Click on a category or scroll down the page to read about this year's winners for Seattle's best stores and services...

46.

Best mall

53.

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Best Stores

Click on a category or scroll down the page to read about this year's winners for Seattle's best stores and services...

46.

Best mall

53.

Best shoe store

47.

Best beauty products

54.

Best cell-phone service provider

48.

Best car wash

55.

Best bank

49.

Best thrift/consignment store

56.

Best place to buy cheap computers

50.

Best video store

57.

Best kitchen supplies

51.

Best gym

58.

Best toy store

52.

Best florist

59.

Best nursery

(Item 60, Best place to buy Y2K rations, can be found in the best of the Millennium.)

46. Best mall

Bellevue Square (Bellevue Wy NE between NE Fourth and NE Eighth, Bellevue, 425-454-8096) is a dominating retail presence that offers all the comforts, conveniences, and high-end shops you and your credit-card company could hope for. Urban vitality? Who gives a rat's ass; it still offers the most convenient Nordy's, not to mention a roofed, secure, and climate-controlled power-shopping paradise. Think of it as consumerism's Biosphere. Other malls that maneuvered well enough to end up in the top three were the new jewel in the consumer's crown, Pacific Place, in second place, followed by the newly refurbished and raring-to-go University Village.

47. Best beauty products

With product names such as 2nd Day Hair, Dirty Boy-Dirty Girl, and Hard Up, you could easily surmise that the products made by Vain (2222 Second, 441-3441) won't be stocked at the hoity-toity salon on the corner any time soon. The products, which are designed by punk-rock hair guru Victoria Thomas Gentry, purposely give their users a messed-up look as well as provide your neighborhood punk rocker with an alternative to sticking egg in his hair to get the perfect mohawk. Vain succeeds where others in the beauty industry fail: By not taking itself so seriously, Vain takes hair design more seriously than the rest. The second tier of vote-getters was dominated by biggie national companies with local boutiques, such as Aveda (second place) and the Body Shop (third).

48. Best car wash

It was probably their cool sign with the cartoon elephants that rocketed them to victory, but Elephant Car Wash won the battle of the animals, besting Brown Bear Car Wash in a tough battle. Score one for the little guy—the Elephant has just five locations (including a gig spiffing up shoppers' autos at the Supermall of the Great Northwest), while there are 19 Brown Bears to choose from. Third place went to the folks who get out the hose and wash their car at home. Don't forget to wash behind your mirrors. . . .

49. Best thrift/consignment store

There is nothing quite as passionate—and quite as irrational—as our attachment to the One True Thrift Store. When we say "best" or "favorite" on this one, we mean it—there is no close second, or even second-best. There is the One True Store and a bunch of pretenders. Our readers are most passionate in greatest numbers about Value Village (various locations), which attracted nearly double the votes for all other competitors combined. The thrift giant has been gobbling up market share faster than Microsoft, and has somehow managed to avoid alienating most of the known universe the way Bill Gates has. Somehow, the chain has ingeniously combined the real value of a thrift store with a retail chain's competitive and expansionist drive, but has preserved the cachet of a thrift—that particular feel somewhere between business and philanthropy. Maybe it's that word "village"—Value Monster or Value Chain, somehow, wouldn't have the same humble ring. Goodwill swept into second, followed by Red Light Clothing Exchange in the U District and the closely pursuant Buffalo Exchange.

THINGS THEY LIKE

Rebecca Latsios

Cofounder, Scarecrow Video

What I really love about this place is that there are no rules. Not just written rules. A lot of places, no matter what you want to do, it's like, No, you can't do that. Don't even think about it. Whereas here, you want to do something, people may think it's great or they may think it stinks, but it wouldn't occur to them to say you can't do it. It's the wildness: not just the wildness of the environment, but that it seeps into people's personalities. You know another thing I love? The day before the Fourth of July, the whole country is buying fireworks and setting off fireworks or getting ready to set off fireworks, and I come out of my house to go to the store and there's a double rainbow over Lake Washington. So I go, There's no way I'm going to the store, so I drive down to Magnuson Park and there are about 50 cars there. Just looking at the rainbow.

