Brooklyn Homebrew is great - they'll do right by you. I haven't priced out starter kits from other vendors to comment on the value, but the essential kit has the gear you need. I can't even tell you how great it is to finally have a local shop to buy ingredients from. Online shops are great, but they're not much help when it's Thursday and you find out that your Saturday afternoon plans fell through and you can brew beer. The shipping lag times are just killer.
I've been brewing for several years now, but was just doing a beer every year or so with a friend for the first 3 years or so. About 2 years ago I started brewing a lot more frequently (a couple times a month) and I've been doing all-grain for about a year (still on the stovetop).
My process is documented in this article a friend and I wrote for Popular Mechanics: http://www.popularmechanics.com/home...-plans/4324487
Have fun with your first batch. Pay attention to your cleaning and sanitizing, but don't stress yourself out too much and pitch a healthy quantity of yeast. Either pitch two packets or make yourself a starter a day in advance (you can search this site for instructions - www.mrmalty.com
has great info on starters too). Everything else is easy and you'll make great beer