Regarding brick and mortar outlets: If your local dealer shares your audio philosophy and carries the products that you like, then, by all means, patronize their salon. I tried to shop at my local dealer, but they only offered 500lbs Krell amps, gargantuan Wilson Grand Slam speakers and exclusively digital front ends. When I stated that I prefer analog and SET amps (i.e., refinement), they looked at me as if I were an anachronism. The sales personnel was nice enough so I bought some accessories from them.
Again, do your homework, trust your instinct and, with a little luck, you'll be just fine...maybe [sardonic smile].