Best sibling rivalry

Sometimes all it takes to end up at Ardour (1115 First, 292-0660) instead of Ped (1100 First, 292-1767) is a simple 'don't

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Best Clerks

Best sibling rivalry

Sometimes all it takes to end up at Ardour (1115 First, 292-0660) instead of Ped (1100 First, 292-1767) is a simple 'don't walk' sign. Diagonally across First Avenue from each other between Spring and Seneca, these highly compatible sister stores in SOMA (that's the acronym for the retail flurry South of the Pike Place Market) -both owned by the enthusiastic and oh-so-stylish Dayna Grubb -attract customers with their respective combinations of browser-friendly wares and distinctively whimsical mix-and-matches. Walk inside either, and you'll see -from the touchable, textured fabrics arranged by gradation of color along one wall inside Ardour to the eclectic selection of buttery leather shoes, boots, and sandals on multileveled pedestals at Ped (many featuring our new favorite shoe designer, Sigerson Morrison). We have, on occasion, run into one store, desperate for something to wear that very night after work, and have gotten oodles of attention and constructive criticism until An Outfit resulted -and with the other across the street, we are only a jaywalk away from completing the fab new ensemble. But that's not all: Both stores have just the right amount of accessories like socks, tights, bags, hats, bath products, jewelry, scarves, nail polish, note cards, and wallets.

Best salads for your cat

Put kitty in The Zone with Tuna Luna, Salmon Mouse, and chicken salad at Bow Wow Meow (1415 N 45th, 545-0740). It's heaven for vegetarian dogs and cats who were famous women in previous lives, and for vegan humans who can't stand handling meat for their carnivorous wootsies. Grow your own cat leaves from special seed packets of wheat grass, barley, oats, or rye. The dog buffet includes Chicken Catchafrisbee and Pupcakes. This is a good place to find an animal acupuncturist or a naturopathic vet, or to sit in on a seminar on Chinese Herbal Veterinary Medicine or Grieving the Loss of Your Pet Companion. It's all here: cat's pajamas, chewable tchotchkes, water dishware, you name it. Woof!

Best Barbie-free toy store

Top Ten Toys (104 N 85th, 782-0098) can't compete with the chains for most big-name toys like Barbie and Mr. Potato Head, but it doesn't matter. The place is jam-packed with classics like Ginny Dolls and Brio parts and enough art supplies and dress-up clothes to keep even a Walton-sized family entertained for the duration of the Y2K crisis. The store will not disappoint those who are shopping for a Christmas or birthday present. They also have books and some baby supplies, like car seats.

Best thank-you cards

We don't know about you, but we're pretty dad-blamed tired of searching our desk drawers for something that could actually pass as a thank-you note. We've sent out some pretty inexcusable things in the past, but no longer: Say buh-bye to all things Hallmarked, Larsoned, or soiled with dime-a-line rhymes. These will simply not do. Miss Manners herself would send you downtown where, a mere hammer's throw away from Hammering Man himself, the picture-perfect red awning of .De Medici Ming Fine Paper (1222 First, 624-1983) ushers you into a flammable wonderland that spans the globe from Seattle to Asia and Europe and back. The almost-forgotten sensation, the sheer perfection, of a cotton-finished paper surface is worth its weight in relationship maintenance, to be sure -and whew, it's hard to look at a college-ruled notepad again after you've put your John Hancock to an oyster gray or blushing pink page from France that nearly causes your writing implement to shudder with ecstasy. Every inch of space in this scribbler's oasis is filled with delights: individual pieces of wrapping paper on the walls (many beautiful handmade sheets are in thin drawers at the front desk) and shelves of packaged card and envelope sets, sealing wax, calendars, journals, photo albums, origami paper, pens, inks -you name it. The store also does bang-up wrapping jobs for the unorganized gift-givers among us, as well as offering limitless options in invitations and programs of all kinds. Note to self: Gee, thanks!

Best mall for toddlers

University Village wins, easy. The competition is feeble: Northgate doesn't even have a play area for kids. Southcenter isn't really a mall, it's just a neighborhood gone bad. Sure, U Village is a yuppie hell, but it's Saturday and you've got to go grocery shopping and to the drug store. You also have to make this process enjoyable for your toddler or else it will be impossible to actually accomplish anything. (Toddlers know that pitching a temper tantrum in the diaper aisle can stop a shopping trip on a dime.) The solution? U Village. The QFC actually has a playroom where your toddler is taken care of by very responsible people -for free. Your little one can do art projects and play with all kinds of cool toys while you buy the lovely, if quite pricey, food. On the way over to Bartell's, stop at one of the two great fountains to play around, check out the bronze animal sculptures, bomb around on the kiddie cars in the outdoor play area, or pick up some stickers at Teri's Toybox. Lunch at World Wrapps is also advised.

