Ryan Farley and Brandon Amorin at Multiverse. [Photo by Richard McCaffrey]
BEST ALTERNATIVE SMOKE SHOP: ETHNIC CONCEPTS
353 Wickenden St, Providence | 401.454.7473 + 1918 Kingstown Rd, Wakefield | 401.783.5040 + 38 Broadway, Newport | 401.849.3704 | ethnicconceptsri.com | Ethnic Concepts pretty much has a stranglehold on our “Alt-Smoke Shop” category, and with good reason. Over the past 20 years EC has been the go-to shop for a wide array of water pipes (watch the language!), vaporizers, and hookahs, plus assorted novelty items and clothing. Medical marijuana card holders receive 20 percent off on pipes and vapes, and college kids get 10 percent off purchases with valid ID. Hey, it’s 4:20 somewhere — keep calm and blaze on!
BEST ART SUPPLIES STORE: JERRY’S ARTARAMA
14 Imperial Pl, Providence | 401.4331.4530 | jerrysartarama.com | It’s fitting that the state’s best art store is housed in such a beautiful brownstone in the Jewelry District. Inside, the many aisles are lined with paints, brushes, canvases, easels, and more. They also have a custom framer who will help you display your best work. And their VIP program keeps loyal customers coming back for more.
BEST BIKE SHOP: DASH BICYCLE SHOP
267 Broadway, Providence | 401.453.3274 | dashbicycle.com | Do you need a new saddle or toe clip? Need your cables lubed or your drivetrain cleaned? No matter what’s wrong with your two-wheeler, Dash Bicycle has the answer. The full-service shop has plenty of parts and accessories, and stocks bikes from All City, Bianchi, KHS, Purefix, and more. Dash is worth checking out even if your bike is in tip-top shape — their expert staff can help you customize your ride to your heart’s content.
BEST BOOK STORE, NEW: BOOKS ON THE SQUARE
471 Angell St, Providence | 401.331.9097 | booksq.com | A fixture in Wayland Square for more than 20 years, Books On the Square features a well-curated selection big on memoirs, children’s books, and philosophy. Their well-read staff is armed with recommendations in person and online, and they host in-store events, including book clubs and readings. Happy page-turning!
BEST BOOK STORE, USED: CELLAR STORIES
111 Mathewson St, Providence | 401.521.2665 | cellarstories.com | Based on atmosphere alone, Cellar Stories is everything you want in a used book store. From ceiling-scraping bookcases to the lingering, musty scent, bookworms will feel right at home, in the charming second-floor shop. For more than three decades, the downtown staple has acquired some 70,000 volumes covering almost every imaginable topic. They’re currently featuring century-old copies of J.A. Mitchell’s The Last American and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese.
BEST CD/RECORD STORE: IN YOUR EAR
462 Main St, Warren | 401.245.9840 | iye.com/html_index.cfm?page=Rhode IslandStore | An East Side staple for nearly 20 years, In Your Ear! has gotten even better since relocating to Warren in 2008. Not only do they have the latest rock, pop, jazz, soul, and folk releases, but a plethora of new and used vinyl and DVDs. And if you’re looking for an out-of-print rarity, they’ll order it for you at no additional cost. Plus they have five rooms where students learn guitar, drums, or bass for $20/half hour. All this at bargain prices? You have our ear.
BEST CLOTHING STORE, MEN’S: MARC ALLEN FINE CLOTHIERS
200 South Main St, Providence | 401.453.0025 | marcalleninc.com | President and owner Marc Allen Streisand says, “I love what I do. I get to make a difference in the quality of people’s lives by transforming their appearance to match their inner power.” Another Mark, Mr. Twain, said, “Clothes make the man.” Many people don’t know the second half of that declaration: “Naked people have little or no influence on society.” When you get the royal treatment at MAFC, you’ll be ready for any social setting: they have suits, formal wear, and sportswear (including their own clothing line, M.A., and Rhode Island-exclusive fare). From fabrics to fitting to the final touches, they’ll make you a man of distinction.
BEST CLOTHING STORE, WOMEN’S: QUEEN OF HEARTS
222 Westminster St, Providence | 401.421.1471 | queenofheartsri.com | Owner Karen Beebe continues to delight with her funky collection of hand-crafted, modern, and vintage fare and distinctive jewelry, including choice selections from local designers and artists. But that’s just part of the story. There’s also her own fashion line, Lucille — a fave among the best-dressed locals. Beebe’s bio notes that she’s “a very busy lady who always manages to look amazing while sewing a dress, wielding an electric drill, or organizing a fashion show.” Talk about multitasking! But readers appreciate her many talents and creativity — that’s why Queen of Hearts has claimed The Best honors for the fourth consecutive year.
