There are a few essential traits for an outstanding gift store. First, its inventory must provide for occasions as diverse as weddings, birthdays, Valentine's Day, and hope-your-dog-gets-better. Second, there must be a wide price range -- after all, a bridal shower present for your uncle's sister-in-law doesn't demand the same wallet juice as does your nephew's bar mitzvah. So Abe's is your answer. This store has enough turnover of merchandise that there's something new to discover each time you visit. Cookware is plentiful, from a set of six glass tumblers for $6 to a set of six Victorinox steak knives for $30 or a fancy 22-piece tea and dessert set for $100. Plenty of wall decorations, in particular Florida-themed fish sculptures from $20 to $70. For the person who has everything, there's the kitschy: two-foot tall Laurel and Hardy figurines for $250 each.
After that failed attempt to manufacture wine in your bathtub, there's a way to escape the shame of defeat. Instead of bottling the rotgut you pressed with your feet, try bottling your own vino at Let's Make Wine in Delray Beach. This soon-to-be-national chain that started right here in South Florida lets customers mix their own wines to come up with unique blends, packaged with original labels. Owner Ann Rosenberg has plans to franchise her Delray Beach store across the country using the success pioneered by her late husband, Bill, founder of Dunkin' Donuts. Already, Rosenberg has opened a second store in Deerfield Beach and another in Colorado. The store allows customers to mix their own wine using pure juice or grape juice concentrate that's mixed with filtered water and bottled. The mix, which ranges from $160 to $319, makes about 25 bottles. Then the amateur winemakers create their own labels. Mostly, the idea has taken off as gifts for weddings and such, but Rosenberg says some customers just like having their own bottle of wine, without grapes between their toes.
You could chuck an anvil from one side of Kyoya to the other and a brick from its entrance to its end. In between, this wee shop stocks enough Asian culinary curios to require repeat trips. The front displays origami paper and a library of Japanese videos; the middle holds tea sets, bags of wasabi mix, canned Thai bamboo, ready-to-eat dried squid, frozen edamame, and pickled ginger; the rear features perhaps the smallest sushi bar in South Florida. No frills means cheap prices and generous portions that belie the store's small size. The $17 sushi combo for two includes ten pieces of sushi, two ample rolls, and a choice of salad, soup, or drink. The $8.50 volcano roll itself is enough for two people. Eat fast; the restaurant seats but six.
You've just dropped $25,000 on a new truck. The testosterone-fueling V8 engine and two-ton payload are all a man could ever want. But it's dreadfully boring on the outside. It looks like every other big truck out there. It doesn't express your -- shall we say? -- manly uniqueness. What's a Hemi-lovin' guy to do? Pay a visit to Ideal Automotive & Truck Accessories, a 64,000-square-foot warehouse and automobile accessories store in Pompano Beach. You can start with the inside of your ride, adding an AudioVox flip-down television and entertainment center (prices vary) and tinted windows ($100 or more depending on the vehicle). Then move to the outside. You'll want to strap on a leather LeBra for the front ($109), a Patriot bed liner ($169), and a hard-top tonneau cover ($995). In other words, if it's an aftermarket automotive accessory, Ideal Automotive will likely carry it. In a few short hours, you can have whatever you like installed and ready for the road.
South Florida can be a brutal place. Con men flock here like gulls on a bread crumb, and the smell of criminality is never far away. Desire for the Big American Dream -- not the one featuring a chicken in every pot but the one with two Mercedeses and a Porsche in every three-car garage -- drums the decency out of people here at a dizzying pace. So if this place is more dishonest than, say, Boise, what must the mechanics be like? Well, surprisingly, they aren't any worse than anywhere else, for the most part. Probably more likely to get ripped off in a place like, say, Beaufort, South Carolina, to pick an Old South town at random. And some South Florida garages, like Wales, are absolute gems. The garage has a motto: "For People Who Plan to Keep Their Cars." You gotta like that. Might as well say, "For Working Joes." Or "For People with Enough Sense Not to Throw Their Money Away on a Lease." The service at Wales is topnotch, and the turnover is quick. These people receive broken cars, fix them, and get them out the door in record time. And it's got longevity on its side. The garage was started by George Wales four decades ago. He sold the place in the early 1970s and went on to became better-known for his nearby restaurant, the beloved Café de Geneve, which closed in 2001. Today, the garage is owned by Stewart Levy, who has managed to preserve Wales' standard of excellence. It's a beautiful thing -- if you plan to keep your car.
