Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Look for the big red sofa painted on the side of a building when traveling north on I-95. Notice the parking lot -- Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar, Range Rover. The Design Center of the Americas is the largest interior-design center in the world -- three buildings, four stories, 775,000 square feet, and 150 showrooms of some very cool stuff. So much cool stuff that the DCOTA, as it is called, recommends the layperson doesn't try negotiating its labyrinthine interiors alone. For two hours, free of charge, the DCOTA will provide an interior designer to decode your interests -- floor lamps in a romantic yet modern style, Mediterranean orange-colored glass tiles, wallpaper etched with line drawings of tiny palm trees, or just a groovy bathtub -- and guide you to showrooms that feature such fare. Or you can bring your own designer. Once inside, the DCOTA is a visual orgy. J. Batchelor, Suite A-428, for example, features the stunning lamps of Israeli designer Ayala S. Serfaty's Aqua Creations. Morning Glory is a floor lamp that looks like an anemone fish. It is made from pleated silk on a frame -- in orange, yellow, cream, rust, and red -- bulbous at the bottom, nipped at the top, and ending with an open, ruff-like mouth that faces the ceiling. The Nikko hotel in San Francisco bought an illuminated line of them. If you decide to buy one yourself, the decorator price for a Morning Glory is $2,570. It's listed at $3,675 retail.
They did P. Diddy's Black & White Ball on New Year's Eve at the Shore Club in South Beach, brought Pat Benatar to New Orleans for Roche Pharmaceuticals, flew Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina into a corporate meeting on a giant spaceship, and staged a Hollywood gala complete with red carpet, limos, and six-foot-tall gold Oscar statuettes for a bar mitzvah titled "Seth's Premiere." Nothing is too off the wall or over the top. If you've got the bucks -- it costs $25,000 and up for a private bash like Seth's to as much as a million for a multiday corporate extravaganza -- they'll make it happen. M.E. Productions rakes in over $9 million a year orchestrating events. Packed inside its 35,000-square-foot warehouse facing I-95, cubicles and work stations seem carved in a conglomerate rock bed of props: a mermaid with golden hair falling past her butt, a faux verdigris Statue of Liberty, ferocious Tiki gods, the head of a huge snarling dragon, and a giant hamburger the size of a bean-bag chair. Of course, there are trends in this business like any other. Business theater director Deidre Underwood says she's thinking simple these days. Dot-coms pushed Underwood's world to extreme heights. Everybody's done the lighting-the-stage-on-fire thing, she says. She would rather see a single spotlight and a blazing speech. Staying ahead of the trends, this year she's talking speech coaches.
This place does not carry any ale from Antarctica. But if someone there brewed a batch, you can bet these are the shelves where it would be stocked. In fact, in this health-food store can be found several liquor stores' worth of beer to please every palate, including all the familiar names and an ever-changing lineup of obscurities. Salvator, Königs-Pilsener, and Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier round out more commonplace German lagers. This is also the place to find those tasty Belgian frambozens and buckwheat lambics. Of course, English ales, porters, and stouts are well-represented, and the selection includes a slew of rarities. Widget cans include the now-ubiquitous Boddington's, Guinness, and Tetleys, as well as Wexfords Irish Cream Ale and Abbot Ale. California and East Coast microbreweries line the aisle, as well as a huge assortment of organic ales (like the new Samuel Smith's offering), nonalcoholic beers from here and abroad, sorrel and ginger shandies, tons of ciders, plus seasonal beers like Anchor Christmas Ale and Sam Adams Old Fezziwig (flavored with orange, ginger, and cinnamon). So burp already.
You want your hair styled, head down the street to Yellow Strawberry and pay, like, $97.95 or something. You want a freakin' haircut, you eat your country-fried steak at the Floridian, then you mosey a couple of doors west, plop yourself down in one of the three barber's chairs, and you kick it -- say it with us, now -- old school. How old? Well, the shop has been there since 1951, the stations are also from the '50s, and those cool-as-hell retro chairs are from the '60s. A man's haircut will run you $15, a woman's $20. For the guys, a full-on, hot-lather, straight-razor shave goes for $20. OK, so it's not "two bits," but it still qualifies, like the shop's motto says, as "barbering the way it used to be."
Cowboys dress kind of fussy for macho bucs. Those outfits jump out at ya' -- shiny belt buckles as big as post cards with whole ranch scenes engraved on the face, ten-gallon cowboy hats, and boots with fancy tooling snaking all over the leather. Melding into a crowd, unless it's a crowd of equally outlandishly clad cowboys, isn't the idea. No, it's important to be able to spot others of the clan when mixing it up with the uninitiates. Responding to questions with a soft "yes, ma'am" and "no, sir" isn't enough. Nor is walking bowlegged. Gear. That's what makes a cowboy a cowboy. And Grifs has the stuff -- fancy and plain -- from Wranglers and Stetsons to tight-fitting snap-front shirts, boots, buckles, saddles, and bull-riding ropes.
Sure, it's a bit ostentatious, but really, why buy clothes off the rack that are designed and created for any old schmuck? Call up Twickenham and they come to your home or office, take your measurements, and make clothes specifically suited to you. The cost is about twice as high as store-bought clothes, but rare is the man who can say his threads are one-of-a-kind.
