Baby's 1st Furniture

Don't let the name fool you: Yes, they've got furniture, which we'll get to in a minute, but they also have books, toys, strollers, clothes, wall art and even something called a PeePee TeePee. Basically, if you've spawned a tiny human being, then your new best friend is now Baby's 1st Furniture. Which reminds us: furniture. We're talking cradles, cribs (traditional and convertible), changers, rockers, gliders, car seats, bassinets, ottomans — you name it, they got it. For goodness' sake, they even sell the Wipe Warmer, an insulated dispenser that warms wipes from the top down. It's a freaking revolution in wipe technology. Okay, so maybe your mind isn't as easily blown as ours, but the point is you're going to be happy, and more important, your baby's going to be happy.

Southwestern Paint

Houston is covered in paint, or it soon will be. With all the new dwellings going up in Montrose and Fourth Ward the past few years, the cans must be practically flying off the shelves at Southwestern Paint. Southwestern recently renovated its Montrose location, the one that's been there since 1940, and now has stores in West U, 1960, Katy and College Station. But besides selling to all those young Inner Loop homebuyers, it also stocks more than 50 brands of paints, coatings, finishes and accessories for a host of commercial concerns, from architects and contractors to hospitals and school districts. And if Southwestern doesn't have what you're looking for in stock, they can get it for you: The vast inventory on their Web site has just about every possible paint-related accessory you can imagine, like 14 different types of caulking guns. When you sling as much paint as Southwestern, you have customers who can put a use to every one.

Hello Lucky

An island of cool stuff made with love and by hand amid an ocean of crap cranked out by indifferent machines (or wage slaves in brutal sweatshops), Hello Lucky stands as an extension of owner Teresa O'Connor's nurturing philosophy. All of the locally handmade jewelry, clothing, accessories and knickknacks in Hello Lucky reflect her values, chief of which appears to be merely this: "Be sweet." (And "be funny," too: Her "It's okay to [heart] Houston" T-shirts are one of the funniest and wisest articles of locally produced legible clothing ever.) Over the past five years, Hello Lucky has transcended mere place of commerce to ascend to the level of "third place" for many a Houston artist and crafter, who drift in continually just to chat, gossip and sip O'Connor's chocolate-laced coffee. Don't miss the monthly "Craftaculars," in which one Hello Lucky artist hosts and curates an event spotlighting their own work and that of their friends.

West End Bicycles

Nestled just outside Memorial Park on a quiet neighborhood street, West End Bicycles is one of the city's oldest bike shops, and it's still the best. It started as a mountain-bike shop, and though it offers much more, including an impressive selection of Dutch-style cruiser bikes, the muddy buddy ethos remains. The staffers are patient and friendly, and accommodating to riders of all stripes and persuasions. They also sell a ton of gear and add-ons, including tongue-in-cheek items like flash cages for your bike frame. And if you're not in the market for a new set of wheels, the shop is still worth checking out anyway thanks to the large museum-like display of antique bikes, none of which the owner is willing to part with.

Tejas Custom Boots

It's always been a dream of ours to have a pair of custom cowboy boots made. One day, when the riches roll in, we'll be heading to family-owned Tejas Boots in The Montrose to get those babies fitted. In the meantime, we can console ourselves by heading to Tejas to repair the shoes we do own. They can fix all manner of footwear maladies, from broken sandal clasps, to boots that need new soles, to heels in need of new caps, which they'll often do while you wait. They've even been known to repair leather jackets. Have a look around while you wait — the walls are covered in photos of presidents, athletes and other celebrities who've had boots made for them by Jose Gonzales.

Marva, who runs the Psychic and Holistic Fair the first weekend of every month, has a wealth of quivers in her bow. If she doesn't feel "on" with a client, she'll turn to tarot, palmistry or astrology — or perhaps a blend of all three occult arts. She's taught hundreds over the years in all things metaphysical, but says she's most proud of the work she does with an OB/GYN, helping the doctor and her clients choose dates during the process of in vitro fertilization...and later, the optimum birth date for delivery. "I help them create miracles," she beams. Marva created her own miracle last year when she "found" her long-lost love from high school and they got back together — hotter, as the saying goes, than a pepper sprout.

The Hot Water Guys proudly proclaim that they "install more tankless water heaters in one week than most plumbers do in one year" — and they'll invade your home like a well-organized army in that pursuit. Going tankless is the right thing to do, as it saves water, a more precious resource than any fossil fuel. It also frees up space in your home, since the compact little tankless water heater is mounted outside. These guys are so good they found both a water leak and a gas leak (!) on a recent house call and, what's even better, fixed both. They've got a good, stable crew headed by Kenny's brother, Bryan. We can't praise 'em enough. Even cooler, the Hot Water Guys themselves, Tom Massimin and Kenny Browning, are longtime Urban Animals (no, they won't skate in your attic).

Super H Mart

The west side of Houston approximates Pacific geography. If you are looking for Southern Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino or Indonesian groceries, head for Bellaire Boulevard. If on the other hand you're in search of stuff from the colder reaches of the Pacific, head to Super H Mart, Houston's top purveyor of all things Korean and Japanese. The food court astounds with its bounty of hotpots, sushi, bibimbap, kimchi, Korean barbecue and amazing Seoul-style marinated fried chicken. There's also an outlet of the Frenchified Korean answer to Starbucks — Tous Les Jours — wherein one might find splendid coffee and flaky pastries from Paris via Pusan to Houston. The seafood counter alone merits a trip, and wow, those beans, that astounding variety of rice and all those oodles of noodles.

Collectors Firearms

For Houston fanatics, Collectors Firearms is to gun geeks as Cactus Music in Montrose is to record geeks, or something like that. New guns, old guns and collectible guns are all here and accounted for, and the store's staff is always on hand to help school you on each piece. Not all the weapons at Collectors are your usual sporting goods fare either; there are some beautiful items here that are almost too pretty to do anything with but mount on a wall and stare at.

Whether you are buying birthday party favors for the kids, stocking up on cleaning supplies for the house or just penny-pinching, you can't do much better than Giant $ and their ten Houston stores. Their clean locations and daily deals make this a valuable resource for families looking to make ends meet, plus they always have some quirky foodstuffs on their shelves, like our favorite instant Vietnamese coffee.

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