Johnny Cupcakes

A little while ago, our friend Johnny Cupcakes got dicked over by a vampiric corporation. These leeches liked his T-shirt design, so they stole it. Did Johnny weep? No. Did Johnny don a Che T-shirt and lob a Molotov through the window of the offending corporation? Cool idea, but no. Instead, Johnny opened up a store right down the street and kicked some ass, Adam Smith-style. That his boutique has become wildly successful is testament both to the ineffectuality of modern-day anti-capitalist urban guerilla warfare, and to the total awesomeness of his T-shirt designs. Well played, Johnny. [279 Newbury St., Back Bay, Boston. 617.375.0100.]

 Runners-up: Bodega, Boston; Mint Julep, Harvard Sq., Cambridge; Reiss, Boston.

 New CDs Newbury Comics

Alright, so admittedly this one was a little stacked, mainly because of the four stores you people nominated, two are going out of business. But while the competition wasn’t exactly fierce on this one, the award is still well-earned. Newbury Comics has been a boon to local music lovers for decades, keeping a big stock stretching across all genres and keeping a special focus on local indie releases and underground favorites. In the last few years, it has also established itself as THE place to get all kinds of insane-o pop culture swag, band posters and DVDs. There’s not much to say that hasn’t been said before. [Various locations in Boston, Cambridge]

 Runners-up: Virgin Megastore, Boston (RIP); Tower Records, Harvard Sq., Cambridge (RIP); Twisted Village, Harvard Sq., Cambridge

 Used CDs Newbury Comics

Well. This is kind of awkward. Um, OK, re-read the above, and then add to it a mention of Newbury’s extensive selection of wicked cheap used CDs. There. [Various locations in Boston, Cambridge]

 Runners-up: CD Spins, Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, JP; Twisted Village, Harvard Sq., Cambridge; Looney Tunes, Boston

New books Harvard Book Store

While rapacious readers the world over lament how independent bookstores have been getting methodically greased by the combined forces of Amazon and illiteracy, Harvard Book Store continues to thrive. Why? Well, for one, it’s in the middle of Harvard Square. But more importantly, the shop offers a broad selection of new (and used) titles, and stacks of super cheap remainders—where the shattered best-seller dreams of hundreds of authors are efficiently converted into big savings for you, and $30 hardbacks are available for like $6.99. [1256 Mass. Ave., Harvard Sq., Cambridge. 800.542.READ.]

 Runners-up: Brookline Booksmith, Brookline and Wellesley; Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston; Newtonville Books, Newton

Used books

Brattle Book Shop

When the frenzy of Downtown Crossing gets overwhelming, we find unmatched solace in the aisles (and bargain lot) of the esteemed Brattle Book Shop. Established in 1825, and changing hands only once since, the place doesn’t have a rep—it has a legacy. Everything from recent titles hocked by desperate Emerson kids, to antiquarian marvels lustily sought by socially awkward bibliophiles can be found here. Quiet, civilized and ideal for extended solitary sessions of thoughtful reflection, the Brattle is completely out of place down there—but you’ll feel perfectly at home. [9 West St., Downtown Crossing, Boston. 617.542.0210.]

 Runners-up: McIntyre & Moore, Davis Sq., Somerville; Lorem Ipsum, Cambridge; Rodney’s Bookstore, Central Sq., Cambridge



As gentrification continues to make Kenmore Square its charcuterie-scarfing bitch, it’s something of a wonder that Comicopia hasn’t been bulldozed into oblivion by now. Then again, its hold on the local comics crowd is as tight as any fanboy’s deathgrip on the latest issue of Civil War, and it’s easy to see why. The tiny retail space holds a sprawling selection of geeky delights, from sleek and shiny Vertigo trades, to hand-stapled ‘zine comix, to chunky tomes of classic Batman. Oh, and let’s not forget the toys: It’s a true exercise in self-restraint to walk out of there without snapping up, say, a Sin City figure or a zombie preparedness kit. [464 Comm. Ave., Kenmore Sq., Boston. 617.266.4266.]

Runners-up: Million Year Picnic, Harvard Sq., Cambridge; New England Comics, various locations; Comicazi, locations in Arlington, Somerville

Music gear

Daddy’s Junky Music

You gotta rock out with your cock (or, you know, your whatever) out, and you gotta do it on the cheap. No worries, dude; Daddy is here for you. They’ve got cables, they’ve got amps, they’ve got lots of guitars. You want picks? Hey, they’ve got like a million. How about a used, left-handed Martin DXK2 L guitar? Covered. Hit the Berklee location and you can hear like 20 nascent Steve Vai’s exercising their riffage. Maybe we shouldn’t have said that. And with 21 store locations in New England, they’re essentially the Dunkin’ Donuts of guitar stores. Hey, if it’s good enough for Zakk Wylde, it’s good enough for us. [159-165 Mass. Ave., Back Bay, Boston. 617.247.0909.]