To escape the mall rats sniffing around the Gap sales rack, visit either of these Fort Lauderdale boutiques. Whether you dig the fashions or not, at least the rags here are original. If there's any stretch of urban sprawl in the world outside of Las Vegas that requires a gal go shopping for some high-end slutwear, it's South Florida. And Jimmy takes care of that. How about his jeans titled "Frayed, Braided and Fucked" or the perennial beachfront shirts that go by names like "Purple Butterflies" or "Zebra Floral"? Fedoras are still the rage, honey, so snag that gold lamé for $80. Speaking of Puffy's ex, Jimmy offers clothes for even moderately voluptuous shorties; each outfit is original. Star sells limited and one-of-a-kind designs and specializes in custom design. Check out the Website to view ex-Exposé member and regular Jimmy Star customer Gioia Bruno mugging in a latex-and-pink-sequined getup that screams "Martha Quinn in drag."
Pssst, hey, you. Yeah, you. Interested in clothes? No, no, not yer off-the-rack, strip mall stuff. I'm talkin' about -- c'mon, buddy, step a little closer -- old clothes. Ya know, vintage? Between you, me, and the Man upstairs: hats, shoes, dresses, stoles, suits -- from the 1800s to the 1970s. Seen Gosford Park? That '70s Show? You get the picture. Two words, pal: Platypus Clothing. Worlds collide there, my friend. Past melds with present. It's like walkin' into a Hollywood freakin' back lot. These ain't knockoffs. They're all original. Listen up: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays? Fuhgeddaboudit.
Last summer, every pair of jeans was capri-length and had wide strips of colored fabric festooning the hem. They had a hippie-dippy, homemade feel, as though do-girls had raided their mothers' fabric bins in a mass convulsion of originality. This year, designers have taken the trend further into embellishment and the hippie past, with elaborate appliqués, sequins, pieced fabric insets, embroidery, studs, and all other manner of frou-frou. Instead of paying a quadzillion dollars for this fad, do it yourself. For 35 years, Ben Raymond has been carrying trimmings at his Hollywood store with the motto, "If we don't have it, you don't need it." While that might not be literally true, one step inside this shop might make you wonder. There are three rooms stacked to the ceiling with cards of trimmings, bin drawers stuffed with appliqués, and bolts of fancy laces. Among the selection: chains of large white daisies with black centers, strands of cord knotted with colored beads, giant sequined leaves, alligators, and a red sequined pump. The crotchety Raymond, who lords over the Hollywood store, is alone worth the visit, as he is often clad in strange and inspiring concoctions stitched from the store's fabrics and decorated with the trimmings.
The cheese factor is high at this enormous shed in the barren blocks south of West Palm Beach International Airport, but come the weekend, it's lively as a Tegucigalpa marketplace... with a similar ethnic mix. The Central American immigrant families are in their finest, the men in Western gear, the women in brightly colored skirts and blouses, children in tow. They come for the trinkets, the kitchenware, the cut-rate clothing, the religious articles, and the company. Gringos head for the psychedelic shop, the magic store, and the anomalous traditional Italian deli, with a selection of wines, cheeses (including fresh mozzarella), meats, pastas, and other specialty imports to rival New York's Grand Street. For extra whimsy, drop $4 and take in a show at the Puppetry Arts Center of the Palm Beaches. Avoid the food stalls, where some items look as if they've been exhumed, then deep-fried.
Jorge Fallad and Tony Polo bought a bungalow on North Federal Highway several years ago, painted it Mediterranean blood orange, posted a wrought-iron mariachi band facing Federal Highway, and then filled the house chock-a-block with a dizzying array of objects. There is a trio of huge, brown, mahogany urns from Thailand ($190, $240, and $340). There are also bowls of fruit rendered in stone, ornate aluminum crosses, iron candelabras as tall as floor lamps ($129-$189), 24 styles of creamy yellow pottery, leather knapsacks ($140), and a wrought-iron lamp, the base of which looks like a tangle of mangrove roots ($129). The couple caters to the design trade, but the store has none of the sleek, overwrought feeling of some design meccas. Its atmosphere is friendly, homey, welcoming. Polo and Fallad import much of D'Barro's merchandise from Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, and Thailand. And they also craft original works in wrought iron and aluminum -- everything from deck chairs to doors to wrought-iron gates and large figurines. Fallad does the metal work, and Polo specializes in faux finishes. Together, the couple designed the iron and leather dining chairs for and decorated Las Palmas, the new Mexican eatery on Ocean Drive in Hollywood Beach. The Federal Highway store functions as a showroom for the husband and wife, a place to inspire and to impress prospective customers. It's also a retail store for walk-in shoppers and a nice place to get lost in. D'Barro's is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Coagulated shampoo, nail polish separated in the bottle, and food that's outlived its shelf life -- you won't find it here. The South Florida-based 99 Cents Stuff has four locations in Palm Beach County, two in Broward, and four in Miami-Dade. Each one is the size of a supermarket and carries name-brand items you see in other stores now, not ten years ago. From milk, frozen meals, and produce to housewares, the selection makes it difficult to keep impulse spending to a minimum -- especially when everything costs no more than 99 cents. These stores also accept most credit cards with a picture ID.