Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Long before Napster reared its head, there was a simple way to beat the high price of new CDs: Buy 'em used. And considering the constant stream of folks digging through the mounds of used CDs inside Uncle Sam's, it's a safe bet that regardless of the Internet's future role in how we listen to music, used CD shops aren't about to vanish, at least not the shops with a sprawling inventory. And Uncle Sam's does indeed house a literal mountain of sound, from the latest releases in virtually every genre imaginable (selling at roughly half of what you'd pay several blocks south at Spec's), to a continually changing stock of older titles -- a testament to the flux of Beach residents moving to and then leaving town, and trading in their CD collections somewhere along the way. True, shopping at Uncle Sam's isn't exactly a relaxing experience. Between the teeth-rattling trance blasting out of the store's speakers and the (particularly at peak hours) somewhat tense staff, trying to snag a choice CD here can often resemble placing a drink order inside a sardine-packed bar. Still, considering the finds that lie within -- and not least, CD players on which you can preview them -- Uncle Sam's remains a local fave.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.