The full-size metal horse above the main entrance suggests something slightly surreal may be inside. And it is. Six decades of flotsam and some jetsam from estate sales, garage sales, and sundry merchandising events are jammed into this museum of a store. Along with a plethora of tables, chairs, lamps, clocks, mirrors, and glassware, there's plenty of unusual stuff: a set of copper cups made in Mexico; an old iron bucket; a wooden chair that rocks on a wooden hinge mechanism; and a cow mailbox, just to name a few finds. And price is not an object. Proprietors are ready to barter. Their mantra: "If you see something you like, we'll work with you."
How many takes on the old in-and-out are there? you ask. For 28 years the Pink Pussy Cat has been counting the ways, making it one of the oldest such stores in Miami-Dade County. Among the shop's impressive lineup of toys are ones that vibrate in every conceivable direction and others that buzz in a frenetic frenzy. At the apex is the five-inch-long, $100 Japanese-made Rabbit Pearl, which seems to move with a mind of its own. "All the products are tried out by the staff," says Anna, an extremely knowledgeable assistant manager. In fact the staff is one of the store's strong points. At one time Doris Wishman, a B-movie director and cult figure, worked behind the counter. Anna explains that about 85 percent of the store's clients are women. "We're very friendly, and we definitely make the customer feel comfortable." Men are most welcome, too, Anna adds. She says she often must reassure male customers that they are not obsolete. "Nothing can replace a man," she remarks.
With all due empathy for those who must hawk personal belongings in order to eat or pay rent, we look for one thing in our pawnbrokers: selection. We come to shop. Here we find two rooms of immaculately arranged, clean, classily presented items, including the usual array of jewelry and home electronics. There are hundreds and hundreds of CDs (three bucks per); several acoustic, electric, and bass guitars; a homemade guitar; violins; even a Russian balalaika. You can find a couple of sets of congas, keyboards, a clarinet, a saxophone, plenty of amps, microphones, equalizers, and even a sixteen-track Alesis mixing board. We also inspected the motorcycle helmets, tools, bikes, refrigerators, videos, golf clubs, and air conditioners... Don-Z has a vast cache of cameras and lenses, including some top-of-the-line collectibles (displayed in their own cases), such as a Nikon F, Rolleiflex, Leica R4, and a Swiss-made Alpa. The 25-year-old store has scales, lamps, vacuum cleaners, typewriters, and computers. The place has great service, great prices, and treats its customers with dignity. We even love Don-Z for what it does not have: guns.
Dayna Wolfe first visited the Bahamas as a teenager. Since then she's traveled to the island nation every year, even living there for two years as a painter. She is so inspired by the sun-dappled flora and architecture that their colors explode from her trays, mugs, plates, vases, and tiles. In fact the interior of her store, in the heart of the funky Design District, is so boldly painted that the place practically vibrates. The walls are "cornflower yellow" and the columns are "coral-shrimp pink." Wolfe also sells paintings and a coloring book, both done in her trademark naive style. Her pottery is exceptionally fun. She imports unenhanced stuff from Italy and Portugal, then paints, fires, and glazes it in her shop. Coffee cups, bowls, and platters ranging in price from $20 to $200 are decorated with mango-orange, lizard-green, and Bimini-blue images of fish and fruit markets. Wolfe describes her work as "very primitive, very decorative, and very happy." Indeed that's why she paints. "Everybody should be happy."

Parents have found myriad ways to garb their wee 'uns. Some cute them up with silly costumes, some make them clothing clones in miniature replicas of mommy- and daddy-wear, some even go the designer route to prepare their offspring for lives of conspicuous consumption. But in our view, there's something to be said for simple, good taste. Not too formal, but nice and proper. La Ideal offers a sprawling selection of wardrobe fillers, all of them tasteful, some of them downright classic. Along with the ready-for-school designer lines (Buster Brown, Oshkosh), the store carries togs from Brazil, Colombia, Spain, and other parts of the world. This is the place for communion dresses and christening gowns, kimonos, Italian socks, and just about anything for tykes, from newborn to age fourteen. Along with the junior apparel, La Ideal displays an array of rug-rat shoes, sporting goods, strollers, and furniture. The outlet is roomy and bright, the service expeditious and polite. (Another La Ideal on Flagler Street offers adult clothes and sporting goods, but the Hialeah store specializes in kid stuff.)