BEST COMIC BOOKS SHOP:MULTIVERSE
265 Broadway, Providence | 401.223.2112 | facebook.com/multiverseprovidence | Barely open one year, Multiverse Comics has quickly become the place for proud nerds and comic book enthusiasts to congregate. Located on the West Side, their walls are lined with a wide selection of new comics and graphic novels, plus classic back issues and books — grab one and chill in the reading area. There are also collectibles and RPG accessories aplenty, but the main attraction might be their pinball arcade. Here’s hoping Multiverse is a mainstay in this universe and all the others.
BEST CONSIGNMENT/THRIFT/VINTAGE STORE: ROCKET TO MARS
144 Broadway, Providence | 401.274.0905 | facebook.com/pages/Rocket-to-Mars/179171416183 | Sweaters, scarves, dresses, boots and pumps, purses, raincoats, and so much more — Rocket to Mars is a West End gem for retro fashion, from the 1920s through the early ’80s. But it’s also crammed with stuff you can’t wear: furniture and dinnerware (and books and jewelry) that would have Betty Draper swooning.
BEST DAY SPA: ALAYNE WHITE SPA
11 Constitution St, Bristol | 401.254.1772 | 149 Elmgrove Ave, Providence | 401.274.1772 | alaynewhite.com | Our virtual visit to Alayne White Spa has already relaxed us and improved our quality of life, since we encountered this ultra-quotable Best-ready blurb on their dotcom: “There’s a reason Alayne White Spa is always voted ‘best of’. . . In fact, there are several reasons: fabulous spa treatments, extensively trained spa goddesses, amazing customer service, spa parties, easy online booking, instant gift certificates. . .” OK, that proves it — they’re The Best!
BEST DOGIE DAY CARE: THE BARKING LOT
697 Allens Ave, Providence | 401.781.2275 | thebarkinglotri.com | We spend a lot of time outside the Barking Lot (that’s a long red light at the intersection of Ernest St and Allens Ave) and all the dogs — and owners — we see coming and going at both ends of the workday look very happy. It’s not hard to see why based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews on their Facebook and Yelp pages. In addition to day care (with off-leash play) and boarding (for cats too!), their experienced staff will groom and train your furry ones while you work, worry-free.
BEST FACIAL: THE W SALON
713 Westminster St, Providence | 401.421.8439 | thewsalon.biz | There is, perhaps, nothing quite so relaxing as the facial: the hot steam, the exfoliation, the ahhhh. The W offers seven variations: Express, Anti-Aging Power Peel, Cleansing Extraction, Teen, Customized, The Ultimate, and La Stone (ranging from $40-$110). It’s not their only pampering service: they offer expert hair styling, waxing, manicures and pedicures, and more. And they vow to “remain committed to the belief that each client is a special and unique individual who will always have our undivided attention and devoted support.” Ahhhh, you already feel better. . . .
BEST FITNESS/HEALTH CLUB: FULL RANGE CROSSFIT
859 North Main St, Providence | 401.450.9264 | fullrangecrossfit.com | Positioning themselves as an alternative to the cookie-cutter chain gyms, Full Range CrossFit focuses on basic movements like pushing, pulling, squatting, lifting, and running, all executed at high intensity. This means no treadmills, spin bikes, or weight machines: all you need to succeed is basic barbells, plyo boxes, jump ropes, and dumbbells — and the proper training, of course. Private coaching and group sessions are available.
BEST GREEN ITEMS: FERTILE UNDERGROUND
1577 Westminster St, Providence | 401.365.4FUG | fertileunderground.com | The Fertile Underground Natural Cooperative has a network of services: a grocery with ethically-sourced, local, and natural foods; a communal garden; a café, serving healthy fare for breakfast and lunch; a hub to find tradesfolk (artists, designers, welders); and much more. It’s worker-owned, it’s improving the community, and it’s now open seven days a week. Kermit was wrong: it’s easy — and fulfilling — being green.
BEST HAIRCUT, MEN’S: FLIPP SALON & APOTHECARY
38 Transit St, Providence | 401.274.1981 | flippsalon.com | Flipp’s slogan is “Beauty begins from within.” But they have a Big Picture view of how beauty and withinness relates to you. They self-describe as “an upbeat, positive space aiming to interconnect art, wellness, and all things beautiful to the eye and to the soul.” Flipp’s clientele embrace the connection, using phrases like “hair artiste” and “totally hip” and “comfortable, cool music and friendly staff, what more could you ask for? Guys and girls, don’t go anywhere else, why would you?” and “seriously THE best place.” Like they said: THE Best.