Wright Pawn & Jewelry Co.

Selling your personal property to stall an eviction or buy that extra rock of crack can be a depressing, bewildering decision. There are a million pawnshops in Houston, and most of them emanate an aura of bleakness that makes your whole transaction feel hopeless, whether you're buying or pawning. But Jack and Pamela Wright want everyone to feel confident and comfortable when browsing through their inventory of jewelry, high-end electronics, guitars and more. Their shop has won an award from the Greater Houston Better Business Bureau and is a member of both the national and state associations of pawnbrokers, as well as the Greater Southwest Houston Chamber of Commerce. Plus, they customize and repair jewelry!

Collectors Firearms

It's a well-known fact around the world that we Texans love our guns. Actually, "love" may be putting it lightly; we not only use our right under the Second Amendment, we celebrate it as much as possible by buying, owning, talking about and, most importantly, shooting guns. That's why it's so important to have that special go-to man or place that can hook you up with a fix when you need to shoot stuff. Big ones, small ones, Collectors Firearms has them all. They deal in a wide range of firearms, from the latest in killing machines to Civil War-used black powder rifles.

Gabbanelli Accordions and Imports

Ever wake up with twin hankerings for a new top-of-the-line accordion and a St. Christopher medallion? Or maybe you just need a replacement bellows for your squeezebox and some rosary beads. Either way, Gabbannelli has you covered. This Westbury store offers world-famous accordions, multicolored, finely detailed creations fresh from their Italian factory and much-coveted by Tejano, Norteño and zydeco/Cajun musicians, as well as all manner of Holy Faith-enhancing religious accessories.

The Briar Shoppe

The Briar Shoppe is a Houston institution. The place, originally opened by the current owner's mother, has been around for about 45 years. The store is an all-woman enterprise, but macho aficionados keep coming back. The walk-in humidor is great, with an easy-to-browse selection. All the favorites in the $5-to-$10 range — Cohiba, Macanudo, Romeo y Julieta — are there. For a couple bucks more, you can pick up something from the large selection of Padrón cigars. The really ambitious smoker looking to spend serious cash can check out the Stradivarius Robusto Major. The Briar Shoppe also sells plenty of designer cutters and lighters. Smoking is allowed inside, but there isn't a lot of room for lounging. Prices are a tad higher at The Briar Shoppe, but expect great customer service whether buying or browsing.

Cactus Music

When Cactus Music closed a few years ago, it was one of the saddest days Houston music has seen or ever will see. Cactus fostered quality local and international music across genres for generations, and carried albums by musicians available almost nowhere else. It was one of the last examples of a music store done right in this city. So it was a happy day last year when the longtime manager and a couple of partners reopened Cactus Music a few blocks away from the original location. It hasn't disappointed, with a huge selection and a giant room just for vinyl lovers. Tack on the knowledgeable staff and tons of great in-store performances and this place is as good as, if not better than, it ever was.

Erotic Cabaret

If you're like us, buying sexy lingerie isn't an everyday deal, which is why Erotic Cabaret is so appealing. The employees are well versed in the merchandise, but realize it's a taboo experience for some shoppers. Want to know where that thing goes and how, and why your partner will appreciate it? Just ask. But if you're there just to find a perfect pair of thigh-highs or a cute thong, or to browse the selection with no one but your lover in mind, they won't bother you. Thanks, Erotic Cabaret. You make ­shopping for our kinkiest fantasies easier than we are after a few glasses of cheap wine.

People have been raving about LEA Plumbing, so when a plumbing emergency hit one of our Best of Houston® correspondents, she called them right away and was crushed to learn LEA only serves Northeast Houston. But Sue Riddle, who handles the company's dispatch, helpfully offered a couple reasons for the correspondent's current water woes. And her husband, master plumber Billy Riddle, called back later that day to mentor the correspondent through cleaning out the showerhead herself. She was blown away as he patiently explained — for free! — why the situation developed, what tools to use and what she might find behind the shower wall.

David's Pools & Spas

You pay enough for a pool these days, you don't want to get ripped off on the upkeep of it. So you should turn to David's Pools & Spas, on the corner of Hillcroft and South Braeswood. These guys know their stuff and are eager to help you solve all those nasty little problems that keep cropping up over a Houston summer. It's a tight, clean, efficient business that keeps its customers happy and its prices low.

This full-service printing shop, housed in the first floor of the Millie Esperson Building, is a downtown business with a hometown attitude toward its clients. They treat every customer like a big ol' corporate client, keeping customers' proofs on file for future jobs. Service Inc. has also been known to stay open till the job gets done.

Clairvoyants come in all forms and fashions. You've got your palm-reading, spell-weaving mystical madams; your potion-brewing, crystal-gazing priestesses; and your all-out crazies. And that's just a slight sampling. Kim O'Neill doesn't fall into any of those categories, though. For one thing, she comes from a corporate background and says she didn't tap into her clairvoyant wavelength until later in life. It was during this particularly bleak time in her life, she says, that she met her guardian angel. And no, he didn't have majestic wings and some weird storybook name. He was a regular-looking dude named John Reid. And that helps illustrate where O'Neill is coming from: She encourages clients to come with a list of questions, so everyone can get right down to business. She's about pragmatic, positive results. And she says she'll show you how to talk to your guardian angel on your own — something she's touched on in one of her books. She lays it all out on her Web site, so you know up front whether this is someone you want to go on a journey with. We think you probably will.

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