Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Need toys? Why visit a colossal chain store that practically requires a map to navigate (we're talking three aisles just for Barbie's shoes) when there's a cool little place like the Explorer Store? The shop, located in the Museum of Discovery & Science, sells all sorts of creative games, toys, and gadgets designed to provide challenging fun. The Build Your Own Volcano kit ($15) helps kids create actual eruptions using baking soda and vinegar. Another kit teaches children to build clocks out of vegetables. Then there's the always-popular Make Your Own Slime kit. "Kids really love that kind of thing because it's green, messy, and gross," says the store's Carol Villaverde. "And because they get to eat it." Speaking of which, the astronaut ice cream ($2.50) is rather tasty; it comes freeze-fried in a foil pouch, in napoleon and ice cream-sandwich flavors. You'll also find sea monkeys (actually brine shrimp), stuffed manatees and sea turtles, dinosaurs, books, puzzles, and the like. The shop, located across from the atrium at the museum's entrance, also sells toys that complement whatever IMAX film is showing at the time, as well as DVDs and videos of the film. The Explorer Store sees about 300 kids a day, all visiting on school field trips. But why should your child have to wait until then?
Yuriy Elimelakh is a craftsman. He learned the skill of cutting, stitching, stretching, and forming the hides of animals into leather shoes, purses, wallets, and upholstery back in his homeland of the Ukraine. For 43 years, he has practiced this art. Five and a half years ago, Elimelakh fled to the United States, and in November 1997, he and his brother, Igor Rozov, set up a shoe repair shop in Gateway Shopping Center. You can trust them to replace a worn heel or put a new half-sole on your favorite pair of boots. They will also make handmade shoes (around $200 a pair). "Just bring a picture," Elimelakh said. They make orthopedic shoes and can repair leather jackets, upholster leather sofas, and even sharpen scissors and knives.
OK, so you have to brave the maze of stop signs and curvy streets known as Oakwood Square to get to Movies 4 Sale. And yes, you must navigate Oakwood's seemingly endless array of strip malls until you find the one that houses this little hole-in-the-wall store. (Tip: Enter the complex from Stirling Road instead of Sheridan Street.) That's a small price to pay to enter movie heaven. We're talking roughly 40,000 titles on VHS, another 10,000 on DVD. Some are new, for those of you who have to be the first on your block with the latest releases. But the vast majority are used, and the prices on most are insanely low. We're talking low as in 99 cents for VHS movies missing their original packaging. The real bargains are in the bins right up front, where you'll rarely pay more than $2.99 per title. The rest of the inventory is arranged both alphabetically and by price, with the most expensive DVDs topping out at $24.99. And the selection is vast, from mainstream blockbusters to obscure independent features to foreign-language films. If you don't see what you're looking for, just ask. One of the friendly clerks will check to see if it's in stock, and if it's not, you can special-order it. Oh, and you can also sell your used videos here.
Cary Hoffman and his wife, Robin, started this family-owned biz back in 1992. Robin went back to teaching physical education at West Hollywood Elementary, but Cary just kept on swimmin' and sellin'. They took on one partner in 2001, another early this year, and they now run Tony's Pools in Cooper City, as well as Downtown Pools in Fort Lauderdale. They also service about 1,400 pools through a separate business. The prices are reasonable -- a 2.5 gallon jug of chlorine runs you $2.90 -- and they have just about anything you need, from cheap paper filters to pump motors. They'll resurface your pool too. But the best thing about Pool Depot is Cary. Give him a few ounces of water and he can tell you what's wrong in a flash. Several times, we have tried to buy expensive widgets or chemicals, and he's stopped us cold. "You don't need that, bucko. Try the cheap, um... make that 'reasonably priced' one." Even better, he has a sense of humor that would make Morey Amsterdam blush. "Put that in your Beemer," he tells us on each and every visit as we walk toward our broken-down Honda. "Nice caaaaaaar." Asked for a joke recently, however, he would say only, "I can't. I can't. My wife would kill me, ladies and germs." The place is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday.