 Runners-up: Guitar Center, Boston; Rock City Guitars, Somerville; First Act Guitars, Boston

 Bike shop

Cambridge Bicycle

For the second straight year, readers have chosen Cambridge Bicycle as their favorite. In a town absolutely jammed with cyclists, and with more than its share of excellent indie bike shops, Cambridge Bicycle offers a full-service repair shop, refreshingly non-snob-bastard employees, bikes ranging in price from dirt cheap to god-knows-what, helmets, locks, chains and any other gears or parts you find yourself in need of, as you make your way across Boston’s treacherous roads. They’re best known for the array of cheap used and vintage bikes they keep out front, and for the display of frames they keep in the window, which have caused many a bike fanatic to pause and drool. [259 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 617.876.6555]

 Runners-up: Ace Wheelworks, Somerville; Broadway Bicycle, Cambridge; Ferris Wheels, JP

Independent housewares

Boutique Fabulous

While owner Mara Kustra has waged a bloody battle to curtail the uprising, the lamps, tables and other housewares at Boutique Fabulous have proved well-organized and committed to independence, so there is little chance of the furniture returning to its previous enslavement at any time soon. Unlike the ruthless regimes at places like IKEA and Bed, Bath and Beyond, Kustra has allowed the furniture free run of the entire store, so visitors will find antique oak desks co-existing peacefully with kitchenware, stained glass windows, ceramic bowls and funky ’60s-style clocks. [1309 Cambridge St., Inman Sq., Cambridge. 617.864.0656.]

 Runners-up: Fresh Eggs, Boston; Abodeon, Cambridge; Motley Home, South End


Brattle Square Florist

The sight of colorful blossoms and eager greens peeking through the oft-harried atmosphere of Harvard Square offers a reassuring calm. A local fixture for approximately forever, Brattle Square Florist is impossible to miss, its wares in flora literally exploding from the misty shop interior onto the brick sidewalk.  After cooing at the mini-potted plants, step inside to nuzzle orchids and lilies (careful, there).  The staff is patient, answering to green and black thumbs alike. The floral arrangements are spectacular, and you can exert your budding (ha) creative spirit with a pick-your-own bloom buffet in the rear of the store. [31 Brattle St., Harvard Sq., Cambridge. 617.876.9839]

 Runners-up: Winston Flowers, Boston (four locations), Hingham, Newton, Wellesley; Petal and Leaf, JP; Twig, Boston

New men’s clothing


Karmaloop rocks art from local menace Nick Z on their walls, and they bring in art, music and fashion giants to drink free beer with schlubs like you and me. Shelves are packed with limited edition T-shirts and sneakers, graffiti magazines and streetwear lines from both better-known badasses like Obey, Puma, Adidas, Penguin, Triple 5 Soul, Le Tigre, Kid Robot, LRG, Modern Amusement and Paul Frank, and smaller, harder-to-find lines like Maharishi, Boxfresh, Militree, Jib Hunt and Syndrome. Kanye shops here, and so should you. [160 Newbury St. Back Bay, Boston. 617.369.0100.]

 Runners-up: Uniform, Boston; Drinkwater’s, Porter Sq., Cambridge; Stel’s, Boston.

New women’s clothing


Go one step beyond meatballs and sink your teeth into Stil’s scrumptious smörgåsbord of Scandinavian fashion. From Copenhagen to New York, owner Betty Riaz handpicks every item in Stil’s eclectic collection. The lineup of designers include ultramoderne Camilla Stærk, sinfully luxe Malene Birger, and cunningly feminine Manoush. The vibe continues with cute-explosion Orla Kiely  accessories, wham-glam party earrings, and the skinniest jeans around. Knock yourself out perusing European duds, munching on Norwegian sweets and leaving with the smug satisfaction that no one else on this side of the Øresund Sea will be wearing whatever it is you just snagged. [170 Newbury St., Back Bay, Boston. 617.859.7845; 199 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill. 617.527.7845.]

