Best of Silicon Valley 2001 - Editors' Picks

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[whitespace] Boots Lotsa Sole: Customers can order hand-crafted boots made out of just about any kind of hide when they visit El Juanillo.

Editors' Picks:
Hunting & Gathering

Best Place to Buy Custom Alligator-Skin Boots

El Juanillo
31 N. First St., San Jose

This tiny downtown shop stocks alligator boots galore. And if it's not on the shelf, they'll make it on the spot. Any color, any size, any style. For some of the more creative schemes, take note of the turquoise blue and red flamed pointy-toes. Step aside for the freaky pair that mixes hot pink and blood red. Make way for the white alligator skins with stubby tufts running down the tongues of the boots. Rarr!

Customers can't go wrong in a place that hangs a dried-out alligator skin on the wall and showcases a baby alligator head in the display window. JB

Best Place for Style on the Cheap

Stevens Creek Surplus Department Store
3449 Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose

Where can fashionable paupers turn to for the most current military and cowgirl looks? Stevens Creek Surplus, where midshipmen, Marines and fly boys have chucked their standard issues. There's no shortage of new and vintage pea coats, flight jackets, berets, officers' coats, camouflage pants, white caps and khaki trousers. They even stock n

ovelty camo tanks in blue and hot pink and those canvas belts in various colors with the shiny buckle. Not fond of looking like a walking advertisement for Full Metal Jacket? Go softer with the cowboy look, made easy with the store's collection of cowboy hats, plaid shirts and Wranglers. This may be the only store in San Jose where customers walk away with old-school Vans, a pair of Levis, an Army-issued canvas knapsack, an Igloo cooler, a fishing hat and a hunting knife. GR

Best Place to Pick Up Free Legal Advice

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Main Library
180 W. San Carlos St., San Jose

Yep, it's really free. Every Monday night from 6 to 8pm local ambulance chasers sit down, throw their outrageous hourly rates out the window, and let the legally wounded come to them. Anyone who shows up gets precisely 20 minutes of face time with an attorney, so it's best to come prepared, and edited. Lawyers on site are knowledgeable on everything from landlord disputes to settling the family will. Some are even knowledgeable on matters regarding Ally McBeal, LA Law and The Practice, but those in-depth discussions come for a fee. JB

Best Place to Get Marooned for Hours

1811 Hillsdale Ave., West San Jose
3155 Silver Creek Rd., East San Jose
2155 Morrill Ave., San Jose
20745 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino
170 Cochrane Rd., Morgan Hill

Ah, "Tar-Zhay." The French pronunciation sounds lovely on the discount chain store, doesn't it? It's fitting, because everything at Target is lovely. It has the convenience of a small supermarket without the fresh produce and the kind of goods found in department stores and electronic goods warehouses. In short, it is the epitome of one-stop budget shopping. There are loads of plastic containers for storing whatchamacallits; Power Puff backpacks and CDs for the kiddies; home decorating items such as framed black-and-white photographs and funky lamps. Brand-conscious fiends can even settle for cosmetics conceived by Cindy Crawford's makeup artist, Sonia Kashuk; tea kettles and household gadgets by renowned architect Michael Graves and clothing by Mossimo, a line formerly available at such retailers as Nordstrom and Macy's. "Shopping at Target has become a badge of honor," said Wendy Liebmann, president of New York-based independent consulting firm, WSL Strategic Retail, to Go ahead, wear the badge with pride. But be wary of shopping here on weekends, it's anything but a Zen experience. GR

Best Thrift Store Run by Anal Retentives

Community Value Center
520 S. First St., San Jose

We love used clothes. We love cheap prices. We hate wading through a confusing mishmash of garments and sizes crammed polyester-to-linen on spindly rounders. The answer? CVC, where the management takes inordinate pride in arranging their goods in a veritable Dewey Decimal System of logic and order. Women's blouses? Separated by long-sleeve and short-sleeve, dress-up and t-shirt, hue and even shade of hue. Same with shoes, pants, skirts, etc. And, they're often washed, ironed and relatively scarce on stains or tears. Beige silk blouse for $2.98? A steal. KL

Best Place to Indulge in a Full Day of Mindless Consumption

Gilroy Premium Outlets
681 Leavesley Rd., Gilroy

For those who brighten at the thought of endless purchasing, the sprawling metropolis of the Gilroy Outlet stores beckons like a Disneyland be-flagged with hundreds of brightly colored designer labels.

Need new running shoes at about half the original cost? The Nike outlet has them. Hankering for an addition to the wedding-gift pots and pans? Check out the outlet for Le Creuset.

The biggest problem facing consumers is the very real threat of retail overload. With 100-plus stores stashed in three different arenas, it's best to plan this for a day trip or better yet, a romantic weekend. Works for us. KL

Best Place to Horde Shoes Like Imelda Marcos at the Height of the Reagan Era

Nordstrom Rack
1600 Saratoga Ave., San Jose

Attention all shoe whores! Blue about the economy and the lack of Benjamins sitting in that Gucci coin purse? No problem mon, the answer is waiting at the Rack. Like most discount outlets, the store is hit or miss. Miss, and a customer's likely to find really tacky gold boots or white flats made in Brazil. But hit it one more time, and it's shoe bliss. Just try to ignore the pairs of Via Spiga, Steve Madden, Bebe, BCBG, Charles David and Kate Spade shoes. There's plenty of choices too, from leather sneakers and casual flats to last season's trendy boots and evening heels at half-price. Shop with a discriminate eye, as mark-downs mean the shoe might have been worn or refinished. In either case, it's indicated with a sticker usually on the shoe's sole. Still, there's a 99 percent chance that the rest of the shoe inventory came over direct from Nordstrom stores, and that in itself is the draw. GR

Best Place to Begin Again ... and Again

Bed, Bath and Beyond
5353 Almaden Expwy., San Jose

At some point, everyone needs stuff, the kind of low priority stuff that's either around the house or it isn't. Pillowcases. Dish scrubbers. Cheese graters. Alarm clocks. Towels. Picture frames. The list, admit it, goes on and on, and there's one place to go for, well, that stuff, whatever it is: Bed, Bath and Beyond. San Jose's cavernous store, which looks small on the outside but feels like an aircraft hangar on the inside, rises like a housewares monolith about Almaden Expressway and Highway 85, beckoning to college slobs and immaculate moms alike. Shoppers drawn there for, what, maybe a couple sponges and a desk lamp, run the risk of becoming disoriented and leaving two hours later with a cart full of sudden necessities and a triple-digit hit on their Visa. Sadly, there's no antidote: Everyone needs something, but that need isn't always apparent until the subject wanders into the jungle of goodies. JK

Best Place to Buy a Candy-Filled Muppet

Dulceria My Carnaval
1161 E. Santa Clara, San Jose

Whether it's a birthday, company picnic or quinceneara, the little peach-colored shop at 24th and Santa Clara is the place for party supplies, and it should be perfectly clear if the dozens of brightly colored piñatas that flutter in the breeze outside during business hours are any indication. Not only is there a dizzying selection of piñatas, but if Big Bird, Tinky-Winky or an orange pony doesn't meet the party's needs, Dulceria will custom-make whatever does for just $45 (yes, they also do corporate logos for the truly unimaginative). Owners Cynthia and Jose Velasquez have their candy imported from Mexico, and offer plenty of balloons, noisemakers, streamers, banners, toys and other party necessities. JK

Best of Silicon Valley 2001 Table of Contents

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From the October 18-24, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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