Best Of :: Shopping & Services
We admit calling Mike's best "hobby shop" might be limiting the definition of hobby a bit. Maybe your hobby is knitting, or pottery or viewing online porn. Fine, there are plenty of yarn stores, craft shops and the Internet out there for you. Our hobby — the non-Internet one, anyway — involves things with electric motors that go high and fast and, sadly, break fairly regularly under our unskilled hands. If radio-controlled airplanes, cars or boats are your thing, Mike's is the best place for kits, servos, motors, radios and any other part you can send on a death spiral into the ground. The joint is huge, with dozens of models of scale planes dangling from the roof, plus indoor and outdoor tracks in an adjacent warehouse space featuring a competition schedule for RC car hobbyists who prefer to keep things mostly on the ground. (Watch out for the jumps. In fact, just watch these guys go. There's some amazing miniature driving on display nearly every day.) The employees know their gear and will even take the time to explain it to rookies, and prices are comparable to online shops. Best of all, there's not a dried flower, ball of yarn or gnome in the joint.
f. is for frank, but we're inclined to say f. is for freaking awesome fashion. Shannah Frank and Casey Melton create hand-cast pewter jewelry, decorative hardware and more in their Design District studio. Jewelry designs are tough but incredibly elegant and often inspired by nature — hickory nuts, sea sponges, peacocks, horse teeth, rubber, wood and more in pewter and gold- and rose gold-plate. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of f. is for frank's jewelry is the attention to scale: from oversized cocktail rings and collar necklaces to teensy, delicate charms and simple bands. Though dramatic, the pieces are executed flawlessly thanks to the duo's experience in architectural elements and design. Housewares and hospitality offerings venture into more literal territory, but are still beautifully crafted, providing new life to drawers and doors, place settings and even Christmas trees. f. also provides custom services ranging from furniture to lighting to sculptural pieces. Frank and Melton share the love by hosting DIY workshops and parties and by proving a constant presence in the local Etsy and artisan fair community.
The Wald Front Wire Basket, for about 20 bucks, has been the classic American bicycle basket for almost a century — big and sturdy enough for a load of groceries, a small dog or a very frightened cat. Don Johles Bike World has the Wald front and back steel baskets along with 10 pages of other cool baskets on its web page, from techno to retro, including the Sunlite Quick Release Rattan Basket, which looks a lot like the basket Miss Gulch used when she took Toto away from Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Good selection in the brick-and-mortar store too.
This is an easy place to miss, so you need to slow down and really look for it. In an old yellow house tucked way back on a long gravel driveway between the Taco Bell and Goody Goody Liquor, Sunshine Trees is a longtime survivor from the semi-rural hippie days of Upper Greenville. Founded in 1965, Sunshine's main specialty is bonsai — the tiny Japanese miniatures grown in bowls — but they also carry a line of exotic citrus, miniature lime, orange and lemon, that can survive well, if properly tended, on apartment balconies in Texas. Some of the plants at Sunshine are imported from Central America and Asia, but more are grown from seed in a 7,400-foot greenhouse that is open to the public. Even if you're not in the market for a tree, this is a cool place to visit on a slow weekend.
In Dallas we have no shortage of antique stores/old-skin-flake collectors. But we only have one Junkadoodle. Bettyann and Jimbo's Junkadoodle is a collection of the unusual — furniture, art, lamps, knickknacks, tiny floppy hats, oversized stiff hats, etc. — but it's a special collection. Seriously. Their shit is good. In other stores you'll pick up the nude-y ashtray, touch its nipples, giggle and put it back. But in Bettyann and Jimbo's you'll pick up a far more sophisticated version and realize you need to own it. Like now. That's the difference. B&J's is well-curated, easy to navigate and on the way to Love Field. Every now and then they even hold a flea market out front. And in his spare time, Jimbo will teach you to dance. Formal dance only. None of that booty bumpin'.
Still mourning the demise of Ahab Bowen? Rejoice, for Michael Longcrier is risen and has taken his baubles, bangles and bow ties to Dolly Python, which is owned by his protégé Gretchen Bell. This is value-added for a longtime favorite among vintage shoppers and now there's another treasure to hunt for in racks full of fabulousness — look for tags with "AB." Dolly Python is a vortex of vintage, full-immersion shopping. The clothing racks pull you in — perhaps a circa 1970s hostess skirt, a vintage Elvis Costello T-shirt or a pair of gem-encrusted white plastic sandals. Then, an irresistible magnetic pull draws you through the cluttered aisles. Pause to flip through the vinyl at Big Bucks Burnett's booth, fondle a ceramic cowboy, consider some bad art, peer at photos of someone's dour long-forgotten ancestors. Bet you can't leave empty-handed.
