Best Of :: Shopping & Services
You can get Cohibas, Arturo Fuentes, and Macanudos at just about any cigar shop. It's only at the Cigar Factory that you can find a Fidel Castro, complete with the dictator's picture on the wrapper. Of course, the Fidel is a strong and brutal smoke. But does it signify anything politically? "Just a good idea to sell a lot of cigars," says the Cigar Factory's manager, Juan Carlos. But the Cigar Factory has a lot more than expert gimmickry going for it -- it has Jorge sitting silently behind a pile of tobacco, where he rolls up one sheer beauty after another. Just five months ago, Jorge came from Cuba, where he learned how to roll from the best in the world. He doesn't speak English; his cigars do all his talking for him. And in that sense, he's one of the orators of our time. Of the eight Cigar Factory brands, we tried the mild ones, Morejon y Cuesta and Cuba Habanos USA. Both are truly incredible smokes. The plump, fresh, perfectly packed tobacco made for seriously satisfying chomps, and the 'gars burned obediently, evenly, quietly, and patiently. The orange coals behaved like turtles, hiding inside the cigar, waiting for you to pull on them. Only then did they release the aromatic, smooth, damn near sultry white smoke of tobacco born of Cuban seeds and grown in the Dominican Republic. These are as close to real-life Cuban cigars as you can get (legally). Fidel can go to hell. Long live Jorge.
Yes, there are the mandatory lavender incense, dancin' bears, black lights, and tie-dye. But there's also a humidifier housing Dominican and Honduran cigars and a mean music selection of bluegrass and jazz greats like Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday. Acoustic guitars, painted wooden flutes, ukuleles, and even a mountain dulcimer offer further testimony to owner Bob Kovner's love of melody. Kovner, who's been in the smoke-shop biz for 18 years, also role-plays as house artisan with an on-the-premises studio, where he crafts sculpture from Lucite, glass, and gemstones. He's so handy that, after leasing the space, he bought a full-size school bus and chopped the front end off by himself. Now its psychedelic façade (think smiling suns and mushrooms) sits center stage, an Uncle Sam-hatted skeleton grinning from a seat. Pipes behind the counter; munchies like sourballs and Skittles toward the back. Chimes, kites, sundresses, harmony candles. A strange trip, indeed.
You want to have sex, but you drive a Corolla. And you know that driving a Corolla means it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find someone to have sex with. You need a car that says: "Not only have I made it, but I've squandered a good deal of it on this car, which makes me a very sexually attractive person, don't you think?" What to do? Scrape together a week's wages or so and take it to Unique Auto Rentals. There you will find approximately 35 very sexy cars for your renting pleasure. Unique can put you in a Ferrari 355 Spider for about $1000 a day. Or, if you don't need that much sex, you could rent a Porsche 996 Cabrio for about $400 a day, or a Plymouth Prowler for a little more than $300. The rest is up to you, tiger.
When it comes to styling, most dog owners think in terms of one of those God-awful poodle clips. But real dog obsessives know there is couture for K-9s. This house offers custom-designed pet outfits made by a local woman from all kinds of fabric. You can almost hear the voice-over as the fashion show begins: "Fifi is most charming this season in her wind-and-rain gear that keeps her coat dry and, well, smelling right. The fabric is waterproof, of course, and comes in a wide array of attractive colors. And when spring rains fall, her sleek little hood snaps on. And here comes Millie, rugged and ready for anything in a purple fleece jacket that slips on and off easily with Velcro ." Everyone knows to accessorize with collars, but how about that added touch: "Timmy Holedigger" pet cologne. There's even an oral hygiene product called Oxyfresh if your model is stepping out after a day on the runway. Is she jetting off to Paris for a show? Then you can get transporters and carriers here, along with diet treats so she can maintain that model figure.
Hello. This is Spotty the dog weighing in on my favorite animal hospital. Paws down that would be Simmons Veterinary Clinic. First of all, they don't make me wait with annoying cats -- dogs get our own waiting room. A vet is on site 24 hours a day, so if I get hit by a car in the middle of the night, my owner can take me to Simmons for immediate treatment and reassurance. They do everything there, from implanting a computer identification chip under my skin to surgery to x-rays to cleaning my teeth. (OK, I confess, I sometimes get doggy breath.) My owner is even enrolling me in puppy socialization classes, where I will learn how to sit, stay, jump, and, um, refrain from accidents. ( I just get so excited!) I don't even mind if my owner leaves me overnight, because this place offers an indoor dog run, a three-acre outdoor exercise area, and online computer visits with my owner. The poor guy can't handle being away from me for a second.
The thing that sets Super Toys apart is that it's one of the few places that doesn't sell Sega Dreamcast or Sony Playstation. You're more likely to find toys that serve some kind of creative or educational purpose, like the popular Odyssey talking globe. Here's how it works: Select a category (such as national anthem or capital city of a country), then place the pointer on any spot on the globe, and the globe "tells" you the answer in a loud voice. Super Toys is also one of the few places where wood is good, as seen in the Swedish Brio and the Thomas the Tank Engine brands. For the bone collector in your young'un, there's the Dueling Dino Dig Archaeological Kit, where you can "Dig 'Em Up, and Assemble 'Em." If your kid's into arts and crafts, the Fortune Kooky Power Bead Kit can help Junior cleanse his aura and achieve spiritual awakening at home. In addition to toys, there are books such as the Homework Helpers series and edible treats like Puzzle-Os potato chips. In general Super Toys shies away from mass-market merchandise. Thank goodness there's not a Barney doll in sight. Then, you ask, what's the deal with the Pokémon stuff behind the register? Well, if one of their regulars repeatedly requests a certain item, it'll be there. Attention to customer service (no matter how painful), along with free gift-wrapping, is what keeps the well-heeled toy shoppers of western Broward County coming back.
