Best Skate Shop 2008 | Neighborhood Skateboard Shop | Shopping & Services | South Florida

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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