Volume means choice. Divers Direct Outlet has both. The 5000-square-foot Florida City showroom is thick with masks, fins, wetsuits, buoyancy compensators, tanks, regulators, spear guns, underwater cameras, and diving computers. This is important because one needs to compare and contrast. Finding the right piece of equipment is absolutely essential with dive gear. No one can afford a leaky mask or an ill-fitting fin 80 feet underwater. Major brands carried include Aqua Lung (formerly U.S. Divers), Mares, Dacor, and SeaQuest. Because Divers Direct Outlet (formerly Divers Outlet) is part of a chain founded in 1984 and based in Deerfield Beach, it can afford to keep its shelves stocked deep. All the workers are certified in the sport, with a scuba instructor and dive master also on staff. The store does teach and certify divers, but they don't try to diversify too much beyond that. Repairs are done offsite in Key Largo. There are no charter trips based out of the shop. "We pretty much stick to retail," manager Candy Tamborrino says, and they do it daily from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
We were getting our tennis racket strung here, and while we were waiting we talked to a young sales guy about buying some golf clubs. He had an excellent grasp on the equipment. He also had a good handle on its recent history, to wit, how leading manufacturers in the Eighties lost their grip on the market when new companies strolled in with new designs such as bigger heads on drivers. Ping, Yonex, and Callaway outdrove industry leaders like Top Flight and Dunlop. But our salesman really hooked us by proving to be a straight shooter. He was able to slice through all the marketing hype associated with name brands and pros. "Let's face it," he said. "The pros get paid to play with certain equipment." Consequently it can be quite expensive. For instance Don's deal on a set of eleven graphite-shaft Honma clubs with titanium-head irons (pitching wedge included) can cost you less than $1700. But you also can avoid handicapping your bank account that much, our salesman pointed out. For instance you can get a decent set of graphite-shaft woods and metal-shaft irons for $300. You can check out how they feel with a couple of chip shots from a patch of AstroTurf into the net that hangs from the ceiling. Just a short drive by car from the Miami Shores golf course (or a long drive if you're using a one-wood), the store has been here for 32 years. Owner Don Barker has an autographed photo of Seventies champion Billy Casper on a wall in the corner to prove it.

This bike shop has been around since 1944; the oldest bike it carries -- a rare Packard found nowhere else in Florida, so they say -- dates to 1902. Yes, Broken Spoke specializes in antique bikes. For instance there's the toddler bike, circa 1920, that belonged to one of the Rickenbacker children. Chris Marshall, Broken Spoke's owner, says he purchased it from a former caretaker of the Rickenbacker home. Iggy Pop rented two Schwinn Sting Rays from Marshall for a music video. At the end of production, the aging punk rocker fell in love with the bikes, bought them, and had them transported to Europe. Marshall's bikes have even starred in Hollywood blockbusters such as There's Something About Mary. His peddled prizes have been featured in national magazines. Double Trouble, an ice-blue six-wheeler, wins the local low-rider shows every time, Marshall says. But Broken Spoke's most impressive bike hangs from the shop's ceiling. It's called Silver Bullet, and at first glance it almost looks like a Harley. How's that for a bike shop?
Franco Carretti did costume design for the Italian film director Sergio Leone and a raft of others, including John Huston, before moving to Miami in 1980. His collection of guises, vintage clothing, and meticulously rendered period pieces fills the upper stories of a four-story shop in the Design District. ABC caters to professionals. Designers from movies, television, and commercial shoots come here for Roaring Twenties gangster glam, Edwardian chic, Sixties hippie, and Seventies disco-mod. Seamstresses at ABC also sew original designs. A staff that builds those fantastic feathered headdresses and slinky showgirl outfits for the cruise-ship extravaganzas can handle most requests. No wonder amateurs like us line up around the block come Halloween to choose from the more than 20,000 outfits ABC has for rent. The selection runs the gamut of the alphabet -- from Adam and Eve and the Andrew Sisters to Zorro (called the Z-Bandit), albeit skipping a few letters here and there. In between A and Z there are Jane Fonda as Barbarella, the Beatles circa Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Jackie before she became O, as well as Batman, the Bride of Dracula, the Statue of Liberty, and an assortment of animals, including a frog, dog, chicken, cat, rabbit, parrot, pig, and rat. See ABC's Website for hours and a map.

