Best Hair Salon 2008 | The Elite Group | Shopping & Services | South Florida

All powerful women have mastered the art of multi-tasking. Since Broward and Palm Beach counties have some of the most vivacious, accomplished ladies in the country, it only makes sense that they congregate at the same salon. Let men have their poker nights and golf trips; any businesswoman worth her portfolio knows that more gets accomplished in the chair at the Elite Group than just extensions and highlights. Deals are made, cards are exchanged, heads are massaged — and it all happens under the detail-tuned eye of owner Nina Hallick, who has served Fort Lauderdale's best heads for close to eight years. She's got the recipe down pat: By cultivating an assemblage of SoFla's best talent, with each hair wizard specializing, there's a set of hands to match every personality. For those trying to get in touch with their inner glamourpusses, try one of stylist Rudy Rodriguez's voluptuous 'do's. For the professional who eschews cookie-cutter cuts, try colorist and stylist Sofia Navarro-Santiago. Refined power players seeking their softer sides should also consider Hallick's own chair.

The stickers on the pipes at Peace Pipe in Oakland Park say "For tobacco use only." You'll smile when you see them. While you're there, get some papers, a contraption that looks like a book but covertly stores herbal substances, a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, clove cigarettes, or a nifty lighter that says "I stole this lighter." Then, for dessert, get a guaranteed detoxifying goop, in case someone remembers a reason they shouldn't be partaking in the party. If a certain someone remembers a certain test a certain parole officer might be administering soon, pick up a bowl of hookah tobacco. And if you burned one before you came (tobacco, that is — you know, always tobacco), you could splurge on a Pink Floyd poster, a lava lamp, and incense. And when you finally pick that new special friend from the wide assortment of glass pieces (don't forget a soft case for seven bucks), leave the tobacco sticker on for a while. You'll smile every time you see it.

Scarborough's Health Foods is a lot like grandma's house. It's small, organized, and full of vitamin bottles. The cashier is a sweet, elderly lady who dispenses health advice as she bags up your purchases. It's possible to get stuck there for hours, not because grandma is guilt-tripping you but because the place is packed with enough home remedies and organic stuff to give your inner hippie an orgasm. The shop carries grains, nuts, vegan foods, honey, organic beauty products, and vitamins that assist in everything from muscle building — with natural protein, of course — to preventing urinary tract infections. Perhaps most noteworthy is the extensive selection of good old-fashioned tea — the shelves are stocked with more bags of delicious flavor than what got dumped at the Boston Tea Party; you can purportedly treat the flu, common cold, or general anxiety just by sipping a steaming mug of their herbal magic.

Why do laundromats try so hard to be hip today? The neon exterior, the rock 'n' roll jukebox, the Pabst by the bottle... Come on. A laundromat is for doing laundry, no more, no less. And that's the classic no-frills service at Gateway Laundry & Cleaners. What makes this a destination laundromat is that it's located squarely within the best emporium in all of Fort Lauderdale. After you toss your dirty undies and your buck-25 in a machine, you can cruise Radio-Active Records for some hot wax, stroll a few doors in either direction for Italian, Thai, Spanish, or Japanese food, or browse the Gateway-area furniture stores. If you've got jeans in the dryer, you've probably got time to catch a flick at Sunrise Cinemas, or get a beer in a pub that doesn't have an identity crisis, like the nearby Kim's Alley Bar.

Bertil Roos, if you didn't already know, is a rather entrepreneurial fellow who grew up on a small fishing island on the coast of Sweden, developed a passion for automobiles, and grew up to race Formula One cars in Europe. He eventually skipped across the pond and opened his own driving school in the Poconos. But his ambitions didn't stop there, and now Roos has sunk his tentacles across the country, establishing franchises at a few select racetracks. Roos' Formula 2000 Racers — low-riding racecars with open cockpits and carbon-fiber bodies — go from zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds, reach 130 mph, and "pull up to 2 Gs in the corners." It's not cheap, though; a half-day sesh starts at $495; a five-day package costs more than 5 Gs.

