Personal Best 2008 | Jerry Miles | Shopping & Services | South Florida

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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