Best Of :: Shopping & Services
"I knew you'd be back," says Stephane Amar with a satisfied smile. A few hours earlier you had stopped in at his shop on Washington Avenue searching for a new suit. His racks featured several sweet-looking suits from Europe. The fit could not be topped and the price was too low to believe. You were prudent, though. You said you wanted to shop around. But after a tour of every other boutique and shop on South Beach, you most definitely returned to La Squadra and to Amar, who was waiting. "You can't beat the price on a suit of this quality," he murmurs. "I knew I'd see you again." La Squadra is a small shop, run by Amar and his partner. The selection is not terribly vast, but the clothes they feature, for both men and women, are high quality and very stylish. After you try on the suit again, Amar offers up a Prada shirt, a Gucci tie, and a pair of square-toed dress shoes. But it doesn't feel as though he's piling on. He's not pushing. The accessories just happen to work perfectly. And their price, collectively, is as reasonable as the suit. You take the whole package, but not before Amar takes a call from his grandmother in his native Montreal. "Yes, I love you too," he says in French. You feel like joining in. Amar's a lovable guy. His shop is a lovely shop.
This is junkyard heaven, the place where cool, funky things go to die or to be bought or rented as the case may be. Chandeliers and traffic lights hang from the ceiling while stained-glass windows, Coca-Cola vending machines, marble busts, golf clubs, and bookshelves line the walls. Looking for a life-size bronze boar sculpture with green patina? It's here. A vintage, Jetsons-style Philco Predicta television set from the Fifties? Yep, right over there. A giant Head and Shoulders shampoo display bottle? Check the back. Old gas station signs, telephones, typewriters? Got 'em. Don't know what you're looking for? Give yourself at least an hour to walk through this Smithsonian-scale emporium. If you feel yourself getting tired, plop yourself down in that row of movie-theater seats over by the door.
If Laurenzo's were nothing more than the area's best Italian market (and most people say it is), it would still be worth writing about. But the 50-year-old institution is so much more: a slice of Little Italy in Miami-Dade County, an oasis of Old World charm, a portal onto the past. Laurenzo's isn't just a store. It's a milieu. And it comes with its own soundtrack, piped in direct from the Fifties and featuring a couple of Italian crooners you may have heard before. Where else can you get "Volare" with your veal? "Memories Are Made of This" with your mozzarella? "Sway" with your spaghetti? Ah, Laurenzo's. "That's Amore!"
"From the womb to the tomb and all moments in between." Those are the appropriate times for flowers and plants, according to the ebullient Jenny Kallert, who has run her famous flower shop since 1973. With the fastidious zip of a German-accented bee in pollination mode, she works in her environs making "creations," not mere arrangements. To Jenny, who in 1959 escaped communist East Germany with her family (all of whom were also florists), flowers are not just luxuries to be appreciated on special occasions. They are necessities, as vital to life as air, food, and water. She keeps things intimate by customizing each piece and working only with independently owned greenhouses instead of large-scale flower growers; Jenny's stock includes a variety of tulips, azaleas, orchids, and roses not normally sold at your everyday FTD stand.
Broward has Bob's and we have Worldwide. That's the best way to explain this store's perennial lock on this category. If you're looking for an obscure magazine or an out-of-town newspaper, this is where you must come. And if Worldwide doesn't have it, you're out of luck, bub. Regardless of what you were searching for initially, it's hard to imagine leaving Worldwide empty-handed. Several well-organized aisles offer up everything from the Observer (both London's and New York City's) to more colorful publications such as Paranoia! and Bitch. Best of all is an owner who is not only familiar with virtually every title in his store but the precise day of the week they're set to arrive. Never again will you miss an issue of Asian Cult Cinema.
A cameo to nestle in your cleavage. Rhinestones to ring your fingers. Austrian crystals to drape around your neck. No matter what manner of costume jewelry you seek, you'll most likely find it at this vintage shop, where numerous cases house quality watches, fobs, brooches, chains, chokers, and the like. An added advantage: Since C. Madeleine's accepts items on consignment (by appointment only), you can trade in those pieces that no longer tickle your fancy for some trinkets that do. Chances are you'll discover that one item you've always wished your great-grandmother had the good taste to wear -- and the good sense to pass down to you.