Avalon Game Shop
In this era of one-click online shopping, comic book shops need to deliver more than just the average monthly Spider-Man series if they want to survive. Dean and Sandra Gonzales, owners of Avalon Manga Shop, recognize the value of putting together a brick-and-mortar space for Miami's comic book heads. Open since 2004, Avalon is an oasis for collectors of all ages, with an emphasis on Japanese "manga" comics and the more traditional (but no less fun) DC and Marvel superhero volumes. But comics are just a small part of Avalon's cool appeal. The store is jam-packed with many other fun collectibles, from Star Wars action figures to rare anime DVDs. What's more, Avalon holds in-store Dungeons and Dragons game sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It even boasts an avid community of Yu-Gi-Oh! card game enthusiasts, who meet on Saturdays for biweekly tournaments. If they don't got it, the stubborn staff will subscribe (at no extra charge to you) to any rare titles not available in the store.
Bustling capitals like New York City and San Francisco feature boutiques where things like sneakers and toys are displayed as pieces of pop art. Now thanks to the newly opened Soles Inc., Miamians can take part in the underground movement of Japanese subculture shops. The brainchild of Japanese owner Kenichiro Konomi, Soles carries the most comprehensive collection of Asian limited-edition items in all of South Florida. Its sneakers and action figures are all imported from Japan. The walls of the store are covered with Japanese designer toys, like a twelve-inch Bruce Lee: Game of Death figure ($500) created by designer Arnie Kim. Graffiti art, Japanese BAPE sneakers, and colorful Casio G-watches can be found here too. Soles also functions as an art gallery, and it's currently featuring work by Japanese photographer Yoshimitsu Takano.
El áGuila Vidente
Don't let the mysterious and somewhat cramped storefront keep you from venturing inside. Never mind that the windows are still taped up from last year's hurricane season and that the shop is darkly lit. Behind the web of duct tape crisscrossing this gritty botanica's panes is "Sister Maria" (she won't give a last name). For $35 she'll provide spiritual advice to the destitute or unlucky in one of the shop's dreary back rooms. Following a tarot card reading, she'll be happy to suggest a menu of ritual cleansings. They fluctuate in price, but Sister Maria says they're "guaranteed to be 100 percent" effective at curing whatever ails you. The modest shop is overflowing with aromatic baths to bring luck, astral perfumes to ward off the evil eye, and ropes of multicolor beads symbolizing each of the Afro-Cuban deities or saints. Have an impending court date for that fender-benderç Forget those pesky attorney's fees and try one of the potent seven-day "Court Case" candles for $1.25 apiece. Just light the wick before going to court, counsels Sister Maria, and loudly intone the prayer on the back of the candle for optimal results: "Dear Lord, say unto the judge to stay beside me and make war against my enemies who threaten to spill my life's blood."
The Strip Mall on SW 160th Street
If you ask the friendly man at Caribbean Delite for the name of this strip mall, he responds with a quizzical look and a lengthy silence. It's like he's been asked to solve an algebra equation. "I don't know. I just think of it as the Caribbean strip mall," he eventually says. "Maç What's the name of this strip mallç" he shrieks to the lady in the kitchen, who is elbow deep in curry and busily preparing box lunches of roti, Trinidad's most popular food. Ma gives no answer. "Check the sign out there; it must have a name for the mall," he declares with conviction. According to that sign, this is the Little Caesar's strip mall. There's a branch of the affordable pizzeria in the far right corner, but it's rarely as busy as the other establishments. This place is a mecca for Caribbean cuisine and culture. Sweet (typically vintage) reggae music from Jamaican music epicenter Aquarius Records booms from speakers mounted outside. The barbershop ensures no short supply of handsome men lounging about while waiting for a trim. And there are three spectacular Caribbean restaurants here: Sango Jamaican and Chinese Cuisine serves up some of the best jerk in Miami; Caribbean Delite offers the softest, most succulent roti this side of Port of Spain; and Marie's Patties is world-famous for good reason. If you're heading down south for some island deliciousness, take South Dixie Highway until you pass BrandsMart USA; then turn right on SW 160th Street. Take an immediate right into the parking lot of the peach-color strip mall, and listen for the bass-heavy music. And bring cash — for some strange reason, none of these quality Caribbean eateries accepts plastic.
Bal Harbour Shops
Courtesy of Bal Harbour Shops
Before you enter Addict, consider the sneaker not as utilitarian footwear but as objet d'art, and you won't be shocked by either the lacquered gold finish on a pair of Chuck Taylors or the $200 mauve limited-edition Pumas. There's a special line of Dwyane Wade-designed canvas Converse, whose $445 price tag is justified by the the fact that only eighteen pairs exist on the entire planet. There are Nikes with faux-crocodile-leather finish around the laces, and a pair of high-tops with a cutout beige layer covering a basic white shoe (both around $210). A pair of pearly white women's Pumas have a curvaceous design and lace up on the side rather than the middle ($175). Other brands include Reebok, Le Coq Sportif, and Lacoste. Addict also has an extensive collection of polyester Adidas zip-up jackets, like one charming yellow version with the head of a happy-looking camel embroidered on it. Look to the shelf in back for the occasional 50-percent-off selection.
