Best Party Favor/Stationery Shop 2008 | Swoozie's | Shopping & Services | South Florida

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.

There's no shortage of reggae aficionados in South Florida. It's a mini-Mecca for reggae lovers — so it would make sense to have a bunch of shops that sell the music. That's not exactly the case, though; instead, we have just a handful. Clearly leading the little pack is VP Records, the retail facet of the legendary record company of the same name. The store boasts a courteous, knowledgeable staff that's entrenched in South Florida's reggae community. Most impressive is their selection, which covers a ton of new and old reggae and soca recordings. Unfortunately, they don't have much vinyl anymore, as even their namesake transitions to an all-digital future, but they do have nearly every current release, plus roots and culture sections that rival what you'd find in Kingston shops. It's physically a small store but they've managed to cram a heap of music inside it, making VP the obvious first choice for local reggae shopping.

When you first buy a scooter, there are so many things to learn. Like: That curved stretch of road by the airport always has turbulent winds. Or: Tube tops are a bad idea. And: If you wear the tube top anyway, you'll likely end up riding half-naked, which will lead to a three-car pileup. Thankfully, there's a place where you can acquire scooter-riding savvy without having to fill out embarrassing police reports. At the recently relocated Scooter Superstore of Hollywood, you'll find helpful, non-pushy, knowledgeable employees. They've been serving Broward by selling and restoring new and vintage scooters for more than 35 years. Their spankin' new showroom comprises a bounty of makes and models; from street-style brands like Suzuki and Kymco to classics like the Genuine Scooter Company's Stella, they've got two-wheeled action to suit your monetary and aesthetic needs, plus hoodies, T-shirts, retro goggles, European helmets, and collectible doodads. Now you can stop scouring the Internet for Stella miniatures and Vespa coffee mugs and get your hands on the real thing. But leave the tube top at home.

A great sex shop needs to be open late, and have a friendly-yet-not-creepy staff as well as toys, videos, and other fun items. The Booby Trap has all of that and more. It opens every day at 10 a.m., and for those looking to add some fun to their freak in the wee hours, it stays open until 2 a.m. The building itself is decorated like a huge Bavarian cottage with virtually no windows, which assures privacy for shoppers once they get through the heavy wooden doors. The shopkeepers greet each person who enters, and offer assistance and comments when they notice a shopper who looks confused or amused. That soft "life-like" dildo? Well, it's a bitch to clean. Meme the Midget Love Doll? She's a top-seller. In addition to funky novelty items like ginormous butt plugs, Booby Trap has tamer staples like sexy lingerie and bachelorette party favors (those pecker sipping straws are always a crowd-pleaser). The shopkeepers say most of their customers are women and couples. Makes sense, because there are no skeevy video rooms attracting the serious perverts (messy jizz-booths are outlawed in Fort Lauderdale).

So you're checking out the graphic novel section at Tate's Comics when you hear a cacophony of bangs, grunts, and this odd whirring noise like the churning of a machine made out of rocks coming from next door. You're starting to get worried, so you run outside to investigate. Phew! To your surprise there's no horrid construction accident — just a half-dozen skaters taking turns careening across the beautiful half-pipe at Neighborhood Skateboard Shop. Each weekday from 5 to 8 p.m. and weekends from noon to 8 p.m. the friendly folks at the shop open up their badass wall-to-wall ramp to anyone with a board and a dearth of fear (provided you sign the waiver). While some folks are busy grinding, ollie-ing, and generally catching air behind the hand-painted cityscape mural, others are browsing the store's extensive racks for Habitat hats, DC shoes, and Spitfire wheels — or just chatting about the latest skating trends and thumbing through back issues of Slap and Thrasher that the shop gives away for free. Free mags, free skating, good company? It all sounds so... neighborly. Yup, and that's just the kind of place Neighborhood Skateboards is.

She's a lesbian and a mommy and she's been heard to say, "Man, I respect that you want to get that thing slapped on your arm, but I ain't doing it." Perhaps Chris Strait won't be so frank if she thinks you're a dweeb who deserves to live forever with a fundamentally dumb cosmetic choice on your forearm, but probably not. Cool Cat's coolest kitty will probably tell it like it is just the same. She'll talk to you about the design you need and how to buff up the lines so it won't turn into a smeary, mucky mess five or 10 years hence, and then go to work. She's got a light touch and a bedside manner that you can only call genteel. No stony-faced machismo here. No nasty feeling that, even though she's giving you a tat, she'd rather be beating you to a pulp in a bar fight. Just smooth and easy conversation that jumps from the vagaries of relationships to the fine points of comparative theology to the spicier novels of Anne Rice. And the work itself is excellent. Strait tends toward the traditional, but she can do anything and do it better than just about anybody — her subtle control of color is hard to beat, even as her personal aesthetic cries out for ruddy reds and rusty greens.

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