Best Of :: Shopping & Services
After two decades of internet-induced chaos, the music industry is still defying all predictability. Illegal streaming turned record labels on their heads before they eventually embraced Spotify and Apple Music. Then, just when it seemed digital music had won, vinyl underwent a miraculous resurrection. Even cassettes have made a comeback in some bastions of hipsterdom. But what of the lowly CD? For the connoisseur who wants the warmth of vinyl but also enjoys the clean sound of a CD without the compression of an MP3 or phone speaker, there's still a shop looking out for you. Radio-Active Records offers aisle after aisle of vinyl records, but tucked in the corner beside the entrance are a few racks stacked with shelves of CDs in a wide range of genres. Below the racks are dozens of crates stuffed with CDs that don't quite fit on the shelves. Most albums, even rare imports, tend to stay in the $1-to-$8 range, and the store can also order albums for pickup upon request. Radio-Active has been wise to keep its CD stock full, because at the rate music fans change their minds, hipsters will rediscover the humble disc any day now.
When looking for a car, everyone wants to be treated like Dwayne Johnson, but not everyone can afford his rides in HBO's Ballers. Luckily, an auto dealership in the Gables makes both of those things feel possible. If you're at all versed in luxury wheels, the showroom at the Collection of Coral Gables will slap you in the face with sparkling Ferraris and Aston Martins. But what sets the Collection apart is the substance of its selection, aimed more at the average joe than the movie star. Whether you're looking for a new or used car, the Collection has a little something for everyone: Audis, Jaguars, Porsches, and many other luxury car brands, some available for those well under baller status if you don't mind a few miles on the odometer. Valet service and comfortable areas in the showroom make for an easy shopping experience. And once you've chosen a car, the salesmen aren't pushy. Tally it all up and it's clear: The Collection is fit for your needs, as well as the Rock's. What more could you ask for in an auto dealership?
Readers' choice: The Collection
Orlie Jedwab hadn't planned to join the family business when she graduated from the University of Miami with a nursing degree in 1995. In fact, she spent the next two years working in the intensive care unit of Baptist Hospital. But then her mother fell ill and her father needed someone he could trust to help run his company, Flamingo Taxi. What began as a part-time gig a couple of days a week soon morphed into a full-time career comanaging Flamingo with her dad. By 2001 Jedwab was ready to venture out on her own. She launched Key Transportation Service with two sedans, a van, and a bus. Nearly two decades later, Jedwab heads the largest female-owned limo company in South Florida, with a fleet of 47 mostly hybrid vehicles that include luxury Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans, Cadillac Escalade SUVs, and Lincoln MKT stretch limos that can transport guests to any event, from bachelor parties hitting the South Beach nightclub circuit to gallerists in town for Art Basel. For groups of 15 or more people, the company also offers Sprinter vans, minibuses, and motor coaches. Key Transportation's attention to the smallest details, from GPS monitoring to luxury amenities, has made it the limo service of choice for the Biscayne Bay Marriott, Hello Florida, and Univision, among many other corporate clients. So what's Jedwab's secret? Personalized service in the digital age, she says. "From the time you pick up the call to the time you drop off the client, you have to follow through with excellence," she explains. "We offer boutique services. No one is ever put on hold. We keep growing because we offer that personal touch."
Unless you're a Car Talk-level expert, heading to a mechanic feels like strolling wallet-first into a dark alley while you scream, "Dear thieves! I am here! Take my money!" Unless you're referred to one by your father or a knowledgeable friend, it's difficult to find a mechanic you can trust. Consider this your dad-approved recommendation: The second you walk into Plaza Tire & Auto, Sherri, the warm-faced, throaty woman who runs the front desk, will charm you with her no-nonsense air. She handles all the greasy dudes in the back (who are quite nice if you actually talk to them) and makes sure everything is explained in full detail to you, the afraid, helpless layman. Plaza's legendary patriarch, Gabe Cortez, sadly passed away in 2014 after 35 years running the shop, but his spirit of good humor and rip-off-free car work lives on. The prices are always fair (a synthetic oil change runs about $60 depending upon the vehicle), and if you think they're not, the shop is willing to talk. The mechanics here do great work, but it's the friendly atmosphere, quick work, peace of mind, and, of course, Sherri, that will keep you coming back every time your jalopy breaks down.
