So we needed some leather cleaner. Nearly $100 later, we left Elliott's with things we needed and things we didn't and were once again assured that this is probably the best hardware store on the planet. Not to be sexist, but the male buying impulse is so well identified and satisfied here that even the cookware looks good. Of course, the formula is simple. High-quality goods are well displayed and backed up by a knowledgeable sales staff. Sure, this is the perennial pick. But to send you anywhere else for the sake of novelty would be untrue to the double-blind-test, peer-review standards we employ in these matters.
Sure, you can buy one of those hardware-store chain saws that are light and dainty and easy to start. But what's the point? Would you buy a hybrid-electric Harley? You need a big damn chain saw. Loud! You need one of them orange helmets with a visor. You need chain saw chaps. In fact, if you get the orange helmet and the chaps, you might not even need the saw! So don't go to the hardware store. Go to Gassett, where the real lumberjacks and lumberjills go. They got Stihl (pronounced "Steel," by the way). They got Echo. The real stuff. Don't be a chain saw wannabe. Be real! Get Stihl!

Whether you're a pro or just a weekend hobbyist who loves the eau de toilette of freshly cut grass blended with two-cycle engine emissions, Casey's has the goods--even those heavy-duty back-mounted leaf blowers that look like flamethrowers (Die, leaf pile! Die!). Casey's has all the brands that draw lawn grunts--Toro, Honda, Echo, Snapper, Stihl, Shindaiwa, Lawn Boy--and offers pickup and delivery service. Plus the staff is polite, knowledgeable and accommodating, which isn't easy when your head is humming with a two-cycle weed whacker buzz all day.

Didn't you ever want to dig a hole in the back yard, put some water lilies in it, put some fish in it, sit around and look at it? Well, you should, man. What's the matter with you? Nowadays everybody sells the basic equipment, even Home Depot, but most of the people who sell it have no idea how to do it. The people at Water Gardens Galore originally got into the business by servicing existing ponds. They really know their stuff, and they can tell you how to avoid the pitfalls, such as mosquitoes. (You buy little mosquito-eaters, and it's no sweat after that.) There's a little bit of an art to it, and they can tell you what it is. Live in an apartment? You can do a balcony pond. Really. Time to move? Heave-ho over the edge. It's part of the natural cycle.

Movie Trading Company
We know someone--the name begins with "M" and rhymes with "brother"--who still doesn't own a DVD player. She claims she never will but defends her right to complain that no one carries videocassettes anymore. Lucky for her (and her technophobe brethren), there is one last sanctuary. Movie Trading Company still carries VHS tapes, and used ones are only $5.99. But if you buy four--say, Dirty Dancing, Memphis Belle, Road House and Autumn in New York--then they're five bucks apiece. There are rows upon rows, because, really, what 15 people don't need an almost-new copy of Teen Wolf? Let's just hope this oasis in the desert of DVDs doesn't dry up. Mom might have to learn to work another scary small appliance.

Another Time and Place
An evil-eye talisman is a Turkish charm that is supposed to bring luck and ward off those who wish to do you harm--both concepts we can get on board with. Plus, they look really cute on a gold chain or possibly a silver bracelet. Yes, we're superstitious, but not at the expense of fashion. In any case, the best place to go for the evil eye is Another Time & Place, on the trendy Knox-Henderson strip (a second location opened in Plano earlier this year). They've got evil eyes for every occasion and every person. Besides jewelry, there are evil-eye key chains, magnets, coin purses, door hangers and more. So, really, there's no excuse not to protect yourself. But that's not all. Another Time & Place is the trinket-shopper's crack house. The stuff's always there, and you can never get enough. But for some reason, we're always drawn to the good-luck charms; you know, like mini-Buddhas and three-legged pigs...OK, fine, make fun if you wish, but you might as well break a bunch of mirrors and stand under a ladder.

No other place satisfies kids and the inner child in their parents quite the way Zeus does, with a wide-ranging inventory containing everything from mint-condition artifacts meant to be kept behind glass to newer, cheaper stuff meant to be banged around inside a toy box. Stuffed animals, action figures, Barbies, movie tie-ins, board games, bobbleheads, even the McDonaldland Gang--they've got it all and then some.
Other stores are too bright, clean and well-kempt to look like Championship Vinyl, the record store John Cusack owned in High Fidelity. But AWOL has that slightly disheveled, dank, grungy feel of home...for music nerds, at least. It also has Cusack character Rob's sense of categorization. How many genres of punk are there? We're sure there's more each time. There's also usually more junk, too. AWOL is one of the few places where you can pick up that out-of-print Fugazi album and a vintage radio missing a knob and a plug. Ah, just like home.

Metro Retro is like a flashback. A good one--typewriters, Formica tables, vintage rags, Centipede board games and the best in midcentury Christmas décor when the season's right. Looking at something that may need a little cleanup? Owner Andrea Jennings can probably offer a few tips on re-covering or chrome polishing. She knows her stock better than any other owners specializing in Donna Reed-era collectibles (although Metro Retro does offer other selections from various decades). Walk in and ask. If they've got it, you'll love it. If they don't have it, don't worry, because you'll probably find something better waiting on the shelf. Want an example? We went trolling for a birthday present, looking for a specific action figure. What we got was something better, a figure that was indeed active: a Redd Foxx bobble-head doll. Oh, yeah.

The news was bad. Some faulty wiring had caused a fire that put Mister Tuxedo temporarily out of business in July. But nothing could stop the unflappable Harold Bell, owner, proprietor and grand master of the witty comeback, from reopening as soon as the smoke cleared. He secured a new space close to the old one and has plans of returning to the original storefront as soon as it can be repaired. What Mister Tuxedo offers are quality goods and dependable service. Unlike chain-store rentals, there is never any fear that you might come up a stud short, or that your cummerbund will reveal an unsightly guacamole stain from the previous renter. Whether it's a wedding, bar mitzvah, high school prom or spring formal for the SMU Greek set, Mister Tuxedo will continue to be the black-tie specialist in town--just as it's been for the past 40 years.

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