Best place to get a watch for wearing someplace besides your wrist

Ever since World War I, when soldiers returning from the trenches sported timepieces strapped to their wrists, it's been de rigueur to wear one's watch in this manner. Pocket watches have been denigrated to the province of mayors, retirees, and assorted fuddy-duddies. Unfairly, in our opinion, as wristwatches remain fundamentally unpleasant devices, leading to chafing, tan lines, and accidental immersion in dishwater, not to mention the manner in which they serve as visible reminders of the modern enslavement to regulated time. Break your chronic bonds with a visit to Tiempo (1511 14th, 726-8551), a watch and clock shop whose proprietor, Jody Laine, has a good assortment of such conventional items as cuckoo clocks and sturdy wristwatches. She's also got an extensive supply of pocket watches with fobs, clips, and leather cases, including a Dr. Seuss line (running from about $35 to $46, and including 'Green Eggs and Ham,' 'The Grinch,' and 'One Fish, Two Fish' editions), Remington watches with light-up dials ($44), and other retro-styled gems. She's also got key-chain watches, pen watches, and (our favorite) ring watches, including, as a special tribute to the '70s, a 'Mood Watch' ($36), which changes color when worn. The personable Ms. Laine also features a collection of watches and clocks from Seattle artist Heather Ramsey, which exhibit a jeweler's love of burnished metal and exquisite moving parts, all in limited editions.

Best delivery service

Sure, it's great to have pizza or Chinese food arrive at your door. But take it from one new mom, there is nothing you will ever need delivered as much as a breast pump. Don't laugh. If you're pregnant, here's one thing you should know: In the first few days after giving birth, your milk will come in. But you may have, um, technical difficulties (known as 'engorgement') that will make your breasts look as big as you ever wanted but cause much pain for you and frustration for your baby, whose little mouth can't deal with the new size. A breast pump will let you extract milk to feed the baby, relieving your swelling in the process. Where are you going to get one when it's two in the morning on a holiday weekend and your baby hasn't eaten in two days? Pacific Medical Systems, Inc. (PMSI, 1407 132nd NE, Ste 10, Bellevue, 425-462-0577) delivers day and night, and even on holidays. And not just any pump, but the hospital variety -a serious piece of equipment that looks as if it belongs in a factory. PMSI also sells pumps and other baby supplies at reasonable prices.

Best way to liven up your living room

Upholstering goddess Libby Knudson knows the horror of the dilapidated couch. For the past couple of years, she's faced the enemy -ripped fabric, tired springs, cushions that leak white fluffy bits- and conquered it from her studio/showroom, Gust-O (605 Dexter N, 282-6647; open Sat 11-6, Sun noon-5, other days by appointment). Aside from stocking her own renovated creations, she re-.covers and revitalizes tired sofas from all over Seattle. Custom reupholstering might sound like an only-in-the-suburbs proposition, but Knudson goes about things in a decidedly urban way. If her blue hair doesn't give you a clue, then consider the Everett native's first sale -an overstuffed chair with cowboys all over it, bought by Ruby Montana. She can turn a navy-pin-dot-and-cat-hair White Center love seat into a hot-to-trot gold velvet number for less than you'd pay at Ikea. Best of all, the finished product is yours and yours alone. 'I'm all about recycling the garbage,' Knudson says, laughing. 'I was a thrift-aholic -I saw all this cool stuff, but it'd be trashed, or I'd see something and think, "Oh, this'd be so much cooler if it was covered in cow print or fake fur." She also credits her music-scene roots as inspiration: 'Punk rock helped you be craftier -y'know, "I need to make a Rudimentary Peni silk screen." Knudson's keen eye and DIY impulse led her to become the only 'furniture person' in a class full of auto-trimmers at Lake Washington Voc-Tech. After another year or so of commuting to Tacoma in her 1964 Ford to attend Bates, the former 'total crafty kid' was ready to set up shop, her trusty Australian blue heeler at her side. With a combo Old West/rockabilly/Mexican aesthetic, Knudson uses yards and yards of leopard print and wacky colored velvet, not to mention tapestries of the Virgin of Guadalupe or the Sacred Heart. Her past commissions include a Liberace chair (trimmed in marabou, with a portrait of the pianist on the back), trophies

for the annual JAMPAC pool tournament, and chairs for a couple of local tattoo parlors. Her latest masterpiece is a 'redneck BarcaLounger' decorated with mud flaps and bumper stickers, to be raffled off at the Fremont Outdoor Cinema on July 24. Knudson will soon launch a Web site (www.buffalogirl.com) to sell accessories like Western cookie jars and vintage chenille as well as furniture. 'Everyone has a different vision,' she points out. 'Customers come in, and they get it -they want leopard. We did a really good Sacred Heart chair in glitter vinyl. We did a couple of Last Supper sofas. We kind of push it.'

