Best Shoe Repair/Cobbler 2017 | Rico Hillside Shoe Service | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

For nearly 15 years, Frank Rico has occupied a tiny niche in the Hillside Village Shopping Center. Well, that is, Rico and a rotating roster of pairs of beloved shoes and bags waiting for pickup by their owners. Behind and next to the mirrored front counter, above and below the shelves, sandals, boots, heels and dress shoes sit shined, resoled, their scuffed toes smoothed, their scraped heels mended. A rack of hand-healed bags stands sentry. Steadily throughout each day of Rico's six-day workweek, customers bring in their favorite shoes to have new life breathed back into them by his skilled hands. The shoe service is a family business, so Rico's son, daughter and wife are familiar faces to regular customers (something that brings a smile to his face when he mentions it), but that's a distinct contrast to what he sees every day: "Nothing is ever the same," he says, describing his work. "Every [shoe] problem and everything I see is special and different." It's this excitement for his discoveries and problem solving that undoubtedly helps him turn around many of his clients' items on the same day. If it's badly needed, he does his best to get it done.

Nicholas Bostick

OK, "shop of horrors" is an overdramatic description of owner Paul Riddell's gallery of carnivorous plants, which he recently moved from the former Valley View Center to a space near U.S. 75 and Spring Valley Road. You won't find Audrey growling "feed me" among his custom-built terrariums of carnivorous and exotic plants. On the other hand, Riddell named his place after The Day of the Triffids, the apocalyptic sci-fi novel by John Wyndham featuring man-hunting plants. It's so incredibly creepy that you might find yourself laying in a stock of Roundup to have around, you know, just in case. The fearless Riddell, meanwhile, is in the middle of a soft opening and will officially open his new space to the public — by appointment only — in October. You can see a variety of his imaginative mini-environments devoted to these strange species and maybe even take one home for yourself. If you dare.

Daniel Driensky and Sarah Reyes

While the Dallas of tomorrow may be crashing toward an all-digital internet of things, luckily there will remain holdouts to remind us of the power and beauty of old-school analog craftsmanship. Count Sean Starr and his wife, Kayleigh, among them. Their Starr Studios in Denton specializes in hand-painted and gold-leafed signs, each a unique and carefully crafted work that only human minds and hands can create — at least for now. You may have seen the couple's work on the cover of the Toadies album Heretics, for Shinola Detroit, for Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. or on the bright red and gold old-style storefront at J. Hall & Co. Gentleman Tattooers, 1709 Lamar St. "Sign painters" understates what the Starrs do. They are artists, and as proof of that. they recently opened a gallery to show their work, as well as curated shows by other artists, in the Design District.

Sarah Schumacher

Bike sharing first came to Dallas at Fair Park in 2014 under the city's cunning plan to encourage more cycling by putting its first bike-share racks in a place few people go and allowing them to rent a bike and ride ... well, nowhere, basically, before heading back to the fixed racks. "Dallas Unveils World's Saddest Bike Sharing Program" was the headline on our story announcing the program. Garland-based company VBikes took a slightly different tactic — call it "the not stupid one" — this summer when it opened its bike-sharing system in Dallas. First, it put their bikes where people are — in Klyde Warren Park, for instance. Second, it uses an app-based system that lets users wave their phones over a bike's smart lock, ride it wherever they want and leave it there. Lastly, VBikes priced it right. While the city charged $5 for the first 30 minutes and $2.50 per hour after for the privilege of riding in circles around Fair Park, VBikes are $1 an hour with a limit of 10 hours per day. The bikes are GPS equipped, and the company's goal is to eventually have enough bikes in the city so you're never more than a half-mile from one, meaning you won't necessarily ride somewhere and get stranded because someone used your bike while you stopped off to shop or drink. Imagine that: a bike sharing system in Dallas that turns bikes into a usable mode of transportation. Wonder if the guys behind the company would be interested in managing other services in Dallas, like City Hall.

Google Streetview

Imagine a grocery store that offers name brands at prices cheaper than Walmart while also being fair to its employees. This is not a dream, shoppers; this is an actual place you can visit 24 hours a day. It is Winco, where you can fill a cart to the brim with produce, bulk foods, fresh baked goods, meat, beer and anything else that's on a typical shopping list, and walk out with a receipt for less than $200 without using any kind of rewards card. (It doesn't have them.) The employee-owned, Idaho-based grocery chain has opened nine locations in North Texas since 2015. The most convenient one to Dallas is just across LBJ Freeway in Garland. The chain cuts costs by asking you to bag your own groceries (bags provided), and it doesn't accept credit cards, only debit. But unlike Aldi, there are lots of options, the quality of the merchandise is indistinguishable from more expensive stores, and Winco even carries some organic brands.

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