"There used to be dive shops all over the place," says Judy Miller. "Now we're the only one in the area." As the owners of Divers Den Miami, Judy and her husband Jim have been running this one-stop shop for undersea fun since 1977. Experienced divers can rent or buy any equipment they need in this place, which is neatly tucked away in the Shops of Kendall strip mall. Uzzi gear? Check. Mares goggles? There are many pairs, ranging from $60 to $79. A Currents snorkel vest for $49.95? Snap it all up here. And wannabe divers can obtain scuba certification through the store, which staffs two instructors (one of whom is also a trainer of dive instructors, and a University of Miami professor). Dive training sessions are scheduled first in area pools and then with charter groups in the shallow reefs of the northern Florida Keys, and the review course costs just $150. But the best reason to stop by Divers Den is for friendly conversation with the Millers and to meet the store mascot, a galloping galoot of a chocolate lab named DuPont, who plops his furry paws atop the counter as though he's ready to ring up your purchase.
Ohh yeah! Feeeel the burnnnn! Ahh! Ahh! Oh I can barely lift my arm 'cause I did so many! I did over a thousand! Now look at my guns! Look at that cannonball bicep! Don't you just want to squeeze it? Oh yeah! Look, I can even flex my eyelid muscle! And I work this perfect buff bod at MPower's new location! It's a gleaming monolith to fitness! It's Globo Gym XXX-Large! An annual $469 membership gets you unlimited aerobic and yoga classes, supervised childcare, and free parking. For an additional $30 a month, you receive unlimited spinning classes. MPower also offers short-term plans such as an $80 one-month membership or $270 for six months. And for those of you who aren't complete without your faux tan, MPower offers the latest skin-baking technology. Tanning packages range from $12 to $160.
The smoky-sweet scent of tobacco permeates the air at the El Crédito Cigar Factory. It's an aroma that Ernesto Perez-Carillo Jr. has breathed all of his life. As a young boy in Cuba, he toured his father's tobacco farms. The family's factory was among the island's finest. But the clan moved the business to Miami after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution and now the business Perez-Carillo Sr. began on the island in 1948 continues under the strong, capable leadership of his son. To honor his father's memory, Ernesto has outfitted the factory with mahogany humidors, rolling tables, and cabinets in the old Havana style. "Times have changed, but we try to keep the atmosphere that my father had in his factory," Perez-Carillo Jr. says. This little place on Calle Ocho has earned an international reputation. The four brands that the factory turns out -- La Gloria Cubana, La Hoja Selecta, El Rico Habano, and Dos Gonzales -- each has a distinctive flavor and shape. Employees are encouraged to experiment with the tobacco, to marry complex essences and aromas from Ecuador, North America, and the Dominican Republic in order to create a unique blend. La Gloria Cubana cigars are considered among the nation's best, ranging in price from $1.15 for the panetelas to $2.65 for the fat, pyramid-shape piramides. Cigar aficionados including Robert Goulet, Bill Cosby, and (ahem) Bill Clinton have visited the factory to watch the proud Cuban workers sing traditional songs while twisting stogies fit for royalty. Whether you're a tobacco addict, a curious newbie, or a connoisseur, you can stop by the adjacent retail outlet to buy a cigar, or call to schedule a tour and watch expert roleros from the motherland practice a longstanding island art form.
Shell Lumber and Hardware
Ordinarily the process of buying two-by-fours, screwdrivers, hammers, and dry wall is far from heartwarming. But purchasing a nail gun at Shell is strangely therapeutic. There's the great service -- almost everyone seems to be of Bob Vila quality; you can find an expert on mahogany, bathroom fixtures, and security systems. There's also the setting. Shell is stuffed like your grandmother's attic. If you buy an obscure item -- a rare screw, perhaps -- there's a chance some staffer will clamber up a ladder to pull it from a mysterious, unreachable place twenty feet high. But the reason we like Shell better than the entirely serviceable Home Depots of the world is not the service. Nor is it the setting, the presence of two million lineal feet and 330 types of molding, or the claims that it sells more stainless-steel fasteners than anyone in the industry. No, that's not it. It's not even Shell's seniority (it has been in Miami since 1928). We like this store because of its friendly details. The free coffee, free popcorn, free Gatorade, and the courtesy phone. Even if you're not a contractor, you'll have a good time at Shell.