Best grocery-store option

We were skeptical about an online supermarket that delivers to your door. Surely, the cost would be exorbitant, especially figuring in tips. And who trusts somebody else to pick out your produce? But we tried HomeGrocer.com (500 Minor N, 623-0074) and still can't quite believe that something this good exists. We rarely get as fresh produce when we pick it out ourselves because a) we aren't as sharp-eyed as we thought we were; and b) HomeGrocer apparently knows it had better quash qualms about its produce if it wants to survive. Prices are about the same as at QFC, and there's no delivery charge for orders over $75. Tipping is not accepted, though if there's anybody who deserves a tip, it's HomeGrocer's delivery men, who must go through some kind of congeniality contest to get hired. In fact, HomeGrocer pays almost fetishistic attention to customer service. Once it brought a few unwanted items that we had initially ordered but nixed in a revised order. Not only did a delivery man stop by the next day to pick them up, but he brought a bouquet of tulips as an apology (and then left the unwanted items with us anyway, gratis). OK, we forgive you! Don't be surprised to find free food with your order as well, like the tasty lunch of spinach salad and crusty bread that turned up one afternoon. You can usually get deliveries the next day.

Best video-store wise man

He's the Man in the Yellow Hat. Along with bookstores, video stores are the place in our culture in which you're most likely to have a semi-spiritual revelation about the human condition and your place in the world. The odds of doing that are substantially higher for Maltese Falcon (9921 Aurora N, 524-1940) regulars, privy to Alfredo Escalona's collection of the 4,000 or so greatest movies ever (in his extraordinarily well-informed opinion). Alfredo Escalona excels at scaring up tapes of rare, out-of-print, or even never-released (!) movies. (That skill is an object of veneration for those for whom money is no object; recently he tracked down a copy of the Dudley MooreАeter Cook classic Bedazzled for a wealthy fellow on the Eastside presumably seeking comic relief from certain Department of Justice annoyances.) Best of all, the store's collection is arranged for people who love movies, not for name-dropping directors' groupies. Curious George never had it so good.

Best retail smell

If Proust's madeleine (a myth, yes, but work with us here) could inspire memories of his childhood, and if smell is a more evocative sense than taste, why shouldn't the right scent help you to recall the childhood you might have had? Ignite one of Votivo Limited's (3144 Elliott, 213-0966) Provencal Honey candles and allow yourself to drift back to your new carefree youth -skipping merrily through the lavender and sage fields of southeastern France, sweet sea breezes caressing your hair, your picnic basket filled with a crusty fresh-baked fougasse, and (because this is a civilized country, dammit) a half-bottle of wine, and a brimming container of eel stew, and oh, man, get away from that before you hurt someone! Now that we've pondered that image, we think you'll agree that this lovely candle is even better than the real thing. Heady without being heavy, this little marvel can fragrance a room even before you light it. And the scent proves that the French really do smell better than the rest of us, provided that they're less than six inches tall and flammable.

Best live snakes

Boa constrictors, king snakes, pythons, milk snakes, corn snakes, gopher snakes, and many more -kept at the proper temperature -slither around at Fin & Feather (901 NE 45th, 545-7958). Sharon Wright's little shop is like a little zoo for creepers, crawlers, and spineless things with forked tongues. There's all manner of lizards, too -newts and salamanders, skinks and geckos, uromastyxes, huge water dragons, and deliberate chameleons. She has poison dart frogs on hand, in case you need to shoot a monkey out of a tree. And if reptiles aren't cuddly enough, the store has a good selection of arthropods like tarantulas, scorpions, millipedes, and stick insects. Need a roach to share your life? Madagascar hissing cockroaches are big sellers, although there are less exotic varieties as well. They have live mammals to feed the reptiles, and (presumably) live reptiles to feed the mammals. (Note: This is a great place for punk rockers and boys under 10.)

