Elm Street Tattoo
Over the years, Elm Street Tattoo has earned random bits of publicity—on TV, blogs and in rags like this one. But it's not that they needed any, really. Good word of mouth is the biggest prop anyone can give a tattoo shop, and they get plenty from thousands of blissfully inked customers. The shop is home to celebrated Big D tat gun-slinger Oliver Peck (winner of the 2001 Guinness World Record Challenge for most tattoos in 24 hours, mind you), along with skin-prickers Dean Williams, Adam Stewart and Mark Galvan. Peck and company offer tattoos ranging from traditional sailor themes to Dia de los Muertos designs, pin-up art and complex original designs. The crew offers fine detail, topnotch healing advice and a super-clean environment in which to undergo the needle.
Dolly Python
Hey, one man's trash is another's treasure and pleasure—or so we tell ourselves when that hoarding obsession kicks in at Dolly Python. Old toys such as 1950s Erector Sets in the original boxes or Lincoln Logs! Wooden Fisher-Price Little People! Retro tapestry and leather suitcases! Vintage shoes and old books! It's a perfect storm of nostalgia and avarice—or old crap, if you're not the sentimental kind. Among our favorites are the not-quite-perfect paintings of people we don't know, items we truly covet and will, when we have a place larger than a one-bedroom apartment, display in places of honor.
One day there are live football players posing in the shop's windows. On another, Olympic gold-medal gymnast Carly Patterson practically flies through the doors. We know, combining games and gladiolas is about as transcendent as Slice evolving into Sierra Mist. But it sure beats buying roses by the bushel at Sam's. This florist boasts unique arrangements, custom silk designs, wide delivery areas, those popular Wik candles, handmade jewelry and paintings from local artists that say "boutique" more than "strip mall." Their loyalty to local athletes is shown in their promotions. To tie into last year's Allen High School homecoming, shop owner Kim Lee hired team members to pose for a few hours wearing exotic mums in her display window. As for Ms. Patterson, the tumbler apparently craves petals like medals, and she gets her posies here.
Accents Fashion Accessories
If you're looking for a gift for your girlfriend and have no idea what she wants—or for that matter, what any woman wants—Accents is your store. Located in the West Village, the surprisingly affordable boutique sells an array of stylish jewelry that looks artsy but not too artsy, kind of like Scarlett Johansson. The necklaces, which start as low as $19, are striking, including handmade varieties with stones of different colors and shapes. Perhaps best of all, the salespeople can tell you what's in without sounding condescending, which in the boundaries of the haughty West Village ranks as the greatest coup of all.
Pitaya
One of Uptown's pitfalls is that it's easy to feel like a poorly dressed pauper amid the shiny happy people and high-priced merchandise. The great thing about Pitaya is that it looks just as nice as the surrounding stores but doesn't share their inflated prices. There are funky purses, necklaces and earrings and a decent selection of stylish basics that won't have you walking out with nauseating, nail-biting, after-purchase guilt. And while most of the tanks, skirts and T's are in bold, basic colors, there are also some uniquely patterned dresses that remind us of the world's favorite hip discount warehouse: H&M. Hmmm, with Pitaya so nearby, there's no excuse not to spend on trends.
We've been fans of the funky chic duds in Armhole for a long while. When they moved from Lakewood to Uptown we worried, "Oh, no! No more neighborhood friendly!" But we were mistaken. Since the shift in May 2006, the shop has developed an even better, laid-back, customer-friendly vibe. The boutique's casual seduction of our paycheck is sweetened by siblings Ryan and Matt Abbott's ability to remember our names and recommend must-haves, but the solid gold draw for us lies at the T-shirt bar. Armhole offers the fab-fitting American Apparel and Alternative Apparel tees, plus they're always getting new decals to select from. Choose from hair band logos or cursing cartoons, from Dia de los Muertos and glam graphics. They have it all to heat-press while you wait (custom designs are also available for pick up in a few days)...and many in sizes for doggy tees too. Bonus: Hip 'rents will dig the decals perfectly sized for the shop's selection of onesies and infant tees.
