Best Comic Book Shop 1999 | Phil's Comic Shoppe | Goods & Services | South Florida
If you're into comic books or know someone who is, you've probably heard of Phil's Comic Shoppe. And if you're looking for that hard-to-find Silver Surfer No. 15 or Superman: The Complete History, Phil has it. Even some of his competitors say Phil Beracha is the best, and there are plenty of reasons why. He has more than 30 years of experience, he has everything from brand-new books to back issues, and he knows the history of comic books inside out -- the fact, for instance, that the comic book began back in the 1800s with pulp magazines that featured the Yellow Kid. And get this: If there's a title you can't find in Phil's shop, he'll get you in touch with someone who can provide it. He's not afraid to recommend customers to other comic book dealers.
Like a sunken galleon lying on a sunlit reef, South Florida is overrun with divers. Dive shops, too. Around these parts you'll find dive shops in all shapes and sizes, from storefront mom-and-pops to national chain outlets. For our money the best of the bunch is Divers Unlimited. Not only does the store carry one of the largest inventories of snorkeling and diving gear, it also has a full-time licensed technician on staff who works out of an in-store repair shop complete with its own hydrostatic machine (for pressure-testing tanks). The store also offers a new-diver training center complete with its own practice pool. The pool is even heated; unfortunately it has no sunken galleon.
So, is your submissive play-partner looking a little down at the heels these days? Here's a solution: Drag that disobedient slave by the choke chain straight down to this latex-and-leather emporium incongruously located in the heart of downtown Dania Beach's antique district. Here you'll find all the erotic-fetish apparel your evil heart could desire, everything from latex hobble dresses (custom-molded by co-owner Sean Newman to the customer's measurements upon request) to a wide selection of leather corsets, skirts, and bustiers. You'll also find a wide selection of sob-inducing implements such as paddles, whips, floggers, crops, and razor strops. One word of warning: Don't come in here expecting to see a sale rack. This joint stocks only high-end merchandise, most of it imported directly from Europe, and it's pricey. But after all, you wouldn't want little subbie to feel mistreated, would you?

Looking for beads or Virgin Mary candles, a tiny voodoo doll with which to terrorize your boss, spices to ward off evil spirits or lure a potential lover from the next cubicle? This tiny cluttered hole-in-the-wall has been making Haitians feel at home in Broward County for more than a decade, dealing in potions and folk medicine -- everything you need to keep the spirits smiling. You may, however, need a guide to figure out what to do with all the herbs, spices, beads, and crosses that fill sinister brown containers in the shop. Ask the owner to recommend a mambo, a voodoo priestess. (The resident mambo at St. Pierre passed away a few years ago.) Or mill about on your own among candles of every width and color, potions that bring wealth or calamity, tonics that cure colds and fevers. If the shop doesn't have what you need to invoke a promotion, the owners will fill special orders from their potent homeland.
Jerry Garcia may have turned in his tie-dyed T-shirt and electric guitar for a pair of white wings and a harp, but his spirit lives on at this popular hippie stop. In business for more than 13 years, this one-stop shop for countercultural paraphernalia features a back wall stocked with more than 250 water pipes, ranging in size from six inches to more than two feet (for those individuals with a third lung). If you're worried your pipe doesn't match the décor of your apartment, We-B's has pipes shaped like aliens, Frankenstein, and even Chef from South Park. Nostalgia buffs'll go for the ceramic statue of Popeye, which doubles as a hand-held pipe. For the more discreet types, pipes cleverly disguised as florescent highlighters, automobile cigarette lighters, and lipstick cases are available. The furry blue handcuffs in the adult-toys room serve as a nice accent for any headboard. The room also offers leather whips, body creams, body massagers, and a full line of Kamasutra products for fetishists. Sex and drugs. Who would have ever thought the two would make such a good mix?

