Best Baby Store - 2002
Readers' Choice: Pizza Hut
One of this chain's four Florida locations, this seven-month-old outpost beats out its competition by keeping things on a human scale while still offering a wide selection. Tucked into the corner of a strip mall rather than in an airplane-hangar-sized megawarehouse, the place is packed with tastefully arranged model rooms -- half the floor with crib-centered baby layouts, the other half with beds for older kids. Yet it doesn't feel cluttered. The walls are lined with shelves of toys, lamps, diaper bags, strollers, and such. There are familiar brand names ranging from mass marketers like Graco to boutique European manufacturers like Baby Bjorn. And there's unconventional stuff. A Potty Time Bear, which plays music and helps with toilet-training, goes for $19.99. Then there's the five-foot-long Tinkle-Crinkle, a worm-like toy that tinkles, crinkles, rattles, and squeaks, for $119.99. Although the array of products is impressive, it is the knowledgeable, attentive-yet-not-pushy presence of owner Sam Salkashawi and family that lends the place its welcoming, small-business feel -- as opposed to those other stores, where you can't ignore the fact that you've been sucked into the clutches of the dreaded Baby Industrial Complex (second in sinisterdom only to the Wedding Industrial Complex). The store is open most evenings. But hours change virtually every day. So call ahead.