This place is girly-girl heaven. It's an ode to the frivolous and fantastic. It has gifts, sweets, and other (mostly pastel-colored) merchandise aimed at party planners, ladies who lunch, and discriminating gals of any age. The first Swoozie's opened in the hoity-toity Buckhead section of Atlanta in 2001. Since then, 28 more of these shops dedicated to "celebrations" have sprung up across the country, including two locales in South Florida. Swoozie's has a large selection of "social paper" for printing invitations and keeping alive that good ol' southern tradition of sending thank-you notes for even the smallest acts of kindness. Folks with busy social calendars can find the perfect party accessories here — what's a backyard BBQ without fluorescent pink napkin holders shaped like Adirondack chairs? — or personalized gifts for your favorite sorority girl (Swoozie's can engrave or embroider pretty much anything). And for the designer nappy-bag generation, there is, naturally, a wide selection of festive children's goodies.

One is tempted to say the best place for musicians is a bar, or a music store, or some crazy hippie gathering on a pier. And it might even be true. But musicians already know about those things — about the weirdly intense pools of musical talent that gather nightly at Alligator Alley in Fort Lauderdale, and about the kindly personal service from little indie shops like Modern Music in Wilton Manors. What most musicians don't know about is Jimmy Star, SoFla's most crazily independent designer, and about his boutique in Gateway Plaza. Jimmy does everything, and he does it well — crazy-quilt takes on denim, jackets sporting political satire ranging from smart to funny to stunningly offensive, and big pleather body suits that take almost as much daring to wear as they took to create. And some of this shit is cheap. A few years ago, one of our New Times staffers bought a lime-green T-shirt at Jimmy's emblazoned with the image of a flying cat framed by the words "SUPER PUSSY!" while the staffer's friend bought the orange "MEGA PUSSY!" companion shirt. The total price for both items was $30. While this is definitely the far lower end of Jimmy's price spectrum, it does underline what Jimmy is all about: he doesn't need you to be rich. Just brave.

When it comes to men's underwear, the selections at most department stores are boring, boring, boring. You're likely to see some Calvins in basic white, gray, and black. Or maybe some baggy plaid Nautica boxer shorts. But with a huge gay population that's growing by the day, the men of Fort Lauderdale are clamoring for something much snazzier. They want fitted briefs that embrace their bulge so that their package gets the attention it deserves. They want flattering cuts that display hard-earned six-pack abs in their entirety, while offering a teasing glimpse of pelvis. That's where specialty shops like Audace come in. This store has trunk shorts, jock straps, and low-rise little briefs. They've got 'em in loud colors — orange, turquoise, canary yellow, lime green (sometimes all at once) — and wild fabrics like mesh and silk gauze. They've got fashion-forward brands like Mundo Unico, C-IN2, and 2(x)ist. They have exactly the sort of drawers you'd expect a high-priced call-boy or an über-fit male stripper to wear. Your lover deserves no less!

Moving on a Sunday and your couch won't fit into the new apartment? Got something kinky, like a slightly used bondage cage, that a religious charity might not accept? Well, thank heavens for Out of the Closet, the newest addition to Broward County's vast collection of thrift stores. These guys will offer refuge to your oversized furniture, with a smile, seven days a week. Plus, these shop boys don't look like drug addicts! Don't worry, this pink-and-turquoise store still has a noble cause. Out of the Closet profits go to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which offers free HIV testing and counseling while also supplying cutting-edge meds to the HIV-positive, regardless of their ability to pay. Across the country, Out of the Closet stores collect an estimated 30,000 donations and attract a million shoppers each year. The first Florida locale, in Wilton Manors (natch), opened in January.

Ian Witlen

You walk into a record store and comfort is an immediate issue. Go into one of those supposedly hip stores and you get someone behind the counter with his nose sky-high; ask a simple question and he all but laughs. Fuck those places — that's why you need to know Radio-Active Records. It's not just that Radio-Active has a wide selection of new and used CDs. They have employees who treat customers like friends. Plus, they're really making their mark by specializing in vinyl, ranging from current music to electro to rare grooves, and the staff knows the stock without being all pretentious about it. They've spread out lately, too, encompassing a performance space in the back where they offer local bands a new live venue, cementing their rep as a true music store.

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