Imagine Gifts

Unlike skinny jeans and nerd glasses, going green is a trend everyone can rock. We don't need to mention that each ounce of environmentally friendly living is like giving Mother Earth a great big hug — but we do hear she likes hugs. A store that's participating in some major PDA and selling goods to help you do the same is Imagine Gifts. This Midtown Miami shop is a haven for organic, recycled, all-natural, and eco-friendly items from wrapping paper to jewelry. The bright, candy-colored gem of a store supports companies that are either locally owned, charitable, or pay fair-trade wages, so your overspending will always be guilt-free.

Cash Inn of 79th Street

Peddle your late abuela's sterling flatware set or live by candlelight until the end of the month? To us, that decision is an easy one. With South Florida's economy about as vibrant as Kimbo Slice's fighting career, sentimentality has become an unaffordable luxury. Pawn shops are paying less for merchandise these days, but well-equipped ones such as the heavily bulletproofed Cash Inn of 79th Street — located in North Miami's unofficial Consignment District, a mile-radius area cluttered with nearly a dozen pawn shops — will still buy anything you bring in, stockpiling for a better economy. And if you're a consumer (a mythical creature at this point), now is the best time to do some vulture-shopping at Cash Inn. Buy a Cartier watch, a big-screen plasma TV set, and one of those riding lawn mowers. Then wager the thousands you won from the blackjack tables at Seminole Hard Rock. Trust us: It's a better investment than the stock market.

T.I. had to learn the hard way, but trust us when we tell you not to purchase your weaponry off the street. Sure, it'd be hard for a multiplatinum artist to fly under the radar when doing some illegal ish, but even Tom, Dick, and Harry can't be promised a smooth getaway. So where do you go to replenish your arsenal? Sunshine Air Guns and Collectibles has all of your rat-tat-tat needs covered. The shop specializes in new and vintage air guns of every design — whether you're in the mood for a Hunter Pro ($259.99) or a Baby Desert Eagle ($42), S A&C has what you need. Since 2001, owner Jorge A. Chavez has acquainted the Magic City with exotic weaponry, and some of the items in the store are from his own collection. "I started out in this business because I used to go to gun shows and people would always ask me if I was selling my pieces," Chavez explains. "Now, in addition to those, we also sell vintage guns that are very hard to find." This guy is a pro, so he can surely help you pick out a lil' NightStalker that won't knock you off of your feet with its recoil.

Give Good Works
Give Good Works / India Amos

A brief dissertation on the ethics of consumerism during the current depression: Proposition #1: Reject high-volume manufacturing. An object's quality generally lies in inverse proportion to its availability. While this is not necessarily true of simple items (ketchup, pencils, lubricants), it becomes more and more true as the object's construction increases in difficulty (hamburgers, computers, battery-powered sex toys). Proposition #2: High volume necessitates low wages, which in turn leads to overseas production and executive compensation structure based strictly on growth in profit margins, which in turn leads to vanity license plates, niche prostitution, and a general increase in douchebag behavior across all segments of the population. Proposition #3: Douchebag-like behavior leads to corporate malfeasance. White-collar crime and nondiscretionary spending on the triumvirate of skin exfoliation, béarnaise sauce, and Asian-style massage have a one-to-one relationship. Proposition #4: Proliferation of thrift stores curbs douchebaggyness. Based on a philosophy of reuse and inherent worth, thrift has at its essence an ontological resistance to douchebags. The growth of one necessarily means the reduction of the other. Proposition #5: Give Good Works is an excellent location for thrift shopping, owing to its commitment to high turnover of product, its 501(c)(3) status, and its friendly and helpful staff. Conclusion: Supporting Give Good Works reduces the number of accidental deaths due to battery-powered sex toy malfunction.

