Wright Pawn & Jewelry Co.

This ten-time Better Business Bureau "Winner of Distinction" leans more toward the high end, and its proximity to Memorial and Tanglewood means the place has bailed out more than a few of our tonier neighbors, which is great news for us. A recent stop showed three artworks valued at around $18,000 apiece. Other, more affordable objects reflect the diversity and decorating style of multiple swankiendas. There are designer handbags, furs, antique coins, Limoges and Swarovski, but the jewelry case is the big draw, spanning the entire length of the store and including fine timepieces by Cartier and Breitling. The folks at Wright Pawn are also experts at jewelry design and repair, which makes this pawn shop infinitely more convenient than a trip to the Galleria.

Last year's winner retains the title, and we swear it's not because we got sidelined with a bad case of the munchies and didn't research further. This unassuming little shop has some of the friendliest, most knowledgeable folks we've ever had the pleasure of discussing various and sundry glass instruments with. And there's a lot to discuss, because while the shop looks small from the outside, the selection is vast and the prices are right. The folks behind the counter have a real passion for their work, and for making sure you get the best customer service possible. We have a feeling that, after your first visit, this will become your go-to joint.

READERS' CHOICE: Heights Head Smoke Shop

Majestic Metro
David Rozycki

When you think back on your wedding day, you don't remember the minutiae. You see the cinematic version, well-edited with a gorgeous soundtrack, full of scenes you'll remember forever. Majestic Metro makes quite the setting for those memories, the former downtown theater giving the big day an immediate hint of nostalgic glow. Sure, you could get married at an event center or out in the middle of nowhere, but the Metro just feels epic, from the city lights outside to the big screen inside. The location and the building give you tons of room for interesting wedding photos — and if you want to make your perfect day last a little longer, Market Square Park is just steps away.

READERS' CHOICE: The Bell Tower on 34th

Houston Wine Merchant

We call this one the little store with a big vision. Formerly named Wines of America, this Inner Loop mainstay now stocks some of Houston's most exclusive bars and clubs. From its origins in 1984 specializing in domestic wines, this oenophiles' paradise now offers up quality wines from around the world: France and Italy, natch, but also off-the-beaten-path regions like Uruguay, Switzerland and Slovenia. Houston Wine Merchant stocks a few spirits and accessories, so it also serves as a quick stop for a housewarming gift on your way to the big do, plus the store offers local delivery for special orders and gift baskets. Putting it at the top of our list are the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon tastings, which make being adventurous easy and fun, and oftentimes the winemaker or vineyard owner is present for added provenance.

READERS' CHOICE: Spec's

Fannin Flowers

Fannin Flowers has been providing customers with bouquets 24 hours a day for more than 30 years. The family-owned shop — conveniently located near the Texas Medical Center — has row after row of cut flowers that can be bought in bulk or in gorgeous arrangements, along with tropical and bedding plants. The open-air shop has so many different kinds of flowers and plants on display that visiting is like walking into a steamy jungle. You'll find curtains of roses, fragrant lemon trees, delicate dwarf azaleas and exotic orchids, all in the same place. If you're looking for something especially rare, these folks can order it. They get plants shipped from all over California and Latin America.

READERS' CHOICE: Darlene's Flower & Gift Shop

Fry's Electronics

That sense of déjà vu you're experiencing is very real — last year's winner is again this year's champ. Sure, Apple stores tend to be prettier, sleeker affairs, which is great for strutting around with a sense of superiority. But if you really want to get down to business and take care of all your computer and accessory needs under one roof, at amazing prices, with sales staff who won't look down their noses at you, this is the place. Make sure you sign up for the email list to be notified right away of sales offered on top of Fry's already great deals.

Frankel's Costume

There's no need to wait for Halloween to find a costume at this year-round institution. The store's massive 20,000-square-foot showroom east of downtown occupies an entire city block and has everything you could imagine and then some. With more than 60,000 rental costumes and an enormous supply of stage and special-effects makeup, it's the go-to stop for theater professionals. The staff know their stuff, from zombie makeup to period costumes, finding just the right accessories to seal the deal. The family-owned business got its start in 1950 as Morty's Magic Mart, and continues to serve local magicians and illusionists with specialty items for ventriloquism, fortune-telling, fire magic and mentalism.

READERS' CHOICE: Frankel's Costume

We adore Luke's Locker because it offers everything you could possibly need as a runner, plus a few items you probably never dreamed could actually exist, like the world's most perfect sports bra or running shorts with pockets perfectly sized to hold your keys and a snack. On top of that, the salespeople know what they're doing. After examining your feet and watching you trot up and down a pathway in the center of the store, they'll match you with the perfect set of running shoes for wherever the road takes you.

Eagle Express

We expect the ideal dry cleaners to be like alchemists. We want them to be able to remove any stain, no matter its age or origin. We'd also like them to be reasonably priced and fast, and we'd prefer to get our clothes back without any iron marks. Most dry cleaners can do the majority of these things — natural selection tends to take care of the rest. But Eagle Express is one of the precious few places that can do all of these while at the same time extending downright wonderful customer service. That's not anything we expect. But it's something we love.

READERS' CHOICE: Heights Discount Cleaners

After celebrating its second anniversary, Liberty Armory has shown it can hold its own in a city that doesn't exactly have a shortage of firearm shops. These friendly folks know their stuff, making Liberty a great place to get your concealed handgun license and defensive training. Members can also take advantage of what's described as the only "publicly accessible" indoor shooting range inside the Loop. And the selection won't disappoint: Sig Sauer, Mossberg, Springfield, Nighthawk Custom and some of our favorite abbreviations: H&K and S&W. Liberty also provides armorer services, like diagnostics, cleanings, custom barrel fittings and the like. We look forward to many more anniversaries.

Best Of Houston®

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