 Runners-up: Ku De Ta, Boston; Gretta Luxe, Boston; Fanny & Delphine, Boston

Used clothing

The Garment District

Wanna know the real genius behind The Garment District? They’ve somehow managed to turn scrounging through piles upon piles of used, buck-a-pound clothing from dirty and pathetic into some seriously rewarding shit. The first time you head into the GD’s dollar-a-pound sector, the knee-deep sprawl of clothes may be creepy. You feel as if you just might be “above” this sort of scavenging. But as you wade into the enormous heap of one man’s trash—and pull out that sick plaid L.L. Bean coat that happens to fit perfectly—you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the awesome thriftiness of it all. [200 Broadway, Cambridge. 617.876.5230.]

 Runners-up: Boomerangs, JP; Urban Renewal, Boston; Second Time Around, Boston


Eye Q Optical

It’s funny how glasses morph from embarrassing headgear when you’re a kid, to signifiers of nerdy sex appeal (for some) when you become an adult. The bespectacled folk over at Eye Q Optical are aware of the power of well-crafted glasses on adults, and churn out their own unique style of specs like Zinc, Flirt and Lava for those who wish to make a colorful, sleek spectacle of their ocular handicap. Plus, they have locations all over town, so it shouldn’t be too hard to fumble around your neighborhood until you find one. Masking tape and mouth-breathing not included, nerdo. [12 Eliot Street, Harvard Sq., Cambridge. 617.354.3303; 59 Clarendon St., Boston. 617.542.9600; 7 Pond St., JP. 617.983.3937.]

 Runners-up: Cohen Fashion Optical, Boston; Q Optical, Boston; Vizio Optic, Allston

Tattoo shop

Fat Ram’s Pumpkin Tattoo

Of all the reasons why you should get inked by Fat Ram, the best might be his months-long waiting list. Waiting is painful, sure—but isn’t that the point? The backup might have something to do with his tight shop (where the worthy Joey, Chad, Darlene and Justin also ply their trade), but mostly it’s that the guy is one of the most exacting taskmasters around. Pick up one of his family-Bible-sized portfolios and marvel at the wealth of autism-inducingly detailed linework, 3-D wraparound sleeves, cracked-out Von Dutch pinstriping and giant crazy flaming skulls. [380 Centre St., JP. 617.522.6444.]

 Runners-up: Redemption Tattoo, Cambridge; Darkwave Tattoo and Body Piercing, Boston; Pino Brothers Ink, Cambridge

 Free WiFi spot

Trident Booksellers & Café

There’s nothing like hunkering down with yer trusty laptop among good food and good books. It’s a cozy nook (especially in the winter) to retreat to from the yuppie bustle of Newbury Street. With a menu that’s both healthy and yummy, Trident’s the perfect locale to set your productivity juices flowing. Recommended typing fuel includes the apple-and-wheat-germ-tastic Trident smoothie and the eggs Benedict with avocado. Plus, you’ve got a built-in excuse for procrastination—shelves and shelves of quality readin’ material, located just off the café. [338 Newbury St., Back Bay, Boston. 617.267.8688.]

 Runners-up: JP Licks, various locations; Herrell’s Ice Cream, Harvard Sq., Cambridge; Sherman Café, Somerville.

Hardware store

Economy Hardware

With its city-friendly environment, Economy’s reasonably sized store is a welcome break from imposing suburban gargantuans like the Home Depot. And if you’re not of the DIY persuasion, there’s plenty of ready-made furniture, home décor and other household necessities scattered about. Economy invites everything from hardcore bottom-up shopping to casual browsing. Whatever your needs, you’re never alone. The unassuming staffers are always available to help you through the hard times. They won’t judge. Seriously. We once spent 20 minutes staring at the toilet paper holders. [144 Harvard Ave., Allston. 617.789.5552.]

 Runners-up: Tags Hardware, Porter Sq., Cambridge; Ace Hardware, various locations; Dickson Brothers, Harvard Sq., Cambridge

 Best art supplies

Pearl Art & Craft Supply

Back when artists were real artists, all your art supplies came from the woods. Kill a deer, tan the skin, chew up some bark, spit it onto deerskin, touch up the details with a nice paint-shoving stick, and before seven moons had passed, your shit was on the block at whatever the Paleolithic equivalent of Sotheby’s was. These days, the art world is a bit more cutthroat (dead deer aside), but with Pearl just outside the Central T stop, picking up supplies has never been easier. Three floors of everything a creative mind needs to distinguish itself from its smelly, free-roaming savage forebears. Or at least, that’s the idea. [579 Mass. Ave., Central Sq., Cambridge. 617.547.6600]

 Runners-up: Blick, Boston; Utrecht, Boston, Cambridge; Artist & Craftsman, Cambridge