Best Of :: Shopping & Services
One thing that sets Family Thrift's 12 area locations apart from the competition are the hours. Unlike so many local thrift stores, they are open late — until nine p.m. on weeknights. That gives the working stiffs who need the cheap clothes a chance to get there. We also love their rewards program, whereby every dollar you spend is a point toward a discount if you come back in on the Sunday of the same week. (In other words, if you spend 50 bucks on Wednesday, Sunday's purchase will be half-price.) And we also love their outlet stores — one on Little York and the other on Red Bluff in Pasadena — where unwanted clothing from the other locations winds up eventually. Those stores get new merchandise every Thursday; every item is on sale for $1.75 for the rest of the day, and it gets cheaper each day until it reaches a quarter on the following Wednesday. That's right — a quarter. Cheap at twice the price, even if it is ugly as sin.
It's inevitable: When Halloween comes around or you just need that certain something for your party, someone yells, "Just go to Frankel's!" The family-run shop, which began life in 1950 as Morty's Magic Mart, has become Houston's own Walmart of costumes, wigs and everything in between. We mean Walmart in the best possible way, too. With Halloween still a month off, no doubt people are already busting down the doors of the Frankel's warehouse looking for gear. If you want to dress up as Zombie Amy Winehouse, you are going to Hell, but no doubt Frankel's will have everything to help you get there.
This concept store from H-E-B has been a massive success in its first location in a heavily Hispanic area of Pasadena, and it's easy to see why: The store has been designed to resemble a massive indoor mercado complete with tortilleria, an aguas frescas bar and even women cleaning and prepping bright green nopales paddles. There's no Hispanic ingredient or spice you can't find here, and H-E-B's in-house store brands provide excellent savings on staples like rice and beans. Plus, you have to love a store that smartly plants a churro vendor on the way out the door.
Forget the grown men who refer to the objects of their hobbies as "toys." Sweet Spot Audio and More will have none of that. A grown-up hobby shop for the Don Draper kind, Sweet Spot is a cigar shop, men's boutique and audiophile's fantasy rolled into one. They sell coffee and tobacco along with new and used vinyl, and feature regular meet-ups for audio clubs, all in a laid-back atmosphere without a hint of hard sell. It feels like your buddy's den. They're also one of the few audio shops in town that will let you demo the equipment before buying it.
Phooey on getting lubricated at home before going out. Instead, step into Spec's Midtown location and prep for a night on the town at one of the state's most massive odes to boozery. There's always some sort of beer and/or wine tastings, especially on the weekends. No worries on the food tip because the spot boasts a deli, a section of gourmet chocolates and heaps of meats and cheeses. And, of course, there are ridiculous amounts of specialty beers, wines and liquors available for purchase, just in case you do decide to be all boring by drinking at home.
Walking into certain camera shops in town can feel like the equivalent of walking into the Comic Book Guy's store on The Simpsons. If you're not cool enough to know the most obscure photo trivia or have the newest DSLR, you're treated with barely veiled derision. Not so at Houston Camera Exchange. They carry a full range of new and used toys, digital and analog, for every manner of photography, plus the accessories to match. They'll also help you find the best camera or recorder to match your needs, whether it's documenting a new addition to your family or replacing the Nikon your grandmother handed down to you. An employee there once complimented us on a battered old point-and-shoot, calling it the best one ever made, before helping us find a way to mount it onto our motorcycle. We ended up walking out with a birdwatcher's vice for attaching binoculars to a car window, a solution we never would have thought of on our own.