Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Musicians know that one of life's greatest pleasures is to plug in and turn on an amplifier: The hum as it warms up, a familiar sound promising future tones and harmonics served up loud. Knowing that she has a willing slave, the glowing red beacon of an LED bulb beckons the musician on. But she's a cruel mistress, that power-driven siren of rock especially when nothing comes out of the speaker, the light goes off, smoke rises from the machine, and everyone in the venue is staring. A pain matched only by the frustration of knowing that the amp had already been "fixed" three times before, by some wanker who supposedly offered a good deal. Alpha Kinetix was created by Gary Philips in 1979 and has since grown out of its home in a cubbyhole at Ridenour to take over a bay on Dixie Highway (just north of Cypress Creek). Philips wields his massive knowledge of tube amplifiers, speaker cabinets, solid-state technology, advanced electronic circuitry, and history of power-driven music like a finely honed surgeon's scalpel. He fixes anything and everything that lets musicians make their music louder, and he does it expertly. More to the point, the stuff Philips fixes stays that way. He is at home with everything from superexpensive vintage Blackface Fenders to ultramodern boutique hybrids and doesn't turn his nose up at run-of-the-mill, workhorse solid-state circuitry. Don't expect the cheapest prices; do expect expert craftsmanship with incredible attention to detail and a severe lack of bullshit.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sub Zero Gaming Center is a mix of Internet café and video arcade, with a twist of home gaming. It's got all the comforts of gaming at home (a snack bar, comfy chairs, individual glass desks, and headsets) without the solitude. The Greenacres joint has 17 computers equipped with 19-inch LCD gaming monitors and a half-dozen console stations, all connected via a high-speed network. (What better way to savor the looks of frustration and despair on your fellow players' faces as you blast them into oblivion?) And there are a lot of games to choose from. Whether it's first-person fare like Counterstrike, Xbox-fueled warfare with Gears of War, or Hobbit-esque excursions in the World of Warcraft, Sub Zero has your fix and probably a new gaming addiction you haven't found yet. Players can become members for a one-time fee of $20, which gives them access to reduced rates and a host of other goodies, like free play time and entry into special tournaments and events. But the best membership bonus is this: Sub Zero packs in nearly 200 hard-core members a week, so you'll always have someone to play with.
Babies are stupid. Many of them can't even talk. So they're in no position to complain if all their toys serve some ulterior parental motive, like education. Rather than letting the TV set play babysitter, pop in Brainy Baby, the DVD that teaches junior how to access his right brain (for creativity) and then his left (for logic). As the kid grows up, a parent can continue heading to downtown Hollywood for raids on the Kids-n-Science merchandise. A talking microscope, for instance, beats any talking doll. And if the kid insists on a doll, buy him or her the "Human Undercover Body," a science kit that promises a "human skeleton and organs inside!" (It's never too early to start med school.) Eventually, the little runt will go through a phase where he's fascinated with gore and destruction. Don't fight it; feed it with the "Horrible Science" series of toys. There's "Explosive Experiments" for the kid who would build his own fireworks and volcanoes and "Bloody Bones & Body Bits" for the youngster who would practice heart surgery on a life-like plastic model which is far better than practicing it on the neighbor's cat.
So you need to buy some turquoise jewelry created by local craftsmen, pick up a chunk of petrified dinosaur dung, and relieve that pesky itch via a holistic earwax-removal candle, but you don't have time to run all over town. Lucky for you, the Hollywood Beach Resort has just the one-stop shopping mecca you seek. Walk into the giant building's main entrance and past the Farfr¨mp¨ken T-shirts (yes, they still sell them), beyond the kiosk specializing in incense and used watches, and up to the sandwich-board sign that reads "Sticks and Stones The most unusual gift shop in a hotel anywhere!" Single animal teeth stand up next to neatly inscribed labels "seal tusk," "bison tooth 7800 years old!" making a menagerie of dentin solders. The shop's soulful-eyed bohemian owners (and nondenominational preachers) can also up-sell you with a funeral, wedding, or commitment ceremony either on the beach outside or in the tiny wedding chapel they have fashioned out of bamboo and tapestries in the corner of the shop. The John Lennon Wedding Chapel holds enough instruments to outfit an entire band and has a hand-painted sign hanging from its ceiling: "All you need is love." Whether you're looking to spend a little (bunny pelts are only $6) or a little more (the 400-million-year-old dinosaur dung rings in at bargain price of $31), Sticks and Stones has the perfect nonregistry wedding gift for any occasion.
Thanks to the enterprising folks over at Rose Vine Winery, you can now do in a Federal Highway shopping plaza what it took Robert Mondavi acres and acres of expensive Napa Valley real estate to do: make your own wine. First, a winemaking specialist lets you sample a range of flavors and explains concepts like fermentation, clarification, and aeration. Do you want to make a fine Merlot? A peach Chardonnay? Something more akin to Boone's Farm? Once you've decided, mix different varieties of grape juice concentrates, which makes the potion more oaky or as sweet as you please. Add yeast (yeast + sugars = alcohol), take the temperature, and leave the mixture at the shop for about 45 days. (A winemaker will monitor it.) When you come back, you bottle your wine using high-tech electric bottling equipment, design your own labels, and stick corks in each of the 24 bottles your batch has produced. It costs $249 just over $10 a bottle!
Over the past 20 years, this boutique has evolved from humble roots: It started as the Stock Exchange in Wilton Manors, a tiny closet of a shop jam-packed full of vintage textile treasures. Now (and for the past 16 or so years), it calls the Gateway Plaza home and has expanded its inventory to include every adorable shiny trinket you could possibly desire for your nest. From dishes cartooned with pictures of bad girls with even worse tattoos to atomic-print diner-style napkin holders, Jezebel turns your low-rent hellhole of a kitchen into a charming '50s diner. Need to add a little joy to that dank, windowless bedroom? Browse through sunshine-yellow blankets or snag any number of hanging paper lanterns. Sniff your way through tables of sweet and savory candles or take home feng-shui friendly room diffusers. Finally, scrub your whole pad down with aromatherapy cleaning products, sit back, and relax. Your digs will look, feel, and smell so good.
We all know that the softest, most sublime, and supple leather comes from Italy. Whether it's shoes, a jacket, skirt, pants, or even chaps, the Italians can make even the most loyal vegans want to wear it. And at Minimalista Furniture in the Gateway Shopping Plaza where Sunrise Boulevard and Federal Highway converge/diverge you'll want to strip off whatever you're wearing right there in front of the salespeople and the giant windows facing that busy intersection just to get as close as possible to the leather. Most everything in the elegantly and purposefully sparse showroom is featured in white and black in true minimalist fashion. The prices aren't minimal, however. When you spend upward of $4,000 for that upscale leather sofa, can you really afford that extra end table?