Whether you spend your days kicking up mud and dust in the Everglades or smashing love bugs on I-95, the result is the same: Your car is dirtier than a Bob Saget standup special. Get thee to El Car Wash, where the only thing better than its $5 basic wash is its discounted $3 basic wash, offered weekdays from 8 to 9 a.m. and again from 6 to 8:30 p.m. With four locations in Miami and four more on the way, El Car Wash offers free vacuums, unlimited wash plans, and bulk promotions for Uber and Lyft drivers starting at just $25 a month. With prices like that, you can get a wash anytime you need, ya filthy animal.
Your brakes are squeaking? Chain is a mess? Maybe there are cobwebs growing all over your bike because you haven't bothered to ride for a while. Take it to Miami Bike Shop, an intimate spot that has served the Omni area for 11 years with reasonable prices, skilled mechanics, and a solid selection. Owner Darren Venditti opened the shop in 2006, when the neighborhood was just a bunch of vacant lots. Road construction nearly killed the place a few years later, but then the condos filled up, Publix opened, and the organized chaos of this delightful, independent store continued. Today they sell high-end stuff, from Niner mountain bikes for about $8,000 to Bianchi road bikes for around $4,400. There are also fixies — hipster-approved fixed-gear bicycles — for the far more reasonable $325. It costs just $35 for a basic tuneup and $60 for a more sophisticated one. You can even rent a beach cruiser for $25 per day. And have some fun: They stay open late after Critical Mass rides.
Readers' choice: Mack Cycle & Fitnes
Vaping gets a bad rap, mostly thanks to stodgy old-timers who hate anything popular with millennials. Damn those kids with their Facespaces and vapor machines! But those gripes are already looking about as dated as complaints that smartphones are just a fad or that Facebook will soon fade into memory. In fact, vaping has spread so quickly through South Florida that it's as easy to find a decent vape store as it is to track down a good cafecito. But finding a great vape shop is another story. South Vape Vapor, a small boutique located inside South Beach's venerable Cybr-Caffe on Washington Avenue, rises above the competition thanks to a knowledgeable staff selling the best products and liquids a vape-head could ever want. The employees can plop down hundreds of bottles of liquids on the counter to pinpoint your extra flavor profile. The shop carries 50 e-liquid brands in 150 flavors, top-shelf mods, and starter kits for the newbie vaper. This isn't rocket science: In 2017, people want to transition to a healthier lifestyle, one that doesn't include cigarettes or cigars. Vaping is the future of smoking, and South Vape Vapor is where the future already resides.
Some cigar smokers want to feel indulgent and important when they light up, with the stick a signifier of treat-yo'self luxury. Some aficionados are more interested in an authentic experience, with the cigar connecting them to a culture. Some smokers want to collect all the best stuff. Havana Humidor caters to them all. Tucked into an unassuming strip mall near Tropical Park, this isn't just a cigar store, though it does carry a selection of rare, limited edition, and other hard-to-find sticks. It's also a gathering place for cigar bros, with a lounge that's filled with comfy chairs and stays open until 2 a.m., so you can light up as late as you want. And they keep the party going with events hosted by popular brands such as Drew Estates and Camacho. If you want to beef up the stash in your humidor, hang out with like-minded smokers, and feel like a boss while you do it, this is your place.
