Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Marianella Febres-Cordero started stirring up soap as a teenager. A career in graphic design and writing didn't spoil her love of bubbles, so the Venezuelan-born soap-maker, now living in Plano, has continued slicing up 100 percent natural homemade bars on her kitchen table. Wrapped by hand in white linen and tied with a pretty ribbon, the soft, pastel-colored cakes are made of vegetable oils, cocoa butter, oatmeal, honey, goat's milk and natural colors. Coconut and apple blossom scents—"inspired and selected from a lifetime of memories," says the soapmaker—are favorites. Expanding to candles and body products, Febres-Cordero's products are sold in 20 stores, including Stanley Korshak. She's awash with success.
This is the largest REI in the state, and it's got everything you need to ride, wear, carry or sleep in for an outdoor adventure. From bikes and climbing gear to first-rate sea kayaks and ski equipment, this is a haven for any outdoors lover who's itching to get out of Dodge. Even if you're not looking for the latest MSR PocketRocket stove or the warmest and lightest Marmot jacket, you'll find comfortable, stylish clothing that withstands the worst of the elements. For men, there are sexy, fashionable Patagonia button-ups and cargo pants. Women will find a wide selection of tanks, skirts, shorts and dresses by great labels such as Prana. Become a member and you get a refund at the end of the year.
Besides the backyard gardeners in Lakewood and the M Streets, Redenta's Nursery also helps residents of the Lower Greenville area's new townhomes and apartments make balcony-friendly planters and windowboxes. For $55 to $125 you can go home with a fully planted and meticulously prepared container made of lightweight plastic that looks like heavier terra cotta pottery. In it will be something like sedum (a succulent) or graceful ornamental grasses that don't need fussing over. They sell real stone and ceramic planters too, of course, and more complicated palms and large ferns for more ambitious patio features. Nice how a little greenery makes even the smallest place feel like a home.
Not that the rotating red and white barber's pole out front isn't enough of a clue, but once you walk inside Razor's Edge Barber Shop, there's no mistaking it for anything but a modern take on an old-fashioned men's clip joint. Not the intimidating kind where they tell you how they're gonna cut your locks. Or one of those new men's salons where you have to endure a 45-minute cut followed by a neck and shoulder rub by a breathy, over-tanned, gum-chewing hairdresser. No, this place is cozy and comfortable. The waiting room looks like a cross between a cigar shop and your grandpa's library. The décor's all dark leather with warm, walnutty woods, and there's an elevated shoe-shine bench tucked in the left side of the shop. When most men need a haircut, they just want a nice, clean trim, and for more than six years the welcoming staff at Razor's Edge has been doing just that—and only that. They don't have a comprehensive spa-like list of services. They offer a "wet cut," a "cut & shampoo" and a "hot shave" in the comfort of large, black, vintage-style barber chairs. Though, admittedly, those black chairs do seem a little Sweeney Todd when one of the barbers whips out a straight razor to give a patron a hot lather shave. So, though the shop accepts walk-ins, you may want an appointment—just to stay on their good side.
Throughout the summer of the staycation, we found ourselves up in McKinney every few weekends, even if only for breakfast at cozy Spoon's café or a walk through the Farmers Market planted among ancestral McKinney homesteads in the historic district. But a trip to The Book Gallery is an essential part of any visit, especially for the bibliophile who needs a break from poring over Half Price's estimable stacks of oldies but goodies. Encased in glass are first editions by most of the masters you can tick off in the next 20 seconds; we've long coveted the Hemingways and Fitzgeralds and Wrights and Salingers and Dickens...eseses in desperate need of our liberation and affection. They're not too pricey either; we just spend our hard-earned pennies on the estimable collection of Dallas-related books nestled in the local-interest section near the back of the shop. Here's where we picked up Lon Tinkle's essential The Key to Dallas, as well as a first-edition of the Dallas Historical Society's 1978 coffee-table book Dallas Rediscovered: A Photographic Chronicle of Urban Expansion, 1870-1925.
Hmm. Tough call. You got your blond woods and Southwestern-looking pastels at Borders. You got your darker woods and warmer feel at Barnes & Noble. And you got pretty much the same damn books, magazines and CDs at any location of the massive chains. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, we say. So instead of picking just one, this year we're giving the prize to a 'hood, Preston Hollow, where a fairly new Barnes & Noble sits catty-corner to a redecorated Borders at Royal Lane and Preston Road. Nothing like a little cutthroat corporate competition between the homogenized purveyors of cultural commodities, we say. Any day now we expect to see highly literate gang tags sprouting up on walls, sprayed there by the competing staffs. Maybe a little Jets and Sharks action between khaki-wearing booksellers too. The best part is, if one store happens to be out of the latest title you crave, it's only a short drive—for God's sake, don't walk—between them, and there's a Starbucks right smack in the middle.
