Flower Megastore
Mostly they travel by plane from farms in Colombia. Those that aren't destroyed by U.S. Customs are trucked into refrigerated warehouses for distribution to retailers. They are then sold at floral shops and by petal peddlers at intersections or roadside kiosks. Each time they change hands, flowers lose a bit of freshness while increasing in price. This versatile showroom, office, and warehouse allows the public to cut out the middlemen and buy directly from a wholesaler. Open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., this joint provides the highest-quality blooms: tulips from Holland or North Carolina (about $3 per stem), roses (a bundle of 25 for $10), carnations ($2 or so each), and tons of other colorful and sweetly aromatic blossoms priced to go. (Ask and they'll create a custom arrangement as well.) From large-scale florists to corner purveyors, this sweet-smelling depot serves everyone seeking the finest blooms.
Off the beaten path of Krome Avenue, New Source is almost exclusively wholesale, but the proprietors will make an exception if you pull up and start browsing. Not as orchid- or palm-centric as some of its competitors, New Source has acres of reasonably priced ferns, tropicals, and flowering plants. A lemon button fern, purple lantana shrub, or Mexican heather -- in a six-inch pot -- costs less than $3. There are plenty of palms -- from the Adonidia in a seventeen-inch pot for $120, to the Washigtonia in a ten-inch pot for $6.50. Red hibiscus in a ten-inch pot goes for $5.50, and bougainvillea on a trellis in a fourteen-incher is $30. Owner Raul Mendoza is friendly and knowledgeable. He'll help you find an exotic island plant or foliage ideal for your windowsill. There are also supplies such as ground cover, fertilizer, peat moss, and potting soil. New Source is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturday.
Scrapbooks & Stuff
Since the invention of photography, pictures have been thrown into plain albums where they fade into dust. Or maybe they're just crammed into boxes and shoved in a closet somewhere, forgotten until some distant aunt comes to visit and begs to take a look. Yet a recent artistic movement is redefining the way photos are presented. It's called scrapbooking, and it has become so popular that even Target has a section dedicated to the craft. If you want to make a beautiful scrapbook, though, skip the superstore and head to Scrapbooks & Stuff. This shop stocks even the things you never knew you needed for a fantastic memory album. It has stickers, die-cuts, ribbons, beads, and even decorative staples. An entire wall is covered with just the books, and each set of shelves is dedicated to a specific scrapbook category. It even shows samples pages of various adhesives. You can buy scissors that cut in a curvy pattern and hole punchers that make any shape. Before you purchase the whole store, however, check out the crop room -- just bring your paper, and the friendly staff will provide all the tools you need to create your book. If you're not confident enough to venture into the scrapbooking world on your own, register for one of the shop's many classes. Instructors will teach you some great techniques and make you a scrapbooking addict before the first page of your album dries. Hours are Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Friday 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5:00 p.m.
Ransom Everglades School
There are plenty of pricey private schools in Miami where kids can get prepped for Hah-vard or Yale. They all have awe-inspiring campuses with topnotch athletic facilities and stimulating arts programs. But in too many cases, the youngsters must drive, walk, or bike to class. We chose Ransom Everglades because we want our kids to kayak to school. Or, better yet, if the wind is right, we want them to sail on over and slip the family sloop into the Coconut Grove school's Biscayne Bay dock. Then they can walk through the thick, old-growth hammock to class. Of course we like Ransom because of its quality academics, its Zen-like campus setting, and it's track record of Ivy League admits. But we love Ransom because of its pioneering eco-oriented curriculum (for twenty years, ninth-graders have been going on Outward Bound canoe trips to the Everglades) and its unique seagoing curriculum (marine biology, kayaking, sailing, a wooden-boat-building workshop). We also dig the school's long tradition of theater. A stone's throw from the Coconut Grove Playhouse, Ransom has classes on playwriting, script analysis, and even musical theater -- last year the school put on a production of the racy The Laramie Project. Total tuition: $20,400 per year. But don't give up hope -- you can apply for financial aid.
A & M Comics
Dust-coated, cluttered, and filled with vintage goodies, A & M Comics looks more like your grandmother's attic than a retail store. Stepping into the dimly lit space, you have to be careful to bypass customers squatting over the extensive collection of comics piled in the narrow pathways. Very quickly you'll suffer sensory overload; the gems will be lost among the indistinguishable mass of stock. As your vision adjusts to the heaps of boxes and cellophane covers, it'll be easy to see why A & M has been around since 1974. Aside from the seemingly infinite amount of mainstream and independent comics, there is a well-rounded selection of collectibles -- an H.R. Pufnstuf figure, a $400 1940 Superman jigsaw puzzle, ancient porn magazines, and Mad magazine Issues 1 through 40. There's even an early edition of Charles Dickens's works. And the employees are pleasantly unpretentious. As the chatty fellow behind the counter will tell you: "We're messy and disorganized, but we have great customer service."
