Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Actually, we're loath to recommend any Borders location these days; the selection seems to have dropped off precipitously since the good ol' days, when local managers had more control over inventory and seemed determined to stock one of every title no matter how obscure. Still, more often than not, Borders seems to have what we need, and we're particularly enamored of this new location in the West Village, which is two stories tall and has that clean new-bookstore smell. Really, there's nothing better than catching a movie at the Magnolia, a bite at Ferre and then spending the rest of the afternoon or evening cruising the CD bins and magazine racks, which still stock a healthy collection of weird titles. We did notice the staff seemed to be a little clueless during one recent visit--three times a call for register backup went unheeded, despite the growing line of impatient customers--but at least the shelves were stocked and the coffee was hot, which is all you can ask for some days.
Barnes & Noble
The new Sam Moon is only a stumble away from the old Sam Moon on Harry Hines Boulevard, but the larger parking area feels like a whole new world. The crowds are still crazy, and the patrons are still overly aggressive, but with more space, there's less a chance of injury. Who are we kidding, though? They could move Sam Moon to an un-air-conditioned warehouse in the bowels of the suburbs, and we'd still make the jaunt for the shiny baubles and "designer-inspired" handbags. We blame it on the cheap, sparkly chandelier earrings; we swear they hypnotize us.
We've seen the movie High Fidelity. Even thought about reading the book once. So we get the whole music-clerk snob thing. But it doesn't impress us. Not even a little bit. That's why we shop at CD Source in the Old Town shopping center. These folks know music, and their eclectic stock is often surprising. But by no means are these music clerks snobs. They know that people have different tastes, and they cater to everyone without prejudice. So we bought an Ashlee Simpson CD. Sue us. But even if the folks at CD Source looked down their noses at our poor taste in music and robbed us of our guilt-free shopping, we'd probably still go there. The prices are low, the new arrivals section always has something we want and their buy-back rates are pretty decent, too.
2706 E. Mockingbird Lane, #110
A man, at least once in his life, needs to go Tom Wolfe, take the money he saved for the kids' education and buy himself a killer suit. The best place to shop is at Neiman Marcus on Main Street in downtown. There he'll find Oxxford, Zegna, Armani, Hickey Freeman, Paul Smith and Brioni suits. And he'll find them in bulk, racks upon wonderfully tailored racks of clothing--as well as made-for-measure fabrics in the store, which result in still more clothing options. Neiman's is seldom busy during the weekday. Yet the sales associates do not meddle with a man's browsing habits. They answer questions when needed, sure, but then return to their spaces, and the browsing continues. Suits start at $900 and can run upward of $3,000. Tuxedos there can go for more than $4,000. Belts, ties, shoes, all the other accessories that accommodate a man looking great--they're available, too. Plus, a man can get a shave at Neiman Marcus, so there's no way he's leaving ugly, which leaves only one thing to do: strut.
For years (and years and years), comic-book lovers were pretty much S.O.L. when it came to the convention scene. They were almost always second-rate affairs that brought in third-rate talent. But then last year, Wizard magazine finally decided to bring its mammoth affair down south. There were so many booths packed into the Arlington Convention Center--bursting with toys and videos and original art and T-shirts and so many other things we could scarcely afford but bought anyway--that we got lost. Twice. Even though we had a map. And everywhere we looked, there was a writer or artist from Marvel or DC. Jim Lee, the artist who revived a flagging Batman franchise. Joe Quesada, who, as editor in chief at Marvel, revived a flagging company. Filmmaker and comics scribe Kevin Smith, whose appearance in town prompted at least 30 chubby gentlemen to dress themselves as Silent Bob, the character Smith has played in most of his films. It. Was. Awesome. Best part is, it looks like it's becoming an annual event: The second installment of Wizard World Texas is coming in November.
Though he's never let us paint his toenails, our boyfriend has submitted to some of our tamer grooming requests--i.e., "Let me pluck your eyebrows, sweetie." He probably didn't feel very manly as we fluttered around with our cold wax and tiny tweezers, bent on reshaping his brow growth. For men who are not quite as patient or just prefer to put themselves in the hands of professionals, Aqua Spa offers a "men only" night the last Wednesday of every month, where guys can indulge in massage, waxing, facials and other spa services without having to worry about disapproving looks from over-tanned trophy wives. If he still balks at a buttocks waxing (yes, they offer that), tell him, "That's OK, I'll just let my body hair grow out, too."
