A Main Street for Arizona State University , Mill Avenue became a little too popular for its own good in the 1990s, when high rents chased out mom-and-pop shops and bars. National chains moved into the red-brick buildings, but only a few, like Urban Outfitters and American Apparel, were able to survive the shopping habits of this eclectic crowd of students and suburbanites.
Stores may come and go, but “Mill Ave.” continues to serve as one of the city’s few spots for streetside shopping.
A couple of miles north, you’ll find the sprawling Tempe Marketplace (Highway 202 and McClintock, 480/966-9338). The mega-complex of chain retailers boasts a lot of names you’ll recognize from the mall, like Gap, Levi’s, and Barnes & Noble, as well as a movie theater and dozens of restaurants and bars. Its light shows, outdoor fireplaces, and unique water features make it a great place to hang out at night, especially for its free Third Thursday concerts.
One of the stores that fled Mill Avenue, Changing Hands Bookstore (6428 S. McClintock Dr., 480/730-0205, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Sun.) features 12,000 square feet of new and used books, specializing in contemporary fiction. Known for its regular events, the store’s impressive roster of signings include David Sedaris, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk.
Collectors can find rare and modern first editions like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as signed copies of Jonathan Fanzen’s The Corrections and Nick Hornby’s About a Boy.
The younger crowd will appreciate the compact Here on the Corner (714 S. College Ave., 480/377-0100, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. daily), near the campus of Arizona State University . The boutique’s trendy finds include denim from Frankie B and William Rast, eco-friendly handbags, and funky t-shirts, and accessories.
Nearby, Buffalo Exchange (227 W. University Dr., 480/968-2557, www.buffaloexchange.com , 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Sun.) sells an eclectic mix of new and used clothing. Hunt for vintage concert shirts, leather jackets, funky accessories, and high-end brand names.
Denim junkies, welcome to heaven. Chandler’s Moody Blues (3355 W. Chandler Boulevard Ste. 4, 480/558-7494, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun.) offers a staggering selection of jeans, many of which cannot be found anyplace else in the Valley. The friendly staff is happy to help you find your perfect fit and color, with styles ranging from skinny rock-star to boot cut, faded indigo to whiskered dark rinses. There are also plenty of other fashionable finds, including chic dresses and tops for women and cool shirts for men.
If only every grocery shopping experience could be this charming. The family-owned Guadalupe Farmer’s Market (9210 S. Avenida del Yaqui, 480/730-1945, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun.) sells locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as Latin American specialties like fresh tortillas, roasted chiles, and homemade salsas and jams. There’s also a large selection of dried spices and Arizona honey that make terrific gifts. This small market is tucked into the community of Guadalupe, a one-square-mile town predominantly inhabited by Yaqui Indian and Latino residents.
Shoppers may also want to make time to stop into the Mercado Mexico (8212 S. Avenida del Yaqui, 480/831-5925), which sells imported products from south of the border, like ceramics and paper goods.