Best Of :: Shopping & Services
The last time Austin's Diving Center made the news was back in 2002, when the FBI issued an alert that terrorists were seeking "an offensive scuba diver capability." The FBI checked out more than 1,300 scuba shops across the nation, including Austin's, and pretty much came up with zilch. They're still looking for those weapons of mass destruction too.
The thing is, it doesn't really matter if Austin's is in the news or not — locals know it's the best place for scuba gear. If you need snorkeling equipment, they've got it. They've got underwater cameras, metal detectors, fins — pretty much anything you'd need for diving.
And if you're looking for a spear gun, they have 60 different models in stock, which is more than anybody in South Florida.
Just don't blow up anything.
Courtney Williams is rummaging through a bottom cabinet inside Project 51 in Coconut Grove. He pulls out an alien-looking boot in a moss green, violet purple, and night black color motif. The heavyset sneaker pimp proudly holds up a Nike Convoy Huarache basketball shoe, circa 1993. "I had a pair just like these when I was a kid," Williams explains. "I dogged them out. I found this pair two years ago on eBay." Ten months ago, Williams converted his sneaker love into a business, opening up the first specialty store of its kind in the Grove. "I was going to open on the Beach," Williams says, "but then I realized the Grove didn't have anything like this." Indeed, Project 51 is like walking into a candy store, except the sweets are the multicolored Adidas, Nike, Puma, and Supra athletic shoes lined up on the rainbow-hued shelves. "I'm a sneaker collector," Williams says enthusiastically. "I collect them like crazy. You are not gonna find these shoes at Foot Locker or Champs." And his eye for exclusive kicks can't be doubted. He has stocked the limited-edition ?uestlove gold pack Nike Dunks. The Portland sneaker maker produced only 200 of them. "Those sold out quick," Williams notes. But there are still plenty of other tight sneakers to choose from, including a nice selection of skateboard sneakers by Supra, which have gained notoriety since Lil Wayne has been sporting them. Of course, buying a sweet pair of kicks requires that you find an equally dope T-shirt to match the ensemble. Project 51 has you covered there too, carrying underground labels such as Kidrobot, 10.Deep, DGK, and Crew. You can check out Project 51 Monday through Wednesday from noon to 9 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Maybe you make this mistake. Every year during the holiday season, you shop for gifts for your friends and family at the places you like to shop, instead of the places they shop. We do this all the time, and usually we wind up at Base. The place is a one-stop shop for the hip-junkies of any type who need their fix. For kiddies, there's a wide array of vinyl designer toys. For music lovers, there's a well-curated "music bar" stocked with the latest dance mixes and chilled-out albums. For folks with bare coffee tables, there's a never-ending supply of books that would look amazing on them. There are clothes, shoes, perfumes, jewelry, DVDs, accessories, furniture, art, and other random items. It's kind of amazing all of this fits into such a small space. But be warned — this place isn't for everyone. Grandma never did put up that complete collection of Dunnys we got her. And Mom hasn't even opened the book we gave her three years ago about the Dadaist movement. So, we've made peace with the fact that our family isn't as fashionable as we'd hoped. Nowadays, we get them Chili's gift cards and hope for money in return so we can shop at Base for ourselves.
Face it. Not everyone is suffering from the effects of the economic downturn. For people looking to still spend cash indiscriminately on high-end clothing without looking like a complete jackass for dressing ostentatiously in these hard times, the Adidas Y-3 store in the Design District might be their best bet. Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto pairs up with the German sports apparel brand to create clothing that is simple yet gorgeously designed — think athletic and casual clothing that's too nice to actually work out in. Most items are priced well above $100, so there is no bargain shopping here. And because the exclusive Y-3 stores aren't scattered around the country like your neighborhood American Apparel, fashion repeats are virtually nil.
OK, fellas, if you want to get into Louis or Mynt, both on Collins Avenue, pleated khakis and an Oxford are not gonna cut it. We suggest you jettison your faux pas style while cruising Biscayne Boulevard and pull into U.D. Stylelab Miami, the perfect one-stop boutique for banging jeans, T-shirts, hats, CDs, jewelry, toys, and gadgets. This place takes pride in stocking wares you are not going to find at any other fashion boutiques around town. We recommend that you buy a sick pair of Anama jeans and match them up with a wicked tee by Envy Evolution, Kid Dangerous, or Alkemy. Then add a couple of slamming accessories, such as that Goorin Bros. plaid brim and a pair of Forero cuffs — pounded and riveted bracelets made of mid-century metal found in salvage yards. But be ready to drop some coin. Clothes and accessories start around $60. Jeans average between $97 and $275. If you're lucky, you'll score something cool off one of the boutique's sale racks, which at times have items for 70 percent off. U.D. Stylelab is open Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.
