Best of Miami®

Best Of 2001

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Custom Cycle Shop

"We design motorcycles that the client chooses from his dreams," Steven Baroukh says in a lilting French accent. Baroukh, along with his wife, Beatrice Ummels, and partner Yves Blanco, take standard-issue motorcycles and turn them into swooping constructs of steel and chrome. To review the designers' work is to transcend the conventional idea of what wheels, fenders, and engines do. They are themselves dreamers, romantics who sculpt everyday lead-sleds into organic, sensual shapes. A completely custom-built motorcycle can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $72,000. By then the design team's hands will have caressed every inch, internal and external, to lovingly bring it to shape. "Like a beautiful statue, we will bring smoothness to the form," Baroukh explains. "We create the parts, we weld them, we cut them." They've created outré concoctions such as a bike whose frame was encased in the shape of a woman on her back with her knees up, and a futuristic teardrop-shape white rocket. But as much as their focus is form, they are equally dedicated to function. Designs are thoroughly vetted to make sure custom parts won't interfere with the alignment, steering, and weight distribution of the bike. Joints are welded and tested. Bike owners don't need to completely reinvent their scooters. For between $3500 and $6500, the shop will customize a bike with paint, chrome, handlebars, fenders, and mirrors. They also do restoration work on vintage motorcycles. As Baroukh reminds, "Motorcycles are made to ride."

Best Baseball Store

Folks in South Miami-Dade take their baseball seriously, and so does Hitter's House. The store features four batting cages where a practicing slugger can get twenty pitches for just $1.25. Special hourly team rates are another indication that Hitter's House understands that the nation's favorite pastime is not just another sport. Autographed photos and baseball cards are available for collectors. Hard-core playing enthusiasts can find just about every piece of baseball gear available, from mitts to mouthpieces.

Best Bike Shop

This bike shop has been around since 1944; the oldest bike it carries -- a rare Packard found nowhere else in Florida, so they say -- dates to 1902. Yes, Broken Spoke specializes in antique bikes. For instance there's the toddler bike, circa 1920, that belonged to one of the Rickenbacker children. Chris Marshall, Broken Spoke's owner, says he purchased it from a former caretaker of the Rickenbacker home. Iggy Pop rented two Schwinn Sting Rays from Marshall for a music video. At the end of production, the aging punk rocker fell in love with the bikes, bought them, and had them transported to Europe. Marshall's bikes have even starred in Hollywood blockbusters such as There's Something About Mary. His peddled prizes have been featured in national magazines. Double Trouble, an ice-blue six-wheeler, wins the local low-rider shows every time, Marshall says. But Broken Spoke's most impressive bike hangs from the shop's ceiling. It's called Silver Bullet, and at first glance it almost looks like a Harley. How's that for a bike shop?

Best Blades

These people will sharpen everything from chain saws to steak knives. And when they are done, owner Dennis Hollinger promises you will be able to shave a hair on either edge. At $1.50 per knife, this kind of kitchen convenience is a bargain. Open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the Tool Shed also features an excellent selection of knives for sale, both of the culinary and pocket variety.

Best Bookstore

Mitchell Kaplan has lotsa books. Books and books. He has books on photography, architecture, film, and music. Books of poetry and works of literature. Books by great authors. Books by obscure writers. Books on Cuba. Books on boxing. Books carried by no other bookstore in town. Kaplan has so many books, he moved to a new Coral Gables location this year, across the street from his old one. Much bigger. More room for his books. If you can't make it to Coral Gables, drop by the Lincoln Road store. It, too, is filled with books. Books and books and books.

Best Botánica

Tucked in a tree-lined corner of Allapattah, this stucco garage painted with frescoes of San Lazaro and Santa Barbara is the real deal. Pigeons, doves, and roosters coo in cages in the back, ready to give it up for the orishas. Antlers hang overhead, and the shelves are stuffed with boxes of twigs, roots, and herbs. Everything you'd ever need to please your santo is here, as well as a plethora of potions, charms, and trinkets. If you don't know what you're doing, the friendly staff is happy to advise you. While you can find many an oddity, the hours are not one of them: Open 9:00 to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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Best Custom Cycle Shop: Too Much Concept USA

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