Best Of 2017

Critics' Picks: Consumer Culture
Best of Charlotte 2017

"We're going to invest in bitcoin." (Photo by Justin Driscoll)

"We're going to invest in bitcoin." (Photo by Justin Driscoll)

These expensive, these is red bottoms, these is bloody shoes. The year started with Black Sheep's exclusive release of the amazing "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" Nike collab, and we knew from then on we'd be curing our Trump blues with some retail therapy. Here's where we spent the most...

Best Place to Get Tatted Up - Haylo Healing Arts Lounge

Poor Ryan never stood a chance. Our news editor Ryan Pitkin walked into Haylo Healing Arts Lounge one day in March to interview the owner Hayley Moran about her upcoming Time Capsule Tattoo event, and like a sailor swooned by the song of a siren on the rocks, he was soon asking if he could participate. A few days later, he was under the gun of Dani Blalock, one of Moran's all-lady Haylo crew. The tat turned out perfect, and Pitkin couldn't have been happier, but our choice goes beyond Pitkin's personal connection and bias. Haylo gets our vote because of Moran's efforts to connect the oft-segregated communities of tattoo artists and those who use canvas and other mediums. Moran holds regular gallery showings for local visual artists in the space, and her ace-in-the-hole, Hillary Heath, hosts yoga in a connected room and works to give the entire shop a metaphysical vibe that makes it impossible not to be at peace with the tattoo gun in your ribs.

Haylo Healing Arts Studio (Photo by Melissa McHugh)
  • Haylo Healing Arts Studio (Photo by Melissa McHugh)

Best Skate Shop - Armada Skate Shop

You know what's dope about Armada Skate Shop? On its Facebook page, they have this really young girl on a board, mid-air, hair flinging back, red helmet on her head, working it like the badass that she is. The pic is perhaps a nod to the "Girls Shred Free" event that Armada hosted at Grayson SkatePark every Thursday through the summer, and we're always down with folks trying to lift the ladies up in a community seen as a boys' world. But what's dopest about the shop is that owner Patrick Carroll is so chill; he's there to help you out in whatever way he can, whether you're just starting out or ready to compete with Lizzie Armanto, Sage Elsesser or Riley Hawk (or heck, even Riley's dad Tony). And with their line of clothing, Armada will have you looking as good (or better, in some cases) than you skate.

Best Place to Jam - Midwood Guitar Studio

Located right in the heart of the Plaza Midwood neighborhood, Midwood Guitar Studio specializes in boutique guitars and amplifiers. This ain't where you're going to go to plug in that new over-priced Les Paul into a Marshall Stack, kids. Brands like Collings, along with lesser known but highly regarded brands such as Revelator, Veritas, and Mario Martin are all here for you to check out what the indie world of electric lutherie is bringing to the table. Also, a fully functional recording studio right in the back of the store is available to interested musos, a fully functional guitar repair shop keeps folks' axes in top shape, and monthly concerts and workshops in the store are what's setting this little guitar store apart from the big box stores in south Charlotte and Matthews.

Midwood Guitar Studio.
  • Midwood Guitar Studio.

Best Metaphysical Store with a Feminist Twist - The Bag Lady

The Bag Lady is Charlotte's go-to store for stones and crystals, but they offer so much more for the seeker, the spiritual or the merely curious. It's an oasis of calm and a garden of the senses where you can find Reiki-infused candles, ritual bells, singing bowls, jewelry and tarot and oracle cards. A diverse selection of books covers health and wellness, creativity, self-help, spirituality and even sacred geometry. The store's website says they're dedicated to inspiring "creativity, spirituality, hilarity, random enchantment and unmitigated bodaciousness." Preach it, sisters!

Best Literary and Vegan Mash-up - Book Buyers / The Greener Apple

click to enlarge Greener Apple owner Lee Rathers.
  • Greener Apple owner Lee Rathers.

Looking for that one-stop shopping spot for eco-friendly dish soap and that volume of Proust you've been hankering for? Go no further than the intersection of Central Avenue and The Plaza. Book Buyers boasts a wide selection of used books amid a funky space that includes a small under-construction airplane hanging from the ceiling. At the front of the same space, The Greener Apple carries vegan and eco-friendly items including food, toys, beauty supplies and pet products. Speaking of pets, Book Buyers also hosts rescue cats looking for good homes. Is there a better way to spend an afternoon than reading a good book and munching on vegan goodies with a kitten curled up in your lap?

