Next to a building painted in eye-battering yellow and green, Mr. Pocketbook's bright yellow sign lures you in: "Bags $2.99 & up." Inside, a sea of vinyl, leather, and fabric awaits -- everything from the stylish leather handbags that would set you back $60 in the mall, to more affordable knockoffs of high-end brand names like Fendi and Coach, to "el cheapo" cloth and plastic varieties that spill off tables at the flea market. The store also stocks luggage, as well as children's backpacks adorned with cartoon characters. Open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Mr. Pocketbook encourages bulk shopping, offering deep discounts (a third of retail prices) when you buy a dozen or more bags. And you can mix and match your quarry from any of the boxes and still pay wholesale for each. Those opting to buy fewer purses also can save a little, especially if they're lucky. One saleswoman notes Mr. Pocketbook's prices can fluctuate, depending on the day and "how my boss is feeling."

When critics examine the infrastructure of a city's musical "scene," they usually focus on clubs, recording studios, even radio stations. Too often record stores -- the places where folks actually get their hands on a physical slice of all that musical activity -- are ignored. Blue Note Records, however, has never flown under the radar. It has had a lock on this category for eons. Regardless of the offbeat sounds lauded by New Times scribes -- far-out Chicago jazz, underground NYC rock, Bay Area hip-hop, Nigerian Afro-beat, Cuban son, even Miami bass -- you could usually find it amid Blue Note's bulging stacks. And thanks to the knowledgeable staff, chances are you'd also end up leaving with a lot more than you originally set out for: Jon Spencer Blues Explosion fans might be gently led over to a vintage Robert Nighthawk album; D'Angelo devotees might get hep to Bobby Womack. And in a city known for its Balkanization and short historical attention span, that's no small feat. Long-time shoppers therefore were a bit alarmed to see this winning formula tinkered with recently: An economic crunch forced Blue Note's entire jazz section -- once honored with its own (apparently now too expensive to rent) room -- to be carted off to a separate annex. It's nearby but definitely not receiving the stocking attention it once did. Moreover the days of one-stop shopping, not to mention aesthetic cross- pollination ("Hey, if you dig that Tortoise record, how 'bout a little Sun Ra?"), are no more. Fortunately the rest of Blue Note remains unchanged, as do the odds that something funky is going to be playing on the stereo when you step through the front door. Here's hoping it stays that way.
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.

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).
Of all the South Florida Super Skates locations, it comes as no surprise that the Beach store is the most fun -- and the most musical. Sales reps Nick, Pedro, and Merly not only skate, they all DJ as well. The turntables come out on the weekends, dropping big beats on the customers as they glide across the store, marking up the black-and-white-tile floor with their prospective K2 or Solomon blades. Super Skates caters to the recreational skater and the aggressive rail and ramp rat alike with a full set of accessories to help you skate like a pro -- or just look like one. Novices can count on special help, such as having their wheels rotated for free the first time. Jaded bladers can branch out, choosing from a full selection of skateboards and snakeboards, those long two-footed contraptions on which you propel yourself by rolling your hips like a serpent.
First let's get the semantics out of the way: They haven't called them head shops since the Seventies. The preferred moniker these days is smoke shop, though if all you're after is a good stogie, turn around and head for a cigar store. However, if your smoking urges -- nudge, nudge, wink, wink -- require some preparation, Sativa is the place. Sure you could pick up an oversize bong at any of several garish spots along Washington Avenue on South Beach. And if you're just looking to stay abreast of the latest market trends, the current issue of High Times is available at plenty of newsstands. But at Sativa the friendly staff also has your postsmoking needs in mind: A wide variety of self-detoxification kits is on display here, perfect for those occasions when your employer takes a sudden interest in your urine.

This is the Latin new-age headquarters of Miami. Librería Alpha is on this planet at this time not to offer the widest selection -- that would be the mission of frequent choices Librería Universal and La Moderna Poesia further down the street -- but to assist in the Spanish-speaking soul's evolvement. Just about every metaphysical and self-help book you have ever heard of is here: translations of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus and Codependent No More, as well as the ever-popular A Course in Miracles. Many teachers and disciplines are well represented: Sai Baba and the Dalai Lama, feng shui and qi gong. There are plenty of works, too, by Latin-American writers and therapists most English-speaking new agers have never heard of, plus obscure mystical fiction and nonfiction by luminaries such as Papus, Noah ben Shea, Professor Donato. Finally no new-age nerve center would be complete without crystals and wind chimes, and Alpha's really are celestial.

Almost hidden in the downtown maul of electronics and shoe stores is a sportinggoods retailer that caters to South American visitors -- like everyone else downtown -- but also remains attractive to locals with an athletically active bent. A family-owned business, Miami Fantasias sells everything the weekend warrior might need, from fishing poles to Ping-Pong paddles, tennis rackets to heart monitors, and even that spear gun you might have been eyeing (nervously). Miami Fantasias excels most notably as a dive shop. New certification classes start every Monday. Dive trips on one of the store's three boats depart from Miami every day. Longevity in cutthroat downtown is one indication of the store's ability to satisfy its customers. Founded in 1978, Fantasias has grown into a thriving business, today employing more than 45 helpful, consumer-oriented employees. Jog in. Dive in. Ping-Pong paddle in. Just get in.
If you've ever stepped on a Lego block in the middle of the night, you probably have little desire to see one of the knubby little bastards again -- unless, of course, you're buying them for someone else's kid. If that's the case, wouldn't you like to patronize an independent local shop rather than some huge chain with an overgrown giraffe for a mascot? Welcome to Toy Town, where the staff is friendly and helpful. And since the people who work there aren't preoccupied chasing kids armed with hockey sticks and Koosh balls down runway-size aisles, they can devote plenty of attention to helping you find the perfect gift for a little loved one -- whether it's educational toys, craft projects, an addition to her Hello Kitty arsenal, or the latest robotic Lego set. Toy Town has some big-store conveniences, too: a merchandise catalogue, online ordering, and customer-service perks the megastores can't muster, such as gift wrapping and free delivery for Key Biscayne residents (but don't push your luck by asking them to drop off a single Beanie Baby).
As any serious bibliophile will tell you, the first mark of a good used bookstore is the presence of dust: The more you feel like running home for a shower after digging through its stacks, the greater your chances of scoring a true find there. So try not to hold Eutopia's well-lit and neatly scrubbed interior against it -- plenty of out-of-print titles abound, from K.S. Karol's still-unmatched field study of Castro's Cuba, Guerrillas in Power, to a wall's worth of collectible photography tomes. Although shop hours are slightly truncated (2:00 to 9:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday) and there are other formidable used bookstores around South Florida (Kendall Bookshelf continues to impress and Robert A. Hittel, Bookseller is well worth the schlep up to Fort Lauderdale), there's still something delightfully perverse about this oh-so-idiosyncratic tribute to the literary world being located just off the now-defunkified Lincoln Road, within spitting distance of the Gap and Williams-Sonoma.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®