Best Reggae Record Shop 2008 | VP Records | Shopping & Services | South Florida

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.

"Someday, there'll be a gala!" Those are the words that go through your head as you stroke the vintage evening wear at Jezebel. In the 18-plus years that this retail haven has called the Gateway Plaza home, you've scavenged through its racks and bins to find 1950s party dresses for weddings, 1940s bias-cut gowns for holiday parties, 1960s swimwear for beach bashes, and accessories galore to jazz up your modern frocks. You couldn't have this level of success at just any vintage store; Mary Ptak, Jezebel's proprietor, lovingly selects the items, and then makes them accessible by keeping prices moderate. For less than you'd spend at a mall, and without the pushy crowds, you can unearth treasures at Jezebel that are uniquely you. Better still, you know they won't turn up on anyone else at a gathering. And you don't have to hunt alone: Ptak and her staff can turn up your ideal new textile fling in record time, once you give them a few clues, e.g., "I'm thinking Breakfast at Tiffany's... on acid." So go ahead, get that '60s velvet number with the ostrich feathers. When the gala comes, you'll be looking fabulous.

He's the owner of the eponymous J. Miles novelty shop on East Broward Boulevard. It's a warm place. During three decades in Fort Lauderdale, Jerry Miles has attracted a lot of loyal customers. He greets shoppers like long-lost friends, and he loves to explain the bizarre items in the store. That Mr. Bubble T-shirt? It's from "the archives." The teapot clock? It's a leftover from the store Miles once operated at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art when it ran a Princess Diana exhibit.

These days, Miles is waging the biggest battle of his retail career. His landlord refuses to honor his lease, and Miles is toughing it out with lawyers. Small businesses are incubators for ideas, he contends. But he fears he may just end up with a plaque on the wall for taking on a Goliath.

NT: What are some of the wackier items you've sold over the years?

Fuzzy Wuzzy bear soap — it actually grew hair. I found a warehouse full of it. It would probably be considered hazardous now... Roadkill Helper — they got sued by Hamburger Helper because the boxes were so similar. The guy really got in trouble. They actually became collector's items... Penis pasta. It's always a challenge to get the hot items first. We had that pooping pig keychain — when you squeezed it a little plastic turd popped out of the butt.

Are the disco balls for sale?

I haven't had the heart to put a price tag on the big silver one. Each of those little mirror squares was stuck on by hand. Now they're mass-produced in China.

What about the life-size cow?

That's the seventh one I've had. I've delivered them to people's homes, sold them to restaurants. They come in a crate. I first saw the cow at a trade show, and at the time I was wondering how to give this store some street appeal.

Got any favorite schlocky movies?

 Oh definitely. They're the best thing to watch late at night. The Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, and also The Amazing Colossal Man, because he carries a 12-foot hypodermic needle. I tend to like big things, like the cow in my store. They come on a lot as reruns. They're so bad, they're good. 

It's all waiting for you: toasty-hot tater tots, ferocious Guitar Hero battles, cult television and movie nights, yummy specialty coffee drinks, Popsicle-stick architecture competitions, art shows, and more. Located in an unassuming strip mall on Commercial Boulevard east of Federal Highway, Undergrounds Coffeehaus, a little gem of caffeinated love, is as hard to find as it is to leave — but once you identify its Christmas light-illuminated window, you're home. Inside is a bohemian treasure trove of secondhand books, vintage synthesizers and guitars, and board game enthusiasts. Grab one of co-owner Aileen Liptak's mocha concoctions, sit on a squishy couch, and linger over Scrabble or Risk. Nibble on homemade cookies and hot-out-of-the-oven tater tots while you and your new gaming friends chill out to flicks like The Secret of NIMH and The Dark Crystal. This is the living room you wish you had, where the coffee's fresh and the company is always pleasant. The lights are probably on right now.

The differences between competing liquor stores might seem trivial to those in search of mere hooch. The distinctions are for those who seek a higher, finer something. Selection is a part of it, but not a huge one — some stores cater to the Boone's Farm crowd, some to the people who swill Hendricks, but most booze-pushers are happy selling to either demo. So it goes at 67, with one key difference: 67's got a 50-something-year-old English guy behind the counter who kindly, solicitously, and totally un-pushily engages every human being that enters his domain. His name's John and he's been there forever, or so it seems, escorting guests through 67's big wine selection and explaining the history of port, or why Château Lafite-Rothschild produces such lovely reds; spinning customers through the liquor racks and rapping about why Fris is a perfectly yummy vodka despite its reasonable price and what makes 25-year-old Highland Park scotch worth $250 a bottle. Customer service of this stripe is a dying art, and it's why even folks on the other side of town routinely make the drive to 67.

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