Sunshine has been in business for some twenty years, selling the games that allow the mentally gifted and socially awkward to sit around a table, roll twenty-sided dice, and imagine they're elves, wizards, barbarians, vampires, Klingons, Wookies, or other fantastic characters. Like many in the role-playing game trade, Joel ("What's your last name?" asks New Times. "Why do you ask?" he shoots back.) once sold comic books. Unlike many others in the biz, he built up a big enough clientele for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and other similar pastimes to weather the downturn in the comic biz. He now devotes his little storefront across from Tropical Park solely to gaming books, adventures, and other fantasy-related resources. His narrow, slightly dingy but well-ordered store offers titles from the familiar (AD&D) to the not-so-familiar (GURPS). If you want to sample a particular system, Joel will rent you a rulebook for about ten dollars per week. He's got two groups meeting in the store now (AD&D and Vampire: The Masquerade), but there's always room for another hardy band of adventurers at the folding table in the back -- provided an experienced gamemaster comes forward to referee. "Everybody wants to play, nobody wants to GM," he gripes. Ain't that the truth!

Both of these retailers are excellent at what they do; the bizarre thing is that they do it side by side. Richard Fishman, owner of the health food store, says: "The smell comes through the walls and our customers aren't smokers. But hey, that's part of life. We stopped worrying about it a long time ago." The even more easygoing Harold Klein, proprietor of the tobacco shop, adds: "We get along with them. They have a sign that says 'health' and I have one that says 'death.'" Excuse us while we enjoy our cigar.
No, it's not pest control Miami style or a new South Beach lounge. So what's with the name? It's an obscure D & D reference. When school lets out, this one-and-a-half-year-old gaming store next to the West Kendall Regional Library resembles the New York Stock Exchange -- for prepubescents. Its backpack-wielding Lilliputian traders, mostly boys, clamor around a godlike clerk in a cacophony of soprano voices. Care to go a few rounds with the Souldrinker? Think you can handle the Rats of Rath? Sure you can. But bring your imagination; there are no virtual-reality helmets here, no high-tech computer screens or Game Boys, just good old-fashioned mind games. The store carries a large selection of cards, figurines, and other accoutrements for fantasy games, as well as trading cards, comic books, and animated Japanese videos. Popular right now are two role-playing card games: Pokemon, which is from Japan, and Magic: The Gathering. Magic tournaments are held Sundays. Check for other scheduled tournaments, such as Warhammer Fantasy. Pickup games run seven days per week around worn green billiards-like tables. And if there's no one to run the game? "That's where we come in," says John, a cheerful employee. In the immortal words of Lyna, a Thalakos Seer from Magic: The Gathering: "You see our world when you shut your eyes so tightly that tiny shapes float before them." That's one approach. The store is open Monday and Tuesday, noon to 8:00 p.m.; Wednesday through Friday noon to 9:00 p.m.; Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 6:00 p.m.
Mike Gurowitz is a hockey pioneer. The Chicago native began playing hockey in South Florida way back in 1983, when he joined a North Miami street league. Since then an ice rink opened in North Miami, the Panthers nearly won a Stanley Cup, and a dozen roller-hockey rinks debuted across the county. Gurowitz launched Hockey World to serve the area's expanding roster of players. He knows the needs of ice- and roller-hockey competitors, and he assists both groups expertly. The depth of his passion is literally written on the walls of his small shop. Any space that is not covered with sticks, elbow pads, and gloves is papered with autographs of his beloved Chicago Blackhawks. Among the rink-related John Hancocks: Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and Chris Chelios (signed before the recent trade to the hated Red Wings). Inside a display case rests a rare trading card of Boston Bruin legend Bobby Orr ... in a Blackhawks sweater. Gurowitz's knowledge along with his reasonable prices have helped him outlast several competitors. Lately he's been filling orders from South America. Having conquered South Florida, he is entering the next frontier.
You're driving your kid across town to the big tournament when he suddenly realizes he's made a tragic mistake: He left his shin guards at home. Or you're on your way to a local pickup game and need a new ball; the last time you played was ten years ago and yours is dead as grandma's cat. Or you decide to invest in season tickets to Fusion games, but feel foolish because you don't have the necessary regalia. Or you just like to flip through the latest Umbros, inhale the hand-stitched Brine that cost more than your last dinner out, or try on the Diadoras that make you think you could show that ungrateful Carlos Valderrama a move or two. Whatever your reasons, practical or nostalgic, Soccer Locker won't fake you out. Just make sure to brush up on your lingo before you get there or the staff will shake-and-bake on your wallet.