Quartermaster Sales
Don't be spooked by the apparently armless camouflage-clad child mannequin that greets you outside. This shop on a busy stretch of South Dixie Highway has everything you'll need to hole up in a survivalist bunker during your next paranoid delusion about a United Nations invasion of South Florida. Of course, you have your pick of combat boots, camo, and personalized dog tags, but there's plenty of other intriguing stuff too. How about taking home an Israeli gas mask, a chest pack for your ammo clips, or a field guide to the M-60 machine gun? Why not try on a head-to-toe suit that makes you look like a deadly lump of weeds? Or maybe you could pick up some World War II replica insignia patches, a stun gun, or just a good old "Insured by Colt" bumper sticker. Get here before the UN does. Quartermaster Sales is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am. to 7:00 p.m. and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Tucked away in a little strip mall, Judaica Enterprises has pretty much everything you'd expect -- bins full of kippoh, educational Jewish children's games, menorahs of all varieties, and shofars of various lengths. What sets Judaica Enterprises apart is its extensive stock of Jewish texts -- more than 7000 titles, according to owner Joseph Bronstein. In the store and its nearby warehouse, you'll find books about Jewish cooking, Hebrew-language instruction, humor, Jewish history, marriage and relationships, Jewish travel, and a solid selection of Spanish-language Judaica. Bronstein and his staff will go out of their way to help you find what you're looking for. "People who work here are usually knowledgeable," Bronstein says with a sly smile. If you don't want to schlep out of your way, they'll ship your order to you. Judaica Enterprises is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and it's closed Saturdays and Jewish Holidays.
It's Saturday night, and you want to get wasted. Not just giggling, slurring-your-words wasted -- your mission is to become intoxicated past the point of being in control of your bodily functions. Well, then King Liquors has what you need. Walk past the seemingly endless wine racks, which are laden with an incredible assortment of wine, champagne, and sake. Pass the wall of schnapps and curaçaos. Ignore the Johnny Walkers, which come in red, gold, green, and blue. Don't waste your time with the multihue cognac-laced beverages, the Alize, Envy, Hypnotiq, Destinee, and X-Rated liqueurs. You're looking for something different tonight. Something that looks like trouble. And there it is, sandwiched between Dooley's Toffee Liqueur and Jägermeister. Absente, Absinthe Refined. The real stuff has been illegal in America since 1912, but this dazzling, emerald green French import is distilled with Southern wormwood and still packs a 110-proof wallop. A mere $43.99 for a taste of la fée verte and the glamour of belle époque Paris sounds like a bargain. Quick, stock up on minibottles and a few six packs of beer for your less courageous buddies. Next stop is the nearest convenience store to score some sugar cubes.
These sister shops, which sit ten blocks apart on Calle Ocho, carry a wide variety of inexpensive yet tasty wines. They also offer some specimens so rare and prized they'd make the most seasoned sommelier salivate. Stashed behind Best Time's counter, for example, is a bottle of 1967 Château d'Yquem ($700) -- one of the most choice vintages from a famed Bordeaux vineyard that hand-selects each grape. The stores' uncommon vinous medley comes care of Philippe Douriez, their gentle-mannered French proprietor. Not only does he cultivate variety by rotating his stock, but he also searches out coveted vintages and welcomes new wines from little-known vineyards. In addition, he buys in bulk, which allows him to offer among the best prices in town. But customers say value and variety are just a part of the stores' appeal. Both locations have a low-key, unpretentious vibe and delightfully funky décor. (At Happy Wine, the carpet is tattered, the walls are covered with graffiti, and the water-stained ceilings resemble a giant Rorschach test.) And around lunchtime both morph into lively cafés serving tapas to a spirited, mostly Cuban crowd that clusters around tables crafted from wine barrels and rickety crates. Happy Wine also offers live music five nights a week, which brings merengue and salsa dancers out en masse and occasionally spawns conga lines. Note that Fridays are by far the liveliest, but they're also the most crowded, so it's best to arrive early if you want a table.
Schnebly Redland's Winery
That's right: no grapes. You've gotta try it before you judge. The Schneblys make some delicious little wines from a local tropical harvest that includes mango, guava, and passion fruit. The clean, crisp nature of the carambola (star fruit) wine ($13.95) makes it the most reminiscent of a traditional white. The yummy litchi and mango varieties are basically dessert in a glass ... dessert plus eleven percent alcohol, natch. Schnebly is a tiny winery, with a pretty coral waterfall, that's within spitting distance of Everglades National Park. That makes it the southernmost winery in the continental United States, at least as far as we can tell. So yes, you have to trek to Homestead to sip. But there are advantages. After tippling, you can stop by Robert Is Here and pick up some juicy tidbits with which to enjoy these luscious, syrupy finds. Try the guava wine with cheesecake, and prepare to swoon.
Miami has beautiful women and wonderful weather. And trust that we're no slouch in the killer bud department. Our fair city might not have the stonerific rep of Humboldt County in California, Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, or anywhere in Canada, but damn, if you know where to look and your pockets are deep enough, you can score some blueberry yum-yum good enough for a rap song. Tasty Mary Jane demands a quality smoking apparatus -- preferably a water pipe with an ice chamber to chill the smoke and filter the flavor on the way to your lungs. The best place to get a bong like that is High Tide. A random afternoon stroll through the spacious store can reveal a fascinatingly diverse variety of customers -- old hippies with gray ponytails, seasoned local veterans, and giggling, glassy-eyed University of Miami sorority girls all cluster around the glass cabinets. Laid-back attendants help you figure out the difference between a sherlock and a sidecar, or explain the finer differences between Philly, Dutchies, and Garcia y Vega blunts. Best of all, the prices are just right. You can buy a simple hammer pipe for $30, or invest in an ornate, display-worthy bong adorned with hand-blown glass butterflies for $300.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®