Best Of :: Shopping & Services
And now, a quiz. Does your apartment décor rely heavily on gaping blank wall spaces? Do you believe a row of beanbag chairs lined up against a wall is a reasonable facsimile of a couch? Are you aware that none of the folding chairs around your kitchen table match? If you answered "yes" to any of the above, you're poor -- or close to it. But that's OK. There's no shame in poverty, so long as you can hide it. And this is where St. Vincent de Paul's comes in. This church-run thrift store stocks all the home furnishings a Dickensian urchin could want. Used sofas? They have several rooms stuffed solid with them. Love seats? Ditto. Coffee tables? End tables? TV stands? Standing lamps? There's not floor space enough to display them all. Remember, all the goods are donated, so don't let a scratched surface or ripped lining discourage you. They're also very chea economical. We picked up a very comfy couch and a matching (well, we think it matches) glass-topped coffee table for $100. And all sorts of knickknacks are lying around: candlesticks, paintings, paperweights, lava lamps, gifts -- even appliances. We bought a used toaster-oven for $8, and it works great. The one thing we haven't found yet is a velvet Elvis, but we haven't given up hope.
Size does matter. That's why we journey to Megasex Adult Emporium for our XXX video needs. With about 20,000 titles available for rent, the place stocks something for every fetish and fantasy. Looking for celluloid she-males? There's a whole section dedicated to the testosterone-challenged. Titillated by outrageously endowed women? Check out the "Big Tits" section. The women featured here make Dolly Parton's you-know-whats look like mosquito bites. There are also dozens of amateur titles, such as Fuck the Boss Vol. 5, which features five "suck-retariats." Not to mention countless "classics": Who could forget Deep Throat 6? Our favorite section of Megasex Adult Emporium, however, has to be "Wrestling." It features such cinematic juggernauts as Pussy Whipped and Smothered With Pantyhose. Open until 2 a.m. every night except Sunday (when closing time is midnight), Megasex is the perfect opiate for those lonely Saturday nights when the family-friendly fare at Blockbuster just doesn't cut it.
When Betty and Earnest "Blackie" Hinkle opened Hinkle Bait and Tackle on State Road 84 in 1955, a sprinkling of lures hung on the wall, and the empty boxes were put on display to make it look like they had more in stock. The trick worked, because enough customers returned to justify increasing the inventory. Soon the store was recognized for its wide selection of fishing equipment and accessories, especially live bait. So when Larry and Marcia Brooks took over the shop in 1996, all Larry had to do was mention the name of his new shop at a fishing trade convention, and he was promptly offered a $100,000 credit line by one manufacturer. The Hinkles originally sold the shop in 1977, but Betty Hinkle has stayed in contact with all the owners since, offering advice and occasionally working at the shop, which moved to its present location in Davie in 1983, when a section of I-595 was built through the property. Earlier this year the inside walls of the building, which resembles a rustic wood cabin with a porch, were knocked out to create more space. Now the current owners, Tom and Lisa Krips, are set to provide area fishermen with an even greater selection of rods, reels, waders, lures, line, hunting gear, and, of course, plenty of live crawly critters to put on the end of a hook.
Customers of Guys and Dolls are sternly advised to "Please sit up straight, uncross your legs, keep your feet off the furniture, and please don't smoke while your hair is being cut." The sign on the wall is no joke, says co-owner Linda Lafrato; at the height of the season, her colorful beachfront salon draws weird walk-ins like driftwood. Maybe it's the huge row of red, green, orange, and purple "passion flowers" painted along the outside façade or possibly the six-foot, hand-carved teak "Java Man" statue waiting just inside the front door to greet unsuspecting visitors. Or maybe it's just they've heard this is an always-reliable spot to have your hair cut, curled, styled, teased, shampooed, combed, and blown dry for a reasonable price by a friendly and talented crew. They heard right.
Nine Inch Nails pumps through the store, indicating that a trip to Rhythm Clothiers is not your typical shopping excursion. Street-savvy duds by Miss Sixty, Diesel, and Juicy share the racks with more refined designs from BCBG Max Azria, Vertigo, and Parallel. "It's all in the mix," co-owner Gerry Novoa says of his take on trends and the attention he pays to fresh, durable fabrics. The Rhythm staff unpacks new pieces every day but stocks only a few of each so that, out on the street, customers don't run into other folks wearing the same outfits. Although women's clothes -- sheer skirts, slinky dresses, metallic slacks -- fill most of this funky boutique, the velour pullovers and retro-patterned shirts in the back of the shop tempt fashion-conscious men. Collaged wallpaper fragments cover the walls of dressing rooms outfitted with vintage chairs. In one stall stands a regal mannequin with arms of red wood, decked out in an AstroTurf bustier and skirt of faux poinsettias. The patron saint of Rhythm Clothiers, she has attitude and style to spare.
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.