At this small, unassuming store on the northern fringes of Little Havana, dancers can purchase everything they need to dress up their routine. Danskin unitards that normally sell for $50 or $60 can be had here for little more than $20. On our last visit we came across the most inexpensive pair of jazz boots we've ever seen. The selection is broad enough to include both jingle and straight taps, not to mention every type of tight, even up to the impossible-to-find plus sizes. And although StarStyled is an independent store unaffiliated with any chain (which is nice), it's still established enough to sell the Capezio brand (which is even nicer).

Books & Books
Courtesy of Books & Books
Maybe Miles Davis's Kind of Blue is playing when you walk in. Maybe you spot on the newsstand a literary magazine you've never heard of -- Tin House, for example. Maybe when you're inside the store, slowly looking over the new books displayed on tables and the older stock arrayed on dark-wood shelves that reach far overhead, something reminds you of a long-ago favorite. Maybe it's John Updike's Rabbit, Run. Maybe at that moment a bookstore employee walks by, and you ask about the book, and she says, "Yes, right over here." And maybe, seconds later, she hands you a recent Ballantine Books trade paperback edition, and it is cool to the touch. Maybe you then decide to buy a cup of coffee at the in-store café and walk out into the courtyard to sit at a table under a palm. "Boys are playing basketball around a telephone pole with a backboard bolted to it. Legs, shouts," you read. Maybe right then you appreciate how fortunate you are.
I could see this dame was trouble the minute I laid eyes on her. A tough-looking blonde with a hard smile and a bagful of sideways glances. Yeah, I knew better than to ask her for help. So I just browsed the aisles and bided my time. They were all there, 8000 sordid little stories of greed, lust, and dead bodies. The cocky bastards had even left their bloody handprints on the back wall, signing their names, just asking to get caught.
Here is a real find for political-science junkies interested in Latin America. Tucked into a strip mall across from Tropical Park, this Colombian-owned store specializes in a collection of books that concentrates on social upheaval throughout the Americas. Since 1989 its owners, Eduardo and Norma Duran, have imported the latest and most important Latin literature directly from South American publishing houses. Their collection includes titles not normally found in Miami's Latin bookstores. For example, Eduardo says he's proud to carry books and journals written from every side of the conflict in his home country. As a result the shop has become a haunt for academics and curious readers of all nationalities. While the book collection also includes translations of self-help, science-fiction, metaphysics, and best-sellers, the place does live up to its name: magazines and newspapers. The Durans offer hard-to-find copies of Central and South American papers like Argentina's El Clarín and Colombia's El Tiempo and El Espectador. Libreria's popularity among Westchester Latinos could be indicative of Miami's shifting populations: Ever-increasing numbers of Colombianos, Peruanos, Argentinos, and Chilenos are walking through the door.
The word "records" is a bit of a misnomer these days, given that Blue Note owner Bob Perry has transferred the bulk of his store's vinyl to a separate jazz annex a few blocks away. But despite that additional schlep now required for those still, ahem, possessing needles and in need of a twelve-inch fix, Blue Note remains the best one-stop shop in Miami for folks whose tastes run deeper than the narrow offerings served up on the radio. Indeed it's that very focus on the offbeat, the forgotten classic, and the current avant-garde that keeps hip-hop fans, indie rockers, gospel lovers, Philly soul aficionados, and Latin boogaloo freaks alike all poring through Blue Note's aisles. Best of all, if you can sing a verse of it -- no matter how off key -- the helpful staff here will do their best to track it down, and they'll even be courteous enough to wait until you leave before commenting on how you managed to redefine the words tone deaf. Now that's service worth saluting.
Grooveman
Other stores may have larger selections, but Grooveman is the DJ's record store. Stocked with everything relevant -- from club standards to obscure imports -- Grooveman concentrates solely on a DJ's needs, resisting the temptation to turn the shop into another South Beach tourist trap. With an inventory that spans the electronic-music spectrum, Grooveman carries just about every style of wax-cutting available: progressive house, trance, jungle, breakbeats -- no genre is absent. Even hip-hop gets a section, clearly making the point that two turntables, no matter what's spinning on them, makes a DJ. The staff is knowledgeable. Six listening stations are available. It's also a great place to spot members of the DJ elite such as co-owner George Acosta and Miami's favorite guest, house legend Danny Tenaglia.
Looking for that old Bola de Nieve bolero your abuelo used to sing? Itching for a copy of that Pablo Neruda poem set to music by Aterciopelados but you can't remember what it's called? Eager to hear the latest releases from Cuba, Brazil, Colombia, or Spain? Has collecting round discs etched with music gone beyond being your hobby to becoming an obsession? Get thee to the Museo del Disco, the Latin music superstore opened last year by long-time distributor Hinsul Lazo. With a softly carpeted showroom that houses rack upon rack of records categorized by genre, national origin, and in some cases even record label, the Museo is indeed like a museum. But don't be fooled; Lazo's experience in distribution has led him to build up a state-of-the-art search engine that can find in an instant whatever you're hankering for. And if it's not in the store, the folks at Museo will get it for you. Now, how did that old Gran Combo chorus go again?
Uncle Sam's Music
As those wise men of dance culture, the Village People, once opined, "You can't stop the music." That's definitely the motto over at Uncle Sam's, which took this award last year and deserves it again in 2002. Why? Because a never-ending supply of used CDs keeps turning over, rewarding a weekly stop whether you're seeking the latest beats from clubland, tomorrow's altrock heroes, or that elusive Neil Diamond collection. Even better are the listening stations, allowing you to actually hear that act you just read about but aren't quite ready to invest with $7.98.
This diminutive storefront looks unremarkable from the outside. You might even miss it if you're not paying attention. But on the inside, where every available square inch is taken up by clothes, jewelry, and accessories, it's pretty darn amazing. Twice As Nice is all secondhand merchandise, but much of it has barely or never been touched. These aren't thrift-store clothes. Sexy evening gowns, workout apparel, business wear, jeans and tops -- all the latest fashions in perfect condition. And all priced to sell fast. They must move the inventory quickly. Otherwise you'd never be able to get through the door.
Let us ask you something. Are you gonna buy the ten-inch Jeff Stryker molded-plastic cock from just any purveyor of the prurient, or are you going to buy it from the little neighborhood porn shop that's been helping Miami get off for more than 30 years? That's what we thought. Actually the Pussycat is one of four stores owned by Ed Sharpe -- in New York, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale. The Greenwich Village Pink Pussycat also has a storied three-decade history, with officials comparing it favorably with the seedier porn shops that once choked Times Square. Same story in Miami, with city officials raising their hackles only a few times in 30 years. As in 1998, when city inspectors tried to tell the Pink Pussycat it couldn't sell the adult novelty items it had been selling for 25 years. "What is Coconut Grove without a Pink Pussycat?" Sharpe asked at the time. "It's the flavor of the Grove. It's not adult books with peep-show machines. It's a quaint little adult toy store." The Pussycat is primarily geared toward women, featuring an array of dildos, vibrators, tickling panties, videos, and naughty chocolates. But there is something for everyone, such as novelty items like inflatable sheep and fun buttons that say things like: "Is my dick too long for this dress?" For the control-freak man in your life, the store offers a vibrator with a recorder that will capture up to ten seconds of your one and only screaming, "Who's your daddy!"

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®