Best poetry bookstore

Open Books: A Poem Emporium (2414 N 45th, 633-0811) is your last chance to buy a poem before the freeway. This is the only poetry bookstore east of the Charles River and it's going strong, speaking well not only for Seattle and poetry in general but most certainly for dedicated poet-proprietors Christine Deavel and John Marshall (two nicer, more well-read folks could certainly not be found anywhere else). Someone has said that no one can be a poet or even enjoy poetry without a certain unsoundness of mind. That instability is celebrated and well shelved here in an exhaustive collection of poesy both new and used. There's always a poet or two hanging around waiting for a table across the street at Dick's -the conversation is always rife and wry.

Best street-fighter bras

For love or war in leather, steel mesh, bullet-proof nylon -and rhinestones, stainless studs, and all sorts of back-to-school fetish wear -come into the Pink Zone (211 Broadway E, 325-0050). Find fabric-lined four-ply PVC shirts, bras, skirts, and skivvies, or liquid latex paint-on undies, or full-length gloves in any color (as long as it's black). This venerable Broadway stop also has supplies for having a gay day or pink political statements in jewelry, bumper stickers, cards, and refrigerator magnets. A great gift selection includes genitalia pasta, humping wind-ups, squeaking nuns, and black-light-responsive anything.

Best full-service shoe repair

Ramuta's Shoe & Handbag Repair (609 Stewart, 622-5800) is a time machine. Take one step inside and you return to an age where small stores specialized in a particular service and provided it to a select group of customers. This family knows shoes, handbags, fabric, and leather like you know your own backyard. Ramuta's is a Seattle tradition; it was Frederick & Nelson's shoe repair store from 1945 till the store closed in 1992, and they're only a block away now. This is the store of choice for Seattle's theatrical stages. Not long ago, Ron Ramuta created a lizard's claw out of a tennis shoe for a Seattle Children's Theater production, and once he fashioned a nine-inch stiletto for a California client -to wear to the Fetish Ball. The Ramuta family is expert in altering and creating shoes for the stage, and the Seattle Opera and the Rep, Paramount, 5th Avenue, and Empty Space theaters all bring their stage shoes to Ramuta's. Joan is an expert in repairing dog leashes and also in charge of Bear, the Ramuta's wonderdog Rottweiler (a gentle giant at 4 years old and 120 pounds). Not long ago, full-service shoe repair stores were common. Today, Ron muses, 'There are cities the size of Seattle that don't have even one full-service store. People buy cheaper shoes today, shoes that fall apart so fast they're not worth fixing. Good shoes are made to last, and [we] help make them last.'

Best new record store

Tucked away on a corner on Capitol Hill, DJ Brian Lyons' new dance-music record store is probably usually stumbled upon by accident. Beats International (1560 E Olive Wy, 324-5121) is an oasis in the middle of a punk-rock desert, serving up a huge selection of jungle, house, techno, and weirdy-beirdy experimental music for the vinyl obsessed. Indeed, Lyons packs his store with so much material that he's running out of room to put the wax: It crawls up the walls, under the already-stuffed bins, and if you ask to use the bathroom you'll have to maneuver yourself past several more crates. But Lyons has no problems selling his huge volume of vinyl; he's been collecting records for years, readying himself for the day when he owned his own shop. Rarities take a special place on the wall next to this week's hottest releases. And if the shop's two listening stations are busy, Lyons will gladly play your next purchase over the store's sound system.

Best Seattle export

No longer is our city only about coffee, computers, beer, and Boeing. Now Seattle is about hair, thanks to the most visible ambassador of Seattle style, Rudy's Barber Shop. The local chain of cool, casual salons recently expanded into a decidedly cool, not-so-casual spot: the Standard, the latest LA hotel from Andr頂alazs, owner of the Chateau Marmont and the Mercer Hotel. The first Rudy's opened on Capitol Hill in 1992, and co-owner Wade Wiegel staffed it with many of his friends, including David Peterson, who co-owns a couple of the stores. Initially stocking magazines, lighters, and other accessories, the store eventually expanded to selling concert tickets through Wiegel's business partner, Alex Calderwood, who also has stakes in Tasty Shows and ARO.space. The hairdressers at Rudy's five Seattle locations now come from as far away as Aveda in Minneapolis and Oribe in New York. The stores' environments live up to their namesake -a goofy, carefree character from the Fat Albert cartoons. Wiegel, whose other ventures include Bimbo's and the Baltic Room, obviously has a keen eye for turning pop culture into ducats, much like Balazs. The hot hotelier had long wanted to establish an outpost on Sunset Boulevard catering to the music industry. The decor would be '60s modern, with a DJ in the lobby and reasonable rates means $100-$125 a night). On a visit to Seattle, Balazs 'came across Rudy's and fell in love with it,' according to Wiegel. The results of this infatuation can be found in the Standard's lobby. The first LA Rudy's is a four-chair shop, the same size as the Fremont store. 'LA wouldn't have been my first choice [for expanding],' Wiegel says candidly, 'but the idea of working with Andr頩s so awesome. ' Watch out, Howard Schultz and Bill Gates -Rudy can't fail.

