiar facades, welcoming staff and predictable merchandise are things we cherish. You can buy batteries, make your own sundae and gas up the car; or have yourself a hot dog and hang out in the booths that serve as hubs of many local communities. The Saratoga Springs-based business reaches far and wide in the Northeast, and there’s at least one for every city neighborhood. Bravo to Stewart’s for sticking around in the inner city, providing urban inhabitants a much-needed service—and ice cream (its own, by the way).

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Best Comics Store

Earthworld Comics
537 Central Ave., Albany

In its current location for more than two years now, Earthworld offers every variety of comic book geek—dabbler to die-hard—everything he could ever want, from an extensive selection of current titles and back issues to a fine array of action figures and trade paperbacks. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, owner J.C. Glindmyer will find it for you. Some of the employees even look like they’ve just stepped off the pages of a comic book themselves. They kick ass.

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Best Jewelry Designer

Elissa Halloran Designs
225 Lark St., Albany

Take a look around at what people in the area are wearing these days—jewelry, that is—and you’ll notice the distinct style of Elisa Halloran. Whether it’s one of her signature pieces, such as a big turquoise stone surrounded by red coral, or something more subdued, like a spiral pendant encrusted with mother-of-pearl beads, more and more people are turning to Halloran when they want to accessorize. We at Metroland are no exception. We run to her for last-minute gifts, for the perfect pair of earrings to go with that dress, even to adorn our bridal parties. This up-and-coming jewelry designer has some famous customers—Soledad O’Brien, host of NBC’s weekend Today Show, places orders regularly.

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Best Health Food Store

Honest Weight Food Co-op
484 Central Ave, Albany

By far the largest contender in this category, Honest Weight also provides the best selection. Looking for organic produce, bulk herbs, tofu ice cream, BGH-free milk or the best cheese selection in the area? Honest Weight has it all. Who else shares such an outstanding commitment to local farmers, and what other store in the area is owned by its members?

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Faddegon's Nurser, Inc. Photo by Mark Gallucci.

Best Garden/Nursery

Faddegon’s Nursery Inc.
1140 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham

Faddegon’s has it all, from pond plants to topiary trees, and the quality is amazing. For those with more exotic tastes, it sells orchids and other unusual plants. In its gift shop, you can find a unique gift idea any time of the year.

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Best Greeting Card Selection

I Love Books
380 Delaware Ave., Delmar

So what if it doesn’t have all that many books? What I Love Books does have is lots and lots of shelves filled with greeting cards for all occasions. Whether you’re looking for something wacky, wistful, somber or stylish, this cute, tchotchke-filled bookshop has a card to fit your mood.

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Best Children’s Books

Little Book House
Stuyvesant Plaza

The Little Book House continues to impress those in the market for books for young readers—both the young readers themselves and their parents and loved ones. A committed staff ensures quality selection, first-rate service and a genial environment just perfect for plopping down and immersing oneself in all the store has to offer. Staff selections are great help in picking out presents, and the store tries hard to get young reader authors in to speak.

Honorable Mention: I Love Books makes a strong showing with its children’s book selection. It’s not as comfy as the Little Book House by a long shot—cramped aisles and tall racks make it hard to find your tyke as well as a particular section. But the cheerful staff is always willing to help with store geography and suggestions.

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Best Pet Store

Benson’s Pet Center
197 Wolf Road, Colonie

Benson’s Pet Shop
422 Clifton Country Road, Clifton Park
3073 Route 50, Saratoga Springs

If a dog, cat or other furred, finned, scaled or feathered friend is your copilot, Benson’s independent, locally owned and operated shops are the place for all its necessities and pleasures. Its shelves are well stocked with both major and small, independent pet food labels (including Wellness and Solid Gold, companies started by animal activists), vegetable cocktail snacks for guinea pigs and hamsters, snuggly fleece-lined Sleep-E-Sacks for small mammals, even faux-leopardskin snooze beds for dogs. Cold-blooded creatures aren’t forgotten, with supplies ranging from moss terraria to lizard nail clippers. The helpful and friendly staff make shopping a pleasure.

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Best Bookstore (Rare/Antique)

Lyrical Ballad Bookstore
7-9 Phila St., Saratoga Springs

A bibliomaniacal labyrinth comprising more than 75,000 volumes, including the most wonderful art-collection books, first editions, fine literature, regional-interest books and books on horse breeding and racing, this shop unfolds like a secret treasure map. Discover its collection of vintage maps, from Johnson’s map of Prussia to a plan of Philadelphia, circa 1860. You could easily spend a whole afternoon in any one nook of this maze of books.

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Best Optical Store

Eyedentity Eyewear
1315 Central Ave., Colonie

An eyewear boutique with a friendly environment, an experienced staff and an abundance of designer frames to choose from. Designer trunk shows offer you the opportunity to see the latest fashions. So what else would you ask for? Oh, yeah—it offers eye exams, too.

