Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Like their signature blimps, the prices at tire megastores can be inflated. So roll those baldies (carefully!) over South Florida's gauntlet of road debris, past a row of dodgy-looking used-tire shops along Sunrise Boulevard, to Tire Hut. The name evokes a primitive, thatched-roof building with a rubber tree out back, but don't be misled. Trucks from local exotic car dealers line up in Tire Hut's front lot because owner Jerry Rosenthal stocks Uniroyal, Michelin, and B.F. Goodrich, all at discount prices. Locally owned and operated, Tire Hut is not a chain but does offer chain-store features, such as free rotation every 5000 miles (provided you save your receipt) and optional road-hazard protection plans. The waiting room is small and the gumballs taste a little stale, but that's not the point. It's Tire Hut, remember? In just minutes you'll hit the streets again on fresh rubber bought at a fair price, thankful that in Florida there's at least one thing it's legal to burn.
Sometimes tracking down the right vibrating butt plug can be a wild goose chase. You search hither and yon only to be disappointed -- again. That's why the connoisseur of battery-operated sex toys knows that biggest is always best -- and in this case, that describes Megasex Adult Emporium. The video/toy store looks as if it's taken over an abandoned airplane hangar and filled it with every conceivable pleasuring device for every conceivable orifice. You can go from easily concealed, surreptitious little smuggleables like the Pocket Rocket (perfect for those long airplane flights) all the way up to and including the 10-inch-wide, 24-inch-long Man o' War (which hurts just to look at). Megasex is better than a well-stocked candy counter when it comes to condoms, displaying a vast array of colors, flavors, and textures. Then there are the silly novelties: gummy sweets shaped like boobs and butts, loads of lickable lubes, jelly dongs, G spot ticklers, cock rings, and of course enough dildos to distract Annabel Chong. If you just can't seem to reach that hard-to-reach area, give Megasex a try.
Oh no! Spilled overpriced coffee on myself. Look at the pretty dresses and separates -- I'll put together a new ensemble, complete with cute straw bag and iridescent bracelets. That ostentatious old man over there also mussed up his clothes; he'll probably grab some snazzy designer golf threads to go with the balls he's fondling. My whiny niece wants my new jewelry; instead I'll buy her Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss books. The latest Clancy, Cornwell, and Grisham -- great gifts for Mom and Dad -- are also available, though nothing from my lit class reading list. I guess I'll grab one of these magazines instead. Now, should I get my usual chips and chocolates or indulge in faux tropical (put coconut on anything, and they'll call it tropical) treats? Carrying all this merchandise makes my arms ache -- but here's a display full of tiny medicines and, to boot, replacement toiletries for all the stuff I left on the airplane. The Atlanta-based Paradies Shops did a good thing by opening this airport über-boutique in December after closing a few smaller stores. I can't help but agree with a traveler pushing a baby stroller, who spots the individually wrapped diapers and exclaims à la Elwood Blues: "This place has everything!"
If your pet could speak, it would probably say that going to the vet is for the birds. And it would be right in a way. Dr. Karen Zielezienski (that's Dr. Z to her patients) has been practicing avian medicine and surgery for more than 12 years, and she's one of a handful of AAV (Association of Avian Veterinarians) members in South Florida. Dr. Z is always willing to share her expertise through Notes from Academy, the animal hospital's monthly newsletter. In addition to bird-care information, the good doctor provides updates on the latest medical innovations in use at the hospital and health care tips for dogs and cats. Dr. Z is ably assisted by Dr. David Stewart, who cares for critters in a career that has spanned more than 30 years. Academy is equipped with state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, surgery suites, ultrasound capabilities, laser surgery, and air-conditioned boarding. And the staff will clean up your mangy mutt or grimy kitty. Groomer Michael Argilan can coif your cocker or fit your longhaired cat with a lion cut for the summer. Whether they're ill or just in need of a checkup, pets get the best care from the entire staff at Academy, paws down.
Your bank account is down to its very last $9.66. You have nothing in your pocket, and that pack of smokes you crave is so near, yet so far away. What to do? You could take the bus over to the check-cashing store for a payday loan. But you haven't seen a payday since you threw the wrapper away. You, my near-destitute friend, have but one option, and it is Regent Bank, which, for some unfathomable reason, still uses first-generation mechanical money trees that dispense $5 bills, not just the ubiquitous tens and twenties most ATMs spit out. Thus you can yank your last fin without entering the red zone. Most of us thought ATMs that still gave out $5 bills followed Reagan out of the White House, but we were wrong. Yes, you'll pay $1.50 for the privilege if your account is with another bank. But that cigarette -- or can of Foster's -- never tasted so good.
All right, Pharo's isn't, technically speaking, a barber shop. Barber shops are generally cheap and devoutly heterosexual in nature. Men are men, and when one walks into a barber shop, even his hair gets nervous. Or at least it should be nervous. We've found that barber shops are a dicey proposition at best. It's probably not so much that the quality has declined as that expectations in this oh-so-vain world have risen as high as Don King's comb. That's why we present you with Pharo's. The services are not cheap (nor are they exorbitant, at $17 for a cut and wash), but they're damn good. And at Pharo's you don't hear a bunch of tedious talk about sports, hunting, or current events. Walter, who trims our hair, instead might spin you the tale of his life in Cape Coral and how he inspired a macho sheriff's deputy to become a manicurist. Now that's entertainment.
