Index Skateboard Supply

On the surface, sure, it's a skateboard shop. The walls are lined with decks and apparel bearing the standard labels like Girl, Plan B and Zero, but this is no run-of-the-mall Zumiez. Look closer, and you'll find a selection of shoes, necessities and rarities that is absolutely unmatched. More important, you'll see that the patrons are regulars, and it's the Index label that they sport with pride. Local, independent and run by lifelong skateboarders, Index has become a refuge of sorts for North Texans in the skateboard scene. From the little kid picking out his first board to the seasoned vet on the Index team, owner Dameon Rowe looks after everyone, welcoming them into the family and immersing them in skateboard culture. It's the idea of teaching a kid how to build a skateboard rather than just selling him one, of having a team of legit local skateboarders put on a demo and then hang out with the kids that look up to them, that sets Index apart.

Elm Street Tattoo

Tattoo artist Oliver Peck of Elm Street deserves a big hand—and a bare arm and maybe most of a back—for earning a Guinness World Record for 24 consecutive hours of tattooing earlier this year. Not only does the guy inspire, create art and make bodies his canvas with his artistry, he does so with humor and perseverance. But Peck doesn't do it alone. Fellow Elm Street tattoo artists Dean Williams and Mark Galvan work alongside Peck, and the team, on the whole, is a bang-up crew with diverse specialties. From sailor styles to scary skulls, Elm Street Tattoo is ready to draw indelible designs. With Deep Ellum in transition (again), the buzz of Elm Street's tattoo guns are still a reliable way to make one's mark on personal expression.

Nothing can slap you in the face like a bad stink. And nothing can soothe you into submission like a fantastic aroma. For five years, Gary Stone has been perfecting the art of long-burning, hand-poured candles with a virtually endless assortment of scents. Our favorites include lemon cookie (a light, fresh-baked number) and vanilla jasmine (an understated warm floral), but whatever your nose desires, Stone has it. He's expanded his operation to include public and private parties (we enjoyed ourselves at his summer soiree at Kenichi) and fund-raisers and is moving product into local boutiques, but his passion is still the personalized order. Reasonable prices, clean-burning soy blends and good old-fashioned attention to customer service mean Make Scents is one of our favorite gift-giving options...oh, and we also dig the ability to cover up our many culinary mistakes with a handmade treat that was meant to be burned.

Stanley Korshak

Marianella Febres-Cordero started stirring up soap as a teenager. A career in graphic design and writing didn't spoil her love of bubbles, so the Venezuelan-born soap-maker, now living in Plano, has continued slicing up 100 percent natural homemade bars on her kitchen table. Wrapped by hand in white linen and tied with a pretty ribbon, the soft, pastel-colored cakes are made of vegetable oils, cocoa butter, oatmeal, honey, goat's milk and natural colors. Coconut and apple blossom scents—"inspired and selected from a lifetime of memories," says the soapmaker—are favorites. Expanding to candles and body products, Febres-Cordero's products are sold in 20 stores, including Stanley Korshak. She's awash with success.

Featuring 200 different sofa styles, 500 chairs and thousands of fabric choices for every lifestyle and budget, this shop near Knox Street will help you create the seating of your dreams. With the help of in-store designers, you can put together a one-of-a-kind sofa—fabric, frame, hardware, everything—starting at around $1,500. For the eco-conscious, there are green-friendly components to work with. And all the designing and room planning is free of charge. We like that these upholstery entrepreneurs keep it simple. Sofas and chairs only—not a coffee table or candle in sight.

Some bigger-name thrift stores have, over time, become less and less of a place to find an actual good deal. (A dress that originally sold at Target for 20 bucks...and you want $12 for it? A hideous '80s prom dress for $34.99? Dream on.) Value World, on the other hand, continues to have good prices on clothes, shoes, books and housewares. Also, the selection tends to be better (read: less picked-over by hipsters) than some of the local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. Our specific finds have included: a leather Prada skirt for $7, several pairs of nearly new Cole Haans and some Chanel flats ($5).

The Toy Maven

The missus disagrees, insisting that, look, Learning Express in Snider Plaza's probably more deserving. But here, we'll go against our better half's better judgment and proclaim this Preston Royal relative newcomer the best of 'em all, for a handful of reasons. Chief among them: Its shelves and aisles are cram-packed with all manner of kiddie whozits and whatsits from brain-teasers to board-games to ride-'ems to wear-its to make-'ems to break-'ems and everything in between and beyond. It reminds us of the original Puzzle Zoo in Santa Monica, not its more sterile NorthPark sibling: a toy store run by a proprietor without an internal editor, someone who sees a U.S.S. Enterprise replica and buys it not just because it'll sell, but because it'll look awesome on the shelf of warship replicas and other military items perched across the aisles from the latest and greatest in night-time reading situated across the aisle from the Paul Frank retro-Batman tees we'd like in our size, please? There's plenty available for the talented and gifted child whose brain always digs some fine tuning, but also loads of fun-and-family items as well, for when you just wanna play with the kiddo.

Dolly Python

In all our days combing vintage racks across the continent, we've never had so much fun shopping than at Dolly Python, whether during regular hours or during one of the store's party/shopping events. Perhaps it's because owner Gretchen Bell has an awe-inspiring range of sizes and eras to wander through. She has a fantastic eye for wearable treasure, and unlike many other vintage-pickers, she buys from the public in addition to estate sales for steals. She'll tell you straight up if something looks weird, and she can pull together an outfit you never dreamed of but will love. The dresses are lovely and the T-shirts dandy, but what really makes Dolly Python a gem to shop in is the massive assortment of vintage cowboy boots. They go back decades, and most aren't worn out, just perfectly worn in. Check out the jewelry and handbags too. With 17 vendors (including Bruce and Julie Webb of Waxahachie's Webb Gallery), folk-artsy oddities abound. But save some serious time for trying on the boots and threads.

Forever Young Records

Over in Grand Prairie lies some mighty groovy competition to the oft-praised Good Records of Dallas. Forever Young Records stocks the largest selection of vinyl we've seen in Texas—from ABBA to Zappa and everything in between—as well as a stellar selection of CDs and cassette tapes. If you're into forgotten gems of the past, this is definitely the place. We've found plenty of titles we'd only read about before seeing them here. Sure, the old black platters can be pricey at times, but we're all about tangible gratification in this era of eBay and Amazon, especially when there are 80,000 LPs to flip through.

Lights Fantastic

Granted, there are a few fun things you can do in the dark (e.g. hide-and-seek, hide the sausage, etc.). But for most day-to-day activities, you're gonna need light. And if you can't find a lamp/sconce/chandelier/light sculpture to suit you at Lights Fantastic, it's possible that you're legally blind. For the more conservative among us, there are classic lamps from Stiffel, gorgeous chandeliers from Schonbek, and enough Craftsman- and Tiffany-style fixtures to furnish every house in the M Streets. But it's contemporary lighting in which Lights Fantastic really shines (pun unapologetically intended). Groovy mid-century-type fixtures, bold steel and glass fixtures, cutting-edge LED lights: They're all here. And once you've selected your lamps, be sure to stock up on compact fluorescents, Verilux daylight bulbs, or even the bizarre, "as seen on TV" O-ZONELite (air purifier and light bulb in one!). With more than 1,500 fixtures on display, you're bound to find something to brighten your home.

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