Think of Toys To Love as the Sharper Image of toy stores, catering to brainy tykes and parents. Meaning, a lot of the items at TTL have an emphasis on fun and learning, and aren't geared to a marketing campaign or an awful movie. This shop has been locally owned for nearly 20 years, probably providing products for some of you reading this. Their stock of board games will test the noggin of even the smartest egg in your house.

Wabash's motto couldn't be more apt: "A little bit of country in the heart of the city." In addition to organic plants of all genera and species (their fruit tree selection is especially diverse), Wabash also sells fauna: roosters, chickens, the biggest eggs you've ever seen, Cornish hens, bunnies and more. The store has a small-town feed-and-seed feel. You'll find literally everything you need for gardening there, and also veterinary supplies, raw goat's milk, an extensive library and one large cooler full of cold-ass Texas beers.

As various in-and-out places continue to pop up near main intersections throughout Houston, this little spot in the Fourth Ward has been quietly building a dedicated following of loyal customers for the past five or six years. Despite this, there's almost never a wait. They can do a hand-wash and wax in 30 minutes flat for less than a Grant, giving new meaning to the term "detail," but the job never feels rushed. You also feel more like a client, not just another customer. A friend of ours swears it's the only place he'll trust with his beloved motorcycle.

Whether you're looking for old-school cowboy boots to play up your Texanism (they got 'em) or a funky new lamp for the guest room (check), the Texas Junk Company has you more than covered. This is a Montrose institution through and through, and worth a visit if you have out-of-towners wanting to see weirdo Houston. You'll more than likely leave with something one of a kind that will make your friends go, "Huh?"

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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