Best Record/CD Store 1999 | Best Buy | Goods & Services | South Florida
Sometimes the bottom line rules, and the simple fact is this: Best Buy is the cheapest place to buy compact disks. Super-mega-monstrosity-chain store or not, it's where we turn for the latest music. New arrivals? Always $11.99 or $12.99. Everything else in the store? You won't pay more than $14.99. Just about any other music emporium (the other megachains included) will tag you for $16.99. That's a two-dollar chunk of change we'd rather spend on a blank tape or bargain-bin cutout. The selection at Best Buy is comparable to any store in town as well. In recent months we've picked up Robyn Hitchcock's latest, Storefront Hitchcock, and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts' Salute the Majesty of Bob Wills, a tribute album featuring such altcountry luminaries as Robbie Fulks and Alejandro Escovedo. We even picked up a digital version of one of our scratched-up old vinyl stalwarts, The Replacements Stink. Now that doesn't stink at all.
Those big, bright megastores in which dildos, strap-ons, and inflatable Jacks and Jills compete for wall space with hard-core porn videos have their advantages. But we prefer erotic shopping to be, well, a little more erotic. Wicked Leather, a tiny boutique snuggled up against a wine store, caters to a largely gay male clientele and offers a few choice high-end sex toys as well as an enormous collection of whips, chains, restraints, and leather clothing. Laid out like jewelry in a glass display case are some of the most interesting implements of erotic torture we've seen. At $425, the deluxe violet wand, an electric stimulation kit, is a bit more expensive than sticking your finger in a light socket, but it's safer. The kit comes with light bulbs and glass tubes, through which a purple current travels, doling out varying levels of shock therapy. Rubber gloves tipped with talons, or dart tips, make for great back scratchers and even better back maulers. Candles, cuffs, pumps, and paddles are also available. And, for the true aficionado, the owners fill custom orders for things like leather-lined body bags with breathing holes and internal restraints. Hey, what you do in the privacy of your own home is your business.

Inline skates and skateboards are sidelines at surf and ski shops, but Super Skates specifically targets wheeled warriors. This specialized approach gives each store the atmosphere of a boutique. The shop on Fort Lauderdale beach is wide open to the salty breeze and outfitted with a smattering of clothing racks and rows of metal skate mounts. Skateboards and oversize T-shirts hang around one corner, bearing busty comic-book blondes and sinister skulls. The comprehensive selection of inline skates includes K2, Roces, and Salomon as well as the ubiquitous Rollerblade, at prices ranging from a child's $79.99 X-tenblade to a stuntman's $249.99 El Oro. "The word on the street -- a lot of people have them -- is Salomon," advises 13-year-old Neal McClure. In just seconds, he has slipped out of his skate-rat slouch and into smooth salesmanship. "It's a win-win situation. The flat sole goes a lot faster, and it's superior in comfort." Too young to be on the payroll, McClure helps out for free shirts, discounted gear, and social opportunities. "I make new friends every day," says McClure. "This place is so great, I'd work here for free."
Your back muscles whine with every twitch, your hair is an affront to good taste, and your nails look like a deck hand's. But the effort required to go to the nearest spa is simply more than you can muster. Spa to Go Essentials will come to your home, office, suite, boat, or cabana ready to rub, style, and file you back into form. Claudia, a Spa to Go masseuse, asks for your preferred pressure level and focal points before easing into a $70, hourlong Swedish massage. At $20 a manicure and $40 a pedicure, the nail services are a bit pricey but precise. A manicurist preps your hands with a lavish coat of lotion, then dabs warm cream on your cuticles and nips them clean. She colors in the lines, spreading polish to each nail's edge without straying into fleshy territory. Finally, co-owner Christine Lieberman, who opened the Worth Avenue version of her Nantucket spa in December, will send you out to that soiree with a $30 blow-out or $50 up-do that makes the morning's frazzled locks seem a distant apparition.
Gather round, small fry. You say you want toys? Then hold your breath (or at least threaten to) until your folks take you to the Gifted Child. I know, the name is, like, barfy -- but look, you've gotta think strategy here. Do you really think your folks are gonna let you run wild in, say, the Swap Shop? Sure, they may take you there, but they'll also hound your every step for fear you'll be grabbed by an evil clown. On the other hand, they may just feel safe enough to drop you off, with cash in hand, at an "educational" store for "gifted" children located in a manicured Weston mall. Don't worry, the toys don't all suck, and you can blow by those that do: the "authentic reproduction" of a T-rex tooth or the Rush-Hour Traffic Jam puzzle ("play by shifting the cars and trucks to clear the exit"). We promise you, there's some good stuff. Our recommendations: the Do-It-Yourself Volcano kit (be sure to double the recipe); the Real Working Binoculars (for peeping at neighbors); and the Undercover Fingerprint Kit (for diverting blame onto friends and siblings). A decent selection of books includes titles like Smell This Book! (Then Drop It, Bite It, Squeeze It, and Read It). And if you're an aspiring chef, there's a kit for making your own gummi candies and possibly gluing the kitchen drawers and cabinets shut in the process. As you browse the Gifted Child, let your motto be, "Hey, let's try this at home!"Readers' Choice: Toys R Us
"What was holding him up was his own fat. His body was folded down against his enormous thighs, and the thickness and fatness of them held him that way, kneeling, poised solid. It would have taken a couple of good blocking backs to knock him over." If you like crime fiction, you know there are few things as fun as an obese corpse, and nobody is better at describing obese corpses than Raymond Chandler. The passage above comes from his short story "Trouble Is My Business," which was first published in book form in July 1946, in a collection of Chandler stories titled Spanish Blood. Don't look for the first edition of Spanish Blood at Hittel's bookstore; we snapped it up for the untroublesome price of $25. But don't panic, either; there are plenty of gems left. Hittel has tens of thousands of books, including collector's items such as 18th-century Palladian architecture books (which you can have for a mere $10,000), old editions from The Wizard of Oz series, and a book signed by Harry Truman. But the true beauty of Hittel's bookstore, which has been around for 25 years, is that you're not limited to buying only rare books; you can buy cheap books, too. Hittel has tons of used books, thousands of them going for $1 or less. And it's worth mentioning that he has a heck of a selection of books by Chandler-influenced Florida crime writers.

