Best Of :: Shopping & Services
In the three years since Yohanny Lopez crossed the Florida Straights on an inner tube, his life has made quite a turnaround. Using his training from the Romeo Y Juliet factory in Havana, Lopez and his uncle George Rodriguez opened Mya Handmade Cigars Factory in an industrial strip near downtown West Palm Beach. Lopez still rolls close to 100 cigars a day, like he did in Cuba, but now he's making money for himself. A steady clientele has discovered the benefits of freshly rolled cigars, and the pair has hired two employees to keep up with demand. Rodriguez lights the stogies for customers and brews potent Cuban coffee to sip in the lounge chairs. They're looking for a more visible location someday, maybe on Clematis Street or near CityPlace, where Lopez would surely be a tourist attraction. Lopez spends every day rolling cigars at a worn wood work station just off the lounge area of the small shop, visible through an open breezeway, so customers can watch. For each cigar, Lopez strips the stems out of the leaves, stuffing together Dominican, Peruvian, and Nicaraguan tobacco. The concoction is pressed in old-fashioned molds, many smuggled out of Cuba, and then rolled in Connecticut-grown wrappers. He doesn't hesitate to say they're better than the ones he rolled back home. "They're fresher," Lopez notes. "Cigars you buy, they're a year old or more. These are fresh, and fresh cigars, there is nothing better." Or cheaper. The stogies start at just $1 for what's the best, slow-burning, and richly flavorful smoke around -- at least without a trip across the Florida Straits.
No roody poo yakkety-yak at Florida Master Barber, where Fresh (Mark Bierre) wields his blades. Sit down. How do you want it? Short. Fade? Yeah, a little fade. Out come the black smock and the Father O'Brien white paper strip around the throat. Then the master does his thing. One length of clippers for the back of the head. Then another to mow that pesky neck hair out back. Here come the scissors for the crown. Then more clippers over the top, back around the sides. The big, fluffy brush sweeps the shoulders. Then the sideburns get mowed to match that fly fade. Those stray eyebrow hairs wandering toward the temples finally get their comeuppance. The two-day stubble is buzzed away to a nice, kiss-me-wherever-you-want smoothness. More clippers, sharpening the edges around the forehead. Then a dollop of hair gel and an aerosol coating of olive oil, for that magical Friday-night sheen. Now who's lookin' good? You are, you sharp son of a bitch. You're un-frickin'-stoppable. And you're out only $10, not counting what ought to be a fat-ass tip for the man with the mirror.
Though it may seem mostly a matter of semantics, there is a significant difference between a hairstylist and a barber. You go to a hairstylist to have your hair cut and styled in a particular fashion. But if you don't know what you're doing, that style gets lost as soon as you take a shower. With a barber, what you see is what you get. Just decide where the part goes and you're all set. But even among barber shops, there is yet another divide: chain stores or family-owned. When you go to a chain shop, chances are the person cutting your hair has been there for only a month or two. At the Florida Barber Shop, however, there are only two people, owner Jim Fitzpatrick and his daughter, manager Bonnie Rock. The shop has been in operation for the past 18 years, so you know you're in experienced hands. A regular haircut costs $11, but if you show up once a month, the cost is only $8. (Seniors pay $8 regardless.). Oh, and you can have your hair styled, if you so choose. Just call Bonnie to make an appointment. The Florida Barber Shop is open Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Some of the so-called florists you can call when you need a bouquet delivered to that special someone are nothing more than a bank of phones, a middleman sending orders out to others. Not so with Coral Springs' Hearts and Flowers Florist and Party Designs. Since the store opened 11 years ago, it has distinguished itself as the place to go for excellence in floral work and party decoration. Owner/designer Cheryl Sims is a trained visual artist who stumbled into a floral-design class and found her true talent (realizing at the same time that she could make a little money using high-quality flowers to create floral art for discriminating customers). The first recipients loved their orders, and word of mouth has kept the store busy. Sims and her staff use a rotating stock of flowers from around the world -- South American roses, Hawaiian tropicals, Dutch tulips, Thai orchids, and even Casablanca lilies -- to create tasteful arrangements, which are symmetrical and natural, proportional and fragrant, every piece complementing the others. The store can also arrange delivery of flowers and gift or gourmet baskets anywhere in the country and will deal only with other reputable florists, ensuring that quality will be a top priority.
