Best Of :: Shopping & Services
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.
When you need porn, you need it now. And we understand that. So forget that Something Sexy for Him & Her has a great selection of erotica — teen, bi, gay, lesbian, vintage VHS, and everything from midget gang-bangs to Japanese animation. Forget that the prices are affordable (check out their two-for-one sales), the place is well-lit, and the staff lets you peruse the porn in relative peace. Forget that they also sell kinky shoes, slinky outfits, hulking dildos, and other accessories to enhance your porn experience. (Speaking of experience, check out Something Sexy's instructional video selection: For ladies who'd rather give than receive, try the "Backdoor My Boyfriend" how-to, available on VHS and DVD.) Shouldn't the best adult video store be the one that's open when most others aren't — say, late Sunday night on an important Christian holiday in the latter part of March? That's Something Sexy. Sure, they've got 20-hour porn box sets, vibrators, and sexy outfits, but so does any other good porn shop. Something Sexy, though, is also there with the merch at odd hours, ready and willing on those late, lonely Sunday nights, when only a glistening movie-box blond can give you what you need.
Ethnic grocery stores typically offer an aesthetic worth soaking in even if you don't purchase a thing. When it comes to local Caribbean grocery stores, Bedessee East-West Indian Foods is the perfect example. They've got two aisles devoted to curries alone, and lots of foods found throughout the Caribbean. They also have a wide selection of chutneys, pepper sauces, and seasonings that you can't find in a typical supermarket, plus numerous Caribbean beers from Lion Stout to Carib, and plenty of island juices and sodas priced 50 cents to a dollar cheaper than other places around town. Items here are affordable; a family could tackle all of their grocery needs at Bedessee without a problem. What makes the market really stand out is the way the East-West Indian part of their name plays a role: You can get Bollywood films here and statues of Vishnu, plus full cricket sets. The place is half grocery store, half botanica; you can also purchase candles to ward off evil spirits, oils, and machetes. And they've got an African section with Nigerian yam flour, palm oil, fufu, sweet potatoes, and more. The produce section is respectable, with breadfruit, callaloo, plantains, and aloe among customer favorites. They've also got a meat section stocked with goat, oxtail, chicken, and dried fish. It's rare to find all these items in one place whether you're stateside or in the islands, which is why Bedessee is a Caribbean market worth exploring.
If you've always wanted to be a racecar driver but lacked, say, the kingly fortune required to build, fine-tune, and maintain a monster automobile, it's OK. Moroso Motorsports has made it easy for those of us whose last name is not Earnhardt or Petty to quench our need for speed. For just 20 beans, you can pull up in your trusty Hyundai and have your way with the quarter-mile drag strip. When the official motions to you, pull up at the starting line ("Do a burnout if you like," say Moroso staff), and look at the "Christmas tree," the signal that progresses from red to yellow to green. At green, hit the pedal. At the end of the strip, pull over to the timing booth to receive a little slip with specs like your top speed. It all seems to go by lickety-split, so just pull back into the queue do it all over again. Test & Tune goes down every Wednesday and Friday from 6 to 11 p.m.
When you walk into Florida Cigar Company, the first thing you'll notice is the immense collection of cigars from all over the world. It's one of the largest selections in Broward County. Finger through boxes with all the top names — Don Carlos, Dupont, CAO, Prometheus — and think of the generations of skill rolled into each of these magnificent smokes. Soon you'll find a few you can't leave without. Next, make your way to the bar, where you'll find a friendly 'tender with just the drink to match your cigar, from a stock of top-shelf libations. The crowd is eclectic but mellow here, and the plasmas are always tuned to sports. Ease into a plush leather seat and light that baby up. The stresses of life seem to slip away with each creamy pull, expelled in thick puffs of the good life.
What do you look for in a comic book shop? A good selection of new books as well as an extensive catalogue of back issues, for one. But what else? Good prices don't hurt, especially if you're looking to round out that collection of Wolverine originals. You'd also want a knowledgeable staff — guys and gals who live the life, who can tell you about the latest issue of Jack of Fables or why you need to get some Y: The Last Man up in that mug. And since you're into comics, you probably want a place to game, too — a joint that will not only let you throw down on some Hordes or Warhammer 40K table-top action, but whose employees will bust out their pieces and play alongside you. Basically you've just described your ideal comic shop: War & Pieces. It's the kind of place where you'll not only get a huge selection of monthly issues and graphic novels, but they'll actually let you make a list of favorites, then bag and board them and hold them aside in your own personal box till you pick them up. For that service they'll charge you nothing, and reward you with a 10 percent discount on all comics in the store to boot, provided you pick up at least five copies a month. Now that's customer service. Add to that an extensive list of nightly gaming sessions, artists workshops, and miniatures leagues all taking place inside the hand-painted gaming dungeon, and you've got the ultimate comic destination.