Readers' choice: Casa de Montecristo by Prime Cigar & Whiskey Bar
Buying alcohol is both exciting and tedious. On one hand, you're stoked to pick out your next buzz, but at the same time, the process of roaming aisle after aisle in search of that perfect scratch for your thirsty itch can be tiresome. Chain liquor stores send out used-car-salesmen-like employees who constantly demand to know whether you're "doing OK" or if they "can help you find anything." Yeah, you can help me find my favorite beer at half the price! That's why it's worth the drive to Sunset Corners Wine & Liquors, a locally owned shop with friendly employees and a family atmosphere to go with a staggering selection. Shop more than once and they'll remember your name, ask you how you're doing, and then offer you some cheese, sausage, and a glass of wine. In fact, Sunset Corners has a full cheese and deli section stocked with everything from Italian prosciutto to Spanish jamón to Bucheron goat cheese straight from France. When you can tear into some fresh burrata while shopping for bourbon, it's not such a chore to shop for alcohol.
Readers' choice: Total Wine & More
There are shops you visit to grab a quick bottle for the beach or a dinner party, and there's no shame in that! But if you're a true connoisseur, there are also places where you'll want hours to browse the vino from all over the world. Portofino Wine Bank in South Beach and Brickell Wine Bank in Brickell are definitely the latter kind of store. The Wine Bank carries more than a thousand varieties from across the globe, from Australian coastal Pinot Grigio to Chilean Cabs to vintage French Bordeaux. When you're looking for a great wine, you don't need an airplane hangar packed with millions of bottles — just a carefully curated, diverse selection of the finest on the market. Even better, you don't have to have a degree in enology to enjoy your visit: The owners and staff greet you at the door, ask what you're into, and help steer you in the right direction, all without making you feel like a rube if you can't tell a Merlot from a Muscadine.
A good hairdresser is like a good lover. Both should have your best interests in mind, and both should go to great lengths to help you feel like your best self. You'll have to use Tinder and other methods to find a significant other who meets those qualifications, but for your hair, check out Safar Miami in South Beach. The hairstylists there take the time to get to know clients before helping them decide on the right cut and color. Don't want their opinion? No problem. This isn't your mom's beauty parlor, where the hairdresser alone knows best and turns your long hair into a bob even though you requested only a trim. Owner Gaston Safar opened his first salon in Boston more than 40 years ago and expanded to the tony South of Fifth area eight years ago. His talented daughter Allison runs the salon and cuts the locks of A-list celebrities and high-school students alike with the same level of friendliness and attention to detail. A men's cut ranges from $50 to $65, and a women's cut and blow-dry runs $75 to $95. Color services cost $85 and up. Safar also offers nail and waxing services ($15 and up), in addition to makeup application ($60-plus) and a full list of bridal beauty services ($70 and up). Once a month, Safar even hosts free events such as themed parties, trunk shows, and rooftop yoga sessions for its clients. And did we mention they make a mean cappuccino and always have the best snacks?
Readers' choice: Atma Beauty
A young man strides into Blendz Barbershop with a purpose, scans the room, and then finds his target: the shop's most requested barber, Christopher "Criztofferson" Betancourt. The new customer, a Florida International University student, echoes a story Betancourt hears all week: He's one of the nearly 60,000 fans following the buzzcut artist on Instagram (@criztofferson) and he's dying for one of his signature "freshies." Who can blame the kid? There's no time for trial-and-error while on the hunt for a dope cut in Miami. If you're looking for a spot guaranteed to transform the uneven mop on your head into a crisp, clean hairstyle, end your search at this shop in West Miller Square, where owner Lester Gonzalez and his team have spent the past three years making their name. Barbers like Jorge Perez and Jose Ibarra are well-versed in intricate artistic designs, and all of them excel at precise tapers, remarkably balanced fades, and other GQ-approved styles. Criztofferson has become famous on Miami's college campuses thanks to his knack for speedy "freshies" and because after his day shift at the shop, he takes his services on the road to trim stars such as the Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside, rappers the Game and O.T. Genasis, producer Rvssian, and internet sensation LeJuan James. Prices vary by barber, but customers can expect to spend $8 to $15 for a shapeup, $18 to $30 for a basic haircut, and $40 including beards. There's a busy rush of clients toward the end of the week, but you usually won't wait too long, especially if you call ahead for an appointment with one of the shop's 12 skilled barbers.
Readers' choice: Tru Cutz