The mall served you well in high school, and Target definitely has its place. But you're a big girl now, and you deserve some grown-up clothes. At Lauderdale Lifestyle Too, the racks are jammed with upscale designer labels, independent brands, and one-of-a-kind handmade threads. Here you will find clothes that work for the boardroom, the bistros, and the beach -- such as BCBG seersucker suits, the hard-to-find Chickabiddy line of sportswear, and dresses for day and night. The shelves and walls are stacked with unique purses, belts, and perfumes, and the friendly clerks have totally got you covered. Sure, it will cost ya ($70 for an Lacoste polo shirt), but shopping at LL2 is like raiding your exquisitely tasteful, mildly rich, and superfun best friend's closet -- with a bonus: You never have to give anything back.
Open even on Sundays (noon to 5 p.m.) and with lots of Discount Days and 50 percent-off sales, the two huge rooms of this place in the Riverland Shopping Center will thrill the most frugal of thrifters. CTS' rack-after-rack variety of items can at first seem daunting (e.g., 40 feet of hanging blue jeans), but after you roll up those sleeves and start digging, you're bound to strike garment gold -- from J. Press tuxedo shirts to cowboy hats to that pair of khaki shorts for the summer you've been needing but didn't want to spend $25 for. The clientele varies from slumming Las Olas Isles matrons to those more obviously less fortunate, and for good reason: There's always fresh meat to dig through -- the store puts out more than 3,000 new items daily. Sometimes less-than-organized (why are those two old saws hanging over the purse rack?) and a little skimpy on the books and kitchen goods, but what's to complain about when you're walking out the door with a $2 Sulka tie? Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Looking for a little extra attention around town? Here's a small secret: the Vintage Shoppe. Although it's run by Gulfstream Goodwill Industries, the shop offers fashions not seen in years -- and nothing you'll find in overpriced and aesthetically bland mall chain stores. For women, there's a sharp selection of dresses, blouses, coats, hats, and shoes in a variety of retro styles. And unlike a lot of vintage clothing stores, the Vintage Shoppe accommodates men as well, with a variety of spiffy shirts, suits, and blazers for all you dapper dandies. Also, in addition to clothing, there's a ton of other unique antique items, from furniture to artwork to luggage and even early Polaroid cameras and old typewriters (remember those?). Heck, this is the type of store where a lot of those eBay hacks get their clothing before doubling the cost. With shirts ranging from $6 to $14, why pay extra to some shady cyber-middleman? Update your wardrobe and furnish your living room by taking them back in time with a little vintage vigor. Vintage Shoppe is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Give it up already. Martha Stewart might be goin' to the pokey, but you're not the new her. Despite the big bucks you've spent at the craft store and the hours you've logged at the Home Depot, you're not gonna become a master of faux finishes, and you'll never get around to reupholstering the couch. Especially when it's so much easier to hit Jane Loves Cheap Furniture. The slogan -- "Because life's too short for boring stuff" -- is painted on the floor of this pleasantly cluttered shop. Surprises linger in every corner and cranny. Antique tables have been handpainted with pictures of palm trees. An old, wooden storm shutter has been whitewashed and fashioned into a room divider. Knickknacks like a $10 buddha statue and nautical notions lurk on shelves and mantles. Tell 'em we sent ya, and say hi to the goldfish in the coffee jar.