The car still runs like a top, but the leather driver seat reveals the wear of a thousand butt-hours? Take it to Brunner's, in business for 25 years. Butch and Henry Brunner can repair slashes, burns and other calamities that befoul the softer parts of your chariot, whether it runs on land or water. They'll also replace glass and repair interior water damage. "Convertible tops are our specialty," says employee Kelly Steger. "And last week we had a car with a cigarette burn in the carpet. We just repaired it instead of replacing it. You couldn't tell it was ever there."
There have been definite scares--chocolate eating, a hip out of socket, rashes, vomiting, swollen butts and open sores. Throughout our pets' varied afflictions, City Vet has offered consistent, kindly care at decent prices. Their convenient drop-off service--you can drop off your pets as early as 7 a.m. and pick them up as late as 7 p.m. --ensures that you won't have to miss a day of work to take your pup for her annual checkup. Plus, City Vet offers boarding and doggie day care at some of the best rates we've seen. And the webcam--so you can check up on your little prince or princess in day care--is an added bonus, and a great way to waste time at work.
Imagine a paradise where every woman of every size and every style can find something to wear, from a size 2 petite to a size 22 tall. From Gap spunky sweaters to Ann Taylor pleated skirts. And did we mention almost everything costs less than $20? And there are shoes and purses? If you don't believe us, just spend a few minutes perusing the neatly organized, clearly marked racks of Garland Road Thrift. We've seen Liz Claiborne jacket-and-skirt suits with the Foley's price tags still attached and this-season Lane Bryant's Venezia-label jean skirts for a third of the regular retail price. And then there are the Grace Kelly-worthy vintage wool and faux fur coats--the kind of stuff you'll never find at a department store. So stop being a snob, put on some jeans and a T-shirt and get ready to slide hundreds of metal hangers across rows upon rows of racks in search of the perfect new (to you) blouse or slacks. In no time, you'll be cursing that there are only two dressing rooms.
We like to think we know a lot about wine. The truth is, we just know how to drink a lot of wine, and a trip to the liquor store can be a comic search not for good bottles but for good labels. Smoking Loon? Sold. (Because the loon is actually smoking!) Toad Hollow? In the belly. That's why Best Cellars is so freaking fantastic. Not only are most of the bottles under $15, but they'll actually let you taste the wine before buying it, like at an ice cream store. The salespeople are sharp and not the least bit condescending. The whole place is so sparkling and lovely that it makes us want to buy tons and tons of wine, which, when we think about it, is kind of a bad thing. We don't really need encouragement.
Situations that call for formal attire: irritating high school dances, weddings, galas and, sometimes, Halloween. For guys, a tuxedo fills the bill and can be used time and again without suspicion. Just pick a new tie. For the ladies, however, each event requires a special statement, a distinct look. Almeta Gold has all those occasions mastered. A professional seamstress who works out of a studio in her home, Gold can create a design, work from a pattern, combine patterns and even assist in finding the perfect fabrics for certain styles, figures and events. She creates magic in prom, homecoming and fund-raiser formals, and yes, she has bridal gowns down as well. And don't even question her alteration skills. Gold has taken a vintage gown down six sizes for us after we found it for a steal and had to have it despite the size. She's instructed us on how to care for a 1954 silk brocade number we had to have mended. And if you bought fabric for a dress only to decide it would look better on the window, Gold can create drapes and window treatments.
By now it should be clear to us that we really don't need to go anywhere but Mark & Larry's Stuff for Christmas gifts. We trudge through stores and stores of despicable generic crap, leave with empty hands and a full list of gifts to buy. It is then we remember the little shop on Elm Street (with a sister shop now on Main Street) that has something for each person on our list. Bath stuff, coffee table books, '50s-style toys for Sis, old-world décor (think gilded frames and the like) for Mom, journals for the pensive preteen and for Dad, barware, of course. For everyone else on the "card list," the store carries great individual greeting cards and boxed sets by RockScissorPaper and other neo-midcentury (yeah, we made that up) printers. For almost 10 years, partners Mark Brian Sonna and Larry E. Groseclose have provided the best in "stuff," and at great prices. And for the "I'm already supposed to be there!" situations, they even have the wrapping covered.
314 Preston Royal Shopping Center