Living in Florida, you've probably got a neighbor or an aunt or just some old retiree you see all the time with a dog hanging out of her purse. Trust me, she didn't like those leather pants you bought her last birthday. What she wants is her little pooch in a mini fleece cowboy hat, with a matching corduroy jacket and a rhinestone-studded collar imported from Paris. You can get all that at Paws on the Avenue, which caters to the rich Palm Beachers who treat their dogs better than they do their children. The store is a haven for those obsessed with Fido's comforts. For god's sake, the place has aromatherapy sessions for dogs, holds a Halloween contest for dressed-up pets, and arranges birthday parties with canine-only guests. This year, buy that dog-obsessed friend the newest fad: raw dog food. The chunks of veggies and raw animal parts are supposedly more like what dogs would've eaten if (gasp) out on their own. Just skip the gift wrap.
If you like video games, if you're a serious user, you're looking at serious bucks going to that addiction. It's never good enough, and the marketers are geniuses at creating the "next best thing." It's done in a laboratory in some secret location. The day you buy the next best thing, the next next best thing is three days from hitting the market. In a numbing whirlwind, you go from Sega Genesis to Nintendo to Super Nintendo to Nintendo 64 to Playstation to the Xbox to Game Cube to Playstation 2. And it all started with Atari, if you go back that far, which at the time seemed so harmless, a simple recreational toy. It's time to break the cycle. Give it up. Hold onto your Sega or your Nintendo 64 and swear off the Playstation 2 mainline. GameStop is there to help you. It's got hundreds and hundreds of used games to choose from -- dating all the way back to Sega Genesis -- and those games you never played are still good enough to get you through that dark night. Better, they go from $5 to $40 tops, instead of the standard $75 or more you pay for the new ones. It's a national chain, and the hole-in-the-wall stores can be found all over the place. There are like a dozen in Broward (the above address is simply the most centrally located) and a handful in Palm Beach. To find the store nearest you, look it up at www.gamestop.com. It's the first step to recovery. But it's tempting -- the store also has a killer collection of all the newest shit. Walk by it, man, just walk by it.
Remember those old Impulse commercials? "When a man you've never met before suddenly gives you flowers..." Recall that scene for a moment: Busy street, neighborhood florist, woman with great legs, a kicky skirt, and a convenient gust of wind, blushing as she receives an unexpected bouquet. Now remember the inside of that flower shop. A smiling florist behind a cash register hurriedly hands the would-be suitor a bunch of long-stemmed blooms. Romance would never have blossomed had it not been for that neighborhood florist and his quick, bouquet-wielding hands. The Posie Patch in Wilton Manors is that neighborhood florist. Well, maybe not that neighborhood florist, but it's a neighborhood florist, and a damn good one at that. It's small and unintimidating but has a great selection. The employees are knowledgeable and friendly both in person and over the phone. The floral creations are expertly rendered and, for those not-so-impulsive types, they deliver anywhere in Broward County. But if you start chasing strangers down the street with flowers, be ready to explain yourself. Some might consider that behavior not so much impulsive as it is creepy.
There are only so many places a man can talk about a 5/8-inch male pipe going into a 1/2-inch female fitting with a straight face. "We just need to find an adapter for the female end," concluded the conversation recently at George's, a hardware store whose employees thrive on such dilemmas. Here, you won't find any employees wearing orange smocks or aisles taller than your house. In fact, the whole store, at 8,000 square feet, is probably smaller than the average Home Depot aisle. But George's has survived for 64 years by positioning a pool of long-time employees by the front door who will go get that hammer you need rather than sending you down some cavernous aisle on a two-day search.
