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.
In business for 13 years, Bluewater Books & Charts is the largest nautical bookstore and chart dealer in North America, shipping 50 to 100 packages a day to ports around the globe. A sampling of its wares includes the paperback Voyaging on a Small Income, the coffee-table tome The Superyachts, waterproof logbooks, navigation software, Florida Keys guidebooks, and charts of the Caspian Sea. Just as informative is the store's staff, which consists of a retired naval commander, a circumnavigator, and a passel of pier residents. Whatever your destination, chances are a Bluewater employee has been there -- or at least can pass along an anecdote from his or her loyal network of seafaring customers. Though mail orders account for more than a third of its sales, the shop is still a hub -- or, as owner Milt Baker describes it, "a happening." Baker cites a typical Bluewater encounter: In walked a man who was about to set sail for Venezuela. A woman browsing among the books announced that she lived in Caracas and took her boat to nearby islands almost every weekend. She told the man about her favorite passages, and he left the store with the kind of information even the most comprehensive of cruising guides can't provide.
Two exceptional newsstands exist in Broward County: Bob's News & Book Store and Clark's Out of Town News. Bob's is the more interesting of the two, a combination head shop, newsstand, and sex-toy emporium. Bob's has bongs, edible panties, the latest edition of the Death Investigator's Handbook, and a Wal-Mart-size selection of pornography. But when we're looking for serious news, we head to the slightly less eccentric Clark's, tucked beneath the Andrews Avenue bridge in the Riverwalk area. The folks manning the cash registers at Clark's have fewer piercings than those at Bob's and far less attitude. Plenty of copies of Spin and Cosmo are available, as are less grocery-store-friendly titles. The store has newspapers from every corner of the country and beyond. The Sunday Missoulian? The Sydney Herald? Both are in stock. We can't figure out exactly who would want to read a week-old copy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, but it's there if you're interested. As is the metro edition of the Sunday New York Times, complete with classified ads, just like you would find it at a bodega in Brooklyn. And yes, Clark's has plenty of pornography as well.
Palm Beach Life. Palm Beach Society. Ocean Drive's Palm Beach. Palm Beach Times. Apparently the other half's appetite for glossy, navel-gazing magazines is not easily satiated. If those four titles available at Main Street News don't provide your fill of gala fundraisers and wrinkled, third-generation socialites, there's also the Manhattan society magazine Quest, which in one recent issue promised a look "inside the family dynasties of New York and Palm Beach." And then there's our favorite local paper, the Palm Beach Daily News -- a.k.a. "the shiny sheet" -- with its travel articles penned by baronesses and its disdain for that oh-so-proletarian curse, newsprint. For those willing to dirty their fingers with black ink and check out how those without seven-figure bank accounts make do, Main Street News always has a several-feet-high stack of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Not to mention a plethora of foreign papers such as the Irish Times and Le Monde. We like to stop by on a Sunday morning, pick up the Times, and then proceed down the block to Testa's for brunch and a prime seat from which to observe the hung-over island sugar daddies and their tummy-tucked sweethearts staring down bloody marys and plates of eggs Benedict.
Since surfer Kirk Cottrell founded the Island chain (five other shops are located along Florida's east coast) 20 years ago, local surfers have made the Deerfield Beach store their supply headquarters. Name-brand boards by Rusty, Local Motion, Natural Art, and other manufacturers line the walls and railing of the upstairs loft. And those are just the short boards; seven or eight brands of long boards, including Hobie and Stewart, are here, too. Also in the lineup are boards by carver-shaper Mike Pechonis, a local whose work is sold under the Byrne name. Of course a surf shop doesn't live by boards alone, and Island offers a full lineup of wet suits, ankle leashes, and shorts. Even surfboard manufacturers have expanded their sales bases, offering clothing, sunglasses, hats, and watches. Island carries the latest lines, and for surfer wannabes the shop offers board rentals and free surf lessons.
At first glance Pet World looks like your everyday pet store, and indeed it has all you need for little Fluffy or Cujo: brand-name cat and dog foods, as well as organic "pet-safe" treats and toys. But once inside you'll notice that the store resembles a petting zoo. If you feel the need to cuddle something cute and furry, ferrets and guinea pigs are available for hugging. Ask one of the employees how much that doggy in the window is, and he or she will bring it out for you. But not everything in the store is cute and furry. Glowing under a black light are an armadillo lizard and an African emperor scorpion. Pet World also has some of the most exotic fish we've ever seen outside of Sea World, like miniature sharks, Red Sea angelfish, South American pacu (a cousin of the piranha), and sea horses. We're not sure that management would agree, but Pet World is a great place to kill some time, especially on a rainy day.
Sure it's great that you can visit one store or Website and pretty much be assured that the book you want -- say, Jimmy Buffett's A Pirate Looks at Fifty or Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter -- is available. But atmosphere counts too. We'd rather not spend all our book-shopping time in a crowded, noisy, book-lined version of Wal-Mart; and unfortunately the librarylike Books & Books is located in Coral Gables. The next best thing is Liberties: The selection is damn good (we saw two poet laureates, Robert Hass and Robert Pinsky, on the shelves); the layout provides enough nooks and crannies for quiet browsing; the help is friendly; and the wood-paneled café is set behind glass, so as not to disturb hard-core browsers. Admittedly the place gets crazy with Boca types on the weekend (a smaller version of the store just opened on Las Olas); but we understand that, even before Barnes & Noble and Borders came along, bookstores catered to all types: the Jackie Collins and Cormac McCarthy lovers alike. At Liberties they live in peace and harmony.

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