Screw foreplay, these places are downright orgasmic. If, that is, you get aroused milling around a former old Plano Home Depot warehouse filled with sports memorabilia, a gazillion Izods, two bajillion clubs, a tennis court, a putting green, a chipping area complete with sand trap and countless driving range stalls equipped with computer analysis, simulated courses and a daily $50 closest-to-the-pin contest. Go in for a casual Sunday afternoon look-see and by the time you leave it'll be Tuesday. You'll get the usual golf gabfest about two-downs, three-putts, snowmen and worn-out impressions of Carl Spackler. But if you need anything to improve your game or at least a gadget to distract you from how seriously you suck, this is the place. Out front of the Accent Drive location is a Hummer golf cart selling for a cool $12,435. Like the sign says, "This is big."
We all have an a-hole in our life — that one dickbag who doesn't have any discernible needs. And it's not necessarily that they have it all, it's just that they have nothing for me to give them. For them, there is We Are 1976. It's a random store where everything is super well-designed, cute, artsy, awesome, bone-able, etc. They have porcelain feathers, abacus necklaces, gigantic papier-mâché cat heads, designer toys, bamboo place settings and on and on. Truly something for everyone. Even jerk-offs.
Though already known for all the gig-poster framing he's done for the All Good Cafe, Tom Battles still fights the good fight to keep his mom-and-pop a contender against big chains that are way expensive and may handle old photos and hard-to-frame items with less care. Part of Battles' battle plan was this year's relocation from the Design District to Oak Cliff's Tyler-Davis District. It was a resurrection of sorts as now his shop is nestled in with galleries, studios, gift shops and more, and the walk-up/street traffic factor makes the frame shop a more convenient destination. One of Battles' biggest talents is his ability to turn anything into an art piece. Clothes, keepsakes, fragile papers, and, of course, art are all fair game, and with Battles' keen eye, he can offer matte and wood suggestions that are far from boring. For a well-executed frame job you simply shouldn't go anywhere else.
The Junius Heights storefront Little Bean is already stocked with plenty of too-cute wares from various lines of clothing to toys, but designer/owner Christine Visneau also keeps her sewing machine at the ready for special requests and sudden inspiration. Visneau's styles, also dubbed Little Bean, are fashion with function paying respect to both the wearers and the washers of the pieces. Pieces are kid-chic but come in comfy textiles and tastefully bright patterns. Onesies to dresses are all made with diaper-changing in mind but feature adorable details like handmade accents (rosettes, for example) or spaghetti straps with bows. We think some of Visneau's success originates in having her own brood — moms just know what works — but also in her incredibly youthful spirit, evident even before she greets you. Little Bean, as a line and as a shop that carries multiple designers and products, reflects that energy and happiness. To show that Visneau's thought of everything, Little Bean features eye-level unbreakable merch for shorties to browse and a coloring table for when boredom sets in. When baby's busy, shopping is bliss.
Toward the top of the line, the $289.99 Egyptian copper and brass single-hose hookah with handmade clay bowl and ice cup. At the bottom, a $40 model that is nevertheless nice and totally without plastic parts. Hookah District, which has a sister store at 11532 Harry Hines Blvd., sells to the discriminating nargilist, offering a line of top hookah tobaccos including Starbuzz, Sex on the Beach and Fuzzy Lemonade. These gooey concoctions don't burn, you know: They vaporize beneath specially fabricated hookah charcoal sticks, which you can also get here. In fact, you could drop some serious dough in this joint. Or not.
When you have uninvited creepy crawlies, the best advice on getting rid of them comes from people in your own 'hood. After all, they know the same critters. East Dallas couple Douglas and Chrissy Fairweather developed all-natural Papa Richter's Roach Ridder and eventually manufactured it in sticky-backed bottle caps to mount in strategic spots. The boric acid-based formula is green and safe for use around inquisitive toddlers and the like. Without reliving any nightmares, we'll just say that it works quickly even during the humid spring and demanding summer. Oh, you could make a similar pest-prohibitive paste yourself, but you won't, so buy theirs. Available at the Green Spot, Walton's and other locations, as well as online.