So, after years of breaking up and then making up, you've decided she's the girl for you. Now you must find that sparkling diamond engagement ring that is gonna make her say, "Hell, yeah!" We suggest you take a trip to the Seybold Building in downtown Miami, where more than 280 jewelers are ready to help you make sure you don't mess up and come home with something that resembles a trinket out of a Cracker Jack box. Built by Miami pioneer John William Gottloeb Seybold in 1914, the building has entrances on Flagler and First streets. Once inside, you'll have to squint a bit to overcome all the glistening baubles on display. The Seybold Building is the second-largest jewelry building in the United States. You will find an unparalleled selection of diamond rings where jewelers value quality over quantity. For more than 30 years, millions of people have turned to the jewelers inside the Seybold Building to help them find the perfect gifts for the significant people in their lives. Or maybe you feel like buying the diamond and having the ring made. Well, amid the 200 tiny workshops and boutiques, you will find spaces occupied by diamond cutters, gem setters, and gold dealers who can help you make a unique ring. For example, you could visit diamond dealer H&Y Diamonds on the tenth floor, where you can find rough and cut rocks from across the globe. After selecting a fantastic stone, take the elevator one floor down, where setters such as Ernesto Ercilla will charge you $2.50 to mount small stones or from $25 to $35 to set a two-carat stone. And if you don't want the hassle of searching for a parking spot, there's valet service. The Seybold is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The baubles at Jackie Abraham & Co. are wearable works of art. The diamonds scream for your attention, while the cool platinums dare you not to look. Face it — if you flip off someone while wearing a jewel-encrusted panther upon your middle finger, the recipient of your gesture will know you mean business. The same thing goes for a pair of $222,000 platinum and diamond drop earrings, except you don't even have to move — your enemy will be blinded by all the ice. Abraham has been bedazzling the Magic City since 1993 with his distinctive designs and collections of mid- to high-end estate jewelry, which includes pendants, watches, rings, bracelets, and necklaces. Maybe you can't pull off a quarter-size hunk of turquoise encased in white gold, but with hundreds of chic, classic, and exotic pieces to choose from, you'll find one that will surely fit.
This past March, a few clothing racks popped up in place of the never-popular washing machines at the former Laundry Bar on North Lincoln Lane in South Beach. That's because the venue — which has been revamped and renamed Black Sheep Bar — is now more than just a place to down Coronas and meet boys dressed like girls. Inside, these days, you can simultaneously sip a cocktail and browse for a skimpy purple bikini, a classic black blazer, or an animal print dress. In the back, Shop Bar showcases a small but stellar collection of local student designers and several rolling racks filled with secondhand treasures. Pieces include a so-wacky-it's-hip dolphin-print disco shirt, a knockoff '50s polka-dot dress, and a vintage sweater with a simple sailboat print. Co-creator Carolina Benitez, a 24-year-old recent Art Institute of Miami grad, personally plucks items from consignment stores from Hialeah to Miami Springs. Prices range from $15 for a sweater to $135 for a sundress. "It's for people who like experimenting with the '60s, '70s, and '80s in their own modern context," Benitez says. "But it's also about community; we want people to come in and hang out." Hours are Monday through Wednesday by appointment, and Thursday through Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.
Being broke has an upside: You generally pay less taxes, know about the coolest free stuff in the city, and have an excuse to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon. Then there's the downside. Like, say, when you spot a gorgeous green jacket in the window of Marni, peek at the price, and realize it's worth more than your car. Still, fashionistas with disposable income will fall in love with this low-key, high-priced boutique on the corner of NE Second Avenue and 39th Street in the Design District. Among the collection: quirky old lady-print tanks, knee-length dresses in Jackie Onassis cuts, and hand-sewn designer bohemian accessories. Think Anthropologie's classy (possibly Italian) older sister. Most garments look as if they've been yanked from the runway — only you don't have to be a twig to find something that fits: knee-length layered skirts ($885), chunky wood-beaded necklaces ($990), and simple, sophisticated slacks ($750). Just be careful about developing a Marni obsession; you might have to take out a second mortgage.
We thought Jane Jetson's interior design aesthetic was an unattainable vision of what the year 3000 would bring to our homes. The lines were both hard and soft, straight and curved — in other words, oh so unlike the tufted disasters sitting in our own living room. Ultimately, we didn't have to wait a thousand years to follow in Jane's furniture footsteps, and stores such as Modani are making the style accessible to the masses. This haven of modern, minimalist furniture is the Design District's answer to "Dude, where's my coffee table/couch/ottoman/bed/desk/etc.?" Each piece is stripped down to its most basic features, without sacrificing great style or breaking the bank. Take the Belini modern bed, a structure made of wood and white or orange Italian silk, which effortlessly says "chic" while its $690 price tag says "buy me." Or the queen ball chair, a white cocoon with blood-red cushions that look so cushy they practically beg you to sit down. Whether you're outfitting an entire home or simply injecting a little mod with one or two pieces, you won't go wrong if you take your design cues from Jane.
Miami has so many waterways that it would seem appropriate if residents got boats when they reach the legal driving age. But time, money, and an overall dislike of having to anchor your vessel might deter you from actually purchasing one. Luckily, Club Nautico has an entire fleet of powerboats and luxury yachts to rent for four or eight hours. You can take the yellow-paneled Buddy's Joy, a 23-footer, for a sunset ride to Stiltsville, or jet to Brickell on the 34-foot Primetime for an expensive lunch. Some models have convenient swim platforms, others feature full galleys and wet bars, but none comes with Dramamine, so bring your own. With prices starting at $899 for a half-day (and specials on Tuesday and Wednesday), you and your homies can definitely afford to spend some time on the high seas. Just don't let that kid Gilligan take the wheel.
Many South Beach scooter rental joints are guilty of shilling the same Japanese-born vessels, which is an absolute shame, because when you're coasting down Ocean Drive with your hair blowing in the wind, you want to be in something exclusive. Beach Scooters gets it and has a fleet of 49cc and 250cc two-wheelers that will get you from point A to B in some serious style. Plunk down a $300 security deposit to try out a candy apple red Malaguti or a sick black Strata, and do SoBe the best way imaginable — on two wheels made for city coasting. And if you're more into four-wheeled motion, Beach Scooters is the only place to find Hummer, Escalade, and Roadster electric cars. Round up a few friends and get into one of these convertible mini luxury cars without guzzling gas. Because, you know, riding those two-wheeled thingamajigs is torture after downing a Superman from Wet Willie's.