Their name says it. There's nothing like these big, soft, chewy cookies, delivered in elegant gift boxes topped with a Tiffany-blue ribbon. The 2-year-old online-order company was started by mother-daughter team Lynn Berman (who still bakes the goods) and Sara Berman Popek. When Sara had twins, Mom brought more than 1,000 homemade cookies to the hospital, earning fans among the staff and other new mommies. A big hit as client gifts, the company bakes hundreds of dozens daily in Mom's North Dallas home oven, all with no preservatives and no corn syrup. Orders are shipped within 24 hours with a reasonable delivery fee depending on destination. Our fave is the oatmeal, a lacy confection that begs for posh tea. Why send just a card? Order a box of these babies next time you need a quick gift. And get one for yourself. It'll be our secret.
Good is the obvious, if unsurprising, choice as Dallas' tops in CD purchasing. The selection is employee-tested, buyer-approved, and the help is top-notch. Want to know what an album sounds like? Ask the help; they'll tell you. Maybe even play it over the store's PA too. Can't find something you want? They'll order it for you—maybe even burn you a copy if they have it stored on the computer behind the register. And best of all, there are the in-store performances that offer the best of the local scene and the indie-est of the acts that come through the region. Why? Because Good Records can, that's why. And the fact that its stage is probably the best on Lowest Greenville, well, that helps too.
Divorce generally brings out the worst in people. So it takes a steady, confident hand to steer the parting parties through what might be the treacherous waters of divorce. As a mediator, Donna Harris has one job: To work the parties and their lawyers toward an out-of-court settlement. Harris is a funny, self-deprecating, larger-than-life Texas gal-friend who serves doughnut holes to jittery clients, makes balloon animals for the kids and knows how to gently nudge divorcing couples toward an agreement that in the long run will save them money. In one day she can settle a case that could go on for months in trial. Her tireless energy is a big piece of her success. She won't quit and won't let the couple quit until they can go no more.
Don't know how Pipe Dream does it. The head shop—which, yes, offers a fine collection of pipes and other tobacco-smoking products too—doesn't stock the widest selection of cigarettes in town, but man, is their selection inexpensive. We're talking a good dollar under market value, sometimes more. And for brand-name smokes, no less. When you're choking down a pack every day—or even every other day—those extra dollars add up. Consider it your backup health insurance plan; you'll need every one of those precious greenbacks when you're paying for your emphysema treatments down the line.
In recent months, and certainly since the 2006 expansion of Ray Nasher's white-brick mall, we've discovered there is no such thing as a quick trip to NorthPark. A pit stop in, oh, the Apple store or the Gap turns into a long morning that morphs into an entire day, as suddenly the kiddo discovers the computer in the Dallas Public Library's Bookmarks or the outside garden, which allows for an extended game of tag-and-tackle; then, maybe, the urge to see a movie sets in, but not before grabbing a cup of coffee at the nearby Starbucks; then, of course, there's lunch to be had, either in the food court or Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom or one of the other high-end eateries scattered about the mall; then, a respite in the Bose dark, cool theater-room, where one can digest in surround sound. Then, for the ladies, the day spa—as common in NorthPark as a cop these days. Or, for the men, a shave in the Art of Shaving antique barber's chair, followed by a trip to the day spa, because, really, fella, don't you deserve it? The list of activities is limitless; so too the possibilities of killing a day.
We so wanted to give you the name of some little, unknown gem of a computer store, some super-secret place that only the bearded guys in jumpsuits who wear white socks with sandals know about. No such luck. Turns out the unsurprising secret to good hardware and software deals—besides shopping online—is volume, volume, volume, so the big chain store guy wins again. But not just any Fry's location, since the secret to shopping at a computer megalomart is finding one where you can actually get waited on, since most seem to be staffed by leprechauns—if you can catch a sales rep, pot o' service for you! That doesn't seem to be the case at Fry's ginormous Irving location. Not only have we actually been approached repeatedly by living, breathing sales reps—none of them wearing green top hats or smoking pipes—they've even understood us as we stood among their well-stocked aisles of hard drives, motherboards and networking gear and explained that we're "looking for this, um, doohickey that connects to this whatchacallit that we need to set up our WiFi" and then found us just the right part. Customer service—it's magically delicious.