The owners of this local, all-organic nursery chain call them "Redenta's 50," unique plants they grow themselves that are usually available only at their nurseries. Like teucrium cossinnii (creeping germander) and justicia spicigara (orange shrimp plant)--catnip to discriminating gardeners. In addition, Redenta's offers a great selection of herbs, native roses and perennials. The plants are always in good condition, unlike droopy flats often found at the big chains. A knowledgeable staff can advise on organic solutions to plant probs. In addition, they offer neat statuary, fountains, pots and objets d'art. During the spring and fall planting seasons, each Redenta's store hosts a gardeners' get-together at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays. Learn about the best plants to attract hummingbirds and butterflies or just shoot the breeze about mulch and manure.
Luxuriating on her Tiger Dreamz pet bed as you walk in the door of the feline-friendly shop is Maggie, regal store cat. The deed might say that Anne and Jay Horwitz are the owners of The Cat Connection, but as her bio on www.catster.com states, she is the co-owner. Ask them, and well, they won't exactly deny it. Her lush tabby mug is all over the store's Web site, www.thecatconnection.com, and even printed up on her very own Texas pet driver's license displayed behind the counter. Maggie greets customers and does a good job pushing the merchandise. One look at her gobbling Kitty Kaviar or Feline Greenies and who needs to question how good it tastes? It's a sure sale if you can see her live in actionor inaction, rather. The otherwise cool and casual polydactyl (a.k.a. a Hemingway cat, meaning she has extra toes--seven on her front paws and six on her back) is only sensitive about two things: people poking her paws and prodding her belly. Hey, it's all right, Mags, those stripes of yours are naturally slimming.
La Mariposa
La Mariposa is Spanish for "butterfly," which is quite fitting for this Mexican imports store on Henderson Avenue. Butterflies are beautiful, delicate creatures admired for their vibrant colors and grace--much like La Mariposa. Upon entry into the shop, visitors are met with an array of bright colors. From the Talavera pottery to the Dia de los Muertos figurines, La Mariposa is filled with beautiful handcrafted items from our neighbors south of the border. There's clothing, jewelry, handbags, piñatas--and just when you think you've seen it all, you stumble upon another hidden gem that has your credit card number written all over it.
In the world of tattoos it seems like there are two kinds of shops. There's the low-calorie, squeaky-clean place that specializes in Tweety Bird tattoos and belly-button piercing, and then there's the kind where if you're not well on your way to full yakuza regalia and your tongue is still in one piece, you're clearly not cool enough to breathe the same air. Holdfast Tattoo on Greenville is that rare breed that inhabits the middle ground. These guys are old school, don't get us wrong. There's no shortage of full-sleeve tattoos in here, just without the accompanying chip on the shoulder--or as manager and artist Jeff Brown puts it, "We're trying to abolish cool." An admirable effort, but doomed to failure as long as walls are still plastered with the brilliant "flash" art demonstrating the considerable talents of Jeff and fellow artists Caleb, Jorge and Bobby. Call it the mark of quality.

Readers' Pick
Tigger's Tattoos 2602 Main St. 214-655-2639
How could we pass up an opportunity to recognize someone known as the "Creatrice of Exquisite Soft Toys"? Gilmer, Texas, native and Southern Methodist University grad Phebe Phillips has designed and created the Phebe Phillips Company animals since 1983. Available at Neiman Marcus and on her website, these upscale plush babies (some price out at $175) come in the bunny, cat, dog and bear varieties. The cool thing is, the Dallas resident also designs a more affordable line of dressable characters and costumes called "Tweakie P." for folks who can't drop upward of $35 on a Phebe Phillips stuffed critter. Priscilla the Bunny, Coco the Black and White Cat, Bailey the Honey Bear and Colette the Pink Poodle are available at Michael's craft stores, along with their snazzy accessories. After meeting the gracious and spunky Phillips, we realized that this woman deservingly has the coolest job on the planet. That inner child of hers can play dress-up as long as it wants to...with Bunny Pudge and Kitty Prima and Little Silly Pup and...
Our neighbor thinks we bake all the time. On Sundays, he thinks we have a thorough house-cleaning regimen. It's doubtful he knows we have cats, not to mention a brimming litter box. Our neighbor can thank Gary Stone, owner and creator of the Dallas-based online store Make Scents candles for the aromatic front we put up. The hand-poured candles come in more than 600 scents--some classic, some pretty unusual. We love White Tea, Rosemary, Pet Odor Eliminator and Sugar Cookie. Then again, we have to admit that while they might not be common candle scents, Dirt, Tide Type (like the detergent), Ben Gay Type and Bourbon & Coke win us over with nostalgia. Lick Me All Over, MD 20/20 (don't pretend you don't know), Super Chiffon, Butt Naked and Puppies' Breath deserve honorable mention as titles alone.

