Personal Best (2008)

Jerry Miles

He's the owner of the eponymous J. Miles novelty shop on East Broward Boulevard. It's a warm place. During three decades in Fort Lauderdale, Jerry Miles has attracted a lot of loyal customers. He greets shoppers like long-lost friends, and he loves to explain the bizarre items in the store. That Mr. Bubble T-shirt? It's from "the archives." The teapot clock? It's a leftover from the store Miles once operated at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art when it ran a Princess Diana exhibit.

These days, Miles is waging the biggest battle of his retail career. His landlord refuses to honor his lease, and Miles is toughing it out with lawyers. Small businesses are incubators for ideas, he contends. But he fears he may just end up with a plaque on the wall for taking on a Goliath.

NT: What are some of the wackier items you've sold over the years?

Fuzzy Wuzzy bear soap — it actually grew hair. I found a warehouse full of it. It would probably be considered hazardous now... Roadkill Helper — they got sued by Hamburger Helper because the boxes were so similar. The guy really got in trouble. They actually became collector's items... Penis pasta. It's always a challenge to get the hot items first. We had that pooping pig keychain — when you squeezed it a little plastic turd popped out of the butt.

Are the disco balls for sale?

I haven't had the heart to put a price tag on the big silver one. Each of those little mirror squares was stuck on by hand. Now they're mass-produced in China.

What about the life-size cow?

That's the seventh one I've had. I've delivered them to people's homes, sold them to restaurants. They come in a crate. I first saw the cow at a trade show, and at the time I was wondering how to give this store some street appeal.

Got any favorite schlocky movies?

 Oh definitely. They're the best thing to watch late at night. The Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, and also The Amazing Colossal Man, because he carries a 12-foot hypodermic needle. I tend to like big things, like the cow in my store. They come on a lot as reruns. They're so bad, they're good. 

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