Best of Cleveland 2011: Shops & Wares

No place on earth so easily blends the convenience of modern shopping with the unrivaled charm of our hundreds of small businesses. Trends will come and go, but we will always be Clevelanders serving Cleveland.

Best Health-Food Store

Nature's Bin

No other place in town cares more about vegetarians and healthy eating than Nature's Bin. Whether it's the aisle of bulk foods (from brown rice to strawberry granola) or the freshly prepared dinners (pad Thai, vegetarian Chicken Kiev) or the tasty vegan desserts (from cookies to carrot cake), they're all about keeping you alive with yummy food.

18120 Sloane Ave., Lakewood; 216-521-4600;

Best Place to Spend a Day Shopping

Crocker Park

Crocker Park has an Apple store, a Barnes & Noble, and a Trader Joe's. In other words, all of life's essentials. There are also places to buy clothes (H&M), furniture (Arhaus), and, um, basketballs (Dick's Sporting Goods), plus plenty of restaurants (Aladdin's, Brio) for midday fueling. Best of all, it looks and feels like a self-contained village, with zigzagging streets, a public square, and a big-ass chess board, in case you suddenly crave large-scale competition.

189 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake; 440-871-6880;

Best Place to Buy Unique Gifts & Best Locally Owned Toy Store

Big Fun

Remember that Planet of the Apes tree-house playset you had when you were a kid and your mom threw out as soon as you left for college? You'll find it at Big Fun. You'll also find tons of Star Wars action figures, ginormous Donkey Kong plushes, and more gag gifts than you can shake a rubber chicken at. This superstuffed store — with locations on both the East and West Sides — is like a pop-culture museum packed with toys from your nerdy past. And everything in this museum is for sale.

1814 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-371-4386 & 11512 Clifton Blvd.; 216-631-4386;

Best Comic Book Shop

North Coast Nostalgia

North Coast sells more than comics. You'll also find trading cards, collectible figures, and Star Wars paraphernalia here. But it's all of those comic books — new releases, back issues, graphic novels — that will unleash your inner (or maybe not-so-inner) geek.

5853 Ridge Rd., Parma; 440-845-7040

5120 Mayfield Rd., Lyndhurst; 440-442-1986

Best Locally Owned Hardware Store

Lakewood Hardware

Today's big boxes were supposed to make life easier, but the formula often backfires with hardware stores. While the home-improvement giants have squeezed the little guy into submission, fortunate are those still served by a mom & pop shop. At Lakewood Hardware, it's not just the amazing array of stuff they cram into a double-wide storefront; it's their many much-needed services that help do-it-yourselfers do it almost by themselves: from screen replacement to pipe cutting to blade sharpening to appliance repairs. As long as century homes break down, Lakewood Hardware will have job security.

16608 Madison Ave., Lakewood; 216-226-8822;

Best Locally Owned Bookstore

Mac's Backs

There are more than paperbacks at this venerable Coventry shop. There are plenty of hardbacks and even some magazines, but Mac's specialty is indie books (memoirs, bios, mind-blowing fiction, revolutionary treatises), and especially those penned by local writers. Best of all, many of those authors make in-store appearances to talk about their work.

1820 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights; 216-321-2665;

Best Adult Store


Valentine's Day doesn't have to come just once a year when you stock up on goodies at this locally owned "store for lovers." Pick up a pack of Stiff Ones enhancement pills for him, a bendable vibrator for her, and some strawberry-kiwi lube for both of you. And be sure to check out the line of sex furniture too. You'll never look at a spinning sex swing the same way again.

Various locations;

Best Place to Buy Groceries


Sure, you can pick up a box of Cap'n Crunch at Heinen's. But we love it for all the organic foods, homemade pastries, fresh produce, and onsite prepared meals, including vegetarian-friendly entrées. They also have a great cheese selection, which you can pair with one of the wines you tried at Heinen's frequent tastings.

Various locations;

Best Chocolate Shop


The question isn't What does Malley's dip in chocolate? The question is, What doesn't Malley's dip in chocolate? At its various locations around town, you'll find Fritos, Twinkies, potato chips, grapes, bacon, and strawberries — all smothered in rich, tasty chocolate. You can find lots of assortment boxes and by-the-pound candies here too. Bust a gut!

Various locations;