Winning this category for the second straight year is a pricey boutique that has allowed many a mom-to-be to leave the house feeling sexy even after gaining twenty pounds. So what if dresses go for about $150 and suits sell for $250? Just think of it as a two-for-one deal. They stock an especially good collection of eveningwear. "I really do love the clothes here," one bulging acquaintance says. Then she gives this shop the ultimate endorsement. "Actually I'd wear them even if I weren't pregnant."

Forget the chain stores. This is the place to buy everything for that special kidlet. Need a stroller? They have dozens. A crib? You can get the lace-covered kind, the traveling sort, or an old-fashioned one. Lavin's is even better if you speak Spanish; its name is taken from a prerevolutionary baby store in Havana and the help habla Español. As a bonus there's enough technology to satisfy even the most geeklike dad. Try the gizmo to help stop bed-wetting. When the baby pees, a light goes on. The cost: $39.99. Or there's First Sounds, which lets you listen in on the womb. Also for $39.99. The best of the best is the Little Havana store, which has a bizarre, covered parking lot and a quirky design. But you can also try the larger shop in the Falls. Either way, infantile fun awaits.
Dr. Ferran certainly is not a wild-eyed new-age kook. He's a pedigreed vet, having directed the Miami Beach Animal Hospital for nine years and run his own practice for a decade. So if he wants to insert sharp needles into your doggy, let him. This guy is a certified acupuncturist for both humans and animals. Clinical studies and 8000-year-old manuscripts support the approach of opening channels and redirecting chi with needles, for the four-legged as well as biped. Acupuncture works particularly well in relieving pain. "Sometimes we overmedicate animals," he says. "In conventional practice we treat what the animal was brought in for. But my interest is in treating the entire body.... Conventional approaches have their place, and acupuncture has its place. I use both. Acupuncture won't save the world, but it has helped in remarkable ways."
If one man's trash is another's treasure, then Flamingo Plaza is where the late Mel Fisher should have spent his time. There's more junk here than there is sand in the ocean. This L-shaped stripmall has thrift stores and junk shops selling stuff you never dreamed you needed or knew you wanted. One quick stop at a place called Red White & Blue yielded a miniature gumball machine; plaster molds for casting concrete statuary; a red bra-and-panties set with matching plumage; a contraption designed to decorate a mailbox with silk flowers; a three-foot-high purple toucan; and a Scooby-Doo lunchbox. At the neighboring Community Thrift Store we found enough furniture to outfit a dormitory, plus pinball machines, exercise bikes, old stoves, air conditioners, fridges, and even a waterbed. Save More, Inc., a few doors down, stocks new and used items including party supplies, tools, a life-size plastic yard tortoise, clothes, and toys. The scene is completed by a 99-cent store, a discount outlet for baby items, a beauty-supply store, and a Winn-Dixie. No need to bother with a detritus-seeking metal detector; the goods at these joints have been sorted, coded, and labeled to make the pickings easy.
To many in the agricultural set, the essence of growing the best fruit, vegetables, and flowers is perfect soil that is rich in nutrients and well aerated. But a better way might be no soil at all. Hydroponics, feeding plants via a flow of water filled with nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and a number of trace minerals, is well established in Europe and Asia. The cultivation technique even works indoors with high-intensity lights that replicate the sun's rays. All of the lights, trays, fertilizers, supplements, testing equipment, growing mediums, irrigation systems, and information you need can be found at Gold Coast's two stores. The service is professional and subdued. The stores are clean and well organized. The only negative is that the prices are a bit, um, pricey. But note that commercially grown tomatoes go for about a dollar per pound. Hydroponically grown tomatoes (blemish-free and consistent in taste, texture, size, and shape) go for triple that. A sample system set up in the window of the Bird Road outlet boasts bushy growth, brightening the dreary stripmall where it is located. Indeed considering the proliferation of stripmalls, freeways, sidewalks, and basketball courts, soilless gardening may someday be the only method available.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®