Best grocery store for last- minute wine and flowers

Kroger in Oak Lawn

Kroger
A discriminating friend recently walked into the Kroger at Cedar Springs in Oak Lawn. She had been lamenting the demise of Simon David stores with their wonderful selection of exotic items. (Unfortunately, the Tom Thumb replacements just don't have the same magic.) Imagine her surprise when she found that the flower selection at this simple store was larger than expected and fresh to boot. Thinking that this was a fluke, she came back a few more times and was not disappointed. It also carries a good selection of wine from respectable vineyards. (No Ripple or Boone's Farm Tickled Pink in sight.)

Best business start-up likely to kick butt

NextJet

When it "absolutely, positively" has to get there, don't be so certain it's Federal Express or UPS that is going to get it (whatever it is) there first, not with the recent launch of NextJet. The Dallas-based, Internet-enabled start-up guarantees same-day (instead of overnight) service for those who need the fastest delivery going and are willing to pay for it. By using a business model that relies heavily on the Internet, the company books existing carriers for its shipments, and has no inventory of airplanes to warehouse and maintain. NextJet plans to cater more to business customers, but everyday consumers who want something in the last minute--caviar from Iran, Maui Wowie from Hawaii--can get the service by paying the fare.

Businesswomen on a budget frequent this women's clothing resale store with a vengeance. One of our shoppers recently found an excellent deal on an Ann Klein suit. The atmosphere and staff are friendly, and you can usually find most items at 50-80 percent off retail department store prices.

Medallion is a good neighborhood place to go for a cheap haircut and interesting conversation. You can even get keys cut here; the machine is near the door. Rugrats are also welcome, but so are SMU students, young men, old men, anybody with hair follicles. Old-fashioned barbershops are a dying breed, veritable endangered species in an era in which "stylists" shear both men and women. So, men with hair, we call on you to unite in support of your local barbershop. You have nothing to lose but your bangs.

We're tired of all the product placement at the mega-toy stores around town. We're mortified that Disney and Pixar are having their way with our 3-year-old. Buzz Lightyear and Pokmon and Tarzan and Bullwinkle and Babe are making us hanker for a concealed-weapon license. Escape the insanity of being a target market for Rugrats and enter the Lakeshore Learning Store, where toys have a purpose other than lining the coffers of global media conglomerates. Here is a vast array of learning toys and fun toys (sans mass-media stuff) and knowledgeable sales people to help you strike the right balance between the two.

This shop actually has fine china in stock, not just a sample on the floor and a frustrating four-week wait. At $1,450 a plate, Flora Danica isn't for everyone, but it's nice to know you could run out and get a set in an emergency. At more reasonable prices are Wedgwood, Spode, Present Tense, and Richard Ginori, for the bride who wants everything.
Our family-room couch, a nifty if rather impractical wood-frame affair, sells for a couple thou in most catalogs; we bought it for less than half that...even though, or maybe because, it used to sit on the Good Morning Texas set. (No truth to the rumor it's a former casting couch, though it has seen a lot of pussy lately--dude, our cats sleep on it.) We bought the couch and pretty much everything else in our house at the Gabberts outlet on Furniture Row, off LBJ Freeway and Welch Road. Everything at Gabberts' bargain-bin warehouse is dimes on the dollar, though you shouldn't confuse "discount" with "crap": Most of the stuff here--from the leather couches to the dining-room tables to recliners--is top-of-the-line furniture the main store can no longer stock or sell. And they're willing to part with it for cheap, cheap, cheap. They'll deliver too, which is important when you're trying to fill and empty house with a little one-stop shopping.

To all those who swore off candles when TV news programs sensationalized the lead content of wicks several months ago: It's OK. Ergo's wicks are made of cotton. The wax is soy-based and food-grade so that the candles burn cleanly and evenly, which means they stay attractive while burning. The Dallas-based candle maker, which supplies several upscale retail stores, sells its discontinued fragrances and overstocked merchandise at its outlet on Motor Circle near Stemmons from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday. Ergo's most popular scents, including Ch'i, Shanti, Duo, and Zen Temple, are available in a variety of sizes and containers. Choose from the aluminum travel cups to three-wick glass bubble jars at about 50 percent off retail prices.

Proprietors Robert Wilson and Matt Tully are looking for clients who want more than just a little off the top. They love doing out-of-town folks--Britney Spears' dancers came in for late-night drinks, hair coloring, and a cathartic bitch session--because, as Wilson says, "They won't be coming back, and I can really do my best work." This is not a threat from some kind of loose-cannon stylist, because he and Tully can take the plunge into "creative" without drowning in "tacky." Still, they often find that people looking for high-fashion cuts in Dallas skew to a conservative range of two or three looks. They make annual visits to hair shows and seminars with top cutters in Europe, and return itching to introduce the locals to something different. Sounds a little scary, until you sit down and talk with Wilson or Tully and realize that their brains contain a 1,000-page flip book of contemporary and classic cuts. It's not that they want to try something fresh for the sake of freshness alone--they won't make you the guinea pig for some au courant Czech crackhead's new style goof--but they want to try something new for you. In other words, their first goal is a client's attractiveness. Let their restless imagination be your reward, and once you become a regular, ask them about the monthly Saturday night "hair events" they host in their Deep Ellum salon.

Best place to buy gifts for vintage freaks and gadget geeks

Restoration Hardware

At Restoration Hardware, thumb-sized candle snuffers and a penguin-shaped cocktail shaker are necessities, not luxuries. The stores are also totally Wodehouse--the fine, polished wood furniture has the reserved elegance of Jeeves, while the tin toys and quirky high-dollar accessories are reminiscent of Bertie Wooster. There are recipe books containing only after-dinner drinks, and road-sign bingo cards, magnets made from milk bottle tops, and door-knockers suitable for Dracula's Transylvania spread. Then, lining the cash register areas are tubs and stacks of gadgets that you didn't even know you needed (canceled casino dice and a mini screwdriver key chain) and ones you're surprised you were able to live without (a car-trunk extender and a mouth-sized dentist's mirror).

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