Bougainvillea Place is like a Star Trek holodeck: Suggest a time and place, and photographer Butch Stark will transport you. He'll place you in a Victorian sitting room or on a Southern veranda, complete with white wicker swing. He'll turn your son into Boy Blue or Little Lord Fauntleroy, your daughters into fairies fluttering their wings atop magic mushrooms. Stark's back yard is landscaped with wildflowers, ponds, gazebos, a garden gate, tea table, and bird feeder. In his front yard is a tire swing, bougainvillea arbor, and 1932 Ford jalopy. Of course Stark also has smaller props: a '40s scooter, a miniature Chippendale settee, a porcelain bowl that doubles as a baby's bathtub, even a live pet rabbit, Freckles. Stark, whose family planted bougainvillea in Miami at the turn of the century, says he's "looking for a timeless quality" when he shoots portraits. In business since 1970, he's photographed three generations of clients' weddings and bar mitzvahs and done portraits for local newsmakers such as Miami Dolphin Kenny Mixon and Davie developer and rodeo rider Ronnie Bergeron. Whatever the subject or setting, each picture reflects Stark's love of people and photography, which no backdrop can replace.
Home-brewing is a sticky business. The pot of wort -- the stew of hops and barley malt that eventually becomes beer -- boils over at least once when a beginner's at the helm. That's why Brewmasters South is a good place to start. Tom Perlman, who owns the brew-it-yourself outlet with wife, Leslie, sets customers up at one of the gleaming copper kettles in the shop's front window, then helps them get started. First a beer -- anything from pale American-style lager to alcohol-heavy Belgian Double Triple ale -- is chosen, and then the brewer is handed a recipe sheet listing the ingredients. Fresh ground malt is put into a mesh bag and dropped into the water like an oversize tea bag. Syrupy malt extract is added for extra flavor, and after the malt has simmered for a while, hops are added, their tartness balancing the sweetness of the malt. Once the brew is cooked, the staff helps brewers put it in a barrel for fermentation. After two weeks a brewer returns to bottle the beer -- and sample it, of course. For about $100 (plus $50 for a set of 22-ounce, reusable bottles), he walks away with six cases of beer that -- if brewed correctly -- blows domestic brews out of the water and matches pricey imports.

We didn't know there were so many types of barstools. Tabasco maple. Natural oak. Pine. Leather. Animal prints. Vinyl. Chrome ultrasuede. Backless. Cushion swivel. "We carry something for everybody," says manager Roberta Dubonet, noting that there are more than 1000 stools from which to choose. "I even have a barstool named after me," she says. It's called the Dubonet, an elegant maple throne with vanilla-leather seating. It's for Glenlivet single malt scotch drinkers, and will set you back $550. At the other end of the spectrum is a backless maple stool that runs for $44.50. It's for the Pabst Blue Ribbon crowd. Low to the ground, it's a barstool you can fall off at the end of the night without the risk of serious injury.

After World War II when Port Everglades was dredged, Dania was drenched in salt water, and the land that made the city famous for its tomatoes went bad. Land values plummeted, and the main drag on Federal Highway emptied out. Then Genevieve Ely, a member of one of South Florida's pioneering families, opened up an antiques shop. Soon one antiques dealer after another began showing up in town, filling up the empty buildings. Dania was no longer synonymous with new fruit but with old furniture. After decades of gradual growth, more than 100 dealers and dozens of shops are crammed into a few blocks. Whether it's a 200-year-old silver set going for $10,000 or a kitschy old Coca-Cola sign for $100, there's a world of stuff to be found there. You can get a little medicine bottle from Colonial times or a really cool grandfather clock or even a ship's binnacle dating to the 1800s. The smart antiques shoppers set aside an entire day for the district and leave with a little piece of history.

Best Place To Buy Secondhand Chanel Suits And Beaded Ball Gowns

Déjà Vu

"Nobody in Palm Beach will buy used clothes, or sell them," locals told Maxie Barley when she opened the consignment shop Déjà Vu 12 years ago. But Barley suspected that residents of this exclusive isle shared her dual devotion to designer clothes and bargains. Indeed, one of her wealthiest big-name customers won't buy anything unless it's 50 percent off the already discounted price. Barley says she would go to jail before revealing a client's identity but claims her patrons include millionaires, movie stars, socialites, secretaries, police officers, and drag queens. She reserves the highest reverence for anyone selling Chanel -- almost a "sure thing" in the consignment business. The sacred suits, marked down to around $1400 from $4000 or $5000, hang in a shrine of sorts at the store's center, shielded by a locked glass door. Out on the floor are racks packed with such finds as an $1825 bubble gum-colored fox coat embroidered with the signature "Marilyn," a $115 creamy Valentino blouse with satin weave and sheer sleeves, and a $715 Egyptian-style Mary McFadden gown that flows from a beaded bodice into a crinkled-silk column. These gems, which Barley euphemistically calls "gently worn," may not even have been worn at all -- hard-core high society women would be horrified to show up at a function in last season's designs.

