For years, this stretch of U.S. 1 has sat empty and forlorn: vacant fields on one side, boarded-up retail spaces on the other. But this year, it began to turn around. First came construction of the Fresh Market high-end grocery store, and then cultural outpost Radio-Active Records moved onto the strip, forging a connection through the dereliction of Sears­town to the arts scene of nearby Fat Village. Then, this spring, South Carolina gym chain Pivotal Fitness opened a new facility in a formerly cursed location on the Sunrise curve. Judging from attendance, the area's economy is ready for a renaissance: Pivotal Fitness and Fresh Market are nearly always slammed, and Radio-Active's live shows fill the intimate space. With the opening of a new Whole Enchilada restaurant nearby, the residents of Flagler Village and Victoria Park may actually be able to walk to stuff. What a novel idea.

Regardless of your political leanings, it's tough to deny that Muslims in America are routinely stereotyped and vilified by the rest of society. For young people, being labeled an outcast can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Margate attorney Khurrum Wahid aims to prevent such alienation before it begins. In 2006, he founded Emerge-USA, a nonprofit group that aims to empower Muslim, Indian, Pakistani, and Arab-American people through voter registration, political polling, and a leadership training program for young adults. By getting more of Florida's 120,000 registered Muslim voters involved in politics, Wahid hopes to combat fear and bigotry. Helping young Muslims land internships at City Hall and introducing them to Tallahassee power brokers is a key part of his mission. If politicians grow accustomed to seeing a woman in a head scarf in the mayor's office, they will be less inclined to label her a terrorist. "Public perception drives public policy," Wahid says.

Broward County Animal Care

Sure, you could adopt a pet from the sparkling-clean shelter run by the Broward County Humane Society, but if you're intent on extracting a little soul from shabby misery, why not go all the way? Just down the road at the Broward County shelter, on the grounds of Fort Lauderdale Airport, the volunteers and staffers at the shelter certainly try their hardest, but the situation is grim: a large, un-air-conditioned shelter holds abandoned or lost pets for three to five days. If they're not claimed, they could face euthanasia. But a select few are transferred to the adoption section, where they sit two to a cage and listen to each other bark all day and all night. You can adopt from either section — and very well might save a life — but the real reward will come later, thinking about how much better your house is than a crowded, piss-filled cage.

He swam across Lake Ontario, played a mutant killer turkey in a movie called Blood Freak, and made national headlines when authorities raided his Loxahatchee home earlier this year to remove two tigers and a leopard. But the legend of Steve Sipek is rooted in the myth-like relationship he forged with a lion named Samson. Here's the CliffsNotes version based on interviews Sipek has given in past years: While filming one of his Tarzan films in Africa, Sipek saved a lion cub from being strangled by a large snake. He adopted the cub, named it Samson, and went on to star in several films with it. A few years later, while filming another movie, a special-effects mishap left Sipek engulfed in flames. All the humans on set ran away, but Samson somehow managed to drag the actor's severely charred body from the inferno, saving his life. And people wonder why the guy prefers the company of big cats over fellow humans.

Bob's News and Books

Hidden among the abandoned businesses and empty lots on Andrews Avenue is a true book lover's secret paradise and a 40-year-old quirky Fort Lauderdale landmark. The space is tight, but you'll never notice. Every way you move, there's another page-turning gem waiting to be discovered. Whether looking for a banned book from the '60s, a magazine from a foreign land, or an artsy, fetish coffee-table book, you won't be disappointed by Bob's ceiling-high shelves. There are even a few witchy voodoo spell books for the broken-hearted. Don't let the mundane bodegaesque exterior fool you: This bookshop is worth losing an entire Sunday afternoon in.

Tucked behind an IHOP on Hallandale Beach Boulevard, Reggae Land Muzik isn't so much a record shop as it is a reggae museum. Meticulously organized crates of hard-to-find vinyl give way to stacks of epic dancehall mix CDs and carefully cataloged cassette tapes. Whether you're looking to venture beyond Bob Marley for the first time or you're an avid collector on the prowl for a Don Carlos release from back in the day, the affable and informed owner who goes by Juicy V or Jah V will be more than happy to weigh in and help you find what you're looking for. "I love this space; I love vibing with my people," Jamaican-born Juicy says. For more than 18 years, he has been slinging riddims both new and vintage from Hallandale, amassing more than 100,000 vinyls in the process. "What you see up-front in the store, that's a teardrop of what I have in stock," he says. Now he's in the tedious process of uploading his collection to the store's website. "In five years, I'll still be uploading 45s."

Swap Shop

Walk past the twirling yellow Ferrari and tilting silver Porsche. Cut through the rows of designer knockoffs, Bob Marley beach towels, and assorted ninja weapons. Then hang a right toward booth AA24, a shimmering beacon of dental cosmetics plopped in the melting pot of Fort Lauderdale — the Swap Shop. Sure, it's a bit weird to seek out minor dental procedures in a sprawling flea market, but it's tough to find a better deal when it comes to getting your pearly whites pearlier and whiter. For $60, the folks at Celebrity Bright Smile guarantee to whiten your teeth by two shades in just 20 minutes. The trick? A substance called carbamide peroxide. Brendamarie Canfu, the round-faced sweetheart who works the stand, says most dentists use the substance in a concentration ranging only from 25 to 35 percent. At the Swap Shop, Canfu and her colleagues will slather a 44 percent concentration of the stuff across your chompers. Though we have no idea if the more potent concoction actually makes your teeth glisten any brighter, Canfu says it can't be used on pregnant women and people with pacemakers. That must mean it's good.

Know what's so great about shoes? In a society where even the most liberated women can't quite escape the enculturated need to feel pretty, shoes are always your friend. Gained ten pounds? Shoes still fit. Bad hair day? Shoes look awesome. Bad skin today? Good shoes today. Feeling generally unsexy and awful? Know what's always sexy and awesome? Shoes. Men notice boobs and butts; women compliment one another's shoes — and then immediately ask, "Where did you get them?" 'Round here, there is one shoe store that is known far and wide. It is conspiratorially whispered about in the dark corners of bars and in the ladies rooms of clubs. Women who have never been there at least know of it. It is known only as $8.88 shoes, but few bother to learn its actual name, Fashion Footwear. It carries all kinds of shoes but specializes in teeter-inducing footwear that causes podiatrists to cringe and women to crave. (We're not sure about women podiatrists, but we assume they are very, very conflicted.) Located in a completely nondescript little stretch of stores not even worthy of the term "strip mall" along Hillsboro Road in Deerfield Beach, the store has no witty ad campaign, no billboards, and no slogans. It has no online store, and it doesn't ship. It does, however, have a sassy Facebook page that parades the latest footy finds in a podiatic orgy of cobbler bliss and also warns away any would-be shoplifters in no uncertain terms. It's on their Facebook page that you'll also learn the shoes are actually $9.88 now (damned economy). But inflation be damned, the legend has been christened, and so it shall remain. And the next time you see a young woman precariously perched upon va-va-voom heels, give it a try. Ask. Just don't be surprised by the answer.

Atlantic Avenue and Swinton Avenue

Downtown Delray Beach is known for its fine-dining choices, beautiful parks, and generous, free public parking. There is even Old School Square, home to a museum, a theater, a vintage gymnasium, an outdoor pavilion, and an amphitheater. Every possible enjoyment you can imagine is found here, and every bit of it is bait. The great secret pleasure of downtown Delray is the people-watching. No other location provides the parade of variety that marches down the avenue day in and day out, from leathery George Hamilton look-alikes and their glamorous nip 'n' tucked Lizard Ladies to the yuppies either trying to look like adults but puking in an alley or trying to look like college kids but standing awkwardly in the corner of the "too loud" bar. If hipsters are your taste, grab a coffee at the Spot — it's cool, so you probably never heard of it. Want crunchy granola types and helicopter moms who don't believe in vaccinations? Try Nutrition Cottage or the Swinton Community Garden. There are suburban warriors with pedigreed dogs too big to fit in cars or small enough to live in purses. It is a festival for the senses and a delight for anyone with a humorous appreciation of the human race.

Squeegee Science

Screen printing is undeniably cool, no doubt about it. But hurting the environment is totally uncool. Luckily, Squeegee Science knows both of these things and harms no plants, animals, or people while cranking out killer designs. Although other screen-printing shops may talk a big game promoting eco-consciousness, Squeegee Science has the products, knowledge, and dedication to back it up. Founder Brett Wilkin has grown up in the industry and is personally invested in minimizing the ecological footprint on the world. Whether it's for a restaurant, band, or any other business, Squeegee Science has got it covered, all while keeping the planet a happy place to live.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®