TO: Chuck Strouse, editor
FROM: Best of Miami research department
RE: Retiring a category

Boss, it's time to retire this category. Year after year after year, our intrepid team explores every nook of this fine city in hopes of finding a newsstand even better than Worldwide. Doesn't happen. Year after year after year, the award goes to this purveyor of all things readable and disposable. This place has all the big dailies, many small ones, and all the big mags, many so obscure they don't even have Websites; there's everything from the Nation to Taboo, from the National Review to Asian Cult Cinema, from Fishwrap to Bitch (which isn't about dogs). They even sell ice cream to enhance the browsing and reading experience. This is not good news, though. What does it say about a city that doesn't have great magazine and newspaper dealers all over the place? Not sure. Well go to Worldwide and read up on the subject. Thanks, sir. See you next year.

No, it's not a conventional bookstore, but hell, Miami is no conventional town. Chain stores dominate this field, and they're all pretty good, so if you have no patience, just go to one of them. But the street fair at this annual event spans one blissful, beautiful, blessed week every autumn -- this year it will take place November 12 to 19 -- and is a book lover's answered prayer. You can pick from pages in every imaginable category, and you can stock up on enough new publications to last until next year. Yes, the street fair coaxes every bookworm from here to Topeka to burrow out from beneath the covers, but half the fun is mingling with other people who love books as much as you do. To top it off, of course, there's the Author's Congress, where you can ask your favorite poet about just how he mastered that Cyrillic onomatopoeia. Heaven.
Okay, we're in South Florida, so there's no crackling fireplace with swirling snow outside, but dammit if this isn't the coziest, warmest, most conversation-inducing joint in town. People don't just exchange used copies of Dostoevsky or Darwin here; they trade thoughts, opinions, and ideas. And they go hunting, albeit in the shelves for things like a first-edition Jane Austen, an autographed Toni Morrison, or, say, the John Irving collection, 1982-1997. Steve Elliot and his family/staff might not have what you want in stock, but if it exists on this Earth, they will dig through tundra to find it for you. You can also bring in your used books. They don't always pay cash for them; sometimes they'll give you a ridiculously generous store credit instead. And, unlike some used bookstores, Kendall Bookshelf really doesn't carry new books, leaving that up to the suits down the street. In fact the Bookshelf folks love reading so much that they actually welcome the corporate stores with a "Woohoo! People reading!" attitude. What distinguishes this place from the Big B's -- and keeps it beloved -- is an emphasis on service and community. Staff members have a joyful and staggering knowledge of books and a near-photographic memory of customer preferences. Want a place where everybody knows your name? Skip the bar (and the corporate barista), grab some brewed java, and settle in.
Ninety-year-old Luigi De Luca has been cutting hair for 25 years in South Florida, but the Sicilian can and will address any topic thrown at him with the air of a man whose knowledge far exceeds his chosen craft. Want to know about horseracing? De Luca has more than a few tips; he's been cutting hair at Calder Race Course (and Hialeah before that) for a quarter-century. How about opera? De Luca used to perform, and by his account, could have been one of the greats. He's happy to dish about famous tenors, national politics, or anything else. When you sit in Luigi's chair, the haircut is secondary to the conversation.
Christian Garcia was a sixteen-year-old boy fresh off his exodus from Cuba when he began stitching together suits with his father in 1961. Pops had opened a modest little shop on NE Second Avenue in downtown Miami. In 1989, after inheriting his father's trade, Garcia moved the family business to the City Beautiful, where the now 61-year-old tailor weaves suits, slacks, dress shirts, tuxedos, and sport coats. Christian Garcia is a bona fide custom tailor who does not perform alterations. "We have people from all walks of life, from rabbis to politicians to prominent businessmen," Garcia says of his clientele. "We carry strictly European lines such as Italy's Loro Piana, Parisian line Dormeuil, Scabal from Brussels, England's Holland & Sherry, and another ten smaller specialty houses." Garcia, who employs a staff of six tailors, promises a sophisticated gentleman can walk away with a great two-piece suit for $3,995. The shop is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturdays. However, Garcia notes, you must make an appointment. "It usually takes about an hour-and-a-half to measure you, get to know you, your personality, your style," he says. "But if you want to come in at 8:00 in the evening, we are more than willing to accommodate you." Now that's class.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®