Reeve's Antiques

Though Reeves, located at the corