Best Cowboy Boots 2000 | Trader Jim's Boot Outlet | Shopping & Services | South Florida
Florida, dontcha know, is one of the largest beef-producing states in the country, with a cowboy tradition that invented crackers. Not the crackers that Polly eats but whip-crackers who chased cows and wore, yup, leather boots. The best place to buy that culturally essential footwear is Trader Jim's, where the long aisles offer roughly 8000 pairs of boots and a smell of new leather that will make you long to put your butt in a saddle. A few saddles are scattered around, and the usual peripheral apparel is for sale -- bola ties and belt buckles the size of the Panhandle, for example. And the folks here are friendly, too. They'll fit you into something either comfortable enough to wear to the mall or real enough to fit a stirrup. You can buy boots made in a variety of snakeskins, including water moccasin, rattlesnake, and boa, or you can get lizard, ostrich, alligator, shark, or plain old bullhide boots. The prices? Well, shucks, you can get booted for less than $100 or more than $1000, depending upon your needs.

The trouble with kids' clothes is that kids continually grow out of them. About two months after you shell out $100 for clothes at Old Navy, they'll be tight at the seams. Then they'll be relegated to the bottom drawer, and from there it's on to a younger sibling, a garage sale or the thrift store. Smart parents just skip the retail level and head straight for the secondary market -- the garage sales and thrift stores -- where little-used, name-brand kids' clothes are cheap and plentiful. There was much rejoicing among thrift-store aficionados last fall when the Salvation Army opened its Super Store on Broward Boulevard just east of I-95. Clean, well-organized and brightly lit, the Super Store is Saks Fifth Avenue for the tightwad set. There is an excellent selection of boys' and girls' duds, and you'd be hard-pressed to pay more than $3 for any single item (though shoes might run you $4-$5). You're guaranteed to walk out with a bag full of clothes for less than $20. And remember -- you're under no obligation to tell anyone where you got the stuff.
Two types of people frequent marine-supply stores: those who already own a boat and those who wish they did. For either a trip to West Marine is an enlightening experience. Both Fort Lauderdale locations are big stores stocked to the gunwales with everything from boat sandals, line, and global positioning systems to heads, radios, and dinghies. (They even sell bikes, though we never did determine what differentiates a marine bike from a terra firma one.) If you own a boat, you already know that this stuff isn't cheap. The old saw is that you can take anything, slap a "marine" label on it and double the price. That may or may not be true, but when we saw winches on sale for $800, we decided to keep dreaming for a bit. Meanwhile, you'll find us loitering in the aisles at West Marine, fondling the macerator pumps and marveling at the price of anti-fouling paint.
This nursery is so high-quality it draws landscapers from as far away as West Palm Beach and attracts celebrities like Dan Marino. But we find it the best place to unwind -- without any chemical assistance. Stroll through row upon row of hundreds of different flowers, from yellow dandelionlike Euryops to satiny magenta New Guinea impatiens. Then listen while the wind plays a symphony on dozens of chimes and water gently trickles down numerous stone waterfalls, all of which are for sale. The nursery, set on 21 acres, scours Homestead farms and plant shows for unique sprouts and orders from Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. The vegetation it can't find, well, employees concoct themselves: The nursery is awaiting a patent on a leafy plant with a white-and-pink bloom that resembles exploding fireworks (called the Brandon I, after the owner's son) There are also hand-painted clay pots, artistic metal flamingo figurines, 25-foot palm trees, sundials, and wrought iron benches engraved with roses.

