The era of the camera store has ended for the most part. Dallas is lucky to have held onto a few stellar shops that serve specialists and the analog market well. One of those institutions is Competitive Cameras. The family-owned store has kept its inventory relevant to the specialty (lenses and bodies for medium- and large-format film cameras) and popular recent offerings for digital recording such as camera gimbals and GoPro equipment. It carries the best brands in photography from Canon to Tamrac. Competitive Cameras outfits some major corporate clients, including Neiman Marcus and The Dallas Morning News, but also is able to assist the novice photographer in setting up his or her first DSLR. The staff is very knowledgeable, almost to the point of being fervent about a shopper's purchase decisions. Competitive Cameras has been a Dallas staple for 35 years. Here's to hoping it lasts another 100.

Sarah Schumacher

Tucked in an East Dallas strip mall off Peavy Road next to Goodfriend Package is a magical little storefront full of goods screen-printed by artists. Dylan and Pamela Dowdy founded Dowdy Studio in 2008. They started selling their goods in a trailer outfitted for festivals and markets. Their specialty is screen-printed shirts by hand. They also create prints on messenger bags, pillows, framed art, clocks and coasters. Dylan and Pamela contribute artwork ideas and drawings and experiment with various inks on different color fabrics. Their work features whimsical illustrations like an elephant submarine, a skull-shaped Polaroid camera and an ice cream cone built like a sandwich. If you visit the shop, they may custom print a design for you using your T-shirt and ink of choice. They offer T-shirts in sizes 2T to XXL and baby onesies of all sizes.

Sometimes, the smallest accessories in a home draw the most attention. In this case, it's coasters — geometric cuts of plywood that sit on our tables and stop house guests in their tracks. Gaston Made, a husband-and-wife duo who operate a little wood shop off Gaston Avenue, combines a modern and sleek design aesthetic with precise woodworking. The results are tabletop accessories like the aforementioned coasters, planters, an improbably stylish knife rack, hexagonal shelving and affordable side tables that are a mid-mod enthusiast's dream come true. Ogle Gaston Made's angles, edges and impeccable quality at local pop-up markets or in its Etsy shop. Local shoppers can pick up their loot in studio.

If you've long maintained a black-thumb status, you probably just haven't met the right plant. Succulents are what plant killers come to for redemption: If you can handle putting them in good light and watering them when the soil dries out, you can keep them alive despite your shady houseplant past. And if you think you're ready to commit, Sol and Succulent can get you started. Designer Katy Murray goes next-level with her arrangements, infusing your interior space with growing, breathing greenery that grabs plenty of attention — without taking too much of yours. Find succulents (and the occasional cactus) that mix texture, color and type in handmade concrete pottery, terra cotta earthenware, wooden containers, glass terrariums and other delightful arrangements at local markets and festivals. Murray also accepts custom orders at her website.

Even as Spark of Change die-hards since day one, we're still amazed by the energy that local stylist Lisa Slusher's jewelry designs give us. Solo crystals dangle from elegant chains or nestle among charms. But somehow, they're transfixing. People stop you on the street to ask about them, and when you wear them, you can't keep your eyes off them. Slusher intended them as a means for wearers to set intentions and to remind themselves throughout the day to find joy, aspire to serenity, banish negativity and elevate energy levels. We find that we can't help but feel a little spring in our step when we put on Spark of Change pieces, which now include elegant earrings, attention-grabbing rings and mood-lifting bracelets. Shop the good vibes locally at Gypsy Wagon or online with local pickup available.

By "pet store," we don't mean a best place to buy pets. For God's sake, don't buy pets. Operation Kindness, Dallas' animal shelter, and tons of adoption events every weekend around the city and at pet supply stores are where people get their furry companions. Once you get the little critter home, though, it's going to need plenty of pampering. Things to scratch. Toys to chew. Boxes to poop in. And good food, not that ash-filled stuff from your local grocer. Pet Supplies Plus has every accessory Rover or Miss Kitty could desire (or, in the latter case, ignore) and a huge variety of all-natural, age-appropriate foods. Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo, Merrick and a ton of other high-quality brands line the shelves, guaranteeing that your best friend is eating healthy while you're microwaving yourself a frozen burrito. (Healthy pet foods aren't cheap, but true love demands sacrifices.) Not sure what you need? Pet Supplies has the friendliest staff of any retail establishment of any kind in the city.

Readers' Pick: Hollywood Feed

When our arthritic pooch came home from a traditional grooming shop unable to walk from being crammed in a crate after her beauty session, we knew we had to find someone who made house calls. Local vets recommended Haute Dog Haircuts, which dispatches an experienced groomer to your home for a curbside glamour session that minimizes anxiety for nervous pups and their owners. Brandee and Shannah are pros. They'll work with your schedule, treat your baby like royalty in their souped-up groom-mobile and even post fabulously styled snapshots of your best friend on Facebook when they're done. These women form long-term relationships with you and your pet, which is important when old age makes baths at home a challenge and hinders your buddy's ability to stand for long periods of time. They make it work with a gentle touch, accommodations where they are needed and probably a fair amount of treats. Scheduling (limited to pets under 35 pounds) can be done online or by phone.


Established in 1990, Condom Sense claims it is the largest and oldest novelty and sex toys store chain in Texas. Its a selection of more than 35,000 products to help liven up your sex life makes it hard to argue. The store has a large collection of massage oils and party supplies to make your bacheloror bachelorette party unforgettable, as well as the latest sex and fetish toys, from anal toys such as beads and balls, plugs and probes to vibrating clamps, whips, ticklers and paddles. The staff is friendly, professional and knowledgeable.

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For 47 years, McBride Music and Pawn has been operating in downtown Denton as a family-owned business. A fixture on the square since the late 1960s, it is one of the oldest and best recognized independently owned pawn shops in North Texas. The inventory consists of typical items found at a pawn shop — electronics, gold and diamond jewelry, and guns and knives — but it's known for its selection of quality guitars, from sunburst Fenders to Gibsons and Martins. A firearms dealer for as long as it's been swapping guitars, the pawn shop also boasts more firearm loans under its belt than any competitors.

Good hotels might not be hard to come by, but great ones that exceed all your expectations are. Four Seasons is that hotel. It's kid-friendly, it's adult-friendly, it's wedding-friendly and it's the kind of place you seek out if you just want a nice spa day alone. Four Seasons has dive-in movie nights during the summer, a 7,166-yard golf course, 431 rooms with walk-out balconies and a spa experience that will make you want to forget about all your worries in the world. Seriously, even if you already live in Dallas, Four Seasons offers up to 10 different massages, 12 different facials, several other body treatments, and more. Four Seasons is there for all your relaxation and getaway needs.

Readers' Pick: The Joule

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