Opa-locka/Hialeah Flea Market

This sprawling, 900-vendor emporium, easily spotted from the Gratigny Expressway for its industrial-yellow mosque-like domes, is a place where empires of dust, disarray, and copyright infringement are bought and sold for the price of a few wrinkled bills. Come with $40 and leave with an artificial-wood-and-leather steering wheel cover, an unlicensed Dwyane Wade jersey, a cockfighting hat, six tropical fish, a parrot, and $1.50 left over. It's the only place in South Florida where you might go for an oil change and leave with a used refrigerator. A word of advice: Spring for the dollar parking if you're female or shopping with one. The free lot requires a trudge through the mechanics' alley on the flea market's outskirts, which doubles as an "¡Oye, mami!" gauntlet.

Uncle Sam's Music

The past decade has been nasty to brick-and-mortar record stores. Almost every week, there has been news of yet another great music shop closing up. That's why it's so refreshing to know Miami Beach's Uncle Sam's is still thriving. In business since 1984, the place remains the sweet spot for local and international DJs and music producers. The selection covers everything on the dance charts — hip-hop, house, and techno. Even better, the staff takes special orders for any of your vinyl needs. With a recently added and well-stocked used vinyl section (prices range from $5 to $10 dollars), Uncle Sam's remains the essential place for dance vinyl crate-digging.

Big-box music stores are all right, but sometimes it pays to venture into the unknown, and for musicians, the right place to set out to is North Miami's Sim Music. This neighborhood institution has three floors of new and used merchandise; from DJ equipment to amps and guitars, this place has the coolest selection of new gear. With a couple of hours to spend, you might find a used Technics SL for $300 as well as brand-new guitars and amps under the $200 mark. The staff is not only well informed but also friendly, meaning you'll get plenty of knowledge on that new purchase.

For a town that has produced a substantial stable of top-shelf writers, it's surprising there are so few bookstores in the Magic City to pay them homage. There's a Barnes & Noble here and there, but as far as independent, funky, uniquely Miami booksellers, we have only a handful of options. That said, Books & Books does what any locally owned bookstore should do, and it does it well. No, the selection doesn't stack up to those of national chains, but the shop does an excellent job of showcasing lesser-known works, and what's more, it has fostered a community of readers through its book clubs and author lecture series. There are three locations in Miami-Dade, but this year we're celebrating the new and improved Lincoln Road spot. Forced out of his storefront location by rising rents, owner Mitchell Kaplan made the best of it and actually increased the size of his café and the amount of space he can give to books when he moved to a new location (a courtyard behind his former spot). The restaurant is one of the best inexpensive places to eat on Lincoln Road, and the bookstore is pretty much the only place in Miami Beach where you can find a decent read.

The time will come when charging for wi-fi will seem as ridiculous as charging for air, yet there are still many places that will take your Hamilton if you want to check your email or watch the latest YouTube video of a cat balancing a sardine can on its nose in a hot-air balloon. Because you can't wait till you get home to watch it. We know and we understand, but damn it, don't we deserve a comfortable spot to watch that crazy cat for free? The Bookstore in the Grove is famous for being just about the only decent bookstore in the City of Miami limits, but it's also a bastion of free wi-fi. Comfortable seats, cool air, available outlets, and café cuisine that's better than the food at most of those places that end up charging you for wi-fi anyway.

Lion Video Foreign Films

Take one: A teenage boy pursues his masochistic piano teacher (The Piano Teacher). Take two: A dying Spanish fisherman fights to legalize euthanasia (The Sea Inside). Take three: A child sells himself on the streets of Brazil (Pixote). Doesn't sound like the plot of Hollywood's latest blockbuster? That's because they're all foreign-made films stocked at Lion Video, where 80,000 of the world's most brilliant and obscure movies are categorized according to country. Shot on seven continents, films are offered with both Spanish and English subtitles in a multitude of genres including documentary, comedy, gay/lesbian, and American independent. Some are imported and converted to multiregion DVD, making even the hardest-to-find niche films accessible. For lovers of the local scene, Lion also carries the widest selection in the county from the Miami International Film Festival. It's $4 for a five-day rental, and every fourth video is free. And that's a wrap.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®