Best Toy Store - The Reddoor

It was tough for all of us kids who came up in the '80s and '90s to hear that our beloved Toys 'R' Us company had filed for bankruptcy in late September and, though they claim otherwise, will likely go the way of Blockbuster in coming years. Luckily for us, we've grown up and now and no longer needs Toys 'R' Us — yeah, we get it, some of you have kids, whatever — and we're now shopping for toys that leave us breathless in bed. Whether you're experimenting with your Tinder lineup or trying to regain the spark in your marriage, the experienced staff at any of the local Reddoor locations can make sure you're never bored in the bedroom.

Best Record Store that also Serves as a Concert Venue - Lunchbox Records

Where else can you see local acts like Mineral Girls or national performers like RocknRoll Hi-Fives, and then power shop for records and CDs between sets? This is an awesome or dangerous thing depending on your budget. We recently popped in for a show and walked out with a Posies compilation and an anthology of 1970s experimental rock from Venezuela! The store boasts LED panel lights that can be dimmed when the shows start, but owner Scott Wishart says it's never dark enough for the bands.

click to enlarge Lunchbox Records owner Scott Wishart.
  • Lunchbox Records owner Scott Wishart.

Best Feng Shui - Sanctuary Imports

So you'd love to visit Hogwarts School of Witchcraft, but the only thing holding you back is that you can't find cool furniture there. Well, hesitate no more, fledgling wizards! Sanctuary Imports in Plaza Midwood is actually an eclectic store where you can find crystals, furnishings, candles and jewelry, but it's serene and exotic atmosphere certainly conjures up the feel of Harry Potter's favorite haunt. The store's one of a kind and vintage furniture is the big draw here. Where else can you find a table fashioned from imported boat wood? There are also astrology readings, guided painting workshops and other events for the metaphysically inclined.

Best Place for Locally Made Furniture - TUFT

click to enlarge TUFT.
  • TUFT.

TUFT, which stands for Today's Unique Furniture Trends, offers just that. The store features vintage furniture, custom upholstery, art, and workshops. Customers come not only for the constantly changing gems and one-of-a-kind furniture finds, but also for owner Danielle McKim, who's infused her store with her cheerful and helpful personality. Visit her, shop local, and find your next statement piece all at once at 1222 Central Ave.

Best Boutique - 32 Flavors

...and then some. 32 Flavors Boutique is the boutique of all boutiques proudly offering over 32 different locally made, made in America and/or Fair Trade goods that make this store a local staple. It offers handmade jewelry, art, accessories, ceramics, candles and any other kind of house-warming, wedding, baby-shower, birthday gift or whatever the hell else quirky little piece you need to get back on someone's good side. Every item is perfectly crafted to put a smile on someone's face.

Most Unique Boutique - Royal Peasantry

click to enlarge Royal Peasantry.
  • Royal Peasantry.

Still the best place to pick up that leather bird mask or fur lined cloak that will keep you warm all winter long, Royal Peasantry is quickly becoming Asheville's cultural embassy to the Queen City, hosting events such as the It's-A-Phase solar eclipse party last month, and movie nights that teach Charlotte's urban indie hipsters how to survive in the mountains. The brainchild of Asheville's own Danielle Miller, Royal Peasantry's Charlotte chapter, managed by Patti Byrd is bringing Charlotteans a bit of the independent and mystical mountain vibe that Asheville's so famous for.

Best Place To Drown In Your Own Sweat - Arrichion Hot Yoga

It's hot as hell! Arrichion Hot Yoga + Circuit Training is about more than melting your body doing uncomfortable and confusing poses. This unique fitness center offers multiple classes of hot yoga, hot pilates, circuit training and their special class Tiger's Eye (a special strength circuit and hot flow yoga!). Arrichion is the perfect body-sculpting program for beginners and professionals alike.

Best Place To Get Fine Before You Get Fit - Fityoulous

click to enlarge Fityoulous (Jon Thrasher Photography)
  • Fityoulous (Jon Thrasher Photography)

Ladies, you can now stop obsessing over your virtual Pinterest wardrobe of sexy and fashionable workout clothes. Fityoulous is your dream come true for all of your favorite open-back tanks, colorful booty-hugging leggings and, of course, matching sports bras. Go ahead and throw out all your baggy Goodwill t-shirts and sagging sweats because when you look good, you feel good.

Best Place to End Things With a Cliffhanger - Inner Peaks Rock Climbing

Climbing the walls at Inner Peaks will make you feel like you're climbing the rocky faces of K2 — well, kinda, but without the fear of falling to your death or turning into an ice-pop. Enjoy climbing, bouldering, a fitness room and yoga classes all in one facility available to all experience levels at two different locations. Get outside of the office and bring your co-workers for team building and peak party.

