Best Of :: Shopping & Services
So it's two days before Mother's Day and, like an idiot, you forgot all about it again. All the good flowers are probably gone — you need to get her something sweet, and you need it quick. Then you remember: What about that dual vibrating flexidong Mom's always hinting about? And as soon as you think of that, you remember that Dad's birthday is right around the corner, and you know he's always going on about how his old cock-and-ball harness has been broken for months. But where can you get a vibrating flexidong and a space-age cock-and-ball harness? Carmen's, my friend. And that's just for starters: They have so many different toys, apparel, videos and bondage play sets, you'll think you died and went to pervert heaven. And Mom and Dad will never be happier!
Bizarre Times on Richmond lets you cover more vices than most (Houston Press employees excluded) can handle in one night. Of course, there's the porn, with a selection ranging from borderline tasteful to completely horrifying; sex toys, featuring nine variations on The Rabbit; prostitute-esque fetish wear; and "viewing rooms" for "couples." But there's also a wide array of tobacco accessories and perfumes that really define Bizarre Times as the Wal-Mart of Adult Video. Sam Walton would be so proud!
We were gonna say Craig's List, but then we found Adrien Gibson, who hangs out on Craig's List and who, despite the inauspicious place for a first meeting, is one helluva apartment hunter. Our friend used Gibson when she was looking for a place a little while back. He asked her what she wanted, where she was looking, what her price range was, and get this: He took her to a place that met her description right off the bat. No "this is almost in your range." No "it's close to where you were saying." None of that. Only friendly, efficient service, so efficient our friend signed up for the first place she saw. Can it get any easier?
Originally from the coral reefs of the Pacific, the Napoleon wrasse living in the confines of the Downtown Aquarium is truly a wonder to behold. He looks as if he'd like to strike up a conversation with you – and that he could formulate a good sentence with those huge lips, given the chance. There's a conscious awareness lurking behind his independently roving eyes, and a presence in his five-foot hulking form. The Aquarium's humphead wrasse is a male, indicated by the bump on his forehead. Labeled as a "sequential hermaphrodite," the Napoleon fish is born male, changes into a breeding female when it matures at five to seven years old, and during its 30 or more years of life may change back again to a dominant male should the need arise. Go see this rare, exquisitely patterned fish, for free – you don't need to buy dinner to visit the aquarium at the Aquarium.
There's no place that can compare to Hong Kong Market No. 4. It's probably the best example of the mix of Texan and Asian cultures. Only in Houston can you find an Asian grocery that has adopted the local fetish of building the largest and grandest supermarkets possible. Here you'll find a plethora of products from every Asian country imaginable. From seemingly odd Japanese soft drinks to Korean candy, this place has stuff for those looking for the exotic and for those who're just homesick.
Packed with high-quality furniture for babies and kids, USA Baby is the place to go when you're looking to outfit your nursery. From beautiful and delicate bassinets to rough-and-tumble bunk beds, from rocking chairs to car seats, it's all at USA Baby. It doesn't matter if you want to create a fairyland for your little princess or a touchdown zone for the little man of the house (or the other way around), it's here. There are adorable "Time-Out" chairs with built-in alarm clocks, fun "How Tall Am I Now?" wall hangings and huge assortments of strollers and baby carriers. And USA Baby has a great selection of hard-to-find stuffed animals. Looking for a life-size gorilla? It's here. Or maybe a pink elephant wearing a tiara? It's here, too.
This sprawling complex in Katy is a sort of Mecca for outdoorsmen. If Armageddon ever comes, this is the only place you'll need. It's your basic one-stop survival shop, selling a variety of guns and hunting supplies and probably everything a man who loves fishing ever needs, and then some. After you've bought your new tackle, you can browse the ridiculously large selection of boats. Say you're looking to learn how to fly-fish; you can come here and take part in regular workshops. So when Christmas comes around, spare Dad the crappy sweater and just buy him a gift card.
Men frequent barbershops less for the trim than for the banter, the testosterone and the taxidermy. The best barbers fall into two categories. There's the cutter who jawbones nonstop on everything. Then there's the quiet man, usually a stooped old-timer, who lets the customer do the yakkety-yakking. Matt Wright falls into the latter category, except he's a young fella who stands straight like an arrow. He calls all customers by their surnames, and he knows just what questions to ask to get them rolling. He's a yes-man to stoics who transform into great storytellers in his chair. Oh, and he gives a fine trim.
So, Bob, heard you need a road bike. You should try Bike Barn. And Emily, I hear you need a mountain bike. You should tag along with Bob. And Frank, you need a cool bike for your kids, right? Dude, go to Bike Barn. Trek, Serotta, Gary Fisher: Bike Barn. Clothes, helmets, parts, repair: Bike Barn. Need anything special-ordered? Yeah, you got it — the Double-B. They eat, sleep and breathe bikes. They also ride them. They know what the heck they're talking about. You just might turn into a bike freak, if you're not one already. And that's a good thing — for your body and the planet. Now get in gear (see what we did there?) and get thee to the Barn.
Houston book lovers were crushed a few years back with the closing of Colleen's Books, the ramshackle used book store out on Telephone Road. But good things have sprung from the closure: Now, if you enjoy a little country drive, you can head to Butler & Sons in Rosenberg. Owner William Butler purchased Colleen Urbanek's stock, has added his own significant items and put them in a comfortable, casual store in a 1930s building in the antique center of the Fort Bend County town. Butler is a dedicated bibliophile: His collection includes books signed by Hemingway and Faulkner, and a copy of The Dictionary of Vulgar Language with handwritten notations by Mark Twain. And it's not limited to just books: Last December he spent $360,000 combined for a page of Paul McCartney's draft lyrics of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and a 1968 Fender Stratocaster owned by Jimi Hendrix.
It's not easy to make high-society, grown-up types look like, well, kids in a candy store, but these sweet slingers manage to pull it off. The Chocolate Bar offers tasty, original-recipe ice cream and cakes along with chocolate-covered everything; and Candylicious sells a variety of traditional and wacky confections, from jelly beans to a plunger sucker that you dip in a toilet filled with candy sprinkles. On any given night you can see both kiddos and just-out-of-the-office types drooling over something on the shelves or in the cases. Both shops are owned by candy masters Gilbert Johnson and Jimmy Smith, who are always developing new ways to enjoy their tasty treats, including a pirate ship made from fun-size Hershey bars, licorice whips and whatever else they have lying around their stores.
Bubbles isn't the cheapest car wash in Houston. But do you want your car to be clean, or do you want it to be kinda clean? The good folks at Bubbles will clean your carriage inside and out, top to bottom, while you chill inside and entertain yourself by looking through merchandise ranging from CDs to books to flip-flops. Or you can use a computer to check e-mail or www.houstonpress.com. With a variety of cleaning, waxing, shampooing, detailing and whatever-ing packages, Bubbles definitely can meet your particular needs and make even a '79 Gremlin feel like a brand-sparkling-new Bentley.