Best Trendy Tropical Chachkas 2003 | Jezebel Past and Present | Shopping & Services | South Florida
If one lives in Florida long enough, he eventually crosses a line in his insufferable Northeastern or Midwestern aesthetic elitism. One marker is when you start to appreciate the cheesy excesses of tourist chic, deeply appreciate it. Have touches of Florida begun creeping into your life? Do palm Christmas ornaments seem right somehow? Seashell figurines suddenly appear cute instead of horrifying? Don't be afraid. Cheese is its own reward, and Jezebel's has a coconut load of these sorts of doodads, albeit in upscale versions, to feed your new appetite. So if you now understand why dashboard hula girls... and boys... are appropriate Florida kitsch even though they are technically Hawaiian, welcome, you've finally arrived. One of South Florida's premier vintage-clothing stores, Jezebel's also has vintage bark-cloth curtains, orange-scented soaps and candles, map-of-Florida potholder mitts, and surfer-girl nightlights. 'Nuff said?
Yes, the folks behind the counter at CD Warehouse are well-aware that their shop smells like donuts (blame the thin wall separating them from next-door Dunkin). No, you can't use the bathroom, so please don't ask. However, feel free to hit these music fiends with any and all questions -- if they don't know the answer, they'll find someone who does. CD Warehouse does an admirable job of buying mostly obscure, hard-to-find collectibles, keeping a steady stream of used stuff mingling with the big sellers. It's almost impossible for small independent retailers such as this to keep pace with department stores and online shopping, but CD Warehouse survives by taking in secondhand artifacts (we found Legendary Pink Dots and Violet Indiana on one visit) and offering them to the next savvy shopper -- keeping the circle of cool alive.
Guy pulls into a garage with his flat left-rear tire in his trunk and his "donut" spare nearly flat barely keeping his car rolling. A shaven-headed, goateed mechanic beckons him to an open bay, then jumps out with the flat-repair kit and the pneumatic thingy that removes lugnuts. (Hey, if the guy in question knew what that thingy was really called, he wouldn't be taking his car to a freakin' garage, now would he? So shut up.) The mechanic removes the offending drywall screw from the tire, patches it, then removes the donut (using the thingy, which makes that high-pitch whining noise, evoking the pits at Talladega), inflates it, and sets it aside. He then replaces the patched tire (more thingy noises), inflates it, then even puts the donut back in the guy's trunk. Guy says, "How much?" "Five bucks," the mechanic says.

"I don't have any cash," the guy says, pulling out his credit card.

"Ah, forget it," says the mechanic, waving his hand dismissively. "Don't worry about it."

Dumbfounded, the guy stammers, "Thanks, man," and drives off.

And that, dear readers, is how a garage wins Best Of two years in a row.