This joint ain't large. But it's cheap, convenient, and fun, and the twerps might actually learn something while they spend your hard-earned cash. Opened in 1992, the Explore Store sells rubber sea turtles ($2.50), snakes ($3.50), frogs (75 cents), and iguanas ($2.25, and they squeak). A real hand-painted iguana to scare your sister goes for $27. Plastic whales, octopuses, sharks, dolphins, and lobsters go for $1.25 each. Die-cast metal space shuttles on a stand with astronauts cost $22. Then there are wood kits to build everything from sea life to dinosaurs priced from $5 to $50. Or get a build-your-own-robot kit for $16.95. Hell, even if you don't buy anything, the store is next to the coolest gravity clock on planet Earth, the IMAX theater (DVDs of IMAX shows go for $30), and the Discovery Museum, where your kids can be distracted for hours while you sneak off to the Himmarshee pubs for a toot. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Lo, it may befall you, as it has many decent folk, that the morning after a champagne-fueled backyard midnight coed skinny-dipping session, you awake to find only one working eye in your head. Who to contact for a lens? If the morning in question happens to be New Year's Day and all acquaintance be sleeping off hangovers, you'll be resorting to an eyepatch, unless you drop by the Swap Shop's specs shack. Not only is it open but the good folks there have been known to donate an emergency contact for nothing more than a wink.
"We built this city! We built this city on rock 'n' roll!"
OK, not only does that song totally suck but it's dead wrong as well. Anyone in South Florida knows damn well how our cities are built: one collection of shops at a time. Look at any Broward/Palm Beach burg from Margate to Wellington back to Pembroke Pines: It's just one giant interconnected mall! To calculate such a place's cultural worth, subtract 20 points for every chain store. Add 20 points for every unique nook and cranny. That's why Riverland reigns supreme: The closest thing to a chain is the Supersaver Grocery, which could have been teleported straight from Calle Ocho. (The tiny branch of the Broward Public Library doesn't count.) For your shopping pleasure, explore Scot Drugs and Riverland Hardware, two fading showcases that Wal-Mart has all but eradicated. Sissi Fashions offers tight, flattering outfits for the hottie on your list, while clean, white T-shirts at the Community Thrift Store are under a dollar. Yarly's Bakery yummily supplies your bizcocho needs. The Rainbow Restaurant doesn't accept plastic but is one of the most authentic Greek diners in town -- truck drivers like to park their big rigs outside and grab a real meal. Tucked away in a blind alley, Sassano's Pizzeria makes a mean pie. Grab one, pick up some plastic cups at the 99 Cent Store, and some Argentinean merlot at Super Saver and you're good to go. C'mon, throw off those chains. Until Riverland's inevitable date with the wrecking ball, this self-contained universe is unsullied by the corporate-conquest machine. These locally owned businesses used to be the source of strength in every small community, keeping cash close to where it was generated. Riverland is firmly rooted in its community with small, long-term tenants who are anything but fair-weather friends. Unlike Blockbuster or Starbucks, these hardy holdouts are part of our town. Readers' Choice: The Galleria
Malls bring out the must-have-everything attitude latent in all Americans. Yet indoor shopping centers just don't have everything. If commercialism's claws are deep into your wallet, get thee to Mizner Park, which has all the standard fare and then some. There's stuff for your home (electronics from Bang & Olufsen, utensils from Mamma Ro), stuff for your body (clothes from Tommy Bahama, shoes from Mephisto), and stuff to stuff yourself (kosher food from Levy's in the Park, cocktails from Max's Grille). Sharing the grounds of this intensely pastel, immaculately clean shopping center are an eight-screen luxury movie theater, a 5,000-seat amphitheater, a state-of-the-art concert hall, and the Boca Raton Museum of Art. It's all so perfectly planned and so mind-numbingly pretty that even the world's most vehement anarchist could be lulled into becoming an American Express-wielding, polo shirt-wearing consumer. If you go, ready yourself for a long walk off the short plank of restraint. You'll fall directly into the wide-open jaws of the circling marketing geniuses who designed this shoppers' wet dream. Readers' Choice: Town Center Mall