6901 W. Oklahoma Ave.
The name doesn't do justice to how much fun this store actually is to behold. American Science & Surplus is an Archie McPhee catalog come to life. The aisles are lined with gadgets, gizmos and whats-its, some of which are practical (beakers, microscopes, electronics, art supplies) and others of which are anything but (bizarre toys, liquid mood sheets, plastic odds and ends). Cheeky, sometimes laugh-out-loud-funny signs suggest bizarre uses for each object, making all these tongue depressors, radiometers and unusual magnets seem like smart purchases, regardless of whether you have any real use for them. It's impossible to visit this place without feeling like a little kid. (Evan Rytlewski)
Annie's 2nd Hand Chic
1668 N. Warren Ave.
Lively green-painted steps lead you into Annie's cozy, incense-scented shop. Tucked into the colorful space are racks filled with a variety of clothing, for women and men, as well as shoes, jewelry and cute little trinkets. Everything is reasonably priced, and there is a dressing room for you to try on your finds. Don't forget to look up at the ceiling: It's decorated with tons of little odds and ends. You'll always find something new at Annie's. (Bridget Rzymski)
Bay View Books and Music
2653 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Used bookstores have a reputation going back for two centuries as crowded, chaotic places where paper goods are stacked in precarious disarray. Bay View Books and Music breaks with that tradition. Spacious and well organized, the storefront along the artery of Bay View's business district includes row after row of books, LPs, CDs and 45s, carefully alphabetized and with plenty of elbow room in the aisles. With literature and history, Puccini and Pearl Jam, the store has a little of everything. (David Luhrssen)
Bowlers Pro Shop
4101 S. Howell Ave.
In a cozy neighborhood where store signs still tout owners' names lies Bowlers Pro Shop. The offerings—balls, gloves, shoes, bags, towels, ball covers—are high quality and thorough. The encyclopedic staffers know how to bring out the very best. "It's all about personal touch," Joe Cerar Jr. says. "There has to be that comfort level. But we also make it a science. We consider body size, shape and weight. We have thousand-dollar shot-analysis equipment: speed, angle, tilt, axis, everything. We know the market. We customize balls. We will get you the shot you want." (Willy Thorn)
The Brass Rooster
2479 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
A man can't be a hipster without a hat—and I don't mean the baseball caps donned by balding baby boomers. Open since Derby Day in May 2011, the Brass Rooster is a small, delightfully packed jewel box of a store under the shadow of the Avalon Theatre's marquee. The Rooster goes in for hats of many styles made from many materials, most of them crafted in the United States. Prices start at $20 and rise to $500 for vintage collectibles and bespoke hats made by co-owner Kate McLaughlin. In addition to selling and repairing headgear, the Rooster sells new and vintage suspenders, cuff links, fountain pens, shaving brushes and razors, belt buckles—"all the random things that guys get that make us guys," as co-owner John McLaughlin puts it. (David Luhrssen)
19000 W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield
A small, family-owned chain of Wisconsin markets specializing in gourmet and artisanal foods, Brennan's takes great pride in its unique selection of wines, cheeses, produce and microbrews. To ensure quality, the Brennan family claims to personally visit the orchards, farms, vineyards and factories behind each and every item it stocks. Fruit preserves and butters, Amish candies, gourmet pastas and oils and vinegars are particular specialties, and many of the goods here are difficult (if not impossible) to find at other local grocers. (Evan Rytlewski)
Buddy's Meat Market
3620 S. Clement Ave.
This friendly little meat market on the South Side is known for its quality beef, poultry, pork and specialty sausages. Seafood, cheeses, vegetables, seasonings and sauces fill the space that isn't already filled with meat. At Buddy's, the owners package most of the products personally. The price is great for such good quality. By the way, the rumors are true: They really do have some of the best jerky ever. (Bridget Rzymski)
1627 E. Irving Place
Record stores used to be meeting places for like minds—magnets for music fans exploring the bins for new and old releases as well as informed conversation with knowledgeable sales clerks. Bullseye Records is a welcome holdover from the High Fidelity era, well stocked with LPs and CDs from all genres. Want an opinion on whether a particular '60s album sounds better in stereo or mono? You've come to the right place. (David Luhrssen)
3840 N. Fratney St.
The aroma transports you to a better world. The sight of hand-worked chocolates guiltlessly displayed in the retail shop disrupts your reasoning temporarily, making choice and moderation difficult. Each precious taste brings groans of pleasure. Julia and Tim Burke's candy factory—specializing in exquisite toffees and box chocolates, bonbons, truffles, caramels and flying T's, all from original recipes, the life work of two generations of master candy makers—is a diamond in an unprepossessing industrial park. (John Schneider)
