Miami Police Supply
Are you ready for the End Times? They're coming. People ascribe different causes to the approaching apocalypse, but everyone knows it's nearly upon us. Whether the bottom drops out of the economy, terrorists turn our streets into Beirut, or God checks out Married by America and decides it's high time for the final reckoning, the few poor souls left to roam our city's blasted-out streets will stay alive only by dint of their preparedness. Miami Police Supply has all the gear you'll need for urban warfare and survival: camouflage and SWAT uniforms, emergency lights and sirens, bulletproof vests ($359 for a Triflex Level IIA), and brand-new .40-caliber Sig Sauer handguns (around $700, chicken feed for a gun described by a Miami Police Supply salesman as "the Mercedes of handguns"). The eager and knowledgeable black-clad pistoleros who staff Miami Police Supply will also be happy to show you their supply of cheaper weaponry, like the infamous Intratec 9mm, known as the cheap gun of choice for crack warriors in the Nineties and one of the weapons used in the Columbine school massacre.

Uncle Sam's Music
You're forgiven if you didn't realize Uncle Sam's had a used-CD section. After all, with its thumping house beats acting as a pied piper to club kids passing by on the sidewalk, the store would appear at first glance to be a one-stop shop for nightcrawlers: glow sticks, high-sugar candy, striking jewelry, and all the incense, posters, and tchotchkes needed to redecorate your crib the morning after. But in the midst of all these lifestyle accessories, Uncle Sam's hasn't forgotten about the actual music. Its used section remains the area's most diverse, with a steady stream of new releases coming in every week. Even better: listening stations to hear a CD before buying it. Admittedly the $7.99 price isn't quite the bargain it once was in this age of free Internet downloads and CD burners, but for those with neither the time nor the wherewithal to go digital -- or those still wedded to the old-fashioned method of browsing -- these are the overstuffed bins of choice to paw through.

William J. Fleischer's four-year-old business in the heart of the Design District repairs, restores, sells, and even rents almost all stringed instruments -- violins, violas, cellos, and basses. Catering to local and visiting classical musicians as well as students of varied ages and skill levels, the store boasts a staff of five, working under the direction of Fleischer, who studied violin-making in Italy and has been practicing his craft for more than 30 years. While the V-shaped glass case holds numerous bows ranging from $200 to $900, for a mere $500 a person can acquire his own instrument (plus case and bow) and take the first step toward becoming the next Itzhak Perlman or Anne-Sophie Mutter. Those more inclined to listen to violins than play them can be one of fifteen people who enjoy the shop's exclusive chamber-concert series, featuring an hors d'oeuvres reception, a performance by renowned musicians, a champagne intermission, and then a buffet dinner with the players outdoors under the stars.

The snowy-haired Dr. Smith, owner of the Trail Animal Clinic, has been tending to Miami's domestic pets since 1968. In that time he's developed a reputation for being some sort of kindly animal whisperer. Wounded or sick animals might be barking or squawking madly in the waiting room, but when Dr. Smith lays his hands on them, gently pressing their coats, probing for injuries or tense organs, furry and feathered friends mellow out. The veteran vet soothes not only his four-legged patients but also the humans who love them. Each pet and his or her master receive his full attention until everyone is agreed on the best course of action. It's that personal touch, a far different experience from the chain clinics, that makes all the difference.

Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World
Yeah, we know, it's Dania. But it has 160,000 square feet of outdoor sports equipment. Let us repeat: 160,000 square feet! More than 40 fish finders, a dozen GPS systems, eight types of kayaks, and hundreds of golf clubs. When we asked how many lures the store stocked, a nearby customer chimed in: "Too many." In our all-choice, all-the-time world, how could there be too many of anything? Bored with the lures? Take the kids to see the pike, bass, and catfish roaming the giant aquarium, or to one of the many fishing and boat shows going on around the complex. Word to the wise: If you want basketballs, baseball mitts, or football spikes, go somewhere else. But if you want to go camping in the Everglades or hunting in the Panhandle or fishing in Biscayne Bay, don't even think about going anywhere else.

Readers Choice: Sports Authority

Coral Gables Women's Club
These high-ceilinged, oolitic limestone and exposed-wood ballrooms (built in 1937) are a steal on Sundays and weekdays, when the Woman's Club rents for $650 (including chairs and tables) and the adjacent, slightly larger, Junior Woman's Club goes for $750. Fridays and Saturdays cost a bit more, but you still won't find a better deal this close to all the Gables tony shops and restaurants. The Woman's Club, a registered historic site, is also a short drive from the airport and nearby hotels.

Goldmasters is a great pawn shop because it's only partly pawn shop. The store also retails jewelry and somehow manages to shed the fouler aspects of the average casa de empeño. The store has a pretty good jewelry selection and good service, but the best things about the store are those qualities it doesn't have: the air of desperation, junkies pawning the family TV again, cynical and mean-spirited characters sneering from behind the counter. So if you have to hock Grandma's necklace because the Hurricanes didn't cover the spread, do it at Goldmasters, where you'll feel more like an average shopper and less like the degenerate gambler that you probably are.

For the third year in a row, New Concept wins kudos for its already large -- and growing -- selection of films that are not plentiful elsewhere. For one, as much space is devoted to foreign fare as new arrivals (and within the newbies is a subset of foreign flicks). Cinephiles particularly appreciate the grouping of works by distinguished directors such as Kurosawa, Fassbinder, Passolini, and the like. New Concept also stocks a hefty number of independent and gay-themed titles, many of which Miami-based film lovers are resigned to viewing on the small screen since such movies often are only shown at festivals or via limited theatrical distribution. You can also find the Hollywood hits as well as adult product appealing to various persuasions, which you ain't never gonna get at Blockbuster.

BEST PLACE TO BUY BRAZILIAN BIKINIS AT A BARGAIN

Brazilian Fashion

Ever since the girl from Ipanema wore one, inspiring Antonio Carlos Jobim to compose the international hit song, the skimpy two-piece from Brazil has endured as the sexiest swimwear fashion statement there is. A variety of minimalist styles have emerged over the years -- from the tiny tanga, which consists of about an ounce of fabric, to the triangular halter and the boomerang. Each summer the new styles seem to turn more revealing. By offering maximum exposure, the Brazilian bikini has blurred the line as to what should constitute nude sunbathing. But though more skin means less fabric, in most bathing-suit boutiques, particularly those in South Beach, the Brazilian label also translates into muito dinheiro. Not at Brazilian Fashion. Quality, affordability (bikinis go for $28), and an array of styles and colors to choose from make this Brazilian-owned store stand out on the retail runway.

This is the Alhambra of local shopping malls. Village of Merrick Park could put CocoWalk in its back pocket. It is a step up from Aventura Mall, and you're outside. Located a stone's throw from South Dixie Highway and Ponce de Leon Boulevard, the Village is a three-level, open-air fortress containing 115 "designer boutiques," which means stores full of a lot of high-quality stuff that a lot of thought went into. Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom's hold down the fort. Beyond merchandise, the Village also has towering palm trees, a kid-friendly fountain, and one adult sanctuary, the Elemis Day Spa. Bring plenty of money, for shopping is nothing without money. Even if you have none, you can still feel that sense of well-being the high-rollers do here. Abundance, style, quality, and glamour abound. Maybe someone will invite you to enjoy some pricey cuisine from chef Norman Van Aken's Mundo or chef Peter Hansen's Pescado.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®