We love Elliott's as much as the next handyman. If only we were handy, but still. Yet it's almost too much of a good thing, a hardware store in which the hardware's getting short shrift. Around the time they started selling make-yer-own fudge, well, we decided we'd best look elsewhere for our everyday nail-hittin', pliers-pullin' needs. We love the Westlake Ace because it's as old school as a one-room junior high, a place where they sell nothing but paint and nails and hammers and light bulbs and garden hoses and soil and tape and all other things hard and ware. And it's easy to find a guy to help you with all your needs. We had one dude spend 30 minutes with us not long ago discussing the finer points of sandpaper and which grain we really needed for refinishing that coffee table we rescued from a garage sale down the street. Take that, Home Depot.

Readers' Pick
Elliott's Hardware 4901 Maple Ave. 214-634-9900 2049 Coit Road, #300, Plano 972-312-0700
Obsessed with Bravo's hit show Blow Out and the upscale styling world of its weepy, tantrum-throwing owner Jonathan Antin? The atmosphere of hair guru Matthew Tully's Uptown salon isn't far off. The shop is a bit more Day-Glo and Tully doesn't boohoo as much in public. But that's a big plus. We like a man with scissors in his hand to be focused on nothing but us, thanks. His cuts are so flawless we've seen ladies leave in tears (strictly happy ones), and Tully's color work is dynamic. Like Antin, Tully handpicks his staff, trains them and works alongside them as a team player. Tully's staff (which includes his wife, Tania) offers a wide range of services (cuts, color, extensions, etc.). The more experienced the stylist, the higher the price. But they're all pros. It's not just Beverly Hills salonmeisters who get all the stars. Lots of local celebs come to Tully for some hairplay. But he's not one to gossip. Call him a big tease.

Readers' Pick
Avalon Salon and Spa 6632 Snider Plaza 214-750-5667 3699 McKinney Ave. 214-969-1901
Are you a slave to product? Gel in your hair, polish on your nails, lotion on your skin--these are not luxuries, they're necessities. And they ain't cheap. Not at your level of use, anyway. If this sounds like you, BeautyFirst should be on your list. Aside from offering a hair salon and a wide array of product lines, BeautyFirst also has Gold Card Tuesdays. For card holders, the first Tuesday of every month is the day to stock up on all those potions that keep you looking like your usual fabulous self while saving 20 percent off your purchases, and you know what that means. It means you can buy 20 percent more stuff! The friendly sales clerks will help you find what you need, and they'll explain new items and make suggestions, too. And we like that a lot, because even the most expert product user needs a little guidance sometimes.

Best Place to Get a Haircut and Listen to Tupac

Stylelabb

So you're sitting there and the stylist is cutting your hair, and she doesn't know you and you don't know her and the silence between you she can't stand--you can, but she can't. She's got to talk to her clients. She must build a client base. "So," she says. "Have you seen any good movies?" Ugh. Sometimes we just want a haircut. We just want to pay our money and get out of there. The great thing about Stylelabb, by contrast, is that they leave you alone if that's what you want. And that is what you want because the music they play is better entertainment anyway. It veers toward hard rap, old-school stuff, Biggie and Tupac. Lots of Tupac, actually. Or at least that's what we notice in Stylelabb because we love Tupac. Suddenly, there's something to talk about with the person cutting hair.
It's no longer a question what body part you'd like pierced--the best piercers in Dallas can do them all. The real question--well, wait, there are actually two questions that separate the best from the rest. How clean is the piercing parlor? And how helpful are they with customers? The first question, that's easy to answer. They all pretty much are. If they weren't, they wouldn't be in business long. But in the helpful department, one stands out: Ritual Body. The staff boasts of having the largest body jewelry selection in the pierce-o-plex. And after your piercing, not only does Ritual's staff piercer trade you a free T-shirt for a coupon, he or she tells you about all the soreness you can expect in the coming weeks and how to care for it. And if you forget, Ritual's Web site gives you detailed lists of what to do and when. Plus, Ritual does tattoos and henna body painting. It's one-stop shopping at this piercing shop--and that's the point.

Readers' Pick
Obscurities Tattoo/Piercing 4000-B Cedar Springs Road 214-559-3706
Don't be put off by Rob Vilarreal's obsession with pompadours and lambchops. Sure, he prefers to put a little hepcat into your hairstyle, but he can handle just about any cut you can dream up, from high-and-tight to low-and-loose (OK, you come up with the opposite to high-and-tight). His tonsorial talents do come to the fore when retro is the order of the day, however, as one might expect from the amount of '50s memorabilia crammed into his tiny shop across from Fair Park. In fact, there's only room for one customer throne, so you might want to make an appointment if you don't want to wait behind Rob's legions of loyal customers.