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Best Video Store

Super Video
1839 Central Ave., Colonie

Sitting around wondering where to go for some hot girl-on-girl action? Once you realize that Bangkok is just too far away, and the local lesbian bar is closed, your mind should turn to Super Video. Owned by a very friendly couple, this independent retailer offers just about any title you’re looking for. And not just porn. It’s got more than 30,000 movies and DVDs to choose from, along with video games and equipment rental.

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Best Men’s Shoes

Cohoes Fashions
Crossgates Mall

If a guy were to ask you, “Where can I go for shoes?” your first thought probably wouldn’t be a discount designer store that has always catered to women, named after a city but situated in a suburban mall. But this overgrown, underrated retailer has the best selection. From dress shoes to sandals to sneakers, it offers a pair for every occasion and taste. And if you’re poor like we are, its prices are right. You won’t leave this store feeling ripped off.

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Best Community Music Store

Musica
9 Main St., Chatham

Too small to compete with the big boys on volume, Musica has carved out its niche with quality of stock and service, an unusual inventory of traditional instruments and, most impressively, the fostering of a community music scene. Whether sponsoring free street performances by visiting virtuosos, donating instruments to schools or just providing space where local musicians can hang out and jam, Musica has quickly become part of the area’s cultural and social fabric.

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Best Women’s Shoes

Saratoga Soles
486 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Shoes are more than just accessories to the perfect dress; they’re an art form. Saratoga Soles meets the demand for sassy, sophisticated and sexy shoes: summery Unsindo thong sandals, Jacqueline Levine copper netting see-through pumps, oh-so-comfy Tommy Bahama slip-ons, the Anne Klein “Manhattan look,” definitive wedding shoes by Caparro . . . all the styles that blend art and comfort. Saratoga Soles also carries an assortment of purses, tulle and silk scarves, and jeweled hairpieces for high-level accessorizing. The friendly staff encourages customers to bring in their dresses, whatever the occasion, in order to help match them with just the right footwear.

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Best Bookstore

Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza
Stuyvesant Plaza

It’s human-scale. It’s locally owned. The staff really know what they’re talking about—and recommending. If they don’t have it, they’ll special order it. After all these years of stiff competition from the big boxes, it’s still here—because the Book House cares about people who care about books.

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Best Home/Builder’s Supply

Bellevue Builders Supply
504 Duanesburg Road, Schenectady

Try this: Next time you’re in that other place, give yourself 20 minutes, and if you can’t get service, head on over to Bellevue, where the staff prides itself on the kind of personal attention that only a locally owned outfit seems to understand how to give. You name it, Bellevue’s got it. And it builds its own custom windows and doors.

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Best Sporting Goods

Walton’s Sport Shop
59 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs

If you’d rather shop where you can roll a basketball down a 100-yard aisle and not hit a sales clerk (let alone one who knows what he’s talking about), fine. Walton’s is neither that large nor that bereft of helpful service. But its comfortably sized space is stuffed with great gear for all seasons, and local ownership means a personal touch you won’t find in a chain.

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Best Large Appliances

Cocca’s Appliances
158 Railroad Ave. Ext., Albany

The store might look a little disorganized, and the employees might seem a little harried, but hey, they work for you. If they don’t have it, they’ll find it. If you want the top of the line, they’ll point out that a less expensive brand is actually rated higher. Delivery is free. And if you don’t want to pay, you don’t have to . . . well, not right away.

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Best Dairy

Meadowbrook Dairy
Route 443, Clarksville

Mmmm, milk. Fresh, cold milk. In glass bottles. With no growth hormones added. Cold, creamy, delicious milk. Got cake?

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Best Golf Course (Public)

Saratoga National Golf Course
458 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs

This public course plays and looks like a private course in more ways than one. The Roger Rulewich design is enough to make a single-digit handicapper beg for mercy. This less than 2-year-old track plays like it’s been there for years, with water or wetland in play on all 18 holes, heavily bunkered greens and thick—we mean thick—rough. If that’s not enough to scare you off, how about the greens fees: $110 Monday through Wednesday, $125 Thursday through Sunday? But it’s worth every penny, and it does include the cart. Keep an eye out for monthly specials; tee times are accepted two weeks in advance. A must-play for the avid golfer.

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Best Golf Course (Private)

Mohawk Country Club
1849 Union St., Schenectady

Where there’s a will, there’ a way. Beg a member, plead with the pro, bribe the starter—do whatever it takes to experience this championship-level golf course. Once you make the turn off Union Street and head up the long driveway, you’ll feel as though you’ve left Schenectady and entered another world. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to play on a golf course like the pros play on, this is the closest you’ll find around here. Lush green fairways, deep roughs, real sand in the sand traps, water hazards strategically placed, greens that will keep you guessing the whole round: This course requires good “course management” skills from tee to green if you want to score well.