Garland Road Thrift
Smelly, cavernous and always too hot or too cold, depending on what'll make you most uncomfortable for the season, Garland Road Thrift is everything a real thrift store ought to be: Kind of a dump and full of great finds. Garland Road Thrift is where tony Lakewood folk and fed-up packrat grandmas get rid of their excess goodies. The prices are clutch-the-pearls low. We found a barely used alligator handbag for $10 and a mink stole for $20. Go through the racks for gems like a strapless velvet cocktail dress or pin-striped blazer. And do not miss the wall-to-wall housewares section, perfect for anyone seeking to complete their beer stein, gold-plated animal statue or hand-painted teacup collections. If it floats your boat or came over from the Old Country in one, it's probably for sale at Garland Road Thrift.
Throughout this Best of Dallas issue you'll no doubt find a dozen or so entries for NorthPark Center retailers, and why not, as the recent addition has turned the swell into the swellegant. But our kiddo has but two great loves in the new wing: Teavana, because he inexplicably loves him a hot MattéVana, and Puzzle Zoo, the California-based toy store with four locations, ours being the sole spot outside of the Golden State, lucky us. The place seems small, but it's packed with everything imaginable for the kid or the kid within: hundreds of Star Wars action figures and toys (some of which came from old Target and Wal-Mart racks, upping their rare factor), educational doodads for those more inclined toward the learnin', up-to-the-second movie tie-ins, PixelBlocks and puzzles, remote-controlled extravaganzas and penny-ante whatchamacallits your parents played with when they were kids. And the rich geek can walk back to the glass cases lining the back walls to gaze at the really expensive toys. Speaking of, how much is Dr. McCoy's tricorder again? Oh, that much.
Fiesta
A grocery store can be as much a status symbol as designer shoes. Manolo fans clip-clop to Central Market. Birkenstocks hike to Whole Foods. Sensible Nike wearers sprint to Tom Thumb with loyalty card in hand. But what about workboot people and flip-flop people and generic sneaker people? They shop Fiesta, where you'll find only a few Lean Cuisines but dozens of brands of tortillas, salsas and ethnic spices. The international foods aisle is well-stocked with imports. When's the last time you made a pan of spaetzle anyway? This store shows international flair and shopping here is a good show too. It's hopping at every hour of the day. On Saturdays and before holidays, Fiesta actually feels like a party.
The Whimsey Shoppe
Face it: Antique stores are just resale shops, offering stuff that has managed to outlive the abuse dished out by a series of households where real people ate, slept and kept up with the Joneses. In most antique stores or malls, merchandise is wide but not deep—in other words, a little bit from various eras, countries and styles. Specializing in antiques and collectibles from France, The Whimsey Shoppe gives shoppers a unique window into French history, culture and style (with a dollop of cheek) in two huge stores: 12,000 square feet on Henderson Avenue and 11,000 square feet on Oak Lawn Avenue. The owners, Suzie and Wendell Patterson, scour the French countryside, traveling more than 2,500 miles on each shopping trip, so you don't have to. (And really, who'd want to do all that French traveling, with the culture and fine food and wine and whatnot?) The Pattersons suck it up for you, God love 'em, coming home several times a year with containers of French antiques that range from rustic farm tables to beds that would be perfect in Marie Antoinette's boudoir. Then they send customers The Whimsey Report, a pamphlet of black-and-white drawings of unique items and an account of their adventures in antiquing through Normandy, Burgundy, Champagne and Provence that touches on politics, food and fashion. (Really, we don't envy them. Rubbing our noses in it? No, not at all.) Specialties include French farm tables, armoires and copper. It only takes a few pieces to make it appear as if you found them on your last trip to the Languedoc. Like you'd ever want to go there, what with Oklahoma so close.

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