Pull up under the carport of Flamingo Joe's Auto Spa and you won't find a list of prices anywhere. No billboard advertising the cost of a detail or a simple wash. Instead, you get the employees. "For you?" they'll ask, as if surveying how much they like you. Overheard prices quoted to customers went from $15 for a blond hottie who owned a convertible to $30 for an SUV driven by a suit-wearing yuppie. Then there are the stories of Mob connections. During a recent visit, an employee laughed off such rumors. Then he pointed out the baseball bat behind the counter. "We do loan money," he said in a New York accent. "The baseball bat is for when you don't pay. You get cracked." Minutes later, a guy in a Jaguar pulled up under the carport and asked how much for a detailing. "For you? $75." Not a bad price. Guess the guy had an honest face.
Don't let the high ceilings and exposed ductwork of Adult Video Outlet's 24-hour location (5249 Powerline Rd. in Fort Lauderdale) fool you. It might look like a warehouse, but Adult Video Outlet is about as classy a place as you'll find to buy your copy of the much-ballyhooed 1 Night in China, featuring two beefed-up former stars from World Wrestling Entertainment really wrestling -- you know, the way the Good Lord intended. Cordoned off into aptly named sections -- such as "Up and Cummers," "40+," and the catch-all "Alternative" -- most of the DVDs at Adult Video Outlet cost $29.95, with some available for $12.95 and others buy-one-get-one-free. This store has something for everyone, whether you're a frustrated single or a bored and horny couple. A few rows from the latest offering in the ouch!-that-must-be-painful, anal-obsessed Max Hardcore series, porno aficionados will find the gay hit Bat Dude and Throbin and, for those lusting after whips and stiletto heels, Severe Punishment, the movie tailor-made for all those naughty boys. Adult Video Outlet's two other locations (1030 W. Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale and 3803 W. Commercial Blvd. in Tamarac) are open until 2 a.m. every night.
Every man wants her. She's a busty blond. She doesn't talk. She doesn't complain. She doesn't make you buy her dinner. And, best yet, she never has a headache when you're ready to get it on. Meet, dear gentlemen, the Inflatable Wife. She can be all yours for the rock-bottom price of $18.95 at Something Sexy for Him & Her, an airy, upbeat sex shop on Federal Highway. Carrying clothing, videos, and -- ahem -- accessories, Something Sexy has everything you'll need when the lights go out. Or, for that matter, when you're parked in a dark space at some seedy bar. For the ladies, you can start with Spicy leather-studded sandals with stiletto heel ($49.95), then move on to the Passion Flower Mini Clit Climaxer ($49.95), featuring a multispeed motor for that perfect vibration. For the guys, take a look at the wall of cockrings ($10 to $25) or get your, er, hands around one of those masturbation kits ($34.95), including everything you'll need for those relaxing autoerotic afternoons. Whatever your pleasure -- or pain -- Something Sexy will likely cater to it.
Fifteen years ago, skateboarders around these parts didn't have much they could call their own. If you wanted to go to a decent park, the nearest place was Orlando ("C'mon, Mom -- please!?"). And when it came time to buy a new board, your only choice was to snoop around town for a surf shop that bothered to sell more than three decks and one set of wheels. By the time Joe Varricchio opened the Shred Shed in 1999, both the supply and demand for skate gear were higher than a Reese Forbes ollie. The store has everything a young shredder needs, from roughly 300 skate decks ($32.95 to $54.95, with free grip tape), accessories (wheels, $25 to $39.80), shoes ($49.95 to $89.95), T-shirts ($18.95), and DVDs (Blind's What If, $24.95). And speaking of DVDs, the Shred Shed has its first team video available for ten bucks (The Friggin' Shred Shed Video) as well as a second one in the works. The team kids are damned good too, never failing to rack up points at local contests. Hmm... maybe it's where they do their shopping.
You've heard of getting fitted for a suit, a dress, or even a pair of loafers, but at Bike America, they fit you for a bike. They take measurements of your torso, arm length, and inseam to figure out what size bike fits best. Even before this five-store South Florida chain opened its new location in Plantation earlier this year, it claimed to be the state's largest bike dealer and one of the top 100 dealers in the country. And the new store is the best yet, a stylish shop with poured concrete floors, exposed rafters, and sharp lighting. The Plantation store is also unique in that it sells only Trek and its subsidiary brands, like Gary Fisher. The store specializes in the mountain bikes and road bikes that won the Tour de France, which can cost up to $10,000, but the place also sells cheaper touring and kids bikes. For street riding, go for the Trek Madone 5.2 ($3,189), a copy of the bikes that won the Tour. For cruising, try the cushy seat and wide handle bars of the Women's Calypso ($309.99), a clunky-looking bike that's lighter than its appearance, thanks to an aluminum frame. Just remember to suck that gut in during the measurement.

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