Mark Sonna and Larry Groseclose opened their Deep Ellum hipster gift store seven years ago and just this summer opened a second location downtown. The new store is a lot like the old store, except there are posh neighbors like Neiman-Marcus and the Adolphus Hotel, and a vintage atmosphere in the restored 1913 Woolworth Building. Both locations feature kitsch, artist-designed jewelry, retro toys such as pet rocks, sea monkeys and paint-by-number sets and funky home furnishings, but what we like best are the wall-to-wall greeting cards. Mark & Larry's carries more than 30 of the best lines--Nobleworks, which are funny; Fotofolio also--and hard-to-find handmade cards, many from England. British artists create one-of-a-kind, elaborate cards for the English Card Company and Vigo. Mark & Larry's carries frames to fit the card works of art--very cool idea, particularly if you pay more than $10 for a card.

America loves the hairless. Hair removal has taken the place of the manicure as a status symbol and has made its way onto many a Dallas woman's schedule. We think it might be a touch excessive and masochistic to use an Epilady, and Nad's has been road-tested by several staffers here, and we got no satisfaction. So we turn to the experts, Ms. Hunter in particular, for a considerably more pleasant hair-removal experience. She uses the latest technology (IPL Photo Rejuvenation), makes you feel comfortable (even when you're not so clothed) and has catlike swiftness. She also does more than hair removal, offering microdermabrasion, facials and anti-aging skin care. Hairless, wrinkle-free and spic-n-span pores sound fine to us; at least the nonsurgical methods won't make your ears meet in the long run.

Gas Pipe

We would never, ever pick a best head shop. Drugs are bad, m'kay? What we come here for are the plentiful gag T-shirts, the comic bumper stickers, the incense. Not that we ever have a call to burn incense. What? You say they have water pipes, too? Hmmm. We thought all those fancy, colored glass sculptures were lamps. Sure are purty. Might have to pick up one of those some day.

Unfortunately, there remains an assumption, in this world struggling toward equality for all, that the ladies aren't as schooled on the secret world beneath the hood of an automobile. Sometimes, a mechanic here and there will try to finagle an unnecessary repair or two based on such assumptions. We believe such practices are a crock. The Zuhdi folk are all about our desire for fair car repairs and estimates, too. They don't mess around with tidbits and add-ons, they do the work in an incredibly timely manner and they are more than reasonable in price. We salute you, Zuhdi, for your nonprejudiced customer service and your quality of work for men and women alike.

Gorgeous terra-cotta pots from Italy and Greece, beautiful fired earth pots from Vietnam: Lemmon Avenue Pottery has always been a kind of mecca for the most discriminating potheads, potophiles, pot fans, or whatever you call them, in the entire Southwest.

This purveyor of chic duds and accessories for ladies and gents doesn't just dress an AARP associate in a vest and cap to mumble a "howdy" when you walk to the door. They follow up their greetings by asking if you might like a refreshing beverage to go with your shopping experience: a choice of Coke, Sprite or sparkling water in swift little bottles. We're waiting for them to discover those red Piper-Heidsieck minis. Champagne just makes hellos slide off the lips so much easier. It makes the shopping more dangerous, too.

This place closed recently, but we wanted to keep it in, because, well, quite honestly, no other bookstore in town so enchanted children. In addition to having a wonderful selection of books for the youngsters, owner Jennifer Anglin had the most customer-friendly place of business you're likely to ever encounter. The imaginative layout included a stage for such activities as the Polka Dot Theater where high school actors from Booker T. Washington regularly put on short plays and visiting authors read and discussed their books. Its demise is a sad day for tots who read.

Emeralds to Coconuts

Emeralds to Coconuts, a hip little store with a funny name, offers women's fashions for young and old. While you won't necessarily find the latest trends here, you will find rack after rack of fun and stylish women's clothing, many of the items imported from faraway lands. Even the clearance rack at Emeralds to Coconuts has a lot to offer, such as a sequined rayon skirt from India remarkably priced at $18. And that's just one example. The incense-scented store also offers a variety of jewelry, accessories and gift items. But possibly the best part about shopping at Emeralds to Coconuts is the friendly service and welcoming atmosphere. No snotty salesgirls here. They even provide a complimentary gift bag and colored tissue paper for your gift items. And on one visit, there were free chocolates at the checkout counter. Could this shopping experience be any better?

Movie Trading Company

Used to be this place had the market cornered--back before Borders stocked its walls with DVDs, back before Fry's ordered imports and sold them for cutout prices (maybe they just don't know what they have, but we do). With Movie Trading Company on the verge of selling out to Blockbuster--haven't heard otherwise, at least since we ran a news item on the proposed buyout--our love for this homegrown chain might diminish; we fear the corporate mentality, since we work for one ourselves. But till then, we love the MTC for three reasons: the nice-price used copies, which sell for several bucks cheaper than new discs; the neighborhood favorites section, always a blast at the Oak Lawn location; and the way you can rent before owning, without Blockbuster's late fees hanging over your head.

We picked up an old friend at the airport recently. She married a high roller and moved from Dallas to Las Vegas. She's all tall and tan, strolling out of D-FW International Airport, sparkling with stunning silver jewelry, carrying a Louis Vuitton train case, with a Gucci bag hanging from her shoulder. "You look great!" we cried, then pointed to a particularly swell bangle bracelet on her right wrist. "Sam Moon, $7," she said, and she wouldn't start the evening's drinking or eating without a quick trip to Dallas' best import/knock-off store. Sam Moon recently moved to the new Sam Moon Center and filled up two big store-fronts with luggage, jewelry, purses and gift-y tchotchkes. We've never seen better--or cheaper--silver earrings, bracelets; better or cheaper watches; better or cheaper fake designer purses. We've never spent so much time and so little money for so much crap. Good crap.

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