Tate's Comics
Tate's Comics
When Tate Ottati opened his comic book store, he wanted it to be an alternative to the cutthroat, high-priced comic book retailers in town. The then-17-year-old high-schooler used money he'd invested in Marvel stock to buy the place. Now, almost 15 years later, Tate's has become the one-stop shop for a person's comic book needs, already winning the honor of best comic book store twice. But it doesn't sell just comic books — there are toys, videos, and all kinds of collectibles. This year, Tate's expanded its already mammoth shop by adding another 2,800 square feet of space devoted to an assortment of vinyl toys, Greek statues, giant metal skulls, novelty books, and graphic novels. Tate's new Bear and Bird gallery, which made headlines when it opened in February, showcases alt-art with themes like customizable Munny dolls and pop prints by artists like Skot Olsen and Terribly Odd. Rounding out the one-stop-shopping experience is Tate's Gaming Satellite store a couple of doors down, which offers all kinds of gaming equipment, tournaments, and snacks.
Who the hell would want to open a record store in the Age of the Digital Download? It's pure masochism. At least, that's what everyone told Backbone Music's Nunzio and Rafael Esposito before they opened the place in late 2005. But they didn't listen, and you can thank the vinyl gods for that. Backbone is one of the few joints around that still peddles that format. Yeah, thrift stores have plenty of them old things too, but at Backbone, you don't have to toil through rows of dollar-bin-worthy junk just to find one halfway decent record. You can buy a Pink Floyd master recording of Atom Heart Mother for $155 here or a Coco Rosie release of The Adventures of Ghost Horse for $18.99. While it may not have the biggest selection in town (the place stocks about 3,200 albums), it's quality that matters here. Backbone delivers the goods, whether you're looking for rock, punk, funk, hip-hop, trip-hop, metal, hardcore, post-hardcore, dance. Oh, and it's all top-of-the-line stuff, not dust-covered trade-ins from ten years ago. And yes, there are plenty of CDs, T-shirts, DVDs, and other music-related merch. Located just off Atlantic Avenue in downtown Delray Beach, Backbone Music gets its share of foot traffic. But when that's not enough, Esposito plays host to live all-ages concerts at least once a week. Let's see you try to pack all that in your iPod.
Hustler Hollywood
Before the advent of Larry Flynt's 17,000-square-foot porn emporium, local sex freaks had to slum it. Try as they might, local triple-X video joints never shake their sketchiness. They may claim to be couples-friendly, but there's always a supercreepy dude behind the counter or shady characters pawing through the bargain bin. Worse, those cheap vibrators they sell are notorious for conking out at the exact moment you and your lovely are most desirous of their dynamo hum. For starters, the Hustler store — which took over the old Peaches record store on Sunrise Boulevard in Victoria Park — is open, bright, and inviting. It looks a lot like a frickin' Barnes & Noble in there, but with butt plugs instead of lattes. And that makes customers comfortable, which takes the edge off purchasing something so... naughty. Inside, you're surrounded by baby T's, sexy pajamas, and rows and rows of hot little G-strings. Within the inner sanctum, you've got two walls stocked with every faux phallus the universe has ever known — and then a few more. Instead of some plastic piece of crap made in Taiwan, the Hustler store carries a wondrous array of super-high-end sex toys. Some of these jellied wonders are so colorful and eye-catching that they look like everlasting gobstoppers — several are as aerodynamic as a low-slung Lotus, and almost all are reassuringly expensive (up to $100). The room is like a Sharper Image devoted to penis envy. The sprightly employees are young and hot, and they'll happily unpackage your toy, pop some AA batteries in there, and give it a quick buzz-test to make sure the damned thing's revvin' properly. That way, when you get home with your brand-new Doc Johnson's Lucid Dreams #42 — or whatever candy-colored gizmo has caught your eye — rest assured that lotsa good moaning is in store.
Have you ever wanted a sandwich, a bottle of wine, a seven-inch dildo, and some beef jerky all at once? If so, then Rio Vista in southern Fort Lauderdale was designed exactly for you. This well-stocked porno/convenience store has all the goodies of a 7-Eleven but with a sex-toy department in the back. Butt plugs and gangbang videos are in abundance here, but so are potato chips and cold beer. Shopping for cheap thrills on a Friday night has never been easier. Hungry for chocolate ice cream and a bukkake video? Maybe some cold cuts and a life-size molding of John Holmes' schlong? And since it's a local stag shop, it's good to see Miami's Bang Bros. line carried here in full stock — as well as local gay models featured in some of the men's magazines. At least they're giving back to the South Florida porn community. They've also got an almost identical replica of Jenna Jameson's crotch and an extensive dildo section with everything from fleshy cocks to double dongs for girl-on-girl action. The shop is manned during the day by Frank, who looks like an enforcer but is nicer than most adult film store operators in the area. And there are customers who shop exclusively in the food aisles, so don't think that anal beads and nipple clamps are mandatory purchases. Then again, if you opt for those items, it's good to know that cotton swabs and peroxide are available here as well.