True to its name, this furniture and accessories store is an assault on the senses. Walk into this massive space and you're bombarded with the sounds of fountains, the scents of potpourri, and all sorts of tactile temptations. And the sights? Well, let's just say the store, which spans 6,000 square feet, carries about an item per foot. This space, located in the Festival Flea Market, brims with character. It's sort of an interior designers' tropical theme park, with everything from towering silk trees and the largest selection of room dividers that we've seen to wooden bedroom sets with dressers that resemble stacked suitcases. There's also lots of fun stuff that no one needs but everyone wants, like a miniature London phone booth and a Blues Brothers statue. Or miniature flower carts, mosaic mirrors, little seedballs, bamboo trays, and animal carvings. The best part is the price: You'll find stuff here from 99 cents (a funky keychain) to $5,500 (a sleigh bed). Visit often -- new inventory arrives almost daily.
In a nondescript building on Broward Boulevard, Habitat for Humanity of Broward County opened a nifty thrift store of home repair, building supplies, and interior furnishings about two-and-a-half years ago. Boxes of bathroom tile, ceiling fans, interior and exterior doors, some as cheap as $10, are lined up along one wall; sinks, tubs, and patio furniture fill an outdoor area; and a changing mixture of lamps, coffee tables, headboards, and such are displayed in a cluttered showroom. Sometimes stuff is marked down to move, like the day a sign scrawled on a sheet of paper announced a sale on paint: two gallons for $5. A bargain, no matter how you paint it. Furniture stores and contractors drop off stuff regularly as donations, so it pays to check in periodically. For a long time, one aisle in the outdoor yard was a tangle of wrought-iron patio tables (minus the glass). Then they were all gone. On another occasion, a surfeit of pretty white linen lampshades spilled through the interior, stacked on television consoles and dining room tables and filling overstuffed chairs.
Every dog owner at some point has faced the following dilemma: Leave the party early or let Spike poop on the Pergo. Ergo, not only is pet-sitter extraordinaire Shirley Mitchell your pet's best friend -- she's yours too. Mitchell, who daily wakes at 5 a.m. and sometimes works until midnight, began creature-sitting in 1987, after throat cancer took her beloved cat, Sammy. Heartbroken, she vowed never again to love another animal. Then a friend, a vet technician, called Mitchell for help: The office had no room for boarding. Could she dog-sit? "She thought I'd find it therapeutic, and I did," says Mitchell, who per day charges anywhere from $25 to $40, depending upon services and location. "Soon, I was getting all sorts of referrals from people, and it took off from there." Flash-forward 16 years: Mitchell has walked, fed, and otherwise pampered not just dogs and cats but fish, turtles, birds, ferrets, and the occasional skunk. She takes pets to the vet and drops them at the groomer; plays with them and takes them for car rides; administers medicines and changes wee-wee pads. Then there are those crazy Malteses: She once had to rock one to sleep; she rescued another after it tangled its leash in a second-floor stair railing and nearly became a fur rug. The bottom line: The woman is trustworthy. Want proof? She's got more than 75 keys to clients' homes on her ring. And she's busy, busy. Which is why squeezing into her schedule is as likely as teaching a gerbil to moonwalk.
In times like these, we could all use a big honkin' hit of peace. In fact, one has to imagine that if a few of our fearless leaders were content to curl up on the couch in front of the tube (preferably a nice handmade double-blown color-changing glass tube!), there might be a lot less trouble in this world. So when we need help facilitating that peaceful, easy feeling, we turn to the small and friendly Peace Pipe, where you'll get a free lighter, screens, or pack of papers with your purchase. To its credit, the Pipe isn't clogged with non-necessities that have nothing whatsoever to do with dope-smoking: Colorized dancing bears, crystal unicorns, and their useless ilk are kept to a bare minimum. Instead, the store augments its killer pipe 'n' bong selection with more than 200 brands of rolling papers, so you can twist up a variety of doobies to take to your next PTA meeting, Lamaze class, or protest rally. Peace out, brothers and sisters.