Best Of :: Shopping & Services
The missus disagrees, insisting that, look, Learning Express in Snider Plaza's probably more deserving. But here, we'll go against our better half's better judgment and proclaim this Preston Royal relative newcomer the best of 'em all, for a handful of reasons. Chief among them: Its shelves and aisles are cram-packed with all manner of kiddie whozits and whatsits from brain-teasers to board-games to ride-'ems to wear-its to make-'ems to break-'ems and everything in between and beyond. It reminds us of the original Puzzle Zoo in Santa Monica, not its more sterile NorthPark sibling: a toy store run by a proprietor without an internal editor, someone who sees a U.S.S. Enterprise replica and buys it not just because it'll sell, but because it'll look awesome on the shelf of warship replicas and other military items perched across the aisles from the latest and greatest in night-time reading situated across the aisle from the Paul Frank retro-Batman tees we'd like in our size, please? There's plenty available for the talented and gifted child whose brain always digs some fine tuning, but also loads of fun-and-family items as well, for when you just wanna play with the kiddo.
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.