"We design motorcycles that the client chooses from his dreams," Steven Baroukh says in a lilting French accent. Baroukh, along with his wife, Beatrice Ummels, and partner Yves Blanco, take standard-issue motorcycles and turn them into swooping constructs of steel and chrome. To review the designers' work is to transcend the conventional idea of what wheels, fenders, and engines do. They are themselves dreamers, romantics who sculpt everyday lead-sleds into organic, sensual shapes. A completely custom-built motorcycle can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $72,000. By then the design team's hands will have caressed every inch, internal and external, to lovingly bring it to shape. "Like a beautiful statue, we will bring smoothness to the form," Baroukh explains. "We create the parts, we weld them, we cut them." They've created outré concoctions such as a bike whose frame was encased in the shape of a woman on her back with her knees up, and a futuristic teardrop-shape white rocket. But as much as their focus is form, they are equally dedicated to function. Designs are thoroughly vetted to make sure custom parts won't interfere with the alignment, steering, and weight distribution of the bike. Joints are welded and tested. Bike owners don't need to completely reinvent their scooters. For between $3500 and $6500, the shop will customize a bike with paint, chrome, handlebars, fenders, and mirrors. They also do restoration work on vintage motorcycles. As Baroukh reminds, "Motorcycles are made to ride."

The first thing that hits your snout when you walk in the door is the intoxicating scent of hundreds of pairs of new leather boots. Then you notice the studded dog collars, horse whips, chaps in assorted primary colors, tubes of "ultrafine horse glitter." A South Beach fetish shop you haven't heard of? Nah, just a one-stop shop for horse owners, dog lovers, wild-bird feeders, and people who can't own too many large silver belt buckles. As you browse the astonishing array of avian comestibles ("Classic Finch," "Fancy wild bird w/corn," or "D'lux wild bird -- no corn"), chew hooves for dogs, and calf ropes, keep your eyes peeled for a sweaty ten-gallon hat and your ears tuned to the sound of jangling spurs. Still owned by the same family, now in its third generation, Sunset Feed & Supply opened in 1960, back when cowboys were REAL cowboys.

A big chain can be a turn-on. Sometimes choosing is hard: There's the airport Pleasure Emporium's humongous selection. There's the South Beach location where infamous murderer Andrew Cunanan reportedly shopped. And there's the Pleasure that delivers. The Miami River store, however (the newest carnal incarnation in the local porn proprietor's dynasty), tops our list again, mainly for its proximity to the professional wankfest that is downtown. After all, who really needs an hour to eat lunch? Fifteen minutes is plenty. Which leaves another 45 to browse the arousing collection of kinky blowups (how about an $88 policewoman doll?), dildos, vibrators, simulated vaginas, "fantasy wear," and more (booby pacifier, anyone?), plus literally thousands of porn videos. Although the sizable pink erection caused a flap among city politicos at the nearby Miami Riverside Center (a vote in its favor), the novelty store is no mere novelty. Open 24 hours Friday and Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, Pleasure Emporium III is well lit and seemingly clean, with courteous male and female clerks -- hardly a stereotypically seamy waterfront sex shop. An average-looking couple spied on a recent visit could just as easily have been shopping for fixtures at Home Depot as searching through rows of Jelly Royale accouterments for the perfect penis placebo (by the way, a Pistol Peter Pump goes for $69.95).
Folks in South Miami-Dade take their baseball seriously, and so does Hitter's House. The store features four batting cages where a practicing slugger can get twenty pitches for just $1.25. Special hourly team rates are another indication that Hitter's House understands that the nation's favorite pastime is not just another sport. Autographed photos and baseball cards are available for collectors. Hard-core playing enthusiasts can find just about every piece of baseball gear available, from mitts to mouthpieces.

Need a set of dishes? Looking for just the right lamp to put in that corner of the den? On the prowl for the Ferrante and Teicher LP that will complete your collection of Sixties lounge music? This is the place for you. Red White & Blue is a veritable department store of used wares, containing not simply aisle upon aisle of clothing, handbags, and shoes but entire sections devoted to furniture, household goods, electronics, books, and records. If you don't find what you're looking for the first time, don't despair; new old merchandise is arriving constantly. And sales benefit a good cause: the Vietnam Veterans of America.

The man locked safely in his cage of yellow metal bars has to press the buzzer to open the first layer of metal bars to let you in. This time it's two young men, who carry a thirteen-inch television set to the pawning counter for quick cash. A family slumped in plastic chairs in the corner waits for the more complex loan negotiations of the group's patriarch to conclude. A teenage girl considers a dozen gold chains laid out in the case next to the handguns. Scores of rings with stories to tell twinkle up from another case. "We've got a sale on: 50 percent off all the gold," the salesman croons. He slips a gold band studded with green and white stones on her finger. "You see this ring?" he asks. "This is real emeralds. JC Penney gonna charge you $700." He flips over the price tag triumphantly -- $255, before the discount. "We buy low and sell low, so the customer gets a good value," he explains. A man steps up to the counter to inquire about buying a TV. The salesman has just the one for him. Another customer slips out the door at the next buzz. "Okay, I see you tomorrow," the salesman calls out, disappointed for the briefest moment. He knows it's just the middle of the 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily shift. There'll be other sales.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®