Pawing through bins of used CDs can be rewarding when you find that gem in a jewel box, but it's an investment of time that doesn't always pay off. Say you've finally decided to step out of the stone age and replace your favorite albums of yesteryear with CDs; buying them used is far more economical than busting the bank for new copies. But instead of sweating over row after row of titles, you can rely on the computerized inventory system at CD Warehouse. These small stores don't have the biggest selection on hand at any one time, but they're always buying used CDs from customers. So you can simply provide one of the stores with your wish list, and when a pick arrives and is entered into the system, your name will pop up in the computer. The store then calls to let you know. The only problem is the systems aren't linked, so you need to go to both locations if you want to better your chances. Prices for used, single CDs range from $6 to $10, and the store will give you $2 to $5 for old ones, depending on the title, its availability, and the demand for it.
We may be dating ourselves here, but by concentrating on stocking the hottest new virtual reality simulators, operators of some arcades have left many old favorites out of the mix. The best arcade should have it all, and Grand Prix Race-O-Rama certainly comes close. While the kids virtual-fight on Tekken-3 or swoosh toward victory on Alpine Surfer -- a snowboarding simulator in which balance and technique are crucial -- parents can reminisce with a game of Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, or Centipede, all of which are located in a sort of "flashback row." For a real blast from the past, play one of the six pinball machines -- though these newer models are based on recent movies, such as Godzilla and Lost in Space. The boardwalk-arcade feel is completed with photo booths and ski-ball games, which award prize tickets redeemable for trinkets. Grand Prix is also a gambler's paradise of sorts, with simulated horseracing and poker. Oh, and you can find a few other relics there: namely, air hockey tables. In addition to Grand Prix's original, 14,000-square-foot arcade, which is located next to the go-kart track, another huge (40,000-square-foot) gaming center is housed in the main building across the street. Both arcades are open 24 hours.
We're still waiting for the day when a link between cable TV and the Internet will provide us with a video library, a one-stop rental site replete with every movie known to man, from The Birth of a Nation to The Waterboy, with all the obscure, naughty, horrifying, and gut-achingly funny picks in between. Then we'll just click on, say, Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight, sit back with our popcorn, and enjoy. Until then Blockbuster's the next best thing. The chain doesn't carry every movie known to man (where's the adult section?), but it is a chain, and your membership card is good anywhere, meaning that if they don't have The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in Plantation, it may just be available in Hollywood. And the regular rental price, $3.17, ain't bad, nor is the fact that now your chances of renting a brand-new release on its first weekend are pretty good. Are the stores a little too crowded and brightly lit, the youngsters at the cash registers a little too perky? Sure. But these are small prices to pay for the freedom of choice that is every movie-lover's God-given right. Amen.
A sepulchre, according to The American Heritage Dictionary, is a burial vault, or a receptacle for sacred relics. That sounds about right, if you take a quick look at the vintage clothing store known as Sepulchre in Lake Worth. A hearse is parked outside, Marilyn Manson posters adorn the walls, and love beads and bell-bottoms are nowhere to be found. But there's more to this store than the macabre. Beautiful turn-of-the-century dresses and gowns and coats from the Eastern seaboard are available at Sepulchre. Owner Angelina Laurie says all the items have some kind of historical significance, which is one of the ways she determines a piece's worth. For example, we were shown a 19th-century black wedding dress with a lace spider web design. The spider web symbolized eternal love in Victorian times, according to Laurie. But not everything in the store is Victorian and black; Laurie also carries Joan Crawford-inspired suits from the '40s and '50s. Word of mouth is responsible for most of Sepulchre's business, and loyal customers like it that way, because they want to keep the great finds to themselves.

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