Best Do-It-Yourself Shop 2009 | Splendor in the Grass | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

When Diana Thatcher's garden art and gift store across from the Dallas Arboretum simply wasn't turning a profit, she did what anyone else would have done: relocate to the Lakewood Shopping Center and focus her efforts on selling jewelry-making accessories and teaching classes. OK, so her plan was hardly conventional, but thinking outside the box turned Thatcher's hobby and passion into a strong business that's been able to hold its ground while battling tough economic times. How does she do it? By stocking the most sought-after items—including Swarovski crystals and freshwater pearls—and teaching classes on Fridays and Saturdays that are almost always filled up.

Shopping got you down? It's hard sometimes—finding the right outfit, the right fit. Don't even mention accessories and shoes. Good thing Zoë La Rose's mine. has our back. The clean white boutique has flattering lighting, good mirrors and clothes that make a girl feel good. Flirty tops and feminine jackets pair oh-so chicly with dark denim. Strappy heels and a skinny pant balance out a drapey cardigan perfect for belting—or leaving loose—over a white tank. But the best part of mine. is the service. Oh sure, the humans are great help, but we're talking Chi Chi the pug. She welcomes at the door and gives an approving snort here and there. It may be coincidence, but the pink-collared pup seems to have an eye for style. And, well, somehow it's easier to justify an unnecessary shopping spree if Chi Chi wiggles her tail while the receipt prints.

For the uninsured, finding affordable eye exam docs is often like running up a blind alley. Then we found Dr. Rodney B. Schpok, a reasonably priced ($79 per exam) optometrist who is quick, efficient and surprisingly funny. Clicking through the lenses as you peer at the eye chart, the Woody Allen-esque doc never stops with the quips. "Let's try the left one now," he says, switching from one eye to the other. "And that's also the name of my upcoming autobiography." Here's a guy who sees through the glass(es) lightly.

Luit and Jamie Huizenga's Cebolla may have the accommodating staff of your basic neighborhood flower shop, but it's so much more than that. The husband- and wife-run flower emporium offers not only dynamic, elegant and artistic floral arrangements, but also a variety of living plants, succulents and, when the season is right, unique gifts like monarch butterfly chrysalises that will eventually hatch, shake out their wings and fly. For more than a decade, Cebolla has provided a chic and inventive take on the time-tested floral gift, but this fall, the Huizengas are growing their endeavors with the opening of an expansive Maple Avenue location that will feature a greenhouse for blooms grown on location, fresh-cut and bulk flowers, space for event and wedding consultations and even antique furniture.

In addition to high-end bath soap and jewelry, this store has a huge array of greeting cards. There are walls of birthday and holiday cards and a wide selection of artistic, hand-made blank ones. Our favorites are from the "A Little Piece of Art" line by Constance Kay Inc., which include black ink zebras and Victorian portraits with famous quotes, as well as handmade paper designs and bright paper cutouts. On one entire wall covered with friendship and love-themed cards, the spectrum goes from poignant—two little birds sitting in a tree with the message, "I'm so glad we found each other"—to humorous—"We had a lot in common. I was in love with him and he was in love with himself." Nearby was a hilarious combination: A bright "Happy Anniversary" card next to one that read, "You're finally divorced—Let the experimental sex begin. Congrats on a new start."

People drive in from Richardson and Oak Cliff just to come to the NewFlower Farmers Market that opened in a long-empty space on Henderson Avenue. Sure, it's popular because of "double ad Wednesdays" when the weekly sales overlap for twice as many deals. Of course people love saving money on many of the same food products that Whole Foods and Central Market stock. But what makes NewFlower our favorite health food store is the bulk offerings, healthy recipe suggestions/grocery list shopping guides, and nutrition blog online. Plus, the supplement and personal care sections have some easily coveted organic and all-natural products (Collective Wellbeing, Kiss My Face, Original Sprouts and others) that share that same "less expensive" characteristic as the food departments. Most important, though? It's easy to lose time in NewFlower because it's fun to shop there, and last we checked, for many people getting healthy doesn't equate with fun. NewFlower makes the challenge less daunting.

Even if you're a confirmed, old child-free couple, a stroll through Baby Bliss might make you want to have kids--just for the accessories. Seriously, we don't remember our families having any of this stuff 20 or 30 years ago: We had no crib that looked like it's right out of the Eames studio, no pneumatic high chair, no modern-art baby bouncer. The gorgeous textiles (check out the Serena and Lily market slings) and fancy diaper bags (those Storksaks will make all the other moms drool) wouldn't look out of place at a high-end clothing store, so fashion-conscious preggos are covered. Having trouble selling the dude in your life on the idea of a bundle of joy? Take him to Baby Bliss. When he sees the stylish and technical-looking strollers from Maclaren, BOB Revolution, Phil & Ted's and more, and hears phrases like "all-terrain wheels" and "shock-absorbing suspension," he'll sign off immediately on adding a new member to the family.

We're locals, so, really, who are we to judge? Last we heard the best hotel in town was the convention center hotel for which groundbreaking was held, oh, days ago. No, but seriously: Earlier this summer we actually spent a free Saturday exploring Dallas' hostelries just for kicks; took us all of 13 seconds in the lobby—what with that storybook-sized gear and Warhol chair and luxurious glow—for us to realize that, yeah, this could be our home-away-from. Then, of course, there's the rooftop: Have you ever seen Dallas from a chlorinated, cantilevered pool that lets it all hang out over the rooftop's edge? Then you haven't lived (the high life, at least). As for the rooms: spacious and spiffy, high-def and wired for sound and modern-comfy in a way the W only wishes it could be. Just don't ask for The Pacman Suite, and you'll be cool. And, yes, readers, you're right: We love the Belmont too. We're just not hip enough to stay there. But best view of downtown ever.

On the Wine Trail is local in the sense that blog-master, Alfonso Cevola, lives in Dallas and mentions local themes and places once in a while. But Cevola is also something of an international authority. A lifelong wine seller whose mom's mom came from Calabria at the toe of the Italian boot, just across from Sicily, Cevola can tell you all about things like the tension within the Calabrian wine world over strictly regional tastes versus a more international mix of grapes. If you were real lucky, you could get this kind of stuff from him in person any Saturday morning when he might happen to drop into Jimmy's Market in East Dallas for some wine schmoozing. But the blog is the more reliable place. A salesman for Glazer's Wholesale Distribution in Dallas, Cevola has watched Dallas' wine palate develop over 30 years. Asked what the big new thing is in these times, he said, "Wine under $15." He's got the skinny.

Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS shoes after a visit to Argentina in 2006: For every pair of shoes sold to a customer in the United States, TOMS donates a pair to a needy kid somewhere in the world. So far TOMS has given away 140,000 pairs to shoeless kids. All of the Southwest Region Whole Foods stores are offering a line of TOMS shoes—simple but cool canvas slip-ons with plastic soles. They cost $49.99 each—not bad, compared with similar products in shoe stores. The line includes subtle variations in style and colors from taupe to faded red and blue. If nothing else, it's a way to indulge your shoe habit and do some good in the process.

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