Since 1959 Cowboy Center has catered to the needs of Miami-Dade's horsemen (and horsewomen, of course). But the pungent smell of leather is a tip-off that this store is geared toward equestrians rather than clotheshorses. If polo or rodeo is your game, this is the place. Leather is a specialty here. Saddles, embroidered belts, whips, riding crops, vests, and bolo tie are all hewn from the skin of the seemingly endangered bovine. But metal is also central to the cowboy's existence; a walk through the three-room store reveals spurs, anvils, and steel horse combs. If you'd rather sit on a couch and watch a Western than saddle up and gallop along the range, the center stocks cattle horns that you can mount above the television.

Despite what your bridge-jumping, shark-riding, train-hopping Uncle Beanie might tell you, scuba requires meticulous preparation and impeccable equipment. Professional divers will insist that purchasing diving gear is like securing life-support equipment for a trip to outer space. That's because we humans breathe air, not water. Thus the best and brightest scuba practitioners recommend high-quality equipment, from mask to fin. Tarpoon, established in 1942 by diver Mike Kevorkian, has the latest models in top brands like U.S. Divers, Scubapro, and Seaquest. It is also the oldest dive shop in Miami-Dade. Longevity is meaningful because ideally, you want to patronize a place that's going to be in business when your stuff needs service. Tarpoon's salespeople are also divers, so they can tell you why you need, say, a silicone mask. (Answer: Cheaper ones often dry up and crack.) Professional divers also recommend avoiding places that certify you in just a day or two. Tarpoon's beginner's course costs $225 and is conducted over two weeks in a heated pool at the Hialeah store. You need mask, snorkel, fins, and weight belt to enroll.
Miami's franchise of the Play It Again chain has had four years to turn into a sprawling, sterile, time-wasting white elephant (as chain stores are wont to do). It hasn't. The service is friendly and efficient without being cloying or annoying; this is especially important at a place that buys and sells new and used gear. Among its wares are all kinds of balls, weights, togs, racquets, clubs, and bats. You can scoop up used tennis balls for two bits apiece, find junior titanium drivers for about $20, and even try out an array of putters on the carpeted showroom floor, where an automatic ball return is set up. The congenial staff will restring your racquet, relace your glove, or regrip your clubs. With a more comprehensive inventory, tighter restrictions on trades and consignments, and a few thousand more square feet of space, Play It Again could easily become The Sports Authority. Here's betting (and hoping) that never happens.
Owner Enrique Fajardo calls it a "neighborhood" bike store because he carries a range of reasonably priced cycles for kids and adults: cruisers, mountain bikes, track racing bikes, tandems, and even a big three-wheeler with a metal basket attached for grocery runs and flower sales. Fajardo is a no-nonsense, no-pressure salesman with a smile. He has a reputable repair business to boot. Get a nice affordable Hampton cruiser for about $150, an aluminum Haro mountain bike for up to $3000, or anything in-between. Enrique also displays Cignals, Jamis, and GTs. For a small store, this place has a big selection of seats, helmets, parts, and accessories. If you're a hard-core mountain biker or road racer, you might consider a place that caters to specialized needs like past Best of Miami winners Tamiami Cyclery, Mack Cycle, Bicycle and Fitness Store, Big Wheel Cycle South, and Cycle World.
In the wonderful world of axes, Ed remains the virtuoso dealer. For more than twenty years he's concocted a strange brew of guitars for his customers. These instruments come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and prices. They hail from different eras and distant lands; there are vintage Fenders, Martins, Gibsons, Gretsches, and classic models from Czechoslovakia. Oddities abound. Check out the 30- to 40-string zithers, pear-shaped mandolins, Hawaiian ukeleles, banjos, dobros, and bouzoukis. Also for sale: really weird Japanese guitars from the Sixties that have lots of knobs and switches. Prices range widely. For $35 kids can begin paving their road to rock-stardom. For $3000 experts can outdo Segovia.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®