Philly in Miami
It seems like every homeboy on and off the block is bedazzling or Sharpie-ing their sneakers in (often lame) attempts to customize their footwear. But at Philly in Miami, they've got this unique art down to a science. From Nike Air Force Ones to Adidas, these guys have a huge inventory of one-of-a-kind sneakers. And to make those exclusives even more exclusive, they hand-paint designs, pop culture logos, and whatever else you can dream up. Of course the more complex your design, the more you'll pay —prices can go as high as $1500 for a a pair of super-pimped sneaks. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson had the store paint pictures of his catches onto a pair of game-day cleats, MTV featured them on Sneak Attack, and R&B cutie Ciara even got a pair. But you don't have to be on the A-list to shop here. Whether it's ho-pink snakeskin, tennis-ball felt, or a psychedelic raindrop pattern, you can get it, and there's a good chance that you'll be the only b-boy with it.
The Runner's High
Some might be familiar with that euphoric rush, the runner's high. Chances are, though, you are far more aware of the crushing pain associated with ill-fitting shoes more commonly associated with greedy sales reps trying to cash in on a quick commission. See, whether you're a serious sprinter or a Sunday-morning stroller, your kicks can help reduce the risk of injury and increase your chances of success. That's where The Runner's High comes in. These guys know feet — ugly, small, sweaty, or well traveled. And the helpful staff prides itself on matching your extremities and exercise goals with your budget. Yes, they stock the latest styles and all the major brands. But they don't pressure clients into buying the most expensive pair, suggest something because of its color, or let you purchase something that doesn't fit. Not convincedç Head to the store and they will even videotape you on a treadmill to better analyze your gait — at no charge. That process, in the industry, is known as The Runner's Why.
This store is small, but every available nook and cranny has been stuffed with tennis supplies. Rackets (for both tennis and racquetball) hang from the ceiling. The walls are covered in shoes. Apparel, equipment, strings, dozens of brands of balls (sold by the can or by the case), ball hoppers, and ball machines are all crammed in and sold by Steve Tandlich, who has owned the store since 1974. Forget the minimum-wage henchmen at Sports Authority. Tandlich can guide the beginning player toward the best racket for his or her needs without charging gut-wrenching prices — many run less than $100. He has tennis togs for children and floppy hats for the elderly, as well as info on local leagues and tournaments. For those who dread the drive down South Dixie Highway on a Saturday, Tandlich will also ship anywhere.
On the western edge of Miami, three triple-alarmed tool sheds are packed with swing bikes and lowriders, bikes for the mountains and the road, children's bikes, and tandems. Burning Marlboros through a bushy handlebar mustache, The King rebuilds bike after bike from a shed so stuffed that it seems ready to vomit cans of paint, primer, oil, and grease. He wheels them between a carpet of parts and fittings and speaks about each one like a painting. At 48 years old, The King (real name Jay) works six or seven days a week as a handyman at FIU. But when he arrives home, the real work begins. "There's too many bikes, man," he cries, gesturing to the sea of parts that covers his back lawn. "I can't keep up with 'em all. I got a full-time job, plus a family." (The King often returns home to find that his wife has accepted five more bikes for rehabilitation.) But like any addict, The King has taken to selling his poison to support his habit. He prefers to do business in pure cottage fashion: Call him, he makes/restores/finds what you want, he sells it to you (in pristine condition) from his home at a ridiculously reasonable price. "I don't care about the money," he says as he applies a thin layer of motor grease to our new bike's chain with a toothbrush. "I'm just trying to make a couple of bucks."
Coral Way Bicycle Shop
Finding a really good bike shop can be tricky. You want a place that's low-key, a little run-down, maybe: a place with mechanics who understand your crappy bike, who'll help you fix it without asking you to empty your wallet. At the same time, a cheap fix can be a cheap fix, and a good bike shop should have good products and thorough mechanics. Coral Way Bicycle Shop, in its 65th year of business, walks the line. The staff is knowledgeable, friendly — because there's nothing worse than a smug bike mechanic — and honest. They'll explain your options and give you straight answers about prices without pressuring; if you just want to look around, they'll leave you alone. The store sells new models, ranging from $200 mountain bikes to high-end, multi-thousand-dollar road bikes. Coral Way Bicycle is a full-service shop with reasonable prices: A complete tune-up is just $18.95.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®