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Best Of 2004

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Pet Store

Synodontis petricola is a dwarf catfish commonly found in Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. It rarely exceeds three and a half inches in length. But S. petricola, better-known as the pygmy catfish, has one hell of a Napoleon complex: Put this graceful creature in an aquarium with some of his larger, more aggressive catfish brethren and watch him quickly gain respect as he scavenges the bottom of your aquarium. S. petricola ($34.99) is merely one of the unique underwater oddities you can find at Benny's Tropical Fish in Pembroke Pines. This family-owned store, founded by Benny Manna, is a turnkey outfit for all your fish and home aquarium needs. In fact, Benny's fish, many of which are bred in captivity, have gained such a following that Manna ships everything from Blue Dolphin ($5.99) to Albino Cobalt Zebra ($4.99) to customers nationwide. Readers' Choice: Petsmart

Best Barber in Broward

No roody poo yakkety-yak at Florida Master Barber, where Fresh (Mark Bierre) wields his blades. Sit down. How do you want it? Short. Fade? Yeah, a little fade. Out come the black smock and the Father O'Brien white paper strip around the throat. Then the master does his thing. One length of clippers for the back of the head. Then another to mow that pesky neck hair out back. Here come the scissors for the crown. Then more clippers over the top, back around the sides. The big, fluffy brush sweeps the shoulders. Then the sideburns get mowed to match that fly fade. Those stray eyebrow hairs wandering toward the temples finally get their comeuppance. The two-day stubble is buzzed away to a nice, kiss-me-wherever-you-want smoothness. More clippers, sharpening the edges around the forehead. Then a dollop of hair gel and an aerosol coating of olive oil, for that magical Friday-night sheen. Now who's lookin' good? You are, you sharp son of a bitch. You're un-frickin'-stoppable. And you're out only $10, not counting what ought to be a fat-ass tip for the man with the mirror.

Best Barber in Palm Beach

Though it may seem mostly a matter of semantics, there is a significant difference between a hairstylist and a barber. You go to a hairstylist to have your hair cut and styled in a particular fashion. But if you don't know what you're doing, that style gets lost as soon as you take a shower. With a barber, what you see is what you get. Just decide where the part goes and you're all set. But even among barber shops, there is yet another divide: chain stores or family-owned. When you go to a chain shop, chances are the person cutting your hair has been there for only a month or two. At the Florida Barber Shop, however, there are only two people, owner Jim Fitzpatrick and his daughter, manager Bonnie Rock. The shop has been in operation for the past 18 years, so you know you're in experienced hands. A regular haircut costs $11, but if you show up once a month, the cost is only $8. (Seniors pay $8 regardless.). Oh, and you can have your hair styled, if you so choose. Just call Bonnie to make an appointment. The Florida Barber Shop is open Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Best Florist

Some of the so-called florists you can call when you need a bouquet delivered to that special someone are nothing more than a bank of phones, a middleman sending orders out to others. Not so with Coral Springs' Hearts and Flowers Florist and Party Designs. Since the store opened 11 years ago, it has distinguished itself as the place to go for excellence in floral work and party decoration. Owner/designer Cheryl Sims is a trained visual artist who stumbled into a floral-design class and found her true talent (realizing at the same time that she could make a little money using high-quality flowers to create floral art for discriminating customers). The first recipients loved their orders, and word of mouth has kept the store busy. Sims and her staff use a rotating stock of flowers from around the world -- South American roses, Hawaiian tropicals, Dutch tulips, Thai orchids, and even Casablanca lilies -- to create tasteful arrangements, which are symmetrical and natural, proportional and fragrant, every piece complementing the others. The store can also arrange delivery of flowers and gift or gourmet baskets anywhere in the country and will deal only with other reputable florists, ensuring that quality will be a top priority.

Best Women's Clothing

The mall served you well in high school, and Target definitely has its place. But you're a big girl now, and you deserve some grown-up clothes. At Lauderdale Lifestyle Too, the racks are jammed with upscale designer labels, independent brands, and one-of-a-kind handmade threads. Here you will find clothes that work for the boardroom, the bistros, and the beach -- such as BCBG seersucker suits, the hard-to-find Chickabiddy line of sportswear, and dresses for day and night. The shelves and walls are stacked with unique purses, belts, and perfumes, and the friendly clerks have totally got you covered. Sure, it will cost ya ($70 for an Lacoste polo shirt), but shopping at LL2 is like raiding your exquisitely tasteful, mildly rich, and superfun best friend's closet -- with a bonus: You never have to give anything back.

Best Vintage Clothing Store in Broward

Open even on Sundays (noon to 5 p.m.) and with lots of Discount Days and 50 percent-off sales, the two huge rooms of this place in the Riverland Shopping Center will thrill the most frugal of thrifters. CTS' rack-after-rack variety of items can at first seem daunting (e.g., 40 feet of hanging blue jeans), but after you roll up those sleeves and start digging, you're bound to strike garment gold -- from J. Press tuxedo shirts to cowboy hats to that pair of khaki shorts for the summer you've been needing but didn't want to spend $25 for. The clientele varies from slumming Las Olas Isles matrons to those more obviously less fortunate, and for good reason: There's always fresh meat to dig through -- the store puts out more than 3,000 new items daily. Sometimes less-than-organized (why are those two old saws hanging over the purse rack?) and a little skimpy on the books and kitchen goods, but what's to complain about when you're walking out the door with a $2 Sulka tie? Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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Best Pet Store: Benny's Tropical Fish

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