Southwest Gallery

We keep trying out other shops, but we always find ourselves back at Southwest Gallery when we have an important framing project. The reason is simple: The work they do is impeccable. From your end, the most difficult thing about framing is deciding what frame to choose. That's the second area where Southwest Gallery shines: Its staff offers excellent direction in helping you navigate the store's wide selection of frames, making suggestions based on what works best for the art rather than what makes them the most money.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You Linux users and hard-core Wintel folk are muttering obscenities about what a bunch of techno-idiots we are. You computer studs demand a store that sells the raw materials needed to etch your own circuit boards with your own hands. This store is in a mall for God's sake. You need raw computing power. So what if your machines look like an icebox, though not quite as sexy? Who cares? A large part of the population--those who don't think jumpsuits, white socks with sandals and ZZ Top beards are smokin'--that's who. Style counts, and the Apple Store at Willow Bend mall is the house of style for personal computers. Drenched in blond woods, white walls and mod lighting, the store is a grown-up playground stocked with the latest, hippest iPods, gooseneck iMacs, digital cameras and clear, molded plastic surround-sound speakers. Think The Jetsons, as directed by Ridley Scott. Sure, you won't find all the parts you need to build your own computer from scratch, and maybe the Apples won't play all the latest games, but what would you rather be, cool or functional?

Say, for instance, you are on your way to visit someone in the hospital, you must get there before visiting hours are over and you need a gift. (Not that we've ever procrastinated in such a way.) Get thee to Urban Flowers. Not only are the arrangements absolutely stunning, but the arrangements can be created according to your budget and still be absolutely stunning. The shop also offers unique handmade cards and assorted gifts and the best service you can ask for. The owner even offers that you can call on your way there and tell him what you need and he'll have it ready and waiting.

For discount shoppers, the sign on the front of 75% Off Books probably says all it needs to say: Nothing Over $5. And it's no lie, no come-on that's proved false once you get inside. Everything in this place is 75 to 90 percent off the original price, and nothing costs more than $5. The books are all new, too, so there's no yellowed pages or musty smells wafting about. 75% Off Books buys its stock mostly as truckloads of assorted books from publishers. They're either overstock, samples left over from trade shows or books that have been slightly damaged in shipping. So it's not the place to go when you're looking for a specific title, but if you have the time, scour the tables at 75% Off Books; you might discover an armload of gems you didn't even know you needed. The store is also an excellent choice for parents and teachers. Each of the Dallas-area locations has up to 500 titles for children and young adults, and they both accept school district purchase orders. New titles arrive every week, so if you don't find anything on your first visit, keep looking; a second go-round might make all the difference.

Best place to Go Wedding and Western Wear Shopping

Marie's/La Zacateca�a

These two family-run stores share the same small Oak Cliff space. Wedding and quinceaeras (15th-birthday celebration) dresses line one side, cowboy boots and hats the other. Needless to say, the quality of customer service is much higher here than in a giant, impersonal department store.

So you think you want a purebred pup, something warm and snuggly that reminds you of Christmas. Well, think again. The majority of puppies are given away or abandoned within the first year of pet ownership. They require more time, effort, love and scooped poop than their new owners are willing to give. That's where rescue organizations like Golden Retriever Rescue of North Texas come in. GRRN takes strays, throwaways and giveaways--goldens only--and offers them a safe haven, a foster home where their needs--medical and emotional--can be assessed. The volunteer organization then rigorously screens future owners so that a dog that has survived one mistake won't have to be subjected to another. In 2001, GRRN rescued 160 dogs, but the new owners also find a home as well. The organization becomes a virtual online community, offering advice, guidance and expertise that enhance the chance its placements will succeed.

The last time somebody told us to "Bring gloves and a good attitude, be sweet and we'll help you," we were trying out a trendy sex therapist near Parkland hospital. When Orr-Reed CEO John Hargrove says it, he means something completely different. Since 1946, Orr-Reed has been in the demolition business, tearing away cabinets, moldings, mantel pieces and cornices from some of the formerly finest old homes in North Texas. They schlep it all back and stack it up and sell it from their 5-acre site near downtown. Hargrove says they have everything, and they don't charge antique-store prices, because they don't really spend a lot of time cleaning up the stuff or sorting it. Hence, the gloves and the good-hunting attitude; and, hence, the bargains. Orr-Reed reclaims old heart pine and other hardwood lumbers some customers use to build furniture or create hardwood floors. Hargrove says they do custom-fabrication work, too; but we just like the architectural junk and the thrill of the hunt.

If you are just looking to brighten up the house, or a routine stay-at-home meal, there's nothing wrong with picking up flowers at your local supermarket. Nowadays, even Minyard sells some bouquets that'll bring a little sunshine indoors without breaking the pocketbook. But if you are throwing a dinner party or, more stressful yet, trying to impress a date, the arrangements designed at Village Garden & Gallery will guarantee success. This store, located in the new West Village shopping center, goes far beyond the standard dozen roses in a cheap glass vase to creating true works of floral art, exotically arranged in unique pots and vases.

Top-quality dealers all over the country ship their best wares to Ralph Willard's wonderfully eclectic Tower Antique Show. In its ninth year, the Tower show typically offers authentic antiques (no copies allowed) from 50 to 300 years old. Expect lots of decorative and garden stuff, maybe a fifth of the furniture primitive, a fifth ultra-sophisticated, the rest somewhere in between. Everything in this show is interesting just to look at, let alone buy. It's so much fun, the Tower Antique Show is even a good date. Call for next show date and times.

Deep down, in some part of our aging brain, the old person we're rapidly becoming shakes his head and wonders, "What is this world coming to when teen-agers feel they need a spa?" Of course, in some other part not quite so deep, we're humming "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and thinking this is just a fine idea. Apparently, so do the youngsters themselves. This spacious spa in a Plano shopping center offers a full salon, makeovers, makeup instruction and massages, all geared to the target audience of Seventeen magazine, which has a licensing agreement for the name. (The Plano location is the first of 36 planned.) Why would a young person need a facial or massage? Acne, for one, we suppose, but teens also face an inordinate amount of stress, hence the popularity of massages. The spa also offers services to boys, though, by gum, in our day no self-respecting boy...oh, never mind. We're old. If you're not, and you have a sense of style or need help in how to apply glitter makeup, this might be the place for you. They also offer nifty gift cards.

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