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Howard Garrett, the plain-talking organic-gardening "Dirt Doctor" of North Texas, is going to tell you something about the nature of this sun-blistered, snake-bit, bad-dirt region that you're just not going to believe. You might be a damn hippie liberal communist or a knuckle-dragging throwback right-wing nutcase: You're still not going to get your mind around Garrett's message when he tells you Dallas is the biggest organic-gardening retail market in America.
"There's about 700 retail stores in this area that sell a full line of organic products for gardeners," Garrett says. Of those, he says, "at least 10 percent are 100 percent organic," meaning they sell no non-organic products.
"That's huge, because you cannot go to California or Colorado or Vermont and find a single one that's totally organic, that sells a full line of organic products and promotes its use.
"It surprises people that that's the case."
Yeah, it does. A lot. And, of course, we have to factor Garrett himself into this formula: A tireless promoter of organics, not to mention himself, an author, newspaper columnist, radio and TV personality, Garrett also mentions himself as a big reason the organic thing has happened here on such a large scale. He says his show, The Dirt Doctor, on WBAP-820 AM has been a major factor in spreading the word.
"I went on air in 1989, and I said Neil Sperry doesn't know what he's talking about, and I'm going to teach you a whole new way to live," Garrett says modestly. "I took the message to people."
The reference is to Neil Sperry of KRLD Radio, whose Texas Gardening Show has been a mainstay of KRLD Radio 1080 for decades. Every installment of Sperry's show is the aural equivalent of a major chemical spill, urging people to do everything short of spoon Diazinon on their Wheaties in the morning--exactly the kind of pro-hydrocarbon 'tude most of us would expect to find here in the heart of Bush/Cheney.
Garrett's claims for this region as the buckle on the Organic Bible Belt are a little hard to pin down, because the numbers on organic-gardening retail commerce are not readily available from the government agencies one might think responsible. But he makes a useful challenge: "Go to Google and start looking up organic-gardening retail centers under different cities," he says.
Hmm. After way too much time noodling Google for this data, one must conclude that Garrett has his hands on at least a piece of something very interesting. Even if his thesis can't be proved conclusively, the Google test does provide an intriguing and very counterintuitive window on this region: Dallas is one heck of an organic-gardening market. Dallas does seem to outstrip all of the other cities and regions a not hugely sophisticated researcher was able to think of before getting bored.
So if this comes as counterintuitive news for Dallas, what would be intuitive? How would one assume most Dallasites would approach husbandry of the soil? Well, first, obviously, you hire an illegal immigrant. You give him a shovel, some instructions in Spanglish and a great big old squirt jug of Roundup. You get yourself well inside the picture window where you can watch him with the AC cranked up, a Cowboys game on television and a six-pack of cold ones in a Styrofoam cooler on the coffee table. You get your loved one in there with you on the sofa. And you sit back and enjoy nature.
Garrett doesn't exactly argue with any of that. He says organic gardening works here because it's compatible with the culture instead of requiring a religious conversion. If anything, his explanation for the popularity of organics here is that he himself has promoted it entirely apart from and without reference to its hippie-dippie ex-post-'60s roots.
Garrett says the best examples of the kind of organic approach people go for here are found not in your typical East Dallas herb garden but at the big corporate campuses in Plano, Southlake and environs of Fort Worth. Garrett, who is also a landscape contractor, manages several corporate headquarters in this area on totally organic regimens--no chemicals, not no-how, not never.
"Frito-Lay has been 100 percent organic under my program for 15 years. That's a big deal. It's a national headquarters of 300 acres. They know in relative terms that economically it's working for them and that if they went back to chemicals, it would cost them at least as much and probably more."
Based on that and other examples, Garrett preaches through his various media forums that organic gardening costs less or the same as chemical gardening and gets you a better garden. And there's no reason why you can't hire the illegal and get up on the sofa with the cold ones and the loved one, etc. Just, instead of Roundup, you give the guy outside a big old bottle of vinegar and tell him in Spanglish to pour it "on el weedos."
Who knew? We're a lot cooler here than people think.
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