50. Best video store

Scarecrow Video (5030 Roosevelt Wy NE, 524-8554) founder George Latsios was battling cancer while assembling what director Bernardo Bertolucci called "the best video store in the world." Perhaps feeling he had little to lose, Latsios fell behind in his taxes along the way; as he began to make a remarkable recovery, he and his wife/partner Rebecca had to face an unhappy IRS. To resolve their debt, they decided to sell the business. But while George was in Greece visiting his ailing father, the US District Attorney called Rebecca and informed her that Scarecrow's new owner had been convicted of embezzling close to a million dollars from HUD and, by purchasing Scarecrow, was in violation of his parole. But now everything seems to have come to a Hollywood ending: The debt is all but eliminated, George has almost fully recovered, and Scarecrow's two new owners—Carl Tostevin and John Dauphiny—have kept George and Rebecca on as consultants. Was it all worth it? For film fans, a long saunter through the aisles of Scarecrow Video, featuring over 36,000 titles, will result in a resounding "Yes!" The new owners are upgrading the computer system (bringing around 8,000 more titles into circulation) and putting in new carpeting, for which the employees seem grateful. Beyond that, George happily reports, "They're like me—little kids in their own candy store." If you don't live near Scarecrow, there's always our second- and third-place winners, Hollywood Video and the mammoth Blockbuster.

51. Best gym

It was heartening, for some reason, to see the good old unpretentious YMCA finish among the winners here, with a strong third-place showing. The plurality of our readers preferred the far spiffier Sound Mind & Body (locations in Fremont, Madison Park, and Eastlake), though, with Gold's Gym, that milieu of the serious bodybuilder, finishing second. It makes you wonder what it is that makes for a good workout: the company you keep? The total tonnage of weights available? Or is it simply location, location, location? And what do they mean by "sound mind" anyway? The only exercise our mind gets there is from trying to figure out, alternately, how to program the treadmill and how to get the phone number of the thong-bedecked exerciser two stair-steppers away.

THINGS THEY LIKE

David and Rachel Martin

Owners, Ballard Blossoms

We're Ballard people. We take visitors up to the Kerry Park viewpoint on Queen Anne to look at the city and the Mountain, but you can't beat Ballard. The Seafood Festival; walking along the beach at the Shilshole Bay Marina; best of all, afternoon happy hour in the upstairs bar at Ray's Boathouse.

Jim Todd

Proprietor, Shorey's Books

About the only time I get out of the store is when my wife and I go out to eat. We love funky little places with no pretensions, and luckily Seattle has a lot of those. We've been to the Triangle Tavern as often as anywhere: absolutely no frills, nice young ladies with tattoos waiting tables, and great food.

52. Best florist

Romance-lovers, take happy note: This category drew more contenders than virtually any other—a sign, surely, that love is alive and well in our fair city. (Either that, or death rates are up.) We were heartened to see that Ballard Blossom (1766 NW Market, 782-4213), which has served us well on many a delightful occasion, ran away with this one, racking up double the total of the second-place finisher. Which raises an interesting question: What do you send a florist when you want to congratulate him or her? Candy? Petaling furiously into second place was Pike Place Flowers, followed by the ever-winsome Flower Lady.

53. Best shoe store

Put yourself in our . . . ahem . . . shoes. You are charged with finding a way to break the electrifying news to Seattle that our readers' favorite shoe store is Nordstrom (Fifth and Pine, Northgate, Southcenter locations). How do we package this result as a newsworthy surprise? Can there really be a reader out there who doesn't already know that Nordstrom is going to win this one by a landslide? Even those few who voted for other stores likely know in their heart of hearts that Mr. John et al.'s company is the no. 1 shoe dog and has been for almost 100 years. We might have joined those few wags who voted for Chubby & Tubby, but—like them—it would have been only because we were trying to ease the boredom and introduce a little levity into the proceedings. In a show of support for those less acculturated, Payless Shoe Source clomped into second place. The rest, it seems, turned on their heels and ran the other way.

THINGS THEY LIKE

Gene Juarez

Master hair designer, arbiter of fashion

The revitalization of downtown. It is exciting to see Seattle emerging as a major city with a distinct downtown fashion core. The energy and excitement is being restored, and the grunge reputation of the past is being replaced with a unique savvy. The restaurant, entertainment, and fashion mix are all very exciting. And, in spite of Seattle's makeover, the people are unaffected. We are the only city to have so much, and without the usual negative aspects of other big cities. The people of Seattle are so polite and generous. We don't drive with our horns, we abide by the rules of the road, and we are friendly and community conscious. Seattle is the best city in all respects.

54. Best cell-phone service provider

Maybe it's loyalty to locals, since AT&T bought Seattle-based McCaw Cellular years ago, but the telecomm giant was the runaway winner this year. AirTouch, its far faster and spiffier Web site notwithstanding, was a distant second, followed by Voicestream and Sprint. You have to wonder how much longer we'll be polling readers on this one—surely all cell-phone service providers will gradually gravitate into one humongous one, right? (It worked before, didn't it?) In any event, look for AT&T to garner a bigger share of the votes year by year, until the day comes when it is the only one left to vote for—at which point the feds will step in and break up the company yet again.

