I usually buy online, but I like to see/feel/smell, too. You can find C.O. Bigelow cream (repackaged Italian Proraso) at Bath and Bodyworks. Crabtree and Evelyn sometimes has shaving supplies. If you live near a big city, you may find an Art of Shaving store. I shopped at one in Union Station in Washington, D.C. They have a list of retail locations and authorized resellers here: http://www.theartofshaving.com/taos6/locations.php?trk=footer
Thanks for bringing this up, Adventurer. I'm tired of the lousy selection at the national chains (CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Shopko, etc); the only thing I've found is the generic Van Der Hagen brush/bowl/soap set at Walmart.
I asked a barber in town, and he referred me to a catalog that he orders from; so helpful...
No worries Jamie, I just thought that the prices may have been a little better with a barbers in-sider than the normal mail-order stores on the web. I live in the Lansing area and having a hard time find supplies at a good price.
I love Colonial Drug, in Harvard Square. The men behind the counter are so knowledgeable about wet shaving. The stuff is really expensive, but for the money, you get an excellent product. When I first started wet shaving, I asked one of the countermen about using a brush and soap. I asked him, "Where is lather created? In the brush or in the bowl?" His answer: "Lather is created when the brush meets your face, not in the brush, and not in the bowl."
His answer helped me so much. It's really easy to fill a bowl with lather, and get a brush covered in soap, but unless this translates into a good coat of lather on the cheek, you're not doing it right.
I have a membership at Badger and Blade, and buy a lot of supplies online if I can find them cheaply, but I always make sure to support the local shop because they've been so helpful to me.