Best Of :: Shopping & Services
So you're leaving town for a while and the age-old question of what to do with Fido is again rearing its ugly, scruffy head. You could try to con your best buddy into walking and feeding the mutt, but that almost torpedoed your friendship last time. Besides, when you returned, your floppy-eared companion seemed thin and attention starved. Fortunately there is a kennel that is trustworthy and probably will treat the pooch better than you do. Because El Saba started out as a dog breeding outfit, its facilities are a sight nicer than your average doggie-overnight joint. The pups are housed in seventeen-foot-long runs equipped with sliding doors that lead to air-conditioned sleeping quarters. Each run also includes a ceiling fan. Although hounds are locked up every night, during the day they are allowed to frolic in two ample back yards. The runs and feeding bowls are cleaned with bleach every day. The proprietors also know every vet in the area. (House rules require that dogs be vaccinated against kennel cough and canine tracheobronchitis before they arrive.) Daily prices are proportionate to the dog's weight; they range from $10 for those up to 45 pounds to $20 for visitors that tip the scales at 117 pounds plus. But be forewarned; there is only room for 38 dogs. Major holidays and summertime are booked months in advance. And if you're a cat person, don't despair. They take felines, too.
Blink and you'll drive past this quaint barbershop tucked away in a dingy strip mall on the northern edge of the City of Progress. Want to take the pulse of Miami-Dade's second largest municipality? Plop down on one of the three red-vinyl barbers' chairs, grab a macho car magazine, and engage owner Manuel Perez in conversation. The tonsorial artist will boisterously complain about local politicians, critique a new restaurant, and tell tall tales of his latest fishing expedition. While he is snipping and clipping, a cast of local characters ranging from the neighborhood drunk to the beat cop will walk in to greet the middle-age barber, who sports a full head of salt-and-pepper locks. Spend a little time and you'll get not only the scoop, but a good cut for a measly $12. And Manny will even shave those pesky hairs from the back of your neck.
An unlikely combination in an unlikely place. During the day this little storefront, wedged between an antique shop and a plumbing-supply store near the Miami-Coral Gables frontier, is mostly a haircut hangout. Nelson, an affable, experienced barber, dispenses 'dos and relationship advice, in both English and Spanish, to customers who recline in two barbers' chairs. DJ Flex Perez devotes one wall to baggy jeans and T-shirts the size of pup tents. Perez also oversees a rack of vinyl for party-spinning (heavy on rap and house), a few CDs, some caps, and some videos for sale. But the place's real genius lies in the crossmarketing. On his business cards, Perez emphasizes Nelson's scissors skillz, including "Fadez," "Caesars," and "Close Cuts." If you're kickin' it old-school, Nelson offers a half-price senior-citizen discount on weekdays -- five bucks.
The in-line skater brings home a new set of wheels. They are too big. This bothers him. He returns to Universal, where he purchased the wheels a day earlier. Returns are no problem, he's told, even though he'd opened the packages. "Where do you skate?" he is asked. A nearby rink, he replies. "Oh, really? I used to skate out there. These wheels are too hard for that surface. You'd be better off with something softer, such as these," the clerk says, holding out a new package of wheels. Not only is the clerk's selection the proper size and better for the intended purpose, it also costs a lot less money. The clerk wraps up the new wheels, signs a form, then reaches into the register for a twenty-dollar refund. The customer is bothered no more. In fact he is delighted. Service like this is rare, he thinks to himself. Service like this is why Universal wins the Best Skate Shop award year after year. Universal is the best, hands down.
It's that time again. Fido is a mess, and you're in no mood to wrestle him into the tub. For 40 years Dog Charm has catered to the needs of area pet owners. At a cost of just $25, these canine lovers will bathe shaggy manes and brush them to groomed perfection. And they'll throw in a good nail-clipping. For $60 they'll perfectly shave him so he can withstand the brutal Florida summer. And this is no cost-cutting trim; these dog charmers are as sensitive to mutts' allergies as the little beasts themselves. Forget about ticks and fleas. One visit to this place and that annoying morning scratching will be a distant memory. Bring the pooch in early and you'll get him back by afternoon. Appointments are recommended.