Best Flower Power - Sweet T Flowers

Did you know that 80 percent of the flowers in this country are imported from overseas, and most are ordered through middle-man sources that are only in existence to shake you down? Keep it local with Sweet T Flowers, based in Waxhaw, which gets all its flowers from local growers. This not only helps keep the costs low for you, but helps keep the flowers fresher longer (until your wife isn't mad at you anymore).

Best Place for Drinkers and 'Pot-heads' Alike - Queen City Growlers/The Little Studio

click to enlarge Queen City Growlers.
  • Queen City Growlers.

OK, so you've visited all the breweries in town and noted all your favorite local IPAs. What's your next step to becoming a bonafide beer nerd? You've got to get yourself a cool, custom-made growler. Queen City Growlers offers handcrafted, slip-casted growlers to lug around to your favorite craft beer spot for some suds to go. The ceramic growlers are designed to fight off beer's three arch nemeses: heat, air and light. And if QCG's slip casting process inspires you to do some clay work yourself, you've got The Little Studio right there in the same building. QCG owner James Carlevatti opened up the studio where he makes his growlers for the public to learn all aspects of the clay game, with fun events ranging from adult date nights to youth summer camps.

Best Place to Put Your Responsibilities Off on Someone Else - 2U Laundry

Alright, it's time to throw in the towel ... and the socks, t-shirts, jeans, button-up shirts, dresses and all other dirty clothes for washing. 2U Laundry has ultimately changed the laundry game by picking up your clothes then washing and dry cleaning them for you. Their organized system of "wash and dry," "wash and hang dry," and "dry clean" bags saves you over six hours a week on doing laundry and rushing to the dry cleaners, all while being environmentally conscious. So how are you going to spend all that extra time?

Most Anticipated Opening - (Tie) Lumberjaxe, Mac Tabby

Picture Jason Momoa (aka Khal Drogo) holding a sweet little kitten. My gosh I'd faint! That's the image that comes to mind when I think about the two most highly anticipated openings in the Queen City: Mac Tabby and Lumberjaxe. Mac Tabby will be Charlotte's first cat cafe. Visitors will pay by the hour to sip on local beer, coffeee, kombucha or wine while playing with some of Charlotte's homeless feline population. And guess what? You can adopt them! Are you kitten me?!

Mac Tabby.
  • Mac Tabby.

Lumberjaxe, on the other hand, introduces a more rugged concept. (Unless you think about how cute and cuddly lumberjacks' beards and man buns are!) Whether you want to date Jason Momoa or become him, all is possible at Lumberjaxe, Charlotte's first axe-throwing facility. Some of you may have already gotten a taste for axe-throwing at their pop-up events. Well, soon, you'll be able to throw as many axes inside their new venue and bring your own beer! (I wouldn't go while your ex is there though...)

Best Place to Catch a Cold - Holiday On Ice

Holiday On Ice is nothing less than a classic holiday tradition for Charlotte. The outdoor, authentic ice rink has provided memories for Charlotteans and visitors alike in the heart of Uptown Charlotte for 13 years. Whether you go for a family night, date night or a party with friends, nothing beats the fun of skating in the middle of a city twinkling with lights.

Best Place to Get Suited Up - William Wilson Clothing

Forget Gucci, Armani, Prada — all that junk. You can dress like Jay-Z, David Beckham and George Clooney combined if you schedule an appointment with the folks at William Wison. They don't spare any expense when designing your handmade custom suit. Of course, you won't spare any expense either, as you'll be dropping from $650 to three G's.

Best Place to Say Yes to the Dress - Meagan Kelly Designs

Wedding dresses are arguably the most important part of the wedding and there is no doubt that every bride turns into a bridezilla when it comes to finding her perfect gown. Charlotte based, Meagan Kelly Designs will relieve all stress with her bridal gown collections and better yet, the ability to customize your dream dress. Trusting a fashion artist who eat, sleeps, and breaths wedding gowns will make it easy for your gut to say yes to the dress.

Best Place to Channel Your Inner Monkey - Kinetic Heights

Kinetic Heights proves evolution is real by bringing out inner ninja monkey in everyone. The Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association facility offers intense ropes courses, endurance and obstacle training, yoga, kids classes and more. If you have hopes and dreams of being an American Ninja Warrior, this is the place to start.

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