1100 E. Oklahoma Ave.
At one time, every Milwaukee neighborhood had its own corner bakery, and while many have disappeared, Bay View is fortunate for still having Canfora. It's not just a ham-and-rolls-on-Sunday joint (although they offer that, too). Canfora bakes an array of unique, European-style cookies, a broad selection of sweet rolls and bread, and stocks a deli with many unusual items. Octopus salad? You can often find it, along with roast beef and a cup of hot soup. (David Luhrssen)
Collector's Edge Comics
2004 N. Farwell Ave.
Although the East Side location of Collector's Edge is a small shop, the floor-to-ceiling selection of comics is endless. Virtually any comic can be found, including Marvel, DC Comics and Japanese manga, with newly published comics available every week. The store also offers Magic: The Gathering, action figures, toys and comics just for kids. Collector's Edge will even buy certain comics from you. Stop by for some fun for all ages. (Bridget Rzymski)
Dragonfly Vintage Goods and Gifts
1117 E. Brady St.
On the well-beaten path of Brady Street, in a tall, handsome, turn-of-the-century building with a winged gargoyle on top, Dragonfly is a chest of hidden treasures of the second-hand variety. Lovingly edited and displayed, there's a little of everything, including vintage men's and women's clothing, jewelry, sunglasses, ties, furniture, fabrics, glassware, barware, books, vinyl, sheet music, tiny tarot cards, an Underwood typewriter, a Lady Remington shaver, Rogue Magazine For Men, and the latest "Recall Walker" posters by Milwaukee artists. (John Schneider)
2445 N. Holton St.
Fischberger's inspired, 1950s retro feel takes you down memory lane to an era of rag dolls, hula-hoops, candy in jars, handmade jewelry and homemade baby clothes. In the spring you can purchase heirloom plants and seeds. There is something to please different palates and fit every budget in this feast for the eyes, making it the perfect place to buy that last-minute gift, explore on a date, or take out-of-town guests on an excursion. So buckle up: You are in for an adventure. (Yvonne Ochilo)
9131 W. Cleveland Ave.
No less than two Greek grocery shops still call the West Allis area home and remain destination points—not only for Greek Americans, but also for anyone fond of Mediterranean foods. Both shops are well stocked with baklava, goat cheeses, oil-cured olives, unusual brands of olive oil, bags of cracked wheat, spices and unprocessed yogurt. Grecian Imports has a gift department and homemade bakery and soap—literally, made in the homes of the family that owns the shop—while Parthenon boasts a small meat counter and a liquor department well stocked with ouzo, Metaxa, retsina, slivovitz and other Balkan libations. (David Luhrssen)
Layton Fruit Market
1838 E. Layton Ave.
In the early 1900s, Sicilian immigrant Salvatore Proite's horse-drawn, door-to-door produce operation moved to a shop on Ogden Avenue. More than 70 years later, his grandson Joseph Proite Jr. bought an open-air market on Layton Avenue (the place was later expanded and enclosed). Today, it's an intimate specialty shop in the shadow of General Mitchell International Airport. Trademark Italian sausages, cheeses, olives and packaged and frozen goods share space with shelves of wine, fresh produce, groceries, meats and bakery—and a miniature replica horse cart. The market even has its own line of homemade sauces, seasonings and noodles. (Willy Thorn)
Off the Beaten Path
1936-38 N. Farwell Ave.
The tiny storefront is an architectural jewel, and inside is a trove of actual jewelry and treasured LPs. Owner Chris Kruse's mission is "to keep the independent record store alive and well," but he has also made his young shop an outlet for affordable, one-of-a-kind jewelry and decorative art by Milwaukeeans. His large selection of classic rock makes this a good starting point for fledgling collectors of vinyl. His jazz, R&B and rare LP collections are rapidly growing. And his prices are low. (John Schneider)
Tip Top Atomic Shop
2343 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
The spirit of the '50s lives on in the Bay View neighborhood through its pompadoured denizens and its wood-paneled, electric-fireplace-outfitted bars. And no business celebrates the era more extensively than Bay View's Tip Top Atomic Shop, a cluttered storefront that looks like an eccentric bachelor pad from the Eisenhower years. The shop specializes in all things rockabilly, stocking a hodgepodge of vintage and retro clothing, furniture, jewelry and collectibles. If it's kitschy or tiki-themed, you'll probably find it here. (Evan Rytlewski)
Tower Chicken Farm
4111 S. Sixth St.
On the South Side, a giant chicken statue greets you upon entering Tower Chicken Farm, a store known for its delicious, free-range chickens. The owners are more than willing to help you find what you need from their different cuts of chicken. That's not all they have, though. Check out all three meat coolers and the refrigerator for beef, pierogis, rabbit, pheasant, duck, fresh eggs, sauces, seasonings and so much more—all at great prices. (Bridget Rzymski)