Because DJs need vinyl, they depend on specialty stores that offer the hottest dance music and 12-inch-single remixes. But what about the record collector who never gave up on vinyl in the first place, who's still looking for yesterday's, and some of today's, releases? "There is no type of music we don't sell," claims Larry Paul, owner of Larry's Records, and he's not exaggerating. Fans of the Zombies, for example, who stuck with founder Rod Argent after he left the band in '69 will find Argent's stuff in the "Rock" aisle. A-ha, Icicle Works, and Wang Chung LPs from the '80s are in the "Progressive" music section. Replacements for worn-out copies of the Grease soundtrack can be found in the "Soundtracks" bin. Amid the rows of Bananarama, Men Without Hats, and Ultravox records under the "Rock Pop Retro" sign lurk plenty of 12-inch singles and EPs. And for vinyl junkies whose history goes back a ways, Nat King Cole and Paul Anka records are in the "Vocals" aisle, as are hits and obscurities in the two racks full of 45s. Separate sections are also set aside for picture disks, soul and R&B, jazz, oldies, calypso/soca, disco, and comedy. Larry even employs DJs who catalog and price the new dance stuff, the selection of which is large enough to give those specialty shops a run for their money.

Best Place To Find Toy Soldiers And Military Antiques

Grande Armée

If you can tell the difference between men and boys by the price of their toys, the miniature regiments stationed at Grande Armée serve as age indicators. Contemporary figures, starting at $10 for a single and $75 for a set of six marching men, could launch a young collector on a course that culminates in a $2600 game of turn-of-the-century cowboys and Indians. Co-owner Frank Muir initiated his "affliction" 50 years ago with Britain's limited toy soldiers, which now cost 100 times more than the few dollars he paid for a box then, and has since moved on to such rarities as a thimble-size Henry VIII surrounded by his six wives ($850 to keep the family together). "It's literally a hobby that's gotten out of hand," says his nephew, Jim Muir. "His wife wouldn't allow him in the house with one more piece. She was setting up metal detectors at the door." So ten years ago, Frank and his brother Bill opened the Worth Avenue shop that now offers one of the largest selections of toy soldiers in the United States, along with vintage weapons and other militaria. The ghosts of battles past pose solemnly in the windows, a $7500 marble bust of Napoleon plots his resurrection from atop a column in the corner, and a $24,000 helmet worn by a Russian Imperial Guardsman glints regally from a glass case. Even in peacetime it's an impressive display of force.

And now, a quiz. Does your apartment décor rely heavily on gaping blank wall spaces? Do you believe a row of beanbag chairs lined up against a wall is a reasonable facsimile of a couch? Are you aware that none of the folding chairs around your kitchen table match? If you answered "yes" to any of the above, you're poor -- or close to it. But that's OK. There's no shame in poverty, so long as you can hide it. And this is where St. Vincent de Paul's comes in. This church-run thrift store stocks all the home furnishings a Dickensian urchin could want. Used sofas? They have several rooms stuffed solid with them. Love seats? Ditto. Coffee tables? End tables? TV stands? Standing lamps? There's not floor space enough to display them all. Remember, all the goods are donated, so don't let a scratched surface or ripped lining discourage you. They're also very chea economical. We picked up a very comfy couch and a matching (well, we think it matches) glass-topped coffee table for $100. And all sorts of knickknacks are lying around: candlesticks, paintings, paperweights, lava lamps, gifts -- even appliances. We bought a used toaster-oven for $8, and it works great. The one thing we haven't found yet is a velvet Elvis, but we haven't given up hope.

Every spring the comic strip character Cathy frets in a fitting room amid mounds of less-than-flattering swimsuits, lamenting yet another torturous attempt to find one or two scraps of fabric that won't embarrass her at the beach. Her frustration is familiar to women whose figures don't conform to the proportions of mass-produced bikinis. Enter Custom Swimwear, which caters to all body types and tastes. The shop's seamstresses can copy a photograph, sketch, or old favorite gone nubby from wear. The staff sews 15 to 20 bathing suits a day, many of which hang from the racks: skimpy bikinis, skirted one-pieces in plus sizes, men's swim trunks, and glorified jockstraps. They can be bought as is, tailored while you wait, or reconstructed by the following day to your specifications. Choose from 100 fabrics, from solid shades to floral, nautical, and geometric prints. Custom suits start at $40 for a triangle-top bikini, but can cost as much as $170 with a support bra and metallic or crushed-velvet fabric. Those who crave completely coordinated outfits can order cover-ups, visors, and hair scrunchies to match. Custom Swimwear's clientele includes bodybuilders, beauty pageant contestants, and women who have had mastectomies. Each customer's patterns and measurements are kept on file, and even first-time orders can be placed via customswimwear.com, to circumvent a fitting room crisis altogether.

Sometimes the bottom line rules, and the simple fact is this: Best Buy is the cheapest place to buy compact disks. Super-mega-monstrosity-chain store or not, it's where we turn for the latest music. New arrivals? Always $11.99 or $12.99. Everything else in the store? You won't pay more than $14.99. Just about any other music emporium (the other megachains included) will tag you for $16.99. That's a two-dollar chunk of change we'd rather spend on a blank tape or bargain-bin cutout. The selection at Best Buy is comparable to any store in town as well. In recent months we've picked up Robyn Hitchcock's latest, Storefront Hitchcock, and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts' Salute the Majesty of Bob Wills, a tribute album featuring such altcountry luminaries as Robbie Fulks and Alejandro Escovedo. We even picked up a digital version of one of our scratched-up old vinyl stalwarts, The Replacements Stink. Now that doesn't stink at all.

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