Best Of :: Shopping & Services
The almond-pecan florentines are deceptively innocent-looking at Expressions Fine Chocolate. They are, in fact, decadent, as are most of the concoctions owner Valerie Gamble creates. Gamble, a former stockbroker, started her shop in 2004. She makes everything by hand and uses only the finest ingredients with no preservatives, which means her chocolates have a very short shelf life. Consequently, her storefront shop is open for the Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter seasons, with appointment-only and made-to-order sales during the rest of the year. Two highlights from the sweet lineup are her champagne truffles (champagne ganache covered in dark chocolate and topped with edible gold leaf) and her Dorothy Shoe (a chocolate shoe covered in edible red glitter). At Easter, look for her giant Easter Eggs (hollow, dark Belgian chocolate Easter eggs filled with a pound of assorted treats).
Do people even buy CDs anymore? They must, because Half Price Books keeps stocking them. The budget-media retailer may not have a Cactus-like variety, but it usually has a few titles by most major artists, especially if they weren't big blockbuster albums. It also seems to specialize in CDs by artists you had almost completely forgotten about but who had one or two songs you'd pay two or three bucks for — hell, you'd do it with iTunes, except here you get a whole album. While you're there, don't forget to browse Half Price's vinyl selection, which is likewise better than you'd think. Or hell, pick up a book or two while you're at it.
Sure, you may have seen this one coming a mile away, but it's not without reason: Simply put, this place meets the needs of anyone from casual doodlers to professional painters. Brushes, pens, ink, clay, paper, stencils, mosaics, fabric — there's no way you can spend five minutes at Texas Art Supply and not feel your creative side getting goosed. And even if you're just looking for a gift for an artistically inclined friend and you don't know canvas from papier-mâché, you don't have to worry about feeling intimidated or overwhelmed; the crack staff is eager to help, and they know their stuff. Texas Art Supply is an institution in Houston, and if you haven't been yet, then it's time to find out why.
We like smelling good — and our significant others smelling good — without spending a fortune. And we learned the hard way that this isn't reasonably accomplished by buying knockoff brands at gas-station convenience stores. (We also learned that Drakkar Noir actually isn't the best man-scent out there, regardless of what that dude selling it out of the back of his van told us, but that's a story for another time.) So that's why Perfumania is our number one choice when it comes to cologne and perfume. You get a huge selection without putting a huge dent in your pocketbook — and we're talking top-shelf stuff, too, not just the same-old, same-old you can get with a free gym bag at any department store. If you want to expand your olfactory horizons, there's no better place to start than Perfumania.
Because you just never know when you might want to buy a Pink Panther clock at 1:30 in the morning. Fantasy Gifts and Toys resembles an overstuffed, naughty museum, and has been outfitting Houstonians who are up to no good for more than 30 years. Conveniently located near most Lower Westheimer bars including neighboring Catbird's, Fantasy offers hundreds of glass pipes (many made by local craftsmen), vaporizers, hookahs, papers and any other smoking accessory you can think of down to the skull ashtrays. Then there's the T-shirts, rock posters, candles, costumes, other miscellaneous gifts — antidepressant refrigerator magnets or Reservoir Dogs figurines? Tough call — and an entire wall of, well, adult toys. Sometimes that Pink Panther clock just isn't enough, and only something called a "Naughty Judge" or "Wabbit Tickler" will get the job done.
Laura Levine and "Crazy" Mike Hildebrand curate their Heights-area store so carefully, they almost have an encyclopedic knowledge of every item and its location. Looking for embroidered cowboy boots, Polynesian mod or an old concert T-shirt? Just ask at the desk, and if they have it (they likely do), they'll take you right to it. Prices are super-reasonable considering you're saving yourself the hassle of digging through bargain bins at thrift stores, plus they take trades and get new items at least once a week. One of our favorite things to shop for at Replay is vintage swimsuits. Follow them on Facebook for advance notice of new hauls.