Best new kitschy furniture store

If you ever wondered where you could find a couch made entirely of stuffed animals, then wonder no more: Curb (421 E Pine, 860-6250), owned by Sheryl-Lyn Shelley and Mickey Ostermann and their lovable singing dog, Lager, specializes in furniture that you won't find anywhere else. A wacky mix of new designer and student works and retro modern furniture, Curb opened its doors three months ago. If stuffed couches aren't your thing, there's the princess chair -a cartoonish, over-the-top purple throne that comes complete with a scepter by Daniel Lewis Design -or you could pick from the store's selection of dispensers (tampons, gum balls, stamps), or the two-in-one love chair by Cornish College student Heather Hart, which is joined at the hips -literally. Owner Mickey designs furniture made of concrete (more useful and comfy than you'd think), and if a footrest with a car taillight embedded in it strikes your fancy, you can only get it here. Should you buy something at Curb, though, Lager does not come with purchase.

Best kosher shopping

'Welcome to New York,' cracks a yarmulke-wearing Mendel, standing behind the counter at the kosher deli in QFC's spacious new Rainier Beach store (conveniently close to the orthodox Jewish community in Seward Park, 9000 Rainier S at Henderson, 725-0300). The Lower East Side it's not, because if it were you'd have to schlep around to dozens of stores to compile the variety of foods on array here. There's kosher meat, of course, and kosher wine. Also matzoh, gefilte fish (in jars or the up-market frozen kind for baking), and challah. So you've got your holiday and Shabat needs met. But what about those who want to go deeper into Jewish cuisine, who have a yearning, say, for schmaltz (spreadable chicken fat)? Or halvah (a rich Middle Eastern candy)? Or kreplach (dumplings)? Look no further. Yet the shelves here show that the kosher palate has broadened: There are kosher tortillas, and kosher tamales, and kosher udon noodles. There's a whole wall of different kinds of kosher candy, none of which are particularly Jewish. If the rabbis don't find it unorthodox, why should we?

Best place to kill time on Capitol Hill

Suffering from artist's block on Capitol Hill? Have 15 minutes before your art film starts at the Egyptian? Stood up at KFC by your cheatin' boyfriend? Don't fret. Value Village (1525 11th, 322-7789) sits just around the corner! Plug your nose, because beyond the overpowering scent of thrift lie three gigantic stories waiting to be explored. Give a spin in that orange rubber coat you'd sport if society wasn't such a Fashion Scrooge; check out the not-so-scuffed steel toes and zebra heels; hop upstairs for that same butterfly collar shirt you loved in Taxi Driver; descend into an underworld crammed with '80s appliances, the $40 sofa essential for your new pad, the baseball bat that would look great on your cheatin' boyfriend's furniture, and the wig that will complete your Jackie Collins Halloween costume. By the time you step outside with a bag full of goodies for under 10 bucks, you'll feel like you've just returned from touring a foreign country.

Best bookstore for the soul

Why dread Y2K and the Apocalypse when, thanks to Quest Bookshop (717 Broadway E, 323-4281), you can learn from writers like Ram Dass to Be Here Now? Discover how the Sermon on the Mount is compatible with Hinduism, brush up on Sufi dancing, sample Taoism, or, thanks to writers like Jack Kornfield, uncover your own Path with Heart. Whether paganism, Kabbala, Christian mysticism, or any other path clicks with you, you're bound to find a related text here. Even if you consider yourself the nonreligious type, a secular book on yoga or meditation might pique your interest. And if you're not there to purchase, you can still enjoy a quiet atmosphere and warm-hearted staff while you browse through images of Shiva, Tibetan deity posters, or an entire theology library. You won't find hot coffee, an escalator, or an information desk in this bookstore, but the Buddha found enlightenment sitting under a tree, not on a pillow.