Meat. Red, bloody, artery-clogging, protein-laden meat. Sometimes you just gotta have it. Grocery-store offerings are fine for feeding a hungry brood, but when you want melt-in-your-mouth meat, the kind that attracts envious stares over the fence from neighbors when you slap it on the barbecue, you need a good butcher shop. That's where Cattleman's comes in. They have all the lamb, beef, pork, and poultry you could possibly want; they know how to cut it and cook it; and they'll wrap it up neatly in butcher paper for you. The guys behind the counter even wear red aprons. But what really sets Cattleman's apart is its corner-market atmosphere. Part deli, part supermarket, part butcher shop, it looks like something straight out of a Chicago neighborhood. You could pick up a nice sirloin, a couple pounds of Belly Buster links, some fresh ground chuck, a hunk of good cheese, a bag of chips, a jar of fat deli pickles, and some good bologna, all in one place. Then you'd be livin'.
Hot 'n' Horny. Lawyer's Breath. Flamin' Balls. Acid Rain. Psycho Bitch. PMS in a Bottle. These are just a few of the more than 400 hot sauces that make up what customers at the Barbecue Superstore in Weston have dubbed the Wall of Pain. It seems manufacturers of the fiery condiment compete for the cleverest, funniest, or most fear-inducing name, and it's fun just to browse among the little bottles to see the names and the corresponding cartoonish pictures on the labels. But don't bring the kiddies. A whip-wielding dominatrix dares you to sample Pleasure & Pain, and we'll leave the illustration for Monica's Down on Her Knees to your imagination. A bowl of tortilla chips is on hand -- the better to test the hot sauces, as well as the dozens of barbecue sauces the store sells. Surprisingly they're not all as tongue-scorching as you might guess; some, like Psycho Bitch, are even on the sweet side, mixed with mango, raspberry, and other fruits. Of course, we decided to pass on the one with a skull and crossbones and the warnings "Keep Away From Children" and "Skin Irritant" on the label, as well as the one in a red firecracker-shape box, complete with wick. Call us wimps.
Jane may love cheap furniture, but she loves her daughter, Jackie, more. Otherwise she would never have financially backed Jackie's dream-that-would-probably-only-last-a-summer six years ago. After four years of book-cracking, Jackie graduated from college with a degree in social work -- and discovered that she'd rather be dealing with furniture than clients. Jackie takes well-made (real wood, not pressed wood; solid wood, not wood veneer) furniture with a past and brings it into the present by giving it a new look: tropical, seaside, cottage, Mediterranean. You never know what you'll find here: an old oak teacher's desk with a pull-out platform perfect for a computer that Jackie has given a distressed look in soft white; a two-drawer trunk, perfect at the foot of one's bed, that Jackie has hand-painted with black hearts and the words to a 13th-century love poem that begins, "In your light, I learn to love…"; a corner cabinet done in MacKenzie-Childs- inspired colors and funk. And those are just three reasons to love Jane's -- and Jackie's -- cheap furniture.
When Jerry Miles reopens his eponymous store on May 28, the name will be slightly different -- and the prices even more so. (All merchandise will be 50 percent off retail, all the time.) But the whimsy for which Mr. Miles has been heralded, on and off Las Olas, remains the same: wind-up nuns; stick-on "panic," "eject," and "duh" keyboard button covers; ballpoint pens that look like hypodermic syringes; Trailer Park Barbie dolls; and Willie Wonka T-shirts are just some of the wacky items you'll encounter here. More wild and crazy merchandise arrives weekly.
Oh sure, there's kelp and vitamins. But there's also organic wine, dolphin-safe tuna, herbal cat collars, nonaerosol air fresheners, eyestrain-reducing light bulbs, triple-milled pure vegetable soap, and eggless egg salad, as well as hormone-free, antibiotic-free chicken, eggs, and milk. Not to mention an organic salad bar and produce department, packaged sushi, a bakery featuring flourless sugarless chocolate cake, and a prepared-foods department featuring turkey meatballs, Scandinavian shrimp salad, and roasted squash with fresh sage and garlic. This is Publix plus Walgreens for the health-conscious and environmentally aware but with perfectly stocked shelves and the kind of customer service normally found in chichi boutiques. "We haven't had it in a while, but I'll put in a request for it immediately," one "team member" said when a customer requested turkey salad with grapes. Prices range from a little more than average (99 cents for a can of tuna) to outrageous ($6.39 for one healthy light bulb). But then who ever said a pure body and a clean conscience come cheap?
"One man's trash is another man's treasure," is the motto here. This is the place to find everything -- including the kitchen sink (and the faucets, counters, cabinets, and appliances, too) -- at 10 to 40 cents on the dollar. So, if you've been thinking that you're stuck with a ho-hum kitchen or bathroom because it's so expensive to remodel, think again. The high-end real-estate renovation business is booming, which puts Tom Gooding, owner of Gooding's Goodies, in an enviable position. What someone no longer wanted could be exactly what you've been seeking for your home-renovation project -- but couldn't afford. Until now. Like the JennAir cook top that costs $1200 to $1400 new. Barely used in some fancy-schmancy Palm Beach manse (those people eat out), it's $225 at Gooding's Goodies. Gooding hasn't even been in business for two years, and he has had to move three times. The reason: too many goodies, too little room. Even now, with 10,000 square feet of space (up from 3800), the new place is bursting at the seams with about 80,000 items that Gooding has rescued from oblivion. It's called salvage merchandise, but that has the connotation of rusted plumbing fixtures sitting out in front of a doublewide, and this place is anything but. Gooding's store is not only air-conditioned, the merchandise is so well organized you'll feel like you're shopping at Burdines. They have drawer pulls and cabinet handles for 25 cents -- instead of $5. You'll also find oldies-but-goodies from the late 1800s to early 1900s: leaded-glass windows, carved wood doors, and a huge selection of claw-footed tubs (they're very "in" these days) from the 1920s. And what you don't find today, you'll find tomorrow. Three to five truckloads of stuff get dropped off every week.

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