Best Of :: Shopping & Services
On the western edge of Miami, three triple-alarmed tool sheds are packed with swing bikes and lowriders, bikes for the mountains and the road, children's bikes, and tandems. Burning Marlboros through a bushy handlebar mustache, The King rebuilds bike after bike from a shed so stuffed that it seems ready to vomit cans of paint, primer, oil, and grease. He wheels them between a carpet of parts and fittings and speaks about each one like a painting. At 48 years old, The King (real name Jay) works six or seven days a week as a handyman at FIU. But when he arrives home, the real work begins. "There's too many bikes, man," he cries, gesturing to the sea of parts that covers his back lawn. "I can't keep up with 'em all. I got a full-time job, plus a family." (The King often returns home to find that his wife has accepted five more bikes for rehabilitation.) But like any addict, The King has taken to selling his poison to support his habit. He prefers to do business in pure cottage fashion: Call him, he makes/restores/finds what you want, he sells it to you (in pristine condition) from his home at a ridiculously reasonable price. "I don't care about the money," he says as he applies a thin layer of motor grease to our new bike's chain with a toothbrush. "I'm just trying to make a couple of bucks."
We know a seasoned vintage shopaholic who lovingly calls this place "Chez Armé." She proudly boasts about all of the amazing finds she's procured from here. It wasn't until she showed us photos of an incredible four-poster bed that seemed to be hewn from tree trunks that we began paying attention. When it comes to buying furniture, you can't do better.The store is a clean, well-lit place with the usual thrift store finds in abundance dishes, sweaters, winter jackets, and worn children's toys. To one side you'll find dining room furniture, bedroom sets, and men's clothing. A handsome ornate chest of drawers, side tables, and an armoire are a bargain at $350. Textured wall units and a dining table come for $800. A two-piece butter-yellow leather living room set is $150. There's bland furniture and random what-were-they-thinking items, like a pair of children's loft-style beds outfitted with wooden slides for that speedy (not to mention dangerous) disembarkation. Stop by early (it opens at 9:00 a.m.) if you want to find a specific furniture item that isn't on display: "We got a whole warehouse back there," says approachable clerk Clarence Williams. Every second Saturday of the month, the lot down the street hosts the Salvation Army auto auction. So quite literally you can walk in here with nothing and leave with a suite of furniture and a new car for less than a grand.
All of us have a bunch of stuff hanging around our homes that we don't want, don't need, or don't use. Why not streamline your life by getting rid of some of that junkç Freecycle, a national online trading post with a board here in Miami, is the perfect way to turn your trash into someone else's treasure. Here's how it works: You register on the Website and then offer your stuff in a posting. If someone wants it, you arrange a (safe) meeting time and place to make the exchange. Best of all, it's free.
Don't want to spend $300 on a BCBG dressç If you're lucky, you can find one at Rag Trade for $30. You can also earn a little cash on the clothes you haven't worn for four years, the ones lying wrinkled and unused in a cobwebby corner of your closet. If you would rather barter for something in the shop, that's fine too. Like any secondhand shop, Rag Trade carries a rotating stock of wares that ranges in style from vintage to contemporary. There's also a section devoted to new clothes by local designers and by London-based Religion (not to be confused with the brand of jeans). Feel good about shopping here: Rag Trade is pro-conservation, and even the price tags are recycled.
Maybe South Florida doesn't seem like the best place to pick up knitting as a hobby after all, summer is upon us. But there are always babies to crochet blankets for, relatives up north who need hats and scarves, and the three cold days next winter. Elegant Stitches carries more than 700 different yarns and offers knitting and crochet classes for $45. The shop also has patterns, books, kits, and needles. For the truly dedicated, the store organizes a November knitting cruise on Royal Caribbean.
Light catches your eye from all directions in the Gem and Bead Gallery. Everywhere you look, there are glistening gemstones of all varieties amethyst, rose quartz, and glass beads that look almost exactly like them. Coral branches, turquoise chunks, and amber circles; jade beads and freshwater pearls. You can buy anything, from a $1000 sapphire to adorn that perfect solitaire, to $1 glass beads for a hippie love necklace. The Gem and Bead Gallery is a direct importer of gemstone beads, colored crystals, horn beads, Swarovski crystals, and pearls. The store attracts customers who are practiced jewelers, as well as first-time bead stringers. To that end, they offer hands-on Monday and Saturday classes that range from $30 to $35. From beading to pearl knotting, you can learn how to do it and then successfully make it here. Few things are cooler than being able to chirp, "Thanks, I made them myself," when you're inevitably complimented on your amazing new earrings.