Ay, Mami! When Tio took us to see the trucos, I got too scared! There's this big witch's head when you walk in the door, and it's so ugly! I told Tio I had to go back to the car but he just laughed at me. Then you go in and they have all these body parts you can put on and look really scary, and then there's these mummy sort of masks where you look like you've been buried for a long time. Then Tio throws a humongous cucaracha at me and I almost died! Except it was just plastic. They have so many things made out of plastic but they look totally real. You can put this mouth on over your mouth with rotten teeth and shriveled-up lips. Well, finally this lady showed me how I could dress up like a princess with a crown and sparkly shoes and a beautiful dress, and even a wig, so I wasn't very nervous anymore. But Tio kept scaring me and making me look at witches and monsters and yucky things like piles of caca, but they weren't real, and he told me I had to go back there every day. Mami, don't let him get me!

Warning! If you own a PC, this is not for you. But if you own an Apple, consider yourself in heaven. When your maniac Mac goes totally bozo, which scenario would you prefer: 1) While you try to explain the problem to some SuperduperSlickStore front-desk person who's basically a receptionist, your sick computer is whisked into a back room from which, weeks later, it emerges allegedly but not usually fixed, and with the repair largely unexplained. Or 2) Within minutes of the patient being carried into the store, a friendly techie has it apart in front of your anxious eyes, analyzing, explaining, and often (if parts are right there and you're desperate) repairing the problem on the spot. Normally repairs at Computer Village take only days, and involve none of the "facilitated service" megaprices the big boys often charge to just diagnose, not fix, your computer in less time than it takes your business to slip into bankruptcy. Everything is explained, including helpful hints about what to try if the patient relapses at midnight when the shop is closed. Prices are reasonable. Repairs of repairs, if necessary, are fast and free. In short you're treated like a person, not a machine. Reason enough to patronize this admittedly frumpy little shop.
Rudy Rodolfo opened his South Beach Cigar Factory five years ago, during the height of the cigar boom, at 1136 Collins Avenue in a charming storefront that looked like a walk-in mom-and-pop joint, only hip. At the time Anglo cigar bars were proliferating all over Miami, but particularly in South Beach, always Trend Central, with guys and girls in off-white, raw-silk suits puffing big, locally made, Cuban-seed Bolivars, Monte Cristos, or Cohibas, the kinds of cigars Fidel and Che, Raul and Arnold smoked back in the day. Well, the boom went bust, especially after September 11, and most Miami bars stopped smoking. But Cuba Habanos USA thrived at its other shop in Fort Lauderdale (3114 E. Sunrise Boulevard, 954-537-3386), and is about to open a new location in South Beach. Meanwhile let manager Mary Morejon recommend her specials: the Cuba 1800 Churchill for $6.58 per; the Cuba Habano at $4.50; the Monte Cristo #2 at $12, and the wonderful Romeo and Julieta #3, a 5-inch, 50-ring robusto, at $10. They're worth a ride to the factory near Miami International Airport.

Back in 1981, when Owen Lee and his wife Joan took a gamble on a business opportunity by purchasing a bicycle shop, it seemed a relatively straightforward enterprise. Inventory decisions were simple -- a limited number of manufacturers produced a limited number of models. Mountain bikes were unknown outside an elite group of enthusiasts in northern California. Since then the cycling world has been revolutionized. The number of manufacturers has exploded, and they're now producing numerous models, each available in a variety of sizes and colors. Lightweight aluminum frames have largely replaced heavy steel. Other technological advances, from shock absorbers to sophisticated shifting mechanisms, have transformed old fat-tire cruisers into sleek machines. Through it all the Lees, originally from Jamaica, have adapted and thrived. They've settled on Trek, Giant, and GT as their main brands, and stock numerous models of each. Volume purchasing allows them to lock in discounted prices. Three full-time mechanics means they can provide service seven days a week. They don't employ high-pressure salespeople and they value their customers enough to offer a 60-day in-house warranty for any problem at no cost (flat tires excepted). The Lees, who sell an average of 100 bikes each month, keep their expansive shop open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