Best Video Store in the World, So Stop Asking

Premiere Video

Premiere Video
If you've been here once, you know what we're talking about. If you've never been, well, sucker, you're probably still renting from Blockbuster Video (the ones still open, anyway) or using NetFlix (seriously, why?) or trying to get your rabbit ears adjusted on your black-and-white Philco. This is a serious place for serious cinephiles--a haven for import fetishists, a refuge for indie lovers and a crack house for anyone who just wants to watch a good movie or BBC Britcom or wacky documentary about Hunter S. Thompson or anything oddball and/or brilliant and/or hard to find. They have everything here among the 20,000 videos and DVDs in stock, even movies not yet in theaters, thanks to Sam Wade and Heather Hankamer's ability to find Euro versions of forthcoming American art-house releases. Man, we saw The Warrior months before it was in U.S. cinemas, which might mean something if people actually saw it in U.S. theaters, but still. If this place were in Los Angeles or Seattle or some other town much cooler than Dallas, you'd never be able to get in.

Readers' Pick
Movie Trading Co. Multiple locations
Some music stores are content to overwhelm with their massive selection, but in the Internet age, racks and racks of CDs aren't a big deal when Amazon.com's warehouse is a click away. Five listening stations dedicated to the new Mariah Carey album? Oh, you have overpriced DVD box sets in stock, too? Yawn. These days, the best stores understand what music fans want from a retail outlet in an iTunes world, and Good Records does all the right things to earn its title as the premier bricks-and-mortar music stop in town. The best independent and underground albums of all genres are always front and center, as are the clerks--you can't walk through the store without having a great conversation about music with C.J., Rubberman and the rest of the gang. Stop by every week or so for in-store concerts from some of the most exciting local and national acts coming through town. Sign up for Good's e-mail list for show times and you'll also get a massive, detailed list of recommended new releases every week. The bigger stores just can't keep up with that kind of dedication.

Readers' Pick
Tower Records 3707 Lemmon Ave. 214-252-0200
Every nerd at the Dallas Observer (and, man, for a hipster rag, this place is crawling with them) counts himself blessed to live in a town raging with toy, game and comic book stores. Most local comic shops deserve--and usually earn--Best Of awards for their various strengths, and even if Keith's Comics' best trait is a niche category, we'd commit a crime for not lauding the store's offbeat comic collection. It's easy to miss on a casual walkthrough. The store's front is full of kiddie toys and mainstream comic books. But in the chained-off half of the store, many steps past the violent and sexually suggestive material, sits a good-sized pocket of the best, weirdest comic books in town. The material is painstakingly organized by publisher, author and style, which means jumping from '30s funnies collections to studies on African-American cartoon characters to Daniel Clowes books to gay and lesbian stories is made a whole lot easier than it should be for a comic book newbie.
Under what other roof in town would you find contemporary rocker Bryan Adams, Texas picker Jerry Horn and Queer Eye guru Kyan Douglas? All were special event guests at Dallas' newest Borders bookstore. Surrounded by the ultra-hip venues of the West Village, this store tried to do a story time for children but had to call it off because there weren't enough kids in the neighborhood. No kids! A book-lover's dream come true. Maybe in the future they'll consider an R-rated story time for 20-somethings. Bring your own blankies.

Readers' Pick
Barnes & Noble Multiple locations

Best Of Dallas®

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