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Bike Shop

The Downtube
466 Madison Ave., Albany

There are many places to buy great bikes in the area, but there are two things which set this place apart: service and knowledge. Whether you’re an experienced cyclist looking to trade up to the next level or a novice buying entry-level wheels, you’re treated with the same undivided attention. The store will let you test-drive in Washington Park, across the street, before you buy and will even give you a lesson on how your bike works if you need one. It also offers bicycle repair and maintenance classes.

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Best Wine Shop (Shiny)

All-Star
Latham Farms, Latham

“If wine were a religion, this would be a church”—that’s what it says in its marketing, and we’re believers. Aisle after aisle, rack after rack, bottle after bottle, the selection is incredible. If you’re looking for a rare, hard-to-find wine, chances are that proprietor and connoisseur Craig Allen can get it. Need a gift for a real wine snob? This is the place, but even if you just want a quality wine for under $10, you need look no further. All-Star boasts the most knowledgeable and service-oriented staff in the area. Tasting rooms and wine classes are part of the experience.

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Best Toy Store

Tom’s Toys
307 Main St., Great Barrington, Mass.

It’s not mall-big, but it’s big enough—and full of fun, creative toys in a pleasant, kid- and adult-friendly atmosphere. Your kids will want to make themselves at home and play for hours. And no one will look at them funny for doing so.

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Best Wine Shop (Dusty)

The Wine Shop
265 New Scotland Ave., Albany

As you walk into this great little shop, you feel as though you’ve entered into someone’s private wine cellar. No fancy presentation, just opened boxes sporting hand-colored signs describing the wines’ characteristics and what food they’re best paired with. Nice selection, very friendly service and prices that can’t be beat. No extra charge to have the dust cleaned off.

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Best Men’s Clothing Store

Christopher’s Clothing Store
Crossgates Mall

If you’re in need of a wardrobe overhaul, this is the place. Whether your style is traditional or more fashion-forward, it’s got your look covered in a variety of colors, textures and fabrics. Christopher’s offers custom-made shirts and a great selection of ties, socks and accessories, and it’s also got a very nice selection of casual clothing for your workplace’s “dress-down” Fridays. Employees are extremely attentive, close to overbearing, but they do know their stuff.

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Best Women’s Clothing Store

Circles
Stuyvesant Plaza

Once a small, cramped shop in Delmar’s Delaware Plaza catering to the working women of the Capital Region, Circles has morphed into a Soho-esque boutique selling fashions ripped straight from the pages of the glossies. See the Seven jeans that Jennifer Aniston is wearing? Circles has them. See the Vivienne Tam dress on the starlet at the Oscars? Circles has it. See the Sigerson Morrison shoes on the runway model? Circles has them. Proprietor Sharon Fenno is justifiably proud of her newly renovated boutique, “a touch of Manhattan in Albany.”

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Best Home Electronics

Hippo’s
Stuyvesant Plaza

Imagine a movie theater in your family room, complete with light-blocking drapes, soundproof walls and reclining, vibrating seating. Imagine your home completely wired up to let you see who’s at the front door, watch the kids playing in the back yard and check in on the sleeping newborn upstairs. Imagine a TV so thin it looks like a picture hanging on the wall, stereo sound so clear you’ll think you’re in the recording studio. This is what home electronics has become, and Hippo’s can make your imagination a reality. Incidentally, if you’re looking for a plain old TV or DVD player, Hippo’s has those too.

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Readers Poll Results:

Best Bookstore

  1. Borders
  2. Barnes & Noble

Best Record Store

  1. Last Vestige
  2. Music Shack

Best Newsstand

  1. Coulson’s

Best Garden Store/Nursery

  1. Hewitt’s
  2. Faddegon’s

Best Home Electronics

  1. Best Buy
  2. Hippo’s

Best Furniture Store

  1. Taft
  2. Mooradians

Best Pet Supply Store

  1. Petsmart

Best Gift Store

  1. Romeo’s
  2. Pearl Grant
  3. Wit’s End

Best Wine/Liquor Store

  1. All Star Wine & Spirits
  2. Capital Wine & Liquor

Best Vintage Store

  1. Salvation Army
  2. Trink (tie)

Best Woman’s Clothing

  1. Macy’s
  2. Web of Threads

Best Men’s Clothing

  1. Macy’s
  2. Spector’s

Best Woman’s Shoe Store

  1. Saratoga Shoe Depot

Best Men’s Shoe Store

  1. Saratoga Shoe Depot
  2. DSW Shoe Warehouse

Best Sporting Good Store

  1. Dick’s

Best Bike Shop

  1. Downtube

Best Toy Store

  1. Toys R Us

Best Video Rental

  1. Hollywood Video
  2. Blockbuster

Best Optical Store

  1. Dinapoli
  2. Empire Vision

Best Appliance Store

  1. Sears
  2. Best Buy

Best Antiques

  1. Hearth & Home
  2. Trink

Best Place to Rent Porn

  1. Video Environment Plus
  2. Deja View



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