Best outdoor shopping

The new kid on the mall block is Redmond Town Center (16495 NE 74th, Redmond, 425-867-0808), a manufactured insta-downtown that's just what messy old Redmond's needed. While the development is still unfinished, the retail core offers tons of your basic mall-store staples like Eddie Bauer, the Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Ann Taylor, and REI, plus the one thing Bel-Square doesn't have: sky! This outdoor mall has street caf鳬 loads of parking, and none of the trance-inducing lights that turn indoor shoppers into space-cases if they stay too long. And unlike other malls, Town Center has not yet been discovered by the crowds, which makes its faux village concept work as it was meant to: part mall, part urban village with little fuss or nonsense. Oh, and it's also got movie theaters (Redmond Town Center Cinemas) with convenient parking. A short hop from Microsoft and Overlake, it's easy in, easy out during noncommute times.

Best sports deal

You gotta love these guys: Their irreverent guide to the hometown Mariners, The Grand Salami, is a breath of fresh air in a town where team-hype rules. But guess what? It's also useful, with everything you need to score games and get background on opponents. Plus, you can read it during those painful stretches when M's pitching breaks down. Who needs the official program? Available from hawkers outside the stadium, it's the best two bucks you'll spend on game day -next to peanuts.

Best place to buy stamps

The main downtown post office at Third and Union (301 Union, 800-275-8777) seems like the place to go, well, postal. It has all the charm of a Greyhound bus station, with the added benefits of long lines and stressed postal clerks catering to a clientele with bizarrely wrapped, oversized parcels (no wonder it took them so long to find the Unabomber). It's hard not to feel sorry for the folks standing in line who are on the simple errand of buying stamps, 'cause they're wasting their time. Most folks don't know it, but if postage stamps or stationery are all you need, the philatelic desk across from the main counter can help. Unlike most post offices, which have haphazard or out-of-date selections of new stamps, the philatelic desk caters to collectors and is amply stocked with all the latest in commemoratives (Daffy Duck, Ayn Rand), airmails (the new 48-cent Niagara Falls stamp flies letters to Canada), and definitives (those boring flag-and-porch things). There's even a glass case so you can see US Postal Service wares (even phone cards) before you buy. And guess what? Anyone, not just philatelists, can shop here. There's hardly ever a line (it's busiest at lunch hour), so if you don't come downtown often, stock up -at least until the next rate increase.

Best improbable store in a godforsaken location

If you've ever tagged along at one of the Seattle Astronomical Society's monthly stargazing get-togethers, then you know: Something about gazing at the heavens makes people uniquely generous with their time and expertise, and eager to share their discoveries with the untutored masses. The same welcome syndrome seems to prevail at the Tasco Distribution Center (7818 S 212th, Kent, 253-872-5320), an amazing outlet caged-off in a sprawling warehouse, offering telescopes, gun sights, binoculars, and all other things ocular. Ask after a manual for a Tasco telescope you picked up secondhand and you'll be lavished with photocopied instructions and diagrams, a parts catalog, even a general guide to stargazing and an article on the moon's next occultation of Regulus. You needn't be seeking anything to enjoy peering through the various vision aids, but you'll probably find something -say, a three-way pocket magnifier/microscope/monocular -you never knew you just couldn't live without. Fortunately, the prices are great.

Best drug store

Let's face it: Drug stores are just fabulous in and of themselves. Shelves that are stacked to their very edges with brightly colored packages, all of them promising better health, renewed beauty, and other ways of fulfilling our most intimate needs. Plus there's always a really good candy aisle. And the best drug store in town is, of course, Bartell Drug, trusted around here since 1890, as they tell us. The company is still family run, overseen by George Bartell III, the grandson of the company founder who opened his first store on Jackson Street. There are now more than 40 in the Seattle area. What makes Bartell's the best? It's a place run with care. You're never more than a few steps away from one of the red-vested employees, who keep the place in spotless, well-ordered condition. And the low turnover and high proportion of familiar faces would seem to suggest that Bartell isn't a bad employer, either. The pharmacists are always helpful. There are no stupid shopping cards, just good old-fashioned coupons. And who can resist the little island displays of mixed nuts, Jiffy Pop, or whatever other overstocked item they're trying to unload?

Best cheap menswear

The Bon March鼯B> (Third and Pine, 506-6000; Bellevue Square, 425-688-6000; Alderwood Mall, 425-771-2121; Southcenter, 656-6000; Northgate, 440-6000) is not technically an 'off-price' retailer. It's not part of some factory outlet mall,

 
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