Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Left alone for eight hours, most dogs look for something to chew. That is how hapless owners have lost furniture, shoes, and just about every other valuable possible to masticate. Central Bark is one of many businesses that has come to the rescue of the career-driven and guilt-ridden dog owner, although to get your canine enrolled feels like you're applying to an exclusive prep school. To gain admittance, owners must fill out a five-page application and bring said pooch in for a Saturday interview. Of course, the interviewers want to know whether the dog has had shots. But Central Bark also asks what commands your pooch knows, whether he or she pulls on the leash when walking, and if there are any particular breeds of dog or types of humans he or she doesn't like. Once accepted, friendly dogs are separated by size, age, and disposition, then let loose to play in a 5500-square-foot, air-conditioned indoor area or in a 1000-square-foot outside area, accompanied at all times by a "counselor" who encourages romping and squelches any developing turf wars over toys. Rates range from $18 to $22 per day, depending upon size. For the truly pampered canine, Central Bark also hosts birthday parties with cake, ice cream, and peanut-butter treats at $20 per dog.
They did P. Diddy's Black & White Ball on New Year's Eve at the Shore Club in South Beach, brought Pat Benatar to New Orleans for Roche Pharmaceuticals, flew Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina into a corporate meeting on a giant spaceship, and staged a Hollywood gala complete with red carpet, limos, and six-foot-tall gold Oscar statuettes for a bar mitzvah titled "Seth's Premiere." Nothing is too off the wall or over the top. If you've got the bucks -- it costs $25,000 and up for a private bash like Seth's to as much as a million for a multiday corporate extravaganza -- they'll make it happen. M.E. Productions rakes in over $9 million a year orchestrating events. Packed inside its 35,000-square-foot warehouse facing I-95, cubicles and work stations seem carved in a conglomerate rock bed of props: a mermaid with golden hair falling past her butt, a faux verdigris Statue of Liberty, ferocious Tiki gods, the head of a huge snarling dragon, and a giant hamburger the size of a bean-bag chair. Of course, there are trends in this business like any other. Business theater director Deidre Underwood says she's thinking simple these days. Dot-coms pushed Underwood's world to extreme heights. Everybody's done the lighting-the-stage-on-fire thing, she says. She would rather see a single spotlight and a blazing speech. Staying ahead of the trends, this year she's talking speech coaches.
This place does not carry any ale from Antarctica. But if someone there brewed a batch, you can bet these are the shelves where it would be stocked. In fact, in this health-food store can be found several liquor stores' worth of beer to please every palate, including all the familiar names and an ever-changing lineup of obscurities. Salvator, Königs-Pilsener, and Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier round out more commonplace German lagers. This is also the place to find those tasty Belgian frambozens and buckwheat lambics. Of course, English ales, porters, and stouts are well-represented, and the selection includes a slew of rarities. Widget cans include the now-ubiquitous Boddington's, Guinness, and Tetleys, as well as Wexfords Irish Cream Ale and Abbot Ale. California and East Coast microbreweries line the aisle, as well as a huge assortment of organic ales (like the new Samuel Smith's offering), nonalcoholic beers from here and abroad, sorrel and ginger shandies, tons of ciders, plus seasonal beers like Anchor Christmas Ale and Sam Adams Old Fezziwig (flavored with orange, ginger, and cinnamon). So burp already.
You want your hair styled, head down the street to Yellow Strawberry and pay, like, $97.95 or something. You want a freakin' haircut, you eat your country-fried steak at the Floridian, then you mosey a couple of doors west, plop yourself down in one of the three barber's chairs, and you kick it -- say it with us, now -- old school. How old? Well, the shop has been there since 1951, the stations are also from the '50s, and those cool-as-hell retro chairs are from the '60s. A man's haircut will run you $15, a woman's $20. For the guys, a full-on, hot-lather, straight-razor shave goes for $20. OK, so it's not "two bits," but it still qualifies, like the shop's motto says, as "barbering the way it used to be."
Cowboys dress kind of fussy for macho bucs. Those outfits jump out at ya' -- shiny belt buckles as big as post cards with whole ranch scenes engraved on the face, ten-gallon cowboy hats, and boots with fancy tooling snaking all over the leather. Melding into a crowd, unless it's a crowd of equally outlandishly clad cowboys, isn't the idea. No, it's important to be able to spot others of the clan when mixing it up with the uninitiates. Responding to questions with a soft "yes, ma'am" and "no, sir" isn't enough. Nor is walking bowlegged. Gear. That's what makes a cowboy a cowboy. And Grifs has the stuff -- fancy and plain -- from Wranglers and Stetsons to tight-fitting snap-front shirts, boots, buckles, saddles, and bull-riding ropes.
Sure, it's a bit ostentatious, but really, why buy clothes off the rack that are designed and created for any old schmuck? Call up Twickenham and they come to your home or office, take your measurements, and make clothes specifically suited to you. The cost is about twice as high as store-bought clothes, but rare is the man who can say his threads are one-of-a-kind.