If Adam and Eve were still around, this is where they'd do their weekly grocery shopping. You won't find any MSG, nitrates, or yellow dye number 5 in the aisles, but you will find environmentally friendly bleach and toilet paper and ayurvedic herbs. "Ayur-what?" you ask. Dr. George Love tells customers just how to use the Asian herbs to lose weight. He's one of the many guests who appear at Wild Oats for community events, which include stress-management seminars, live music on Wednesdays, and sample-tasting days. Speaking of taste, if you're one of those picky people who don't like fruits and vegetables bombarded by chemicals and pesticides, look for the section of organically grown produce, right next to the cooler of hormone-and-steroid-free beef and chicken. And if you're in the mood to eat out, an in-house eatery features a sushi bar, made-to-order sandwiches, and a 27-foot salad bar. It's usually packed at lunch with folks looking for an alternative to greasy fast food. Watch out, Burger King.
If you're like most people, you know one-stop shopping is the only way to go. You can find it all, from Saks Fifth Avenue to Sears, at Town Center mall in tony Boca Raton. Town Center offers a variety of shops and specialty stores, including the Polo Shop and Bruno Magli. And for a mere $3 (pretty cheap, especially for Boca), valet parking is available outside the mall's main entrance. Looking for the Princess Diana commemorative plate? Check out the Franklin Mint store. Need tickets to any sporting event or musical? Todd's Tickets is the ticket. Concerned about your safety while schlepping your purchases from store to store? Don't be. Town Center's got that problem licked: Real police officers on bikes patrol the mall courtesy of PBSO -- no rent-a-cops here. At the end of a long day of hard-core shopping, take a break at the food court, which provides some of the best people-watching; from blue-haired old ladies to blue-haired goth teenagers, all species of South Florida life are well represented.

You want low prices? Go to Home Depot. But if you want selection, Living Color is the answer. The nursery has more perennials than just about anybody else, from hybrid hibiscuses to heliotropes to guara to argeratheums to ground orchids. Palms? Choose from spindle, triangle, bismarkia, bottle, royal, queen, Christmas, coconut, and Alexander, among others. Citrus? Well, you get the idea. If getting lost in flora appeals to you, Living Color is the place to do it. Bordered by a wide canal, the nursery also has dozens of statues (some hand-carved), a wide range of pottery, a few fountains, and a lot more stuff than you could possibly take in during one visit. But if you have the landscaping bug, you'll be back.
Bougainvillea Place is like a Star Trek holodeck: Suggest a time and place, and photographer Butch Stark will transport you. He'll place you in a Victorian sitting room or on a Southern veranda, complete with white wicker swing. He'll turn your son into Boy Blue or Little Lord Fauntleroy, your daughters into fairies fluttering their wings atop magic mushrooms. Stark's back yard is landscaped with wildflowers, ponds, gazebos, a garden gate, tea table, and bird feeder. In his front yard is a tire swing, bougainvillea arbor, and 1932 Ford jalopy. Of course Stark also has smaller props: a '40s scooter, a miniature Chippendale settee, a porcelain bowl that doubles as a baby's bathtub, even a live pet rabbit, Freckles. Stark, whose family planted bougainvillea in Miami at the turn of the century, says he's "looking for a timeless quality" when he shoots portraits. In business since 1970, he's photographed three generations of clients' weddings and bar mitzvahs and done portraits for local newsmakers such as Miami Dolphin Kenny Mixon and Davie developer and rodeo rider Ronnie Bergeron. Whatever the subject or setting, each picture reflects Stark's love of people and photography, which no backdrop can replace.
Home-brewing is a sticky business. The pot of wort -- the stew of hops and barley malt that eventually becomes beer -- boils over at least once when a beginner's at the helm. That's why Brewmasters South is a good place to start. Tom Perlman, who owns the brew-it-yourself outlet with wife, Leslie, sets customers up at one of the gleaming copper kettles in the shop's front window, then helps them get started. First a beer -- anything from pale American-style lager to alcohol-heavy Belgian Double Triple ale -- is chosen, and then the brewer is handed a recipe sheet listing the ingredients. Fresh ground malt is put into a mesh bag and dropped into the water like an oversize tea bag. Syrupy malt extract is added for extra flavor, and after the malt has simmered for a while, hops are added, their tartness balancing the sweetness of the malt. Once the brew is cooked, the staff helps brewers put it in a barrel for fermentation. After two weeks a brewer returns to bottle the beer -- and sample it, of course. For about $100 (plus $50 for a set of 22-ounce, reusable bottles), he walks away with six cases of beer that -- if brewed correctly -- blows domestic brews out of the water and matches pricey imports.

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