While most antiques stores are satisfied to offer the customer all manner of metal lunch boxes, dated political buttons, incomplete sets of china, and old movie and music posters, Bobby V's means business. Sure, there's a few of those outdated doodads here and there, but most of the store is given over to antiquated furnishings. Here you'll find dressers, armoires, and headboards, without all the machine-made trim on the tables and chairs you'd find at Rooms to Go. One oaken armoire dates back to the turn of the century. A chest appears to be Edwardian, while another might be Victorian, and several other pieces look as if they could be named after English royalty as well. The faint of heart, or perhaps more accurately, the faint of wallet, may want to stay away, but if you yearn for the sort of quality craftsmanship that just can't be found in today's assembly-required world, Bobby has got the furnishings for you. Just keep your grubby mitts off that tan globe in the cherry-wood setting with the stylishly old-world map on it. We've got dibs on that, as soon as we save up a paycheck or three.
Easy Rider has know-how, not attitude. And it wants to share. For the mechanically impaired novice cyclist, that's critical. The shop will sell you a bike rack and take the time to show you how to fit your bike into it -- several times, if necessary. Or explain how to make sure the wheel of your ten-speed is clamped into the bike frame correctly. Tires a little flat? Need a gel pack for your seat? Tips on cycling aerodynamics? They'll give it up. Every Saturday at 7 a.m. the shop organizes a 35-mile bike ride to Weston and back. Some speed the distance; others take it at a more leisurely pace.
What makes the Adult Video Warehouse stand out from the puerile pack of porn purveyors? It's an adult playground stocked with all the nifty little toys that the inventive minds in Hong Kong and Germany could dream up. A huge section is devoted to videos and DVDs, exploring every sexual subgenre imaginable, including amateur, antique, big boobs, interracial, fetish, foreign, gay, transsexual, spanking, girl/girl, and the ever-popular four-hour marathon compilation. For those who prefer to turn sticky pages instead of hitting the fast-forward button, magazines run the gamut from the local Pynk Pages to swingers rags to the lovingly photographed European coffeetable tomes. The selection of toys is massive and diverse. One room is devoted to instruments of bondage, with enough gadgets to stock a medieval dungeon to any marquis' or slave's contentment. No fewer than ten types of riding crops are available as well as some furniture that can never be displayed in the front parlor. For the ladies, lingerie, gowns, candles, cards, potions, and lotions are spread out in the well-lighted, clean, and airy showroom. The floor is carpeted, the atmosphere pleasant, the neighborhood safe, and the parking not only convenient but discreet. The staff is knowledgeable, and most appear to be enthusiastic users of most of the stuff on display. A couple can spend an evening wandering through the 'House in shocked delight, moving from one section to another as they repeatedly discover new ways to explore their sexuality.
Although its record section has been a bit stingy lately, what with all of the "no store credit for this CD" stickers on all the good stuff, the book section of this shop remains a bastion of hard-to-find literature. One recent foray revealed a 1950s edition of Machiavelli's The Prince, with a forward that compared Machiavellian politics to the spread of Communism. And if Red Scare literature isn't your thing, something else is bound to catch your eye. This used-book store has nearly as many topics as your local library -- gardening, cooking, travel, and many others. While some of the sections may be a bit thin (What's this? Only half of one shelf dedicated to astronomy? What would Carl Sagan say?), the more popular areas, such as sci-fi, sprawl from shelf to shelf, and rare is the book that costs more than a couple of bucks. Such a cheap way to wile away a few hours -- and haven't you already watched enough TV?
If you haven't met a bead fanatic yet, you likely soon will, because beading is a pastime/avocation/addiction that's sweeping America like t'ai chi did in the 1990s. These aficionados eschew the jewelry and handbags offered by chain outlets and now fashion their own originals. Many of the young women who've taken up beading -- and Best Beads offers an array of classes -- contend it's a type of craftwork they were never exposed to while growing up because their working mothers had neither the time for it nor interest in it. It's also a sign of the times, judging by the explosive growth of Bead Need, which claims to possess the largest inventory of bugle, stone, pony, seed, and crystal beads in South Florida. After the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., droves of newbies began showing up at the store to buy red, white, and blue beads to fashion American-flag brooches and pins. Many became devotees.

Here's a mystery for you: What is it about South Florida that seems to sprout mystery writers? Do they come here as poets and experimental novelists and turn to the mystery-and-murder genre after hearing of bodies wrenched from the muck of the Everglades or loads of cocaine or human cargo found in the belly of cargo ships? Or is it the heat of the climate that makes for murderous thoughts? It's interesting that one of the few independent bookstores to survive the Bordering and Barnes-and-Nobling of the book business is a niche store specializing in mysteries and suspense. Owner Joanne Sinchuck, who moved Murder on the Beach from South Beach to Delray Beach in December 2002, stocks a wealth of Florida mystery writers, including Edna Buchanan, John Lantigua, and Carolina Garcia-Aguilera. And the store hosts weekly discussions, author signings, and such.
Nestled in a most unlikely place a couple blocks north of downtown, Lauderdale Lumber is a time warp back to the days before cavernous megastores. The store is notable for what it doesn't have: dozens of aisles of patio furniture, lawn equipment, houseplants, commodes, appliances, and a glut of other items that have nothing to do with a modest building project. Instead, 20 paces into Lauderdale Lumber, you're looking at boards. Open boxes of screws and bolts are stacked according to size along a few rows. Forget prepackaged cartons that contain superfluous amounts; if you need only one 9-cent bolt, that's all you have to buy. Same with nails, which are sold in bulk out of old-fashioned sheet-metal bins. Even the building is anachronistic, a hoary brick affair with exposed wood rafters. Like that other bygone institution, the neighborhood hardware store, Lauderdale Lumber also offers a basic array of home improvement tools, door hardware, glues, and molding. Your pappy would be right at home.

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