Best Of :: Shopping & Services
What Miami needs more of is a YMCA culture. We're not talking about men wearing construction-worker or police-officer or Indian-chief costumes while making letters with their arms. We're talking true YMCA culture, like those in cities such as Cleveland or Baltimore: blue-collar dudes and wealthy-commissioner types working out in the same gym and then sweating together in the steam room, grumbling about the local quarterbacks' professional inadequacies while thumbing through soggy sports sections. (Editor's note: This was written by a male who has no idea what happens in female steam rooms because he's pretty sure the Cinemax movie he watched on the subject was not accurate.) Yep, in the Rust Belt, the YMCA is where the plebeians mix easily with the fat cats. But in Miami, the rich people work out at a posh health club that looks like a Moroccan whorehouse (let's call it Pavid Carton), and the poor people get ripped in one-room gyms featuring crude paintings of barbells on the walls. That's why we're pretty happy about the YMCA Village of Allapattah Family Branch — how gloriously uncool is that name? — opening its doors. There's no steam room to hobnob with a nude and sweaty city mayor, but it is otherwise truly a gym for the people: Membership is $34 for a single adult, $44 for a couple, and $50 for two adults and as many kids as you have. Yep, kids: They're like people but smaller, and they get really emotionally invested in ice-cream cones. Bet you haven't seen any such creatures at Pavid Carton, huh, fancy-pants?
In 2002, the Village of Merrick Park did what no other shopping mall seemed capable of doing. It broke the stronghold the Bal Harbour Shops had on luxury goods. If you wanted to drop outrageous amounts of money on ready-to-wear items from the world's top designers, you had to travel to the small town near the Broward County line, quite a trek if you lived in Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, or Pinecrest. But the Village of Merrick Park cut travel time to a few short minutes and borrowed heavily from its Bal Harbour counterpart — an open-air layout, high-end eateries, and an atmosphere decidedly non-mall. And with stores such as Neiman Marcus, Betsey Johnson, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Jimmy Choo, and La Perla, Merrick Park is a worthy competitor for high-end clientele. Besides, it boasts one of the few Borders bookstores still left.
When your party-animal level reaches such a high point that only an explosion of '80s sequins and shoulder pads can do it justice, or when your art-gallery day job requires you look like a '70s Lolita adorned in ruffles and soft chiffon, only one store can adequately quell your ravenous vintage appetite. Tiny, well-organized, adorned with a huge black-and-white print that quotes Alice in Wonderland, and filled with quirky details (care for a collection of doll heads?), the Rabbit Hole is an expertly curated and moderately priced potpourri of secondhand goods plucked from New York City flea markets, Los Angeles vintage warehouses, and other corners of the world where cool and original live (and where the husband-and-wife owners, who are also photographers, travel). If a bunny called this shop home, it would be the type that sports nerdy, oversize glasses; hops around in old-school combat boots; and refuses to eat carrots because "they're so conventional." In other words, exactly the type of rabbit we like.
Given that most of the used bookstores left in Miami are in strip malls and half of their stock comprises multiple copies of the same wildly popular romance and teen novels, Fifteenth Street Books could easily be mistaken for a book museum. The store, which occupies the original site of Books & Books, is lined floor to ceiling with wooden shelves brimming with actual, real, bona fide literature and grand art books featuring lavish reproductions. Climb the hardwood stairs to the sun-filled second floor and you'll find collectibles and limited-edition prints, not hidden in some showcase, but on shelves to grab and actually peruse. Scour the store and you can find some real gems, such as a copy of a first edition (albeit a later printing) of Naked Lunch in its original, though well-worn, dust jacket for $20. Heck, that's almost what a new, tacky-looking paperback of this modern-day Inferno will set you back at Borders, if you can find a Borders, that is.
Believe it or not, there's better treasure at your local Goodwill store than just macramé owls, velvet Elvises, secondhand underwear, busted-up ham radios, and cracked souvenir ashtrays from places you'll never visit. Of course, we're talking about highly collectible vinyl. Basically, as baby boomers age, enter nursing homes, and fall into open graves, they need to get rid of their awesome stockpiles of old records. And often, the easiest and most efficient way to free themselves of these extremely precious worldly possessions is simply donating them to a nonprofit thrift outlet like Goodwill. So hurry! Go pick through the '60s generation's vinyl leftovers. Sure, it's not all gold and platinum. There's a glut of stuff such as Neil Diamond's Hot August Night, Hall & Oates's Abandoned Luncheonette, and multiple copies of every single Herb Alpert album in the universe. But look hard through the junk and you'll eventually find a few rad rarities, like Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat, or curios such as a chicken-grease-smeared first pressing of Christmas Day With Colonel Sanders. And when you're paying only $1 per LP, this kind of killer find makes you feel like an especially slick looter.
With gas prices this high, even the most motor-loving among us must be considering the benefits of switching, at least on occasion, to self-powered transportation. But maybe we're not ready to shell out top dollar for a new bicycle. If you're looking for a used bike or used parts, check out Tamiami Cyclery. The small strip-mall spot has been in business for decades and looks like it, but you'll find a menagerie of vintage frames and rare parts at good prices. Plus the staff is always polite and knowledgeable.