55. Best bank

Banking choices have been cut sharply over the last two decades due to corporate buyouts and takeovers, which might explain why voters showed a marked preference for financial institutions with local names. Their favorite was Washington Mutual, a full-service provider with a dizzying number of local branches. Second place went to traditional hometown choice Seafirst. Curiously, third-place finisher Interwest Bank doesn't have a single branch in Seattle, instead concentrating on the east, north, and south suburbs. US Bank finished fourth. A couple oddities: Despite their fondness for putting their names on large public buildings, KeyBank was way back in the pack. And one enthusiastic Pat Cashman fan, after selecting their hero as both best DJ and best local television personality, promptly pledged their fiscal allegiance to "Pat Cashman's bank."

56. Best place to buy cheap computers

Readers, apparently confusing "cheap" with "used," voted Computer Renaissance (various locations) the winner, barely nosing out Costco. There is no question, of course, as to which has the lowest prices—we bought a fully functional Mac Classic for $100 there once—but it's hard to argue against Costco as the best source of cheap new computers. Of course, the engineers in our audience will all start chiming in at once with one objection or another, insisting that this manufacturer or this Web site offers the best value, defining "value" variously as dollar amount per feature, total purchase price divided by clock speed, the presence of a Zip drive and the absence of a floppy. . . . Hell, someone out there probably believes the iMac is cheaper than the Dell Dimension when you factor in ease of use and color coordination. An interesting note: "Internet" finished a close third—an indication, at the very least, that the world is growing more wired by the minute. Don't look back, Costco—something might be gaining on you.

READERS' COMMENTS

Best car wash:

"My husband."

"Your kid."

Best bank:

"My husband." (Editor's note: Haven't we moved beyond this, ladies?)

Best cell-phone service provider:

"The devil."

"Yuppie much?"

Best toy store:

"Wherever we bought Safeco Field."

"Babes in Toyland."

Best mall:

"The only good mall is a dead mall."

Best used bookstore:

"Twice Told Tales, Fremont, because they have a cat that sucks its own tail."

Best gym:

"Fuck muscle boys and Tae Bo."

Best beauty products:

"Mud and beer."

"Mashed fruits and vegatables."

"Nature!"

Best shoes:

"I make my own."

57. Best kitchen supplies

It comes as no surprise to see the venerable and delightful Sur La Table (84 Pine, 448-2244; 90 Central Wy, Kirkland, 425-827-1311) topping our list again this year. The store has all but defined the proper Seattle kitchen for years. Next up was Williams Sonoma—an indication of the uptick in Seattle tastes and income levels that came in with the '90s—and then The Mrs. Cook's, followed by a surging Ikea. Sur La Table, though, is the overwhelming favorite—voters preferred it in numbers more than double the total of all other vote-getters combined. And no wonder: The store remains a browser's paradise, whether you're shopping for yourself, for someone else, or even when you have no intention of buying anything at all.

58. Best toy store

Any child of the '80s worth her grits will remember fondly the scene from Big in which Tom Hanks and his boss performed a rather stirring rendition of "Chopsticks" on a giant keyboard at the one in NYC. Photos of family members with its signature large metal bear fill tourists' albums all over the world. Children go into anaphylactic shock upon entering this shrine to their greatest desires. What is it about FAO Schwartz (1420 Fifth, 442-9500) that so captures the imagination? Is it the sickly sweet, terrifyingly catchy theme song that Welcomes you to their World of Toys? The separate Barbie store on the main floor, offering up such treasures as The X-Files' Barbie and Ken? A stuffed animal selection worthy of the San Diego Zoo? A user-friendly layout that avoids the warehouse feel of competitor Toys 'R Us? Perhaps it's the combination of all of these things. FAO Schwarz offers the complete toy-shopping experience, one in which adults will be almost as awestruck as their children. This isn't just about grabbing the first Episode One figurine you can find—this is a place to play. Toys 'R Us did, in fact, earn second-place honors, while Magic Mouse Toys in Pioneer Square snuck into third overall.

59. Best nursery

Since we spend 364 or so days per year in darkness and gloom, the only real color and light that grace our lives are the color and light we can grow in our gardens. So nurseries supply not merely plant life but psychic survival itself. Small wonder, then, that this category was among our top vote-getters, with the lion's share coming in for Molbak's (1600 Pike Pl, 448-0431; University Village, 754-6500; 13625 NE 175th, Woodinville, 425-483-5000) and respectable showings turned in by Swanson's, Sky, and City People's. A visit to any of these, with the tropical, loamy aura that always characterizes such places, is invariably uplifting.

60. Best place to buy Y2K rations

See the best of the millennium.

61. Bonus question: Best reason to welcome the new millennium

See the best of the millennium.

Check out more ballot winners! Read Seattlites' picks for best city life, arts & entertainment, and food & restaurants. Or, go to the 1999 Best of Seattle main page.

 
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