Best Of :: Shopping & Services
This is a bookstore torn from a book lover's imaginings and plopped down in the most unbookish of settings: amid a visual jumble of strip malls and shopping centers just south of the busy intersection of Oakland Park Boulevard and Federal Highway. The current vice president of the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association has plied his trade here since 1978 after growing out of a nearby store that he opened in 1974. It may not look like much from the outside, but open the door and it's a browser's treasure-trove -- more than 100,000 used and rare volumes are packed into a warren of narrow aisles and shelves that rise straight up to the second-story ceiling. Hittel brags he has books from 25 cents up to $14,500 (for a rare copy of Charles Dickens's serialized A Tale of Two Cities). On a recent Saturday, a financial planner stacked old books on the checkout counter, trying to get the right mix to give his office an intellectual veneer. He was puzzled by the rapt look of the other shoppers, lingering over Dog's Bark, a limpid collection of essays by Truman Capote ($20), or leafing through a wood-bound scrapbook of a family's 1941 Florida vacation ($75). For bookstore visitors, it's the outsides as well as the insides that confer the magic. And inside this place, it's easy to get lost. "I didn't know this was here," marveled a tall hipster with bobbed burgundy hair who had wandered into the store and then spent the better part of an hour hunched in the photography section.
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.