Heading south on Old Dixie Highway through Fort Lauderdale, a sign to the left welcomes folks to Wilton Manors just before a sharp right curve in the road. The highway then jaunts almost immediately back to the left, but not before a bright yellow sign warns drivers to take the near-hairpin at 25 miles per hour. Dangling beneath the warning sign is one that announces your arrival onto a stretch known as "Antique Alley." Really a sleepy section of Old Dixie Highway just south of NE 26th Street and dotted by auto-repair shops and antiques dealerships, the small strip features some 30,000 square feet of floor space devoted to old stuff. That square footage is shared among ten quaintly overflowing stores, where junk hunters can track down that perfect '50s dining table, antique martini shaker, or Victorian end table. Overlap is inevitable, but each shop seems to have a specialty: Serendipity (9545671954) has 18th- to mid-19th-century furniture, including hand-painted and decorated pieces; Dixie Treasures (954-567-0095) features American, European, and Asian furniture from the mid-1800s to the present; the oddly named Recollections and Pot Luck Cigars (954564-3504) boasts a fully stocked walk-in humidor along with 6000 square feet of collectibles; T. Pletscher Antiques and Art (954-5670054) stocks a large selection of fine art and prints in addition to antiques; Nostalgia Modern (954-537-5533) proudly purveys furniture and home accessories from the Art Deco to disco eras; iron pieces and antique garden furniture are the highlights at Wilting Manners (954-564-7994); and Miller Antiques and Collectibles (9545376061) offers on-site clock repair along with its clocks and glass items.
Intimidated by antiques stores, especially those that don't put the prices on the merchandise? Don't know your Louis XV from your George III? Still can't pronounce art nouveau? It's OK at James & Jeffrey Antiques. The owners and staff like to educate neophytes. Ask them anything; they won't laugh. But maybe you won't have to. Most, if not all, of the information you need -- including the prices -- is clearly written on tags that are attached to the eclectic array of merchandise. For example a piece you might call a "chest of drawers" is described as "a serpentine two-drawer commode with inlaid top and sides, raised on scroll legs, with snail feet, French 18th-century. $6950." But the store doesn't cater only to beginners; it's also where interior designers come to shop, especially for continental furniture, lamps, and accessories -- like the hand-painted ceramic dishes with lids shaped like vegetables. 1950s Italian. $225. It says so on the tag.
Snipedy Do Das takes the scare out of getting a haircut, and it's easy to see why. With three hydraulic animal chairs, a fourth chair hooked up to a Nintendo, and a TV set at every station, what's there to be afraid of? Oh, and don't forget the clubhouse and the toys. According to owner Ally Scudder, they're "all the toys that parents hate." (You know, the kind that make way too much noise or require way too many batteries.) Most first-timers come in here screaming because they don't want to get their hair cut, but the regulars start screaming when it's time to go. They don't want to leave, says Scudder, which is why she set up an adult's chair as well: Now parents can have their hair cut while their kids play with the toys they can't have at home. Basic cuts for kids are $12.95 and come with a ribbon for the girls and gel for the boys. First-haircut packages are $17.95 and include a lock of hair on a certificate and a photo button.
You see all those Jags and Benzes and Beamers on the road and you know there are a hell of a lot of rich folk in South Florida, but until you've been to Three Dog Bakery, you don't know the half of it. Some of these people's dogs eat better than the average middle-class American kid, let alone a starving tot in the Third World. They don't sell doggy biscuits, they sell doggy biscotti. The place sells bagels (they call them "Beagle Bagels" and "Springer Spaniel Sprinkles") and carob cookies ("Dottie Spots") and birthday and wedding cakes. When, you ask, could a dog possibly need a wedding cake? Just before one of these prime, AKC-registered purebred studs gets down to making pups with an equally well bred, handpicked bride, that's when. These people actually hold wedding ceremonies before the consummation. In addition to these doggy baked goods, the place sells its own brands of dog food. Or more like dog cuisine. One brand is made of white meat-only chicken and goes for $30 a bag. Another brand is for the upscale, sophisticated, vegetarian dog and contains real spinach and Parmesan cheese. Hard to stomach all this? Make like Fifi and eat some grass.
Stop by the Balanced Body studio, and you'll see people on contraptions called the Reformer, the Wunda Chair, and the Cadillac (because it's the largest of the machines) -- machines with weights, springs, pulleys, and leather straps that make you think of a medieval torture chamber -- or worse. But the people are actually doing the Pilates (pronounced Puh-LAH-teez) Method of Body Conditioning, and Cecil Ybanez is one of the only certified Pilates Method instructors in South Florida. (Most others are certified in Pilates-"style" methods.) Like the students of Joseph Pilates, who came up with the method in the 1920s, Ybanez's students feel better in 10 sessions, look better in 20 sessions, and have a "completely new" body in 30 sessions. The reason: strengthening and stretching muscles (especially the deep abdominals, lower back, buttocks, and inner and outer thighs) through very precise and controlled movements that are so low impact, you won't even work up a sweat. Private lessons can get pricey, but group mat exercise classes for beginning and intermediate levels are available for $15.
There aren't many vegetable stands left in Broward County, and there are even fewer where produce is grown on site. But Park City Farm Market is the real deal: Tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, strawberries, and okra are all grown here in season. The produce comes from a small patch of land sandwiched between two sites that have been sold and are about to be developed. Unfortunately Park City's plot is up for sale, too, so head out there and get your hands in the dirt while you can. You'll find the market at the intersection of I-595 and Nob Hill Road. Take Nob Hill south and follow the hand-lettered cardboard signs.