Best Used-Book Store 1999 | Robert A. Hittel Bookseller | Goods & Services | South Florida
"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.
The Best Cellar has a measly 220 or so bottles of wine and champagne for sale -- a pittance compared to what's offered by the alcohol emporium Beverages & More. But whatever Best Cellar lacks in quantity, it more than compensates for with a discerning selection and knowledgeable service. "My mother was born in France, and when I was four years old, I was drinking red wine," says owner Richard Stetler, who also honed his tasting skills while working as a maitre d' at upscale eateries. With few exceptions, such as wines from Robert Mondavi and champagnes by Veuve Clicquot, Stetler limits his selections to presses of no more than 5000 bottles. Aside from Italian, French, and Californian vintages, Best Cellar offers fine merlots and chardonnays from less wine-centric countries such as Argentina, Australia, and South Africa. "South African wines are the absolute best wines in the world for the prices," Stetler says. He cites the 1994 merlot from Bodega Farm on the Cape ($16.95) and a more exotic offering, the sweet South African apple wine from Pale Moon Winery ($7.99) as examples. To compensate for its size, Best Cellar offers a host of incentives. Customers who pay $250 annually or $30 per month get 15 percent off all purchases and a gratis bottle of wine each month from a choice of five. Members also receive free admission to the shop's Wednesday winetastings, which feature six to eight wines and spreads that include cheese, caviar, and pâté. Even if it's not Wednesday night, no need to worry; the gregarious Stetler always has a handful of bottles open for tasting.

Best Place to Get a Haircut and a Beer While Watching the Game

MVP Sports Salon

It's not as if an earth-shattering cry arose from some vain, beer-guzzling sports nuts looking for a place to throw back a cold one, get a haircut, and watch the Panthers game. But Brian Fischer hated going to his local barber shop and having to sit and wait -- and wait -- for the next available stylist. So he teamed up with wife Leslie and brother Stuart and created MVP Sports Salon. The Fischers, local entrepreneurs all, opened the place two years ago in an old West Palm Beach gas station to serve those couch potatoes who simply must have their sports TV. Indeed MVP is part neighborhood tavern, part local barber shop. Bar food is available, of course, as are upper-body massages, perms, hair coloring, or just a shave and a haircut -- all while patrons B.S. about the game or SportsCenter highlights on one of several TVs in the bar. And, like any tavern worth its beer nuts, MVP has its crowd of regulars, who sidle up to the bar at happy hour (4 to 7 p.m. weeknights) and enjoy a massage and a brew. Sorry, though, no cheerleaders.
Let's say you're planning a cocktail party for some friends with particularly sophisticated palates. Along with the usual nibblies -- cheeses and crackers, chips and nuts, pickles and olives -- you want your spread to include, say, three kinds of caviar, as well as some citron vodka Swedish meatballs and miniature puff pastries with assorted fillings. Your bar will be stocked with an array of top-shelf liquors and liqueurs, and you'll have a sampling of beers and wines from all over the world, hard ciders, and maybe a few domestic microbrewed beers. You don't have to trek all over town to assemble these goodies, because all of them can be found at this newest store in the ABC chain, which also has outposts in Pembroke Pines and at the beach in Fort Lauderdale. You'll find mixers and bar supplies, too, as well as chocolates, sauces of all sorts (including fiery hot pepper), mustards, pastas, imported cheeses and meats, and a dizzying variety of cocktail olives and onions. One climate-controlled room features dozens of cigars from throughout Latin America, and another has wines so pricey they're under lock and key -- a 1986 Château-Margaux, for instance, that goes for $462.99. (The '83 vintage is a whopping $3 cheaper.) To top things off, the staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and eager to please, and the liquor prices are pretty much unbeatable.
Watch out, it could happen to you. One day you may be thinking how this would be a nice day for a ride along the beach, and the next you'll be laying down the price of a used car for a zippy little two-wheeler featuring 24 gears, front-wheel suspension, disc brakes, click shifters, a speedometer, a tachometer, a rear-view mirror, and God knows what else. As bikes become ever more complex and expensive, it pays to be a careful shopper before laying down cash. And there's no better place for comparison-shopping than at International Bicycle Shops. Among the top five outlets in the nation for Cannondales and the number-one in the state for GTs, International boasts one of the largest on-site inventories of bicycles in South Florida. It's all here: everything from $3000 racing bikes to $400 hybrid bangers, not to mention all the accessories -- helmets, gloves, air pumps, tire repair kits, et cetera -- that you'll want before hitting the road. So go ahead, ask yourself: Wouldn't this be a great day for a ride along the beach?
Ever been to a drive-thru cigarette store? Well, on the Seminole reservation in Hollywood you'll find the Gator Tobacco Outlet, a trailer on a concrete lot a block or two north of Sheridan Street. All a patron has to do is pull up to the window and, in a flash, favorite brand is in hand. Even better, the Seminoles don't have to pay taxes, so neither do you. The price of a pack of Marlboros is a scant $2.50 (scant for this litigious, tobacco-bashing era, anyway). A lighter can be had for a quarter. A 12-ounce can of soda is 50 cents, and a small bag of chips is only 30 coppers. Tax-free, all the time. To get an idea of the kind of savings Gator provides, consider that your average convenience store sells a pack of Marlboros for $3 or more.

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