Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Easy, free, fast, reliable. Even in our wired age, those four words are seldom used to describe what it's like to hook up your laptop to a wi-fi network in South Florida. At the library you don't need to buy a $5 latte, enter a password, or have a credit card number on hand to retrieve your e-mail. And you don't have to suspiciously eye your neighbors, worried that they're sucking all the bandwidth out of a crappy connection, because the library has plenty of bandwidth and plenty of comfy chairs positioned near electrical outlets. You may not be able to download pornography (damn filters), but you can probably find a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover nearby. Information at its most democratic.
We know a seasoned vintage shopaholic who lovingly calls this place "Chez Armé." She proudly boasts about all of the amazing finds she's procured from here. It wasn't until she showed us photos of an incredible four-poster bed that seemed to be hewn from tree trunks that we began paying attention. When it comes to buying furniture, you can't do better.The store is a clean, well-lit place with the usual thrift store finds in abundance dishes, sweaters, winter jackets, and worn children's toys. To one side you'll find dining room furniture, bedroom sets, and men's clothing. A handsome ornate chest of drawers, side tables, and an armoire are a bargain at $350. Textured wall units and a dining table come for $800. A two-piece butter-yellow leather living room set is $150. There's bland furniture and random what-were-they-thinking items, like a pair of children's loft-style beds outfitted with wooden slides for that speedy (not to mention dangerous) disembarkation. Stop by early (it opens at 9:00 a.m.) if you want to find a specific furniture item that isn't on display: "We got a whole warehouse back there," says approachable clerk Clarence Williams. Every second Saturday of the month, the lot down the street hosts the Salvation Army auto auction. So quite literally you can walk in here with nothing and leave with a suite of furniture and a new car for less than a grand.
All of us have a bunch of stuff hanging around our homes that we don't want, don't need, or don't use. Why not streamline your life by getting rid of some of that junkç Freecycle, a national online trading post with a board here in Miami, is the perfect way to turn your trash into someone else's treasure. Here's how it works: You register on the Website and then offer your stuff in a posting. If someone wants it, you arrange a (safe) meeting time and place to make the exchange. Best of all, it's free.
Don't want to spend $300 on a BCBG dressç If you're lucky, you can find one at Rag Trade for $30. You can also earn a little cash on the clothes you haven't worn for four years, the ones lying wrinkled and unused in a cobwebby corner of your closet. If you would rather barter for something in the shop, that's fine too. Like any secondhand shop, Rag Trade carries a rotating stock of wares that ranges in style from vintage to contemporary. There's also a section devoted to new clothes by local designers and by London-based Religion (not to be confused with the brand of jeans). Feel good about shopping here: Rag Trade is pro-conservation, and even the price tags are recycled.
Maybe South Florida doesn't seem like the best place to pick up knitting as a hobby after all, summer is upon us. But there are always babies to crochet blankets for, relatives up north who need hats and scarves, and the three cold days next winter. Elegant Stitches carries more than 700 different yarns and offers knitting and crochet classes for $45. The shop also has patterns, books, kits, and needles. For the truly dedicated, the store organizes a November knitting cruise on Royal Caribbean.
Light catches your eye from all directions in the Gem and Bead Gallery. Everywhere you look, there are glistening gemstones of all varieties amethyst, rose quartz, and glass beads that look almost exactly like them. Coral branches, turquoise chunks, and amber circles; jade beads and freshwater pearls. You can buy anything, from a $1000 sapphire to adorn that perfect solitaire, to $1 glass beads for a hippie love necklace. The Gem and Bead Gallery is a direct importer of gemstone beads, colored crystals, horn beads, Swarovski crystals, and pearls. The store attracts customers who are practiced jewelers, as well as first-time bead stringers. To that end, they offer hands-on Monday and Saturday classes that range from $30 to $35. From beading to pearl knotting, you can learn how to do it and then successfully make it here. Few things are cooler than being able to chirp, "Thanks, I made them myself," when you're inevitably complimented on your amazing new earrings.
Ever wonder how abuela manages to strike an imperial air on her Social Security budgetç For years she and her blue-hair friends have been rifling the bins at this crumbling hole-in-the-wall in Little Havana, where for $5 or less one can amass a trove of ritzy baubles that would put a Romanov dowry to shame. Okay, so you won't find any Fabergé eggs lying about here, but the displays are stocked with plenty of head-turning necklace and earring sets, elegant bracelets, pendants, and rings that will unleash that Grand Duchess within. The carnelian stretch bracelets, red crystal tassel chokers, or those four-row mixed-bead necklace and earring sets in shimmering seasonal colors, among other finds, will leave you feeling like royalty without getting hosed.
