Audio Video Plus Places like Hollywood and Blockbuster do a great job of making sure you get your copy of Terminator 3 if you want it. But when you're looking for a tougher find -- like, say, Schwarzenegger's American film debut as Hercules living in NYC -- you have to go to Audio Video Plus. More than 60,000 titles and tons of different genres make AV+ the most thorough library of videos/DVDs in the city. New releases? They've got those, too. But they also have heaps and heaps of titles in genres the Big Two don't even stock: kung fu, cult classic and adult included. They've got old Westerns that don't star Clint Eastwood or John Wayne, sci-fi that has nothing to do with Star Trek, war films without Rambo and, yes, a boatload of movies that don't star Ben Stiller.

Central Market With a full-time sommelier and a bevy of wine stewards overseeing more than 3,000 vineyard varieties, on-site cheese mongers caring for the more than 700 different products, and bakers by the dozen, you'll be well cared for at Central Market. From the colorful produce department full of exotic fruits and veggies to the incredible deli, from the cooking classes with resident and guest chefs to the take-out gourmet meals, this is a foodie fantasyland. If you like to play with your food, this is the place to be. It's shopping as entertainment, especially on weekends, when there are oodles of demos and tastings. If you can't get inspired about food at Central Market, don't bother. Who cares that you can't buy toilet paper here?

Jimmie's Reweaving & Alterations Damn. You only wore that delicate pink merino sweater one time, and now you discover that "machine-washable" doesn't mean you can throw it in with a load of jeans and sneakers. You've maimed the previously perfect thing with two ugly holes, and your sweet, generous boyfriend is gonna be less so if he finds out. Don't freak: Take that little number down to Jimmie's and throw yourself at their mercy. The woman behind the counter will explain all your options, and she won't even guilt-trip you. For just $15 (plus tax), their gentle seamstresses (or is it seam-sirs?) will painstakingly hand-stitch away your carelessness. In just two days' time, you can proudly slip into that darling sweater again, with no one the wiser.

Jen Eberhardt It's all about attitude. And we're talking about lack thereof. Jen has been serving up drinks at this Midtown watering hole for a couple of years now -- without a trace of the I'm-hot-you're-not poutiness that plagues other bars. Some drink-slingers around town will act all frazzled and snarky, thinking it's what customers have come to expect, but Jen just pours, keeping her cool and making you feel that way, too. In fact, the only time this cutie seems to have any trace of 'tude is when she's dealing with waitresses who don't know how to order drinks. When that happens, it's time to watch this 24-year-old keep the newbies in check.

Bedrock City Comic Company From 1940s superhero comics to underground Freak Brothers books to hot-off-the-press mainstream affairs, Bedrock City is the place to satisfy your inner geek. The folks there know how to treat customers, too. You can sign up for their subscription service and they'll hold copies of the latest issues for you at a discount. Plus, they don't mind if you browse through their extensive collection of graphic novels, manga and anime DVDs, T-shirts, limited-edition comic-character figurines, Star Wars action figures and movie posters. Bedrock also gets its share of collectors' issues -- they recently added Wonder Woman No. 1 (1942) to their inventory. Just picture it: Wonder Woman kicking Nazi ass!

sloan/hall If you like your greeting cards dripping with hearts, flowers and sentimentality, you'll be just fine at the drugstore. But if you want something a little more subversive, there's no better card selection than the one at sloan/hall. In a strip mall that straddles the Montrose and River Oaks, sloan/hall somehow manages to cater to both the giddy hipness of the former and the blue-blood class of the latter. While most stores overwhelm you with quantity, sloan/hall has the quality market cornered: a great series of blank cards with tasteful black-and-white images; dryly witty MikWright cards with their pasted-on photos; and selections for even the most obscure holidays. Look for boxed cards around Christmas. Rest assured, you won't accidentally send the same cards as Grandma if you get them here.

Joshua's Native Plants Got crabgrass out back? Critters in your chrysanthemums? Then get your homegrowns some professional help at Joshua's in the Heights. The specialists at this nursery can tell you how to ward off molds and pests, but they also let you wander the aisles without pushing anything on you. If you're already a pro, delight in some of Houston's most hard-to-find and exotic varieties of vegetation: sweetly scented almond verbena, string bean-like stalks of sophora, thick dark blue-and-green Gold Dust ground cover and starfish cactus (a swampy-climate succulent that looks like the desert plant). There are also tall grasses, bamboo, evergreens, multiple varieties of hibiscus, jasmine and ivy. Your greens will be the envy of the neighborhood.

Montrose Clinic Let's face it: No one wants to take an HIV test. But the folks at Montrose Clinic make it as pleasant as possible. A friendly staff member leads you into a small room that somehow seems both warm and antiseptic at the same time. Once there, all of your options will be explained to you in easy-to-understand terms. Then a quick little prick and you're out the door. Sure, waiting for the results isn't anyone's favorite pastime either, but getting tested is the best way to demonstrate how much you love your loved one. And you know Montrose Clinic will be there to help you if you need it.

Issues In this Webby world, the idea of a store stocking nothing but magazines might seem quaint. But the recently opened Issues on Shepherd just north of Richmond proves beyond a doubt there's still life left in the dead-tree trade. More than 3,000 titles line the walls, and the owners are eager to stock any request you have. Where else in Houston can you find such sterling titles as Sport Rocketry, or the fishing mag Crappie World? Where else can a Marilyn Manson fan ogle the black-eyelidded honeys in Gothic Beauty just a few steps from a clean-cut studious type perusing Biblical Archeological Review? Not to mention everyone's ability to purchase Y'all -- The Magazine of Southern People, featuring Jeff Foxworthy on its glossy cover the month we saw it. Drop in to Issues and find a world of things you never knew had an entire magazine devoted to them. It's like a great random tour of the Web without all the annoying pop-up ads.

Retropolis From the sidewalk, Retropolis looks like a sliver among the boutiques and antique shops on the Heights' main drag -- a skinny little closet of a boutique worth a quick peek on your way to the nearby gelato parlor. But step inside, walk up the wood-plank stairs at the back, and the store's name starts to click. On the expansive second story you'll find enough retro fashion to outfit a whole city of James Deans, Jane Fondas and Burt Reynoldses. The selection outranks that of the Salvation Army, and it's ordered better than the driveways on the set of Leave It to Beaver. Check out the rad collection of '80s tennis shorts, a rack of '50s prom dresses with crinolines and the expansive cowboy boot section. An immaculate '30s dress with a lace collar looks like it came straight off Olive Oyl. Some prices are surprisingly forgiving: A fuzzy cloche sells for $20, and a red belt with a butterfly clasp goes for $7. So next time you go shopping, throw away your map, forget the mall, and head to Retropolis.

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