Perhaps the crown jewel of the Crown franchise, this exquisitely well-stocked pantry at the corner of Yacht Captain Row and Cruise Ship Lane caters to those with a need for the finer things in life. Landlubbers and regular wage slaves come in and gawk at the kind of victuals a real-life Thurston J. Howell III would bring along for a sea-faring journey: fig jams, black currant spreads, truffles for miles, gourmet cheese up the yin-yang, and expensive European cigarettes and rare cigars. Oh, and the place has a few bottles of booze too, but not only does it have your Johnny Walker Blue and such-not but gallons of high-end tequilas and some pretty rare and fancy mixers. And since this store is frequented by boaters plying the Caribbean, there's eleventy-million kinds of rum — rums you've never heard of or dreamed about, rums from aged barrels of charred oak, rums from tiny organic sugar-cane plantations, rums evidently blended from God's private stash. And while South Florida is historically microbrew-shy, this Crown maintains a classy, coast-to-coast six-pack selection. Far from snooty or stuffy, the staff here is fun and knowledgeable without being snobs about it. They'll see if they can't make you feel like king for a day, or at least a well-heeled Parrothead, even if the closest you're getting to a boat is in your bathtub.
Tease
It looks like an airy loft apartment and is so smartly urbane that forward-thinking stylists like Gina Zompa won't let you settle for just a trim if what you really need is a re-'do. Even if you've got perfectly long, straight, blond locks or fabulous cork-screw curls waving throughout your strawberry-blonde mane, owners Luann and Andrew Alorro and their half-dozen or so stylists can glam up those tresses several notches. The Alorros have been working out tangles on or around Las Olas for more than 20 years. Haircuts start at $45 for women and $35 for men. A full range of color services is available — and Zompa trained with Aveda's global color trainer when she worked at the now-defunct Salon 808 Las Olas. Ascend the suspension staircase and get one of the neatest, shiniest, and longest-lasting manis or pedis you can find in South Florida — particularly at $55 for both. Refreshments are free, and the friendly workers always offer to let you in on their lunch order if you happen to be there getting that new color to sink in. Grab a gumball on your way out the door, and don't forget to make sure you remembered your parking stub — Tease validates.
Forget about leaving here without spending at least $20. If you have a nail-polish fetish so severe that the vast subtle difference in pink from "Ballet Slippers" to "Sugar Daddy" means that you have to buy them both, then this warehouse-in-a-strip-mall is your mecca. You've got $7-a-bottle access to the full lines and most current seasonal offerings from OPI, Essie, and China Glaze. Professional-grade cuticle and callous removers come in every size, starting at $4.95 and up to $40 for the larger containers. Files in every grade, from fine to coarse, are available. So are nail brushes, foot files, and scrapers. There are also two rows the length of an Olympic swimming pool full of hair products — one devoted exclusively to shampoos, conditioners, and styling products and the second to color and permanent solutions. Every shape, size, and style of curler hangs on the back wall, and lightning-fast hair driers and straightening irons are also available. Proprietor Diane Browne is nice, helpful, and as enthused about the full-spectrum color wheel of polish as you undoubtedly are. When a customer complained that she couldn't find "Cherry Pop," a pink-tinted clear polish by Essie, Browne knew it by name and found it quicker than you can spray on that fast-drying topcoat.
Athena's Salon & Spa
Women used to be so striking. Look at Billie Holliday's pin curls, held taut with gardenias. Or Lucille Ball's slicked-up, lacquered-down poodle cut. There were soda-can bouffants, beehives woven into architectural wonders, and, of course, more sexy, bad girl, and rockabilly up-dos than you can wag your wrench at. So, when did things get so... flat? Well, for Riviera DeCordova, time never lapsed. An addict of black-and-white, Turner Classic Movies, Riviera has a soft spot for the hard times of Depression-era fingerwaves and a sweet tooth for the Sugar Pop days of 1950s malt-shop curls. And while she's gathered armfuls of awards from mainstream salons like Regis and Yellow Strawberry for her more modern styles, our gal is whispered about in fancy lady circles for her period work with the Broward Opera House, Atomic Betty's pinup photo shoots, and the Delray Beach vintage trunk fashion shows. She just has a knack for turning ordinary ladies into engine-revving hotrods. So you're feeling limp and need a perm 'cause your locks have just lost that lovin' feeling? No problem; visit Riviera, and let her turn your hair-don't into a hair-do.
ManKind
Men aren't always that comfortable pampering themselves. Most guys are more likely to buy spa packages for their spouses than expect one as a gift for themselves. Theories abound on why that is, but it's important for certain male-only day spas like ManKind in downtown Fort Lauderdale to pick up the slack for this underserved demographic. Let the name say it all. Every inch of this spa oozes manhood, from the mahogany wood décor and pool table to the twin barbers on staff who look like auto mechanics. They have a bar on site that can pour as much complimentary Dewars scotch as you can handle and have free Killians and Michelob on tap for paying customers as well. ManKind specializes in Swedish and deep-tissue massage and has three certified massage therapists on staff to cut down on wait time. There's an executive feel to the place, and everything on the inside is legit. The only happy ending you can expect is to kick back and get a pedicure while sipping on an espresso.
Surf World
Don't let the name fool you. At Surf World, you'll find supplies for everything you can do in South Florida that requires putting both feet on some sort of board and holding your body in balance while moving. In the back of both of these Broward County locations, past that hollow black $1,049 Lost surfboard, is an entire array of skateboards by Venture, York, and Gravity, to name a few. Some of the boards still look like the first one Mom and Dad bought you in middle school (plain with the black top) while others are shapelier (there's one resembling a fish, and another is an ode to the shark). Save a little wear and tear on your joints and pick up Pro-Tech knee and elbow pads, which range from $16.95 to $31.95. Surf World stocks plenty of skater kicks — try a pair of the Ryan Smith edition from Globe Shoes for $49.95 or some killer Reefs at $45.99 for the Point Break Series. For the flip-flop skater boy or girl, strap on a pair of Reef thongs that double as a flask — because those ones with just the bottle opener on the bottom are so last year!

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