BEST MODERATELY PRICED MODERN FURNITURE

Spasics

Pressing your nose against the windows of the ritzy furniture stores in Coral Gables has to stop. You can't afford what you stare at so longingly, and you're smudging a lot of glass. Yeah, yeah, furniture is an investment, but in this case saving pennies isn't an option. You just can't bring yourself to purchase a loveseat that rivals the cost of your rent. What to do? Stay in the Gables and saunter down the street to Spasics, where you'll find similarly stylish goods at significantly lower prices. That steel-and-glass adjustable Eileen Gray-designed side table you've lusted after for eons? A knock-off version here goes for $189, about $300 less than you'd pay for the "official" piece down the street. A black leather-and-steel tubing Le Corbusier-style chair that would command thousands elsewhere costs $895. Add to that an array of attractive and well-made bedroom and dining sets, living room furnishings, and an assortment of floor lamps (including a stainless steel torchère that seems to emit flames) hovering in the $140 range and you could be sitting, sleeping, eating, and seeing pretty sooner than you think. Those who know what they like but not how to put it together shouldn't despair. Interior design and lighting services are available.
Dolls are toys too! A toy emporium doesn't have to be packed with Pokémon, G.I. Joes, Beanie Babies, or remote-controlled cars. We'll admit it may be a little creepy walking into this two-and-a-half-year-old store, which is wall-to-wall dolls, and being stared at by a thousand pairs of eyes. But we're happy to report that one pair of peepers belongs to famous Spanish figure Mariquita Perez, a post-World War II favorite of many an affluent Latin girl. Mariquita, born in 1938 San Sebastian, Spain, sports a head full of long brown curls, big blue eyes, and a series of snazzy outfits and accessories -- straw hats, sundresses, sailor suits, and the like. Outside of Spain she is only available here, in a large porcelain-faced expensive example, an eighteen-inch vinyl version, or a mini model. In addition the eight shelves lining the long room offer playthings from the Asi Collection (designed by Angela Simon) and a slew of Madame Alexander collector's dolls, many decked out as fictional characters. Hansel and Gretel wear little lederhosen. The Wizard of Oz's Glinda the Good Witch gently wields her wand while her malevolent green-faced sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, fiercely rides her broom. Folks on a budget can pick up a book of paper dolls. And those who prefer stuffed animals over pretend people can choose from an assortment of terry-cloth-covered teddy bears, cows, and lambs. Shop Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. On Sunday the dolls get some shuteye.

Let's say that one day the devil jumps down your throat when you are caught with your mouth open, and from then on you are worse than miserable with bad luck and grief. You may be haunted, the victim of a spell. You may never know who is responsible. But let's say the only thing that will get you back on the upside of life is a one-ounce bottle of Go-Away Evil. Or in Spanish, Rompe Brujería. Marie Talia Noel has got it, at the reasonable price of three dollars. It is rose-colored, scented, and just before bedtime you can splash it on and then sleep while the demon flees. But let's say the Go-Away Evil is too weak and you remain in Beelzebub's grip. What to do then? At the number above, contact Papa Paul, a certified voodoo priest, who can mix up a custom elixir just for you.
Need we say mas?
The marketing-recycling phenomenon began in Minnesota in the Eighties with Once Upon a Child, the notion that kids outgrow their clothes, toys, and furniture so fast it's nuts to just keep buying new, then spread to sports (Play It Again), and lately to the electronic-communications frontier with places like Computer Renaissance. Out in Kendall Irv Richter has been doing bang-up volume on Wilson outfielders' gloves and Rawlings catchers' mitts ($7, $12, $30, depending on condition); exercise benches that go for hundreds at new retail but which he can move for $30; treadmills retailing at Sports Authority for $1800 to $2400 pricing out at $250; and home gyms that sell for $1500 to $3000 new going for between $200 and $600. "The average kid plays different sports in different stages," Richter explains, "and if you're a young mom or dad you might be buying for yourself too." If you can buy good merchandise at half or two-thirds off, what's the point of being snobby about "brand-new" status? Play It Again Sports will even let you give yourself discounts on trade-ins or tradeups, or selling on consignment. Even when the economy rights itself and bin Laden is just a memory, you may never want to return to Bal Harbour to shop again.
So your party is a hit. Somehow your pad is full of cool strangers who are mingling loudly around the keg of Pabst. As you approach the center you hear some chick bitching about the soggy suds being spit from the tap. Some geek is trying to impress her by dipping the spout below the canister. Although he insists he can muster up some cerveza, you know the cool brew will soon be gone. It's too late and you're much too drunk for a beer run, and letting the party sputter out will only kill your newly attained social standing. What to do? On Call Beer Express can save your sorry butt. They work the right hours (3:00 p.m. till 3:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and till 5:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday), and they stay sober so they can make door-to-door deliveries of all types of domestic and imported beers, plastic cups, cigarettes, and other party essentials all over Miami. The On Call guys also serve couch potatoes too lazy to make a beer run during prime time. They will gladly deliver the minimum order, a twelve-pack, to your front door.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®