Bedrock City Comic Company - Westheimer

If you're into comics, anime, action figures, movie posters or goth collectibles, check out Bedrock City. They answer the question "Whadda ya got besides funny-books?" with total logic and verve: "Does the Louvre only house works by Da Vinci?" Owner Richard Evans opened the original location in 1990, and he now sells at three other area locations and online. Bedrock City not only stays on top of trends, new releases and special and rare comic book editions, they also have heart: We've seen 'em donate small gifts to graduates of Houston elementary and middle schools. Maybe that's the old dealer adage: Give the kids a taste for free, and they'll keep coming back for more.

Apple Store

Okay, all you PC lovers, put up your dukes! It's on! The PC vs. Mac argument has been going for years. It will be years still before that particular consumer struggle is decided, but inside the Apple store in the Galleria, Mac has won. A haven for Mac lovers who are usually relegated to some back corner of the PC store, the Apple Store was recently refurbished and now resembles an art gallery. Gray walls feature strategic lighting that highlights displays of Mac software; long tables run down the center of the showroom, groaning under the weight of notebooks and iPods; and there's plenty of space for mingling. These days there's a huge display of iPhones right up front (just look for the table where everyone stands entranced), and a children's table in the back, with supposedly indestructible, kid-friendly computers.

This chain of Vietnamese-owned stores has been serving neighborhood patrons with all sorts of needs, at all sorts of hours. No matter if you need to just pick up some milk or want to choose a fresh cigar from the walk-in humidor, this place provides the things commonly found in a normal convenience store and then some. From their fine selection of chocolates to unusual magazines, you will find it all here, well-priced and sold to you with a smile.

Frankel's Costume

This family-run business has been a Houston institution since 1950. Things have changed a bit since then, and that's a good thing — you can now view costumes and order online. And they have disguises for pretty much everyone — adults, kids, plus-size — from the standard to the more playful. And, of course, pirates! Even if you think you're too "mature" to dress up for Halloween or casual Friday, you owe it to yourself to swing by the store or check out the Web site.

Bruce Smith is a great believer in "no pain" dentistry. That alone should qualify him for an award, but that's not all Dr. Smith has done to deserve our notice. The dentist, who began his career by doing service work in rural Waller County, came to Houston in 1981 — the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. When Smith saw the incredible need for quality dental care for HIV/AIDS patients, who often had no medical insurance, he helped found the Bering Dental Clinic, which provided free services. He also developed a universal precaution standard that he taught to other dentists so that they could safely care for HIV/AIDS patients. His current practice includes people from all walks of life.

Four stories of fine fabric is only the beginning of the offerings at High Fashion Fabrics. Besides the yards and yards of silk, velvet, brocade, leather, linen and every other kind of millinery marvel, there's furniture, design books, ribbon, pillows, rugs and design thingamajigs and doodads in just about every corner. The staff is very helpful and, best of all, most of it costs way less than what you'd pay at most other fabric/furniture stores in town. And since High Fashion Fabric Center is open seven days a week, you can get your design fix whenever the bug bites.

Its hard to pick a favorite. You have the Bright Day Bouquet, the Mellow Yellow, the Picture Perfect. You could spend quite a long time at Breens, searching through many beautiful bouquets, looking for the one that expresses exactly what you want to say. And no doubt Breens will have it, whether its for graduation, birthday, sympathy, wedding or just to say, You kick ass, dude. You can even join Breens e‑mail list to get a newsletter and coupons and enter contests where you can win free flowers.

Mary Catherine got her initial training at Toni & Guy when it was still chichi and exclusive — long before you could buy their hair products at, say, a bait 'n' tackle shop in Llano. Though she's worked at several salons and spas during her more than 20 years in the business, a loyal (and gorgeous) clientele follows her — even to her latest spot at Tranquility Day Spa, which, despite its soothing name, is in the heart of the Galleria's traffic hell. But we'll brave it, just for her painterly touch in mixing and applying our dazzling highlights (and lowlights). She takes meticulous care with each haircut. Get ready to be pampered and, even better, informed on the best way to care for your locks, making them look as good at home as she did in the salon.

Southland Hardware

This isn't a mega-size warehouse, and you won't find any people wearing orange aprons here. Instead, you'll find one of the oldest hardware stores in the city and a staff that can help you with the most obtuse of questions. By the time they're done answering you, you'd believe they built the city themselves if they told you so. Making your visit even more enjoyable, Southland is like a toy store for adults, a place you can browse for things you didn't even know you needed, until you saw them.

Natural Earth Products Company

This rock yard should be a field trip for college geology students. There's a wealth of natural products, all clearly marked and organized, for all of your backyard needs (except maybe grass): limestone, flagstone, gravel, soil, mulch, boulders. They will mentor the do-it-­yourselfer, give guidelines on figuring out how much material you'll need and offer advice on how to lay your flagstone, whether you want to mortar it or fill it in with several of the beauteous types of crushed granite there. They'll even refer you to landscape companies to hire. If you see a chunk of quartz for a garden accent or a "holey rock" that resembles a steer skull — great for planting small cactus in — load them up in one of their big rice sacks, and they'll charge by the pound. Tip: Avoid Saturday mornings, when all the DIYers are out.

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