Titan Comics
Cosmic Comics and Cards owner Mike Rubino has been a collector himself for 30 years and in business since 1980, so he understands his customers. His eclectic range of merchandise ranges from Archie and Jughead to The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. to modern day X-Men, and back issues are easy to locate, neatly arranged by title and number. While his average customer is male, age 20-25, there's plenty for the kid collector to look over. Additionally, there's a wide assortment of trading cards (sports, non-sports), comic book hero/heroine figurines, and adventure games.

Most comic-book stores live up, or down, to the stereotype: the good ol' fanboy club, the fortress of solitude and attitude. Woe to the novice who walks in unaware of what awaits him (or her, and let's be serious); you're in for the stink-eye from the guy behind the counter, who can't believe you don't know about Preacher or Top 10. Titan Comics, which bills itself as "the store for ther serious collector," exists almost to disprove the cliche. It's owned by a woman (Cecilia Shorr, who started her first comic shop in Houston almost two decades ago), staffed by women and Cecilia's kindly husband, Jeremy, and filled not only with the latest DC and Marvel titles, but the oddball good stuff that disproves the notion comics are still for superheroes. With its wall of new stuff and boxes of old stuff, Titan has become our home away from home, at least until we restock our boxes with copies of World's Finest, Brave and the Bold and Daredevil--ya know, the ones our moms sold when we went to college.

Place your greasy nose smudge next to ours and marvel at the brass and colored glass lamps lining the window sill, along with black-and-white Hollywood photos and various other gorgeous art deco baubles. But unless several Benjamins are burning a hole in your pocket, stay outside. Inside lurk antiques buffed and shined to prime condition, including a carved bedroom set that could fill a ballroom and that dining room set we love so much, but it's twice the price of our car and just a few hundred less than our college education.

Two career families, already over-scheduled to the max with kids' activities, will find they can cross at least two items off their checklist if they visit the Stride-Rite Shoe Store in Preston Center. Not only can they select from a large variety of kids' shoes--from sandals to hiking boots--they can saunter into the back, where they'll get a decent, no-hassles kids' haircut. Yes, there are many juvenile haircutteries popping up around town, but they have so many toys, tapes, and play-spaces that kids get overstimulated, unable to keep their butts in the chair for very long. At Stride-Rite, Ginger is especially sought after by kids of all ages for her quick scissors, calm demeanor, and deft ability to keep squirming toddlers still by loading them down with lollipops.

Best place to buy chic furnishings on a not-so-chic budget (tie)

Crate & Barrel Outlet and Target

At one time it was respectable to furnish an apartment piece-by-piece as the budget allowed. Now there's no need to be so patient. There are credit cards and discount stores with items sexier than their price tags. Unlike many outlet stores, Crate & Barrel doesn't have stock that recalls the stragglers left at the bar at last call. It has the odd-colored painted ceramics and bed skirts sans matching sheets, but those aren't the norm. Most shelves hold desirable items at bargain-basement prices. Besides the expected glassware, bar accessories, and dining supplies, the Crate & Barrel Outlet also has furniture for the whole house, linens for each room, and a plethora of magazine racks (does no one read anymore?).

Target, the most progressive of discount stores, has increased its toniness with several new lines of furniture, kitchenware, fancy dining room chairs (some with tony prices still intact), and the Michael Graves collection. The designer offers up slate-blue plastic, brushed aluminum, and honey-colored wood products with lines so sleek and graceful that even the pot scrubbers are a work of art. Target's also amassing enough high-quality drawer pulls and bathroom fixtures to make Restoration Hardware proud in a sensei-to-student sort of way.

You've got to hand it to Borders. Their deep catalog cannot be beaten; to do better you have to go to Amazon.com, and do you really want to wait a week for a book you want to start reading tonight? Besides Borders also has nice little coffee shops and excellent magazine sections that highlight more than biker and weightlifting titles. They bring in local and regional voices for book readings. As a company, they also have a sorry history of union busting (well-educated clerks who read Marx are responsible), but our political sensibilities are usually soothed by the overall Borders shopping experience.

The plucky Wheeler family has chosen to go up against the Holy Trinity of Dallas' liquor stores-- Sigel's, Red Coleman, and Centennial--in the battle for your booze bucks, and they're doing a nifty job of it with little amenities such as easy chairs and handy reference books in an airy, spacious, light-filled store. Plus, they have nice little tastings on Saturday evenings.

Best place to buy salvaged parts for your home

Alexander's Salvage

When your budget is shy of enough zeros to call a contractor, check out the salvaged parts, and the few architectural gems, strewn about this junkyard: sinks and counters from the '80s in good-enough shape, lots of wrought-iron fencing, and the odd door and bathtub. Prices are reasonable.

This is not the biggest liquor store in Dallas, and it by no means has the best selection, but the bottom line is, you usually want to get in and out of a liquor store as quickly as possible for fear that someone you know might see you buying bottles of Boone's Farm. At the Centennial Liquor Store by The Village apartments, a favorite stop for hotties, you'll want to hang out and get some face time. Trust.

Best place to buy ribbons, trim, and other stuff to make a hat

Milliners Supply Co.

You can bet that the fiercest Easter bonnets began life here. The ground floor feels like the attic of an ancient, slightly haunted, dusty, dark Victorian house that's crammed to the ceiling with miles of fabric, tiny drawers full of trim, spangles, beads, and a flurry of feathers. Grab a ready-made hat form and let the Carmen Miranda in you come out.

Best place to get your tennis racket strung

Star Tennis

With a hot match at five in the afternoon you learn at three that the old racket badly needs to be re-strung. Not a problem at Dallas' newest racket sports specialty store. In addition to top-of-the-line equipment and accessories, an on-staff master racket technician--for you weekend players that means he's USRSA-qualified, has strung more than 6,000 frames, and knows how to operate something called the Babolat Star 4 stringing machine. While you're waiting, check out the nutritional supplements center or test-drive a few rackets.

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