Liberties, with its eclectic book selections and vast array of caffeine concoctions, presents a haven for book-lovers who disdain mammoth national chains. But unlike fledgling independent places, Liberties plays with the big dogs. Both stores boast a healthy variety of genres, and if they don't carry the book you want, they'll gladly order it. Walking the aisles at Liberties is like descending into a delightfully bookish black hole: Hours feel like minutes, and it's easy to lose a whole afternoon to browsing. The employees, most of whom seem to be bibliophiles, tend to be both helpful and knowledgeable; the application for employment even asks prospective workers to name the authors of several books. Aside from meeting your individual literary needs, Liberties infuses some culture into South Florida. A few times each month, the bookstores host meet-the-author events, readings, and book signings.
Painted a cheery yellow and stocked with the bath-and-body products that are at once trendy and deluxe, Scrubbing Bubbles is the perfect place for a pick-me-up. Owner Dana Davidoff rides her bike to work each day with her poodle, Ebony, in the handlebar basket, and her store exudes the same laid-back whimsy. All manner of gift-worthy items are offered at all kinds of prices, from a leopard-print and ostrich-feather pillow for $200 to scented bath beads, which come in shapes including penguins and seahorses, for 35 cents. Aromatherapeutic products -- soaps and salves infused with essential oils -- are featured along with a somewhat less essential (but no less fun) selection of body gels, temporary tattoos, and jewelry.
Owner Dale Madison wanted a catchy name when he opened his gift-basket specialty store in Wilton Manors -- "something with a little innuendo that wouldn't be offensive," he says. Hence Oh! What a Basket, which alludes to gay slang for a man's, um, package. It was perfect for gay-intensive Wilton Drive. Four years later Madison's operation is in its third location, having outgrown 880- and 1300-square-foot sites. The current 3000-square-foot store now features some furniture and decorative accessories, but the emphasis is still on floral arrangements and gift baskets, which can include chocolates, cheeses, teas, coffees, cookies, and even wines. A more provocative theme basket such as "For Lovers Only" features edible his-or-her undies, body glitter, massage oil, handcuffs, and naughty fortune cookies. Madison says about a third of his orders are delivered directly to his customers by two courier services that cover both Broward and Palm Beach counties. You can order by phone, over the Internet, or in person. And while you're there, you can dish the dirt on what's happening in the local gay community with Madison, who's also a columnist for the bar magazine HOTspots!
When we say Guido's is a family business, we're not talking about the kind of family of which pop culture has conditioned you to think. We're talking family business as in a 30-year-old operation run by the same family, with "Father Guido" and his gregarious sons greeting customers, dishing up homemade items behind the deli counter, and cutting fresh meats to order. A small selection of produce and dairy products can save you an extra stop at the grocery store, and such specialty items as grape leaves and roasted peppers are sold at less then gourmet-store prices. Owner Ron Guido will give you the usual line about using "only the highest-quality ingredients," but he's more convincing when he insists, "It's the caring that makes the difference. You can have a great product, but if you don't care about the way it's prepared and presented, you'll go nowhere." Twelve successful years in the same out-of-the-way little strip plaza in Pompano Beach confirms his claim. Guido also says he and his own family eat the same products they sell to the public, and it's a point of pride for him that "90 to 95 percent of our trade over here, we're on a first-name basis with" -- in other words, when you're at Guido's, you're family, too.
While South Florida isn't exactly awash in interesting microbrews or exotic quaffables from around the world (thank our state's boneheaded beverage lobby for that), we're strategically positioned to enjoy a plethora of light beers from the Caribbean and the Americas. In our summertime, subtropical torpor, a pale lager hits the spot much better than a malty, yeasty ale. At Super Saver, which is located in a 1950s-era shoppette just west of I-95, you'll find Polar from Venezuela; Kalik from the Bahamas; Presidente from the Dominican Republic; Cristal Lager, Cusqueña Malta, and Pilsen Callao from Peru; Quilmes from Argentina; plus beers from El Salvador, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil. If you simply must leave the Americas, plenty of European beers are sold cheaply throughout the West Indies and thus at Super Saver, too. Among them: Hollandia, the Dutch-brewed, poor man's Heineken, and Bavaria. Both go for less than $10 a 12-pack. The selections change, and it's very likely you'll encounter foreign six-packs you've never seen before. Additionally the supermarket carries a nice variety of Chilean wines -- all very inexpensive -- for your drinking pleasure.
Jesse Rogers's office used to be a swimsuit shop. Now it's a one-room clubhouse of sorts for a one-man show punctuated by -- what else? -- one-liners. Often as not his storefront practice in the Gateway Shopping Center is full of people waiting their turns and chatting merrily. A former standup comedian and long-time yoga devotee, Rogers is a different kind of chiropractor. Clients simply drop in whenever they feel like it, and for payment drop whatever amount they choose in an honor box at the door. He doesn't have a set fee, and he doesn't take insurance. Rogers does, however, have a jar of fortune cookie-style papers printed with wise words from the world's great thinkers -- a different kind of doctor's orders.