Best Of :: Shopping & Services
That learning can be fun is a good idea in theory, but it doesn't hold up when juxtaposed against a compulsory public school education. And there is something about the concept of an educational toy that seems less playful than a toy ought to be. But Learning Express does its best to dispel these notions, offering a wide array of toys that promote knowledge and still offer kids a rollicking good time. Whether it's the Math Shark or the Geosafari Laptop or a Wrist Rox Bracelet Kit, there is something for every age, gender and interest at Learning Express. Friendly, knowledgeable service cuts against its chain-store origins and that overwhelming feeling you get from a Toys R Us. If you are late for a birthday party and need something fast, not only can you find it here, but Learning Express will gift wrap it as well. That's why the place is a boon to those of us who are poorly organized and might not have been, if we would have only played with more educational toys in the first place.
Shopping at Sam Moon Trading Co. on a Saturday afternoon is kinda like walking down Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras--minus the naked breasts and 32-ounce hurricanes, of course. But this place is just that crowded. It's a shopping mob. And like Mardi Gras, Sam Moon is almost too much to take in at once. From the moment you walk through the door, you're shoulder to shoulder with an army of women with glassed-over eyes and arms filled with goodies. There's also the occasional husband hidden away in one of the store's corners, holding a basket and looking just a little bewildered. But if you like cheap, funky jewelry (which we do) and gaudy sequined purses (which we do), then fighting these crowds is worth it. Sam Moon's selection of adornments for the ears, neck, wrists and toes is beyond compare. Just remember: Move fast and don't be afraid to use your elbows.
This eclectic Deep Ellum shop has nothing you need but just about anything you might want. From postcards and handbags to picture frames and decorated hairbrushes, Mark & Larry's has it all--which makes it an excellent place to find a gift for that person who has everything. They also offer the best selection of greeting cards in town. No matter the occasion, this place has a card for it. Some are sweet and sentimental, but some are crass and downright cruel. And those are the ones we like. Just be sure to keep an eye on the parking meter. It's easy to while away an entire afternoon thumbing through every card in the rack. Or is that just us?
It's one of those dying arts that's now making a strong comeback. Women are getting back into the kind of sewing that Grandma did, says owner Judy Mack. Not only is she an authorized Pfaff dealer, but she offers a variety of fabrics, supplies, notions, books, patterns and--perhaps most important--instruction classes. Instructors will teach you everything from beginning quilting to installing zippers without tears, tatting and digitizing. There are even classes for the kids and teen-agers. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Not only does Nice-born co-owner Yasmine Bohsali serve up the best baguettes and chocolate croissants this side of the Mediterranean, but his shop has become a social gathering spot for French transplants and Americans who speak the language. "Many of our French customers," Bohsali says, "tell us our place reminds them of home because we're authentic." L'Alliance Française, the local chapter of French expatriates, had them cater the group's recent Bastille Day celebration. Store hours are 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Frequently a readers' pick as the best music store in Dallas, what this chain does best is provide good prices on most of its offerings--and it provides huge offerings. Even somewhat obscure artists from the era when Tower Records carried actual records can be found (on digitally remastered CDs, of course). The store also has tapes, DVDs, posters, magazines and other stuff to keep you occupied for hours. When record-company execs start bitching that online and digital music will destroy their industry, just head to Tower on a Saturday and see people go through the beautiful ritual of touching, reading and purchasing music. Well, it's beautiful to the people who own the store, at least.