Best Of :: Shopping & Services
BEST FURNITURE STORE FOR CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS Details at Home 1711 Alton Road
305-531-1325 In 1988, when Perry Tortorelli and Rick Raphael opened their home furniture and design store, South Beach was not quite the glamorous destination it is today. The first incarnation of their store reflected the vibe of the era. "It was on Twelfth Street, near the Marlin, and it was only 500 square feet. I was actually sewing sundresses in the back," Tortorelli laughs. "We were selling incense, director's chairs, handmade clothes, and the cheapest stuff, because the Beach was really bad back then." The little business thrived mainly because of the design savvy of the owners, but thanks in part lie with their celebrity connections. Raphael was Gloria Estefan's traveling hairstylist in the heyday of the Miami Sound Machine, and Tortorelli made his name in advertising and the fashion industry. As South Beach became bigger and hotter, these business pioneers shifted gears. In 1994 the store moved to Lincoln Road and Tortorelli began interior designing for famous people. One of his first jobs was for retired MTV founder Les Garland. Other customers: Rosie O'Donnell, Lenny Kravitz, and shoe designer Donald Pliner (a beloved regular). Tortorelli: "Gianni Versace used to buy Rococo mirrors like they were going out of style. Gloria and Emilio love anything related to Cuban nostalgia. And recently Iggy Pop came in. The guy is such a rebel, it's unbelievable. He bought this really beautiful Italian cowhide dining suite. He just sauntered in, no shirt, cowboy hat, big ol' Bentley convertible outside, and said, öI want that.'" When the Dalai Lama came to Miami, Tortorelli designed his personal spaces. "He wanted coral, and he bought an amazing bronze statue of a horse running," Tortorelli says. At Details' 7000-square-foot space on Alton Road, high rollers can plunk down credit cards for high-end furniture, like a 1948 Eames La Chaise ($6200). But plebeians can also pick up chic (but affordable) items like scented candles, soaps, or a Burmese hand fan ($18). Part gift shop, part furniture store, Details has something for just about everyone.
BEST ADULT VIDEO STORE Caliente Adult Superstore 1820 West Eighth Avenue
305-885-1100 Pleasure Emporium may be large, but Caliente is hot. At the same time, Caliente is cool enough to stock not only the Pocket Rocket but also the Pocket Kamasutra. The shop -- spacious, organized, and clean enough to consider a lingerie purchase -- is located one block north of Okeechobee Road and few blocks south of the studios of Telemundo. So there's always an extremely slim chance of running into your favorite Channel 51 on-air hunk or babe in the small but sizzling Latin racks, where titles range from the innocent (Panochitas) to the sophisticated (Latinas en Europa) to the sublime (Beautiful Brazilian Whores). Other sections run the traditional gamut, including anal, oral, all-girl, all-black, and gang-bang, to name, alas, only a few. You might even find Panochitas Gorditas 11 in the new releases display. Rentals are $5.25 a pop.
BEST ARGENTINE MARKET La Estancia Argentina 17870 Biscayne Boulevard
305-932-6477 and 4425 Ponce de Leon Boulevard (Village of Merrick Park)Coral Gables
www.laestanciaweb.com In Argentina there are three pastimes: soccer, soccer, and soccer. And all that soccer playing makes a body hungry. Which brings us to Argentina's three food groups: bread, wine, and meat. Some of the most highly regarded versions of these in the world are produced on the many estancias of that panoramic nation. Particularly in the past four years (since the country's economy collapsed in what is known as "the crisis") residents of Argentina -- as much as they appreciate their soccer, their panoramas, and their three food groups -- have grown tired of politicians' favorite pastime: stuffing their pockets with the people's money. Many decided to move to Miami. Good for them, as there's no corruption here. Ahem. Okay, then, lucky for us, because they have also decided to open up a slew of food-related businesses. Argentine markets are increasing exponentially all over town, the classiest example being La Estancia Argentina, where you can literally pick up everything you need for a true Argentine barbecue: fresh meat, cut the way you like it; house made chimichurri; fragrant breads baked on premises; and a wide selection of Argentine wines and ports. Of course they also sell fresh pastas, medialunas (tiny croissants), sweet pastries, gourmet cheeses, mate (herb tea), sandwiches, and dried goods from the homeland. With streamlined, modern décor, the place is just as good for shopping as it is for relaxing with a hot cup of café con leche. You can stop in just for the coffee and walk out empty-handed if you choose, but it's unlikely that you will.
BEST BABY STORE Genius Jones 1661 Michigan Avenue
305-534-7622 This is a children's store all grown up. Owners Daniel Kron and his wife Geane Brito, New York fashion- and design-world refugees, opened shop in 2003 specifically because they were so disappointed with what was available when shopping for their first child in 2000. "For too long in the baby business people just accepted what they were given because there were no alternatives," Kron says. So he and his wife found interesting and beautiful alternatives, such as the cardboard snap-together rocket from Brazil, big enough for kids to crawl into; vintage guayaberas and concert T-shirts, recut and miniaturized; and their signature item, the $729 Bugaboo Stroller from Holland. They stumbled upon that pricey kid-cart before it was even available in the U.S., becoming one of the first five stores to carry it. Since then it has gone on to become the celebrity stroller, used by Gwyneth Paltrow and featured on Sex and the City. Kron says he looks for inspiration when selecting gear. "I want them to show me a great design, show me a better way, show me something aesthetically stunning," he says. "We never think in terms of what we can make a lot of money on." Their approach seems to be working: They intend to open a second location at 49 NE 39th Street in the Design District, probably by June. "A lot of our success has to do with the fact that people in Miami are having more babies than in other cities," Kron adds. "People are more into their families here, it seems."
BEST BIKE SHOP Mack Cycle & Fitness 5995 Sunset Drive
www.mackcycleandfitness.com Here's the problem with selecting a "best" bike shop: These days no single retailer carries all the major manufacturers -- Cannondale, Giant, GT, Raleigh, Schwinn, Specialized, Trek -- much less even a fair sampling of the hundreds of boutique brands. Blame it on a form of commercial bullying: Competing suppliers force retailers to choose among a limited number of brands in order to get the best prices. You choose your supplier and take whatever he carries and that's pretty much it. So the criteria for "best" must include more than simply brand names. This is where Mack Cycle & Fitness comes in -- it's trustworthy, reliable, and reasonably priced. The family-owned shop has been in business more than 47 years and is abundantly staffed by a crew of knowledgeable people who are quick to lend assistance. Sometimes, perhaps, too quick. If you want to browse undisturbed, be advised to make that fact known at the outset. But there is no staff more experienced anywhere in Miami. Currently the store's main brands are Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, and Schwinn -- each of which offers numerous models.
Readers´ Choice: Fritz´s Skate, Bike and Surf
BEST BIRD SHOP Aviary Bird Shop 22707 S. Dixie Highway
www.aviarybirdshop.com Just south of Cauley Square on South Dixie Highway -- amid tire shops, liquor stores, and various building-material supply warehouses -- stands the Aviary, a not-so-tiny oasis where wings and an affinity for sunflower seeds are the only residency requirements. Day-Glo green parrots, mohawked cockatiels, and hyperactive parakeets are all treated to garden views, plenty of shade, and all the dried fruit their beaks can handle. In addition to the usual supplies, the oldest bird shop in Miami also offers boarding (in its Tweety Motel), microchipping, and, soon, an area on-premises for special flighty occasions. Go for supplies, a new feathered friend, or an afternoon of bird watching. Think of it as a miniature Parrot Jungle without the roller-skating parrots or $25 admission fee.