Kid to Kid Clothing

Who wants to buy brand-new clothes for their kid? It's wasteful, needlessly expensive and the little whippersnappers will outgrow them before you know it. Of course, you don't want to have your offspring looking like latter-day Dickensian ragamuffins, either, which is where Kid to Kid Clothing comes in. There, you can trade in your kids' own clothing for either cash (paid on the spot) or 20 percent more value in store credit, and their gently used inventory of school, play and fancier attire is second-to-none in the Bayou City. Name brands like Ralph Lauren, Gap, Gymboree and even Hanna Ander­sson and Lilly Pulitzer abound on their racks and shelves, all available at a bare sliver of mall prices.

Kegg's Candies

Walk into the Kegg's Candies Meyerland-area store and you might think you see chocolate cupcakes among the offerings. Look a little closer — the yummy cupcake-looking treats are actually oversize peanut butter cups that have a big taste to match their size. Kegg's dates back to 1946, when Robert Kegg started experimenting in his mom's kitchen. That quickly led to a shop in the Rice Village. The shop has since changed hands, but current owner Carl A. Bartuch Jr. has maintained the Kegg tradition of using only the finest fresh ingredients to create delightful confections. Along with dozens of types of delicious concoctions, there are plenty of novelty items (light and dark chocolate shaped like poker chips, sports equipment, letters and the like). You don't have to have a pocket full of money to enjoy Kegg's goodies — milk chocolate rounds, pressed into turtle, sand-dollar, flower and butterfly shapes, among others, are all less than $1. For a behind-the-scenes look at Kegg's candy kitchen, visit the factory location (8168 Westpark) for a self-guided tour. See candy made from start to finish, and stop by Kegg's in-factory store and ice cream parlor, where you'll find frozen custard and Italian ice in addition to chocolate candy.

Our dogs are not like our children — they are our children. And you only want the best for your kids, even if they periodically pee on the floor, hump random objects and beg for food. Demi's Dog House on West Gray is the local choice for grooming, with flexible hours and decent prices that won't make you reach for the clippers yourself. They don't just groom and beautify, they even have doggy daycare, complete with nap and snack time. Now if they could just teach our pups to talk, we would be in business.

Blue Willow Bookstore

It's more than just the selection of books that makes Blue Willow Bookshop the best children's bookstore — it's the knowledgeable staff that cinches the deal. Whether you have a seven-year-old girl fascinated by frogs or a 12-year-old boy who's reluctant to read about anything but space invaders, the Blue Willow staff knows just what to put in their hands to spark their interest. Young readers can come dressed as their favorite characters to the many Blue Willow kids' events, including author appearances, readings, story hours and parties. And the shop's browse-before-you-buy policy makes for stress-free shopping.

Thompson's Antique Center of Texas

Usually, when an antique mall moves, it heralds bad news. But that's not the case with Thompson's Antique Center of Texas. The new place, in the former JC Penney's in Northwest Mall, is movin' on up, as the Jeffersons would say. The old venue was musty; now, it's cheerful, with better air-conditioning and lighting. They've attracted more dealers to fill the site's more than 100,000 square feet — good dealers, at that — while keeping the same friendly staff and volunteers. One recent swoop proved to be one-stop shopping for a dinner party à la 1950: We picked up nearly a complete set of darling Wedgwood china, festooned with delphiniums; some lovely, hand-embroidered pillowcases; a set of knives and forks with Bakelite handles; and a canasta tray with two decks of unused cards. Dinner is served, thankfully sans the requisite tomato aspic of yore.

Adolf Hoepfl & Son

North Shepherd is an ugly, functional thoroughfare: Houston's undisputed Muffler Row, lined with one used car dealership, spare-parts peddler, tire barn and transmission barn after another. The immaculately white, bunting-adorned, vintage-neon-announced Hoepfl garage appears almost as a mirage amid this sea of asphalt, exhaust miasma and general automotive grunge. Once inside, you'll find that the TLC doesn't stop at creating a pretty exterior. Owners Sybren and Kathryn van der Pol bought the now 66-year-old shop from the Hoepfl family in 2004, and they run a fair, thorough and honest business, pinned on the belief that if you take care of the customers and give back to the community, then the business will take care of itself. Hoepfl and Sons transcends mere repairs and maintenance: The shop is also the site of vintage car shows, educational seminars (often teaching teens about routine repairs and maintenance), fish fries and ice cream socials. Rice grad Kathryn Van der Pol also makes a mean glass of lemonade and, as an avid cyclist, will adjust the specs on your bike helmet strap free of charge.

Expressions Fine Chocolate

The almond-pecan florentines are deceptively innocent-looking at Expressions Fine Chocolate. They are, in fact, decadent, as are most of the concoctions owner Valerie Gamble creates. Gamble, a former stockbroker, started her shop in 2004. She makes everything by hand and uses only the finest ingredients with no preservatives, which means her chocolates have a very short shelf life. Consequently, her storefront shop is open for the Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter seasons, with appointment-only and made-to-order sales during the rest of the year. Two highlights from the sweet lineup are her champagne truffles (champagne ganache covered in dark chocolate and topped with edible gold leaf) and her Dorothy Shoe (a chocolate shoe covered in edible red glitter). At Easter, look for her giant Easter Eggs (hollow, dark Belgian chocolate Easter eggs filled with a pound of assorted treats).

M&M Hobby Center

Jam-packed with model kits and remote-controlled everything, M&M Hobby Shop would be overwhelming if it weren't so damned awesome. This place is a remote-control and model kit enthusiast's dream on steroids. And if you do get a little overcome by all the marvels inside, step outside and race a remote-controlled car on one of the mini tracks on the property.

Stubb's Harley-Davidson

Stubbs caters to the weekend road warrior and the grizzled, bug-crusted biker. Few shops are as synonymous with Houston motorcycle culture as Stubbs is. It's where most people buy their first helmets, gloves and other gear. Saturdays are the best time to go to Stubbs, because the looks of aggravation and fear on the wives of the husbands looking into buying their first hog are priceless. Bring popcorn.

If you live in Houston and love Halloween, it's a good chance you have found yourself in line at Party Boy near I-10 battling for a last-minute costume at the end of October. When you aren't looking for just the right slutty nurse outfit, you can get all the theme-party supplies you need every month of the year. The walls are stocked with enough candy, toys and gag gifts to keep us all busy.

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