Founded in a booth in Allapattah by Edgar Manley, this joint is a part of South Florida history. Located in a neat, quiet, nondescript store in a North Miami strip mall (what else, we're in South Florida), the place is quick, efficient, and loaded with deals. Watch batteries can be changed for $6.50 and bands shortened for $3. There are also railroad timepieces that go for $100 to $300, as well as Timexes that start at $30. The place was started in 1949 when, we believe, the only creatures in South Florida that wore watches were alligators. Manley's has moved around quite a bit, and Edgar is gone, but we're glad the store is still here.
A recent survey conducted at a weekly work meeting revealed that watch popularity has decreased dramatically with the advent of cell phones and other digital time-displaying gadgets. But there's just something classy about wearing a watch. It doesn't have to be flashy or encrusted with diamonds to make a statement about the wearer. Just the simple act of watch-wearing reveals an intentional awareness, and watches can often be a symbolic gift from a wife to a husband for an anniversary or from a parent to a child for a birthday. The unfortunate thing is, these symbolic gifts eventually stop on you. Batteries give out, intricate mechanisms get frazzled, spring winders get unwound. That's when you need to take your precious cargo to London Watch.Tucked away in a retro turquoise and cream-color strip mall that time forgot, this little store keeps on ticking. London Watch is a family-owned business, a tiny jewelry store that seems like it should have closed in the Seventies. And it's not alone; this entire strip mall is a delightful relic, filled with quirky tea shops, overflowing Asian trinket stores, and dim Colombian restaurants. The store is filled with timepieces, leaning heavily toward silver- and gold-banded wristwatches, with some pendulum swinging wall clocks that reveal true craftsmanship. You hand two busted timepieces over to the wizened abuela with the round, owlish eyes. "Quince minutos," she says fifteen minutes before opening the back of the device with aged but nimble hands. Fifteen minutes is enough to browse the shiny contents of the store's many display cases and then wander over to Smoothie King for a Cherry Picker. By the time you return, smoothie cup in hand, your watches have been repaired. "That will be $10," says abuela's daughter, a woman with bifocals and a soft, quiet demeanor.
For 28 years now GBS the Beauty Store has been making South Florida women look and feel beautiful. The Bern family purchased its first location in 1979, naming it Gables Beauty Store. The chain has thrived by continually evolving and upgrading. GBS stocks its shelves with high-end skin-care, makeup, and hair supplies from companies that make the beauty product-obsessed go weak in the knees: Ahava, Borba, Phyto, Deva Curl, Hairuwear extensions ... it's all here, and at competitive prices. In addition to selling an incredible variety of beauty products, GBS is a full-service hair salon where customers can get their hair cut and styled by experts using top-of-the-line products. To educate customers about how to use these fancy products, stores host regular events that always involve complimentary treatments. From Pinecrest to Aventura, GBS fulfills any product junkie's needs.
When considering the development behind most of the cosmetic offerings at Brownes & Co., imagine a legion of fit European scientists in immaculate white lab coats and wire-rimmed spectacles, grinding up rare Amazonian flowers with a mortar and pestle, adding a tincture of concentrated Arctic cloudberries, and testing their concoctions by swabbing the cheeks of dewy-skinned Ingrid Bergman look-alikes. Then use that image to justify the $75 you just spent on a small vessel of Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion in a Jar. The actual beauty benefits of quince day cream ($30.50) might be questionable, but nobody can doubt the consumer satisfaction of stocking your medicine cabinet with lotions and serums that make you feel pretty. This wood-floor emporium offers a lot of substances in jars with ornate labels imported from Europe: Diptyque perfumes ($95), Nars lip gloss ($23), Mario Badescu suntan milk ($14), Marvis jasmine toothpaste ($10.50). And if you're tired of looking at pricey ointments, head upstairs for a manicure in the salon or a massage at the spa. Bring the kids along, too, because there's a yoga class for them ($12) on Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. in the yoga room.
Drop your pants and spread your legs. Don't worry, you're not being subjected to a cavity search, you're getting a bikini wax. Yes, it might be painful, but the silky-smooth result is so worth it granted you go to the best in the biz. When it comes to handling your private bits, the ladies at Personal Touch have a, um, personal touch. With at least five years of experience each, the depilatory specialists wax those hard-to-reach spots without making you feel like you're in a medieval torture chamber. They're quick too; a full bikini job usually doesn't take longer than twenty minutes. While some other spas rely only on harsher honey wax, Personal Touch uses a gentle mineral wax that doesn't irritate skin. You can rest assured knowing that not only are you in good hands, but also the consultants at Personal Touch consider cleanliness a top priority: They don't recycle wax, they wear gloves, and they always use new application sticks. And they also understand that although beauty might be painful, it doesn't have to hurt your wallet: A bikini line wax is $15 for women, $28 for men; and a full bikini (everything) is $26 to $28 for women, $38 to $42 for men.