Photo: Gina Finkelstein

Best Bridal Salon

We asked local wedding planners for their picks for best bridal salon in town. The one word on everyone’s lips? Casablanca. “Its service is the best, by far,” says event planner Kelly Sugano, owner of A Perfect Day. “They’ll even put your hair up, so you can see what your dress will look like with the veil." Casablanca offers about 500 different wedding gowns, even holding exclusive rights to carry such fine lines as Italy’s Pronovias. “I travel all around the world to give local brides a taste of high-end fashion, a taste of what’s available outside of Hawaii,” says Casablanca owner Gladys Agsalud. “But whenever I shop, I always keep in mind our local brides and their preferences.” Agsalud swears she has something for everybody—most of her gowns fall in the $300 to $2,000 price range, with sizes running from 0 to 30-plus. Casablanca also carries a wide assortment of bridesmaid and flower-girl dresses. 1024 Mapunapuna St., Suite 200, 839-4696.

Best Baby Furniture Store

At USA Baby/Child Space, parents and parents-to-be will find more than 2,000 items, including 40 furniture collections. “When we first decided to open the store last year, there really weren’t any other furniture stores devoted to infant and juvenile furniture,” says Valerie King-Azevedo, who co-owns the store with husband Chris Azevedo and partner George Correia. USA Baby/Child Space’s 10,000-square-foot store is stocked with everything you need to outfit your child’s room—all arranged in room vignettes, with coordinating cribs, rockers, bassinets, dressers, changing tables and accessories. Waipahu Town Center, 94-050 Farrington Highway, 671-2242,

Best Starter Furniture Store

Moving out on your own for the first time can be expensive, and it’s tempting to save a little money by furnishing the new pad with pressboard furniture from City Mill. But for the love of style, don’t do it; that “bargain” desk is going to chip and warp within a month. If you’re willing to invest a little time in assembly and finishing, you can get real pine or alder furniture pieces for more than decent prices at At Home/Naked Furniture in Aiea. It sells unfinished bookcases, bed frames, dining tables and chairs, office desks, just about anything you might need. It also carries stains and top coats to make your new acquisition look like a million bucks, even if it didn’t cost that. 98-023 Hekaha St, Unit 6, Aiea, 487-7295.

Best Off-the-Wall Gift Shop

It’s an unfortunate fact of life—some people are impossible to shop for. For the friends and family of these picky souls, we suggest The Contemporary Museum’s Gift Shop. It offers a singular assortment of odd and wonderful little objects—metal postcards emblazoned with vintage Indian safety posters, a portable drawing kit complete with a poseable mini-mannequin, a bronze spam can holder. There are also more conventional gifts, such as hand-crafted jewelry and photography books. And, having found the perfect gift, you can reward yourself with lunch at the always stellar Contemporary Cafe. 2411 Makiki Heights Drive, 523-3447,

Photo: Mae Ariola

Best Locally Made Jewelry

Donna Shimazu can do it all. Although she’s an expert goldsmith, she’s just as adept with silver and platinum. Diamonds, pearls and precious coral are often found in the pieces she creates for Maui Divers of Hawaii, but as a freelance jewelry designer, Shimazu can work with any stone, producing pieces that range wildly in style—from traditional to modern, from Island to Asian. She specializes in fine, hand-fabricated jewelry that requires precision and expertise, qualities that have helped her become the first woman in the country, as well as one of a few in Hawaii, certified as a master bench jeweler by the Jewelers of America—the highest and most difficult level of certification given by the national association of retail jewelers. “For me, it’s important that jewelry is functional as well as artistic,” Shimazu says. “It needs to be technically sound and comfortable.” Maui Divers of Hawaii, 1520 Liona St. 943-8301,

Best Consignment Store

It’s not unusual for first-time shoppers at The Ultimate You to mistake the store for a charming boutique, rather than a consignment store. This Ward Centre shop carries everything from Gap to Prada, scarves to suits, handbags to estate jewelry—all priced from 50 percent to 90 percent off their original retail prices. Owner Kelsey Sears has three rules for consignors: 1) Clothes must be less than 2 years old, unless they’re timeless brands such as a Chanel and Ferragamo; 2) If the pieces aren’t brand new, they should look like they are; and 3) Everything must be clean, pressed and hung upon arrival. High standards, but hey, The Ultimate You isn’t the best for nothing. Ward Centre, 591-8388.

Best One-Stop Hobby Shop

The Hobby Company at Pearlridge Shopping Center carries kits, crafts and knickknacks for hobbyists of all ages and interests—baskets, buttons, dollhouse miniatures, gift-wrapping accessories, paint-by-numbers projects, magic sets, you name it. “We offer a great selection for a broad spectrum of customers,” says director of sales Joe Wills. Especially impressive is The Hobby Company’s selection of models kits, which includes tanks, battleships and remote-controlled cars and planes. This charming store reminds even us adults that we’re never too old for playtime. Pearlridge Shopping Center, downtown, 487-2473.

Best Sneaker Store

Slick sneakers have long been a staple of hip-hop culture. Even rap granddaddies Run DMC were singing about “My Adidas” as early as 1986. But it wasn’t until 2001 that Honolulu had a sneaker store that catered to such footwear aficionados. It’s an easy-to-miss shop near Ala Moana Center known as Kicks Hawaii. “I don’t think we created a market—that was already here,” says Ian Ginoza, who co-owns Kicks with Eddie Haus. “It just wasn’t being serviced properly.” Kicks often lands exclusive rights to limited-production lines from such brands as Nike and Adidas. In fact, its merchandise is often so exclusive that Kicks counts comedian Dave Chappelle and rapper Jay-Z among its customers. 1522 Makaloa St., Suite. 211, 941-9191,

Best Costume Shop

Karen Wolfe at Diamond Head Theatre’s Costume Shop can create almost any costume you can think of. Armed with hundreds of pieces from DHT’s past productions, Wolfe easily whips up outfits for everyone from wenches to witches, pirates to pixies. “When the Batman movies first came out, I even spray-painted a tuxedo purple for a guy who wanted to look like the Joker,” Wolfe says. Since Wolfe pulls together various pieces for each customer’s costume, you’re almost guaranteed a one-of-a-kind look. Even better, DHT never charges more than $75 for any rental. 520 Makapuu Ave. 733-0277,

Photo: Guy A. Sibilla

Best Custom Furniture

Commissioning a custom piece of furniture is a subjective process, one that depends as much on your tastes as the craftsman’s skill. A good place to start, though, would be Alan Wilkinson’s woodshop in Pearl City. He’s been building beautiful furniture for more than 30 years, and, in the past nine, he’s won more awards at the Hawaii Forestry Industry Association’s annual Wood Show than any other furniture maker. He can build anything, from an intricately detailed urn to a 10-foot koa veneer dining table, exactly to your specifications. Last year he produced only four pieces, but every one of them was a knockout. 96-1276 Waihone St., #115, 456-1006.

Best Cigar Store

You can tell the ’90s have been over for a long time. Cigar stores are becoming scarce in Honolulu. Newcomer South Pacific Pipes & Cigars (350 Ward Ave.) gets points for friendliness. However, when you add up the number of different cigars in the humidor (more than 200), throw in the easy parking, the black leather couches, the cooler and the general club-like atmosphere, the best cigar store in town is clearly Joe Hilton’s Cigar Cigar! 1125 S. King St., 591-0808.



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