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Best Of 2007


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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Hardware Store

American hardware stores bore witness to three distinct evolutionary stages: First came the mom-and-pop epoch, where a kindly soul would take you by the hand down dusty aisles to find exactly the eyehook or hose bib you'd been searching for. Next came the Ace/TrueValue era, which began to outshine small family-run stores with their bright fluorescents and abundantly organized overstock. Finally, the Home Depot period (in which we're currently "existing," not "living") has all but reduced the hardware-store experience to a degrading, dehumanizing solo search-and-rescue mission followed by a long, slow slog to a faceless automatic scanner. Riverland Hardware not only looks, feels, and smells like a small-town hardware store from the 1960s, it's run by a real-life mom and pop. If you're looking for something, no one has to scroll through SKU numbers on a computer screen to see if it's in stock — they'll actually go and pull it off the shelf for you. Sure, Riverland Hardware is tiny. It's mostly there so you can go about fixing your toilet, unclogging your drain, and replacing those sprinkler heads. It doesn't sell riding mowers or gas grills, and it might not be as cheap as the orange, big-box monstrosity with the ocean-sized parking lot. But during those panicky, last-minute trips for hurricane supplies, you'll be so glad you're here instead of there.

2784 W. Davie Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 33312
Personal Best

For years, Amanda Magnetta-Ottati helped her husband Tate run Tate's Comics, but it wasn't until the couple decided to expand the popular comic book store this year that she quit her steady gig in advertising. Magnetta-Ottati now runs an eclectic hideaway, Bear and Bird, in the store's loft space. Call it an alternative art gallery. "Something that's been sorely lacking in Broward County," she says, "is a space for emerging artists that are focused in pop culture." Her space is a kind of "curated boutique," she says, staying intentionally vague about the edgy work she prefers. "Basically, it's all filled with stuff that I think is neat." The Bear and Bird's first art show "For the Love of Munny" – a collection of peculiarly compelling art toys with personalized designs -- drew a crowd of 1500.

New Times: What kind of spy gadgets could I buy at the Bear and Bird?

Magnetta-Ottati: Ooh! We have these cool cameras called Lomos. One of the styles takes sequential shots that capture pictures at fractions of a second's difference. That's a great spy tool.

What exotic destination would you like to travel to?

Japan! I've always wanted to go. Just because I know that my head will explode from all the cool stuff. I think that I'm drawn to it in part by the awesome pull of their shopping and bizarre characters and signage! I know my husband Tate would really enjoy seeing a sumo match and eating uni!

How would you prepare for the Bond experience?

I'd love a super-fabulous bag of spy disguises. It would be interesting to blend in to any situation and learn as an insider. I can't wait to try out my bald cap and beard disguise. I actually have a dynamic duo of attack dogs. Both are adorable, scruffy mutts from the Humane Society. They are always there to remind me to take time out of my all too busy life for a good belly scratching!

Best Computer Repair Store
Take a Byte

Yes, that's a huge glass case filled with toothpicks mounted on the east wall of the Take a Byte showroom in downtown Hollywood. To answer your next question, there are exactly 1 million of them. As to the questions of why someone collected them and who that someone is, let's all agree not to ask, OK? You may not want to know. Besides, you came here because you have an ailing or outdated computer. Fact is, most of us don't know what hardware we need, nor what's compatible with our machine, and even if we did, we don't trust ourselves to install it without breaking the thing. There's a better way. Drop off the laptop at Take a Byte and let Mike get his mitts on it. By the same day, he'll list all the hardware you need to modernize your computer. He can order that hardware at wholesale prices, then install it for you. And as a complimentary gift, he'll cure your system of all those viruses and spyware that slow it down. You get an old computer that runs like a brand-new model — at a fraction of the price. Just don't ask about the toothpicks.

2209 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 33020
Best Pawn Shop
Casino Pawn & Jewelry

You can hock Granddaddy's watch in any old shop, but rare are the pawn shops where a fellow can pawn in bulk. Like his helicopter. Or his bulldozer. They buy it all at Casino Pawn & Jewelry, located across Stirling Road from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino — a short stroll for the inveterate gamblers among us. Buyers can find a whole fleet of four-wheelers, choose from among a tool section that rivals the Home Depot, or pick up a slew of musical instruments — the detritus of so much misspent ambition. Prices are competitive with eBay, and the manager, Mark, claims his shop pays the highest price for goods in an area strewn with pawn shops.

4217 N. State Road 7, Hollywood, 33021
Best Health Food Store
Simply Natural

Any health-food store can sell stuff that claims to be good for you. But go to the counter at Simply Natural and you're liable to find Richard or Shahrooz, the husband-and-wife owners who have been known to offer free meditation classes, free guest lecturers, and even free samples of vegan foods. They can draw upon their vast expertise on all matters health to recommend an herbal remedy or nutrition supplement for whatever ails you. Or they can set you up with one of the many practitioners who rotate through the shop's back office: an acupuncturist, masseuse, reflexologist, iridologist, or CardioVision analyst. Plus, it's a short walk next door to the Simply Natural Café, which boasts the area's cheapest and most truly organic menu around. The meat is grass-fed and hormone-free, and even the beer and wine are organic.

8271 Sunset Strip, Plantation, 33322
Best Stencils

So there's this guy, Books. He won't say his real name. He does some graffiti, but he can't talk about that either because, you know, it's illegal. He and his business partner, Dr. Black (don't ask him his real name either), have taken stencil to an artistic level. Remember stencils from grade school? These ain't them. Books and Black have made intricate stencils and engravings carved with a CO2 laser onto metal, wood, and even mirrors. They've been hired to create business cards, poker tables, and wedding invites. They'll even engrave the windshield of your tricked-out ride. While they're both very mysterious about what they do, they're open about one thing: MasterCard is accepted.

203 Southwest Seventh Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 33312

Best Hardware Store: Riverland Hardware


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