Readers' Pick
SportClips Haircuts Multiple locations
Everybody knows tanning contributes to skin cancer, premature aging and a host of other dermatological issues. But everybody also knows that looking tanned means looking good. So how are image-conscious Dallasites supposed to resist the temptation when there's a tanning salon on every freakin' corner? Answer: They don't. And the best fake-bake chain (and the place where "the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders tan") is Palm Beach Tan. The various locations make tanning easy, and they offer a wide range of lotions and potions to revive your skin after you've spent 20 minutes (or 20 years) damaging it. For the non-UV-ray-lovers, Palm Beach also has Mystic Tan, a spray-on tan that is totally safe and will fool even the most eagle-eyed tanning expert. If you're gonna tan your hide, then PBT is A-OK.
To win this category, a shop has to cover several problem gift receivers. The frilly grandmother. The distant aunt. The whimsical uncle. The new sister-in-law. The tinkering dad. And of course, Mom. In previous years, maybe you've resorted to goofy gifts, giving tchotchkes that barely graze their interests. This year, Urban Flowers & Gift Market can help you give loved ones something they'll like. In addition to a variety of breathtaking flowers and modern, unusual vases, the shop carries Elizabeth Beck stemware (wrapped with wire and colorful stones), Creature Comfort gourmet pet treats, The Thymes bath goodies, Votivo candles, Phat Tran silk purses, Love Testers (glass/liquid experiments), newsprint vases (our favorite, of course) and a ton of pieces by local artists. Their jewelry is fun and funky and ranges from around $5 to $75. We bet you'll even find a little something you'll keep for yourself. And you should be rewarded--especially for buying distant Aunt Audra those funny chattering teeth last year. Who knew she wore dentures! The horror!

Readers' Pick
Mark & Larry's Stuff 2614 Elm St. 214-747-8833
Imagine a garage sale where the only things being peddled are top-notch kiddie clothes--the kind you hate to part with, even though Baby Junior hasn't been able to fit into his onesie for three years. Then imagine if that garage sale took place in an auditorium and was filled not only with one family's stuff, but the toss-outs of a few hundred families needing the room and the scratch. That's precisely what this twice-yearly children's consignment sale is: a place where mommies from all over the city come to buy and sell what Divine Consign's Web site touts as "the highest quality gently worn children's and maternity clothing, toys, books, games, videos, baby equipment (strollers, car seats, etc.) and baby and children's furniture." In other words, anything and everything you need and didn't know you needed, times 100. Divine Consign holds two sales: a fall-winter event in September and another spring-summer sale in April. We've taken stuff there, but still walked out down a few dollars. Leave it to the missus to find that Little People airport the kid never knew he needed and now can't live without. As a bonus, if you bring stuff to sell (and it gets approved, because, after all, it has to be of high quality), you get first pickin' of the stuff other people are parting with.

Readers' Pick
(Best Kids' Clothing Store) Gap Kids Multiple locations
Froggies 5 & 10
We hate getting older, but not for reasons most people think. We're fine with gray hair and, frankly, it appears as though the paunch is unavoidable. What really sucks is how, as the years pile on, it becomes less acceptable to play with toys. So we step into blissful Froggie's, where everybody's a kid. The friendly staff encourages you to push buttons on farm animal noisemakers and give Walter the Farting Dog a squeeze. Froggie's folk really want you to check out science kits, Gnomads, Wonder Woman lunchboxes, Pull My Finger pens, glider kits, toy horses and the other fun stuff on the kid-level shelves. They're happy helping customers pick out gifts like Inventive Travelware luggage tags ("You Don't Look Like My Owner") or Wash Away Your Sins bath products and even provide what's needed to wrap them in. They carry old-timey candy lines like Banana Bikes and Blackjack gum. For the younger bunch, there's Tadpoles, a connected storefront that features children's literature, clothing and toddler toys. Even Fric and Frac, the longtime store cats, help out with selection by lounging in shopping baskets or on the checkout counter. Froggie's proves some toy stores don't just want to make money--they want people to have fun.

Readers' Pick
Toys R Us Multiple locations

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