Best Of :: Shopping & Services
When you walk into Big Al's, it's quite obvious where you are — a tiny little Disney World of firearms. This basic box of a building has the best gun supplies you can find in the area and some of the hardest-to-find ammo. Whether a seasoned shooter or just starting out, you can rent, shoot, pawn, buy, or just look at an assortment of guns. But who wants to just look when there is a spacious range and so many firearms to try out? The store doubles as a pawn shop, which gives it a rustic feel and makes for an interesting atmosphere. That gently used skull ring is going to look badass on your pinky when you unload a few clips.
Homelessness was at the forefront in Fort Lauderdale this past year, what with the city enacting an ordinance that restricted people from sharing food with the homeless outdoors. Officials said the ordinance was put in place to make sure that public feeding of the homeless was sanitary, but the new rule blew up in their faces as an avalanche of national scorn buried the city, which was seen as discriminating against the needy. Enter Food Not Bombs, like Batman with a plate of food and love. As things got hairy, Food Not Bombs was there, calling the ordinance what it was: a "homeless hate law." Members rallied angry citizens at City Hall, went on hunger strikes, and even sued the city. The group has held feedings every Friday at Stranahan Park for years — and probably will for years to come, stupid laws be damned.
Someone once said that the soul of a city is its bookstores. Well, odds are, someone at some point said something like that — and they weren't wrong. Unfortunately, the independently owned bookstore has largely gone the way of the dodo bird, run into the ground by soulless big-box bookstores, and, of course, Amazon. But indie stores are not all gone, and the ones that have managed to hold on this long must be doing something very, very right. Big Apple Bookstore is one such establishment. Established in Oakland Park in 2005 and relocated to Fort Lauderdale in 2012, Big Apple is primarily a used-book store. While some local shops have survived by specializing (like Murder by the Beach in Delray), Big Apple has remained a generalist, offering fiction, romance, science fiction, children's, self-help, business, etc., as well as CDs, DVDs, and even vinyl records. To top it off, everything in the store is $4 or less. A self-described "quaint" shop, Big Apple invites you to browse the aisles at your leisure. And it's got to get those used items from somewhere, so it buys and accepts trade-ins, but always call ahead when you've got something to unload.
Readers' Choice: Murder on the Beach Bookstore
Like bookstores, brick-and-mortar comic book stores are a dying breed. That's why Zaldiva Comics is appreciated by so many avid comic-book collectors in South Florida. Zaldiva lets you sell comics, come in and buy new or used ones, or just browse the new releases every Wednesday. The shop is also a licensed auction house, so staff here can help you find a buyer for your old titles or list them on eBay. Zaldiva knows that comic-book collectors in 2015 are some of the most technologically savvy people around, so it offers numerous services to capitalize on this, including a grading service that helps you determine if your comic is salable. Comic-book collectors in South Florida can't ask for much more.
A lot of sex happens here in South Florida, but apparently not enough. There's a reason the Fuck Me Silly Masturbator ($502.39) exists. And a reason Rock Hard Love Stuff stocks ten varieties on its website. Inside its brick-and-mortar store, you'll find a buttload of butt plugs and penis enlargers, plus more sex-positive toys for women who love women than any other store in South Florida that we've visited; trust us, we've looked. And if you can't find what you're looking for in Wilton Manors, the staff will source it from its sister store, Booby Trap Love Stuff. On the hunt for a clit cuddler? Rock Hard has you covered. Not sure what a clit cuddler is? That's OK; neither are we. But ask and you shall receive a detailed sexplanation from the staff. And if you're shy about showing up during daylight hours, Rock Hard Love Stuff never closes before midnight on Sundays through Thursdays and stays open until 3:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Go ahead, get freaky.
It's not easy to find a men's clothing store that isn't built around suits and business wear. Not that bros don't need to suit up every once in a while, but it's hard to find stuff that's not for work yet not from Old Navy-Macy-Penney's. Women have endless boutiques filled with all kinds of unique threads that you can't stumble upon at the mall. Men? We gotta search. The Archives is the solution to that problem. A quick rundown of requirements: Shirts and hats with logos stripped? Check. Boots, running shoes, and skate shoes in every color of the spectrum? Check. A sideways obsession with and stock of records and music equipment because it's as important as clothing? Check. Ignore the references online to it being for hipsters. That word is meaningless now, and this place has stuff for everybody.
Readers' Choice: Pink Slip Threads
Situated inside the stunning seaside W Fort Lauderdale hotel, the Store is the perfect place to stock up on all things beachy and beautiful. Treat your eyes to a pair of Thierry Lasry sunglasses ($495) and your boy to a pair of RVCA board shorts ($50). The Store stocks everything you'll need for a day in the sand and a night on Las Olas, from brands like Parker, Botiker, and Finders Keepers. The inventory is expertly curated and captures everything we love about South Florida style. It's chic, airy, and will make you look like a million bucks... without having to spend as much.
You know that guy at work? You know the guy. He's always wearing those kick-ass patterned polo shirts, flamingos or sports cars or croquet mallets. And then there are his T-shirts, throwback concert gear that's not too torn up. And don't get us started on his sock game. In total, guy's closet selection is retro without being tacky. And when you finally ask where he grabs these choice pieces, what high-end boutique satisfies his luxe clothing requirements, he says: Out of the Closet in Wilton Manors. And you feel dumb. A thrift store! But think about it: Makes perfect sense. Chain stores don't usually rise to the Best Of category, but this particular Out of the Closet does, because of its proximity to South Florida gay ground zero. Let's face it: Gay dudes are great dressers. These great dressers, they buy new great clothes, and some of their older great clothes, they wind up at the local thrift store, where they can then outfit your own closet.
Readers' Choice: A Stroke of Genius
It's a struggle to pick a favorite Swap Shop vendor, considering the location's labyrinthine size. It's hard enough to see everything the place has to offer, let alone select the best from among the myriad booths filled with "I'm in Miami, Bitch" tourist towels, lingerie that you hope hasn't been worn, lingerie you know has been worn, knives, golden Our Lady of Guadalupe watches, and coconuts guaranteed to cure your hangover. (Yes, we bought one of each.) But what makes Dr. Sound stand apart? The fact that, after four years, the window tinting ($140) you bought for your new ride will still be bubble-free and like-new. That's the thing about some Swap Shop purchases: They're fun for a minute but fall apart by the time you get home. Not so with Dr. Sound. They guarantee their work, and they'll have your system and tints installed by the time you've finished that coconut.
Looking to spend money but don't know what to buy? Know what you want but want a good deal? If so, take a chance at the Oakland Park Flea Market. Broward County's longest-running flea market opened in 1972 and boasts more than 200 vendors selling everything from jewelry and shoes to cell phones and smoking accessories. It's really kind of mind-blowing that you can find Michael Kors everything, get a haircut, grab a smoothie, and fill your pockets with candy before heading home. Skip its Facebook page, and don't worry about checking out the deals listed on the website; just block off a day and bask in the glory of every kind of commerce imaginable. Actually, do plan ahead so you know the deals. Then you can bask and save time too.
It ain't hard to spend money in West Palm Beach. The sprawling city is filled with luxury golf courses and fine-dining eateries. Hell, if you even look at the wrong thing for too long in West Palm Beach, you'll wake up with a $10 peeping fee on your credit card the next day. But it's not all bankruptcy waiting to happen in West Palm. The Palm Beach Outlets provide a pleasant alternative to the 1 percenter boutiques of the city. With stores including Banana Republic Factory Store, Calvin Klein, J. Crew Factory, and Steve Madden, you'll be so shiny, you'll have to pop into the Sunglass Hut to pick up a new pair of shades just so you can look in a mirror. We love outlet malls for the same reason we love buying candy on November 1. One can find the same quality product at much cheaper prices.
Readers' Choice: Boca Town Center Mall
CrossFitters, look away. Go take your kettlebells, squat thrusts, and overhead lunges back to the grunting garages where you came from. It's time for normal folk to take the gym back — people who want access to exercise equipment other than chains and 400-pound tires; people who don't think each workout should result in an exploded vertebrae. At 110 Fitness in downtown Fort Lauderdale, post- or prework calorie burners looking for a refreshingly normal layout will be presently surprised. But that's not to say this gym is boring. With yoga, group fitness and cardio classes, and one-on-one personal trainers available, 110 Fitness will get you a six-pack. And you won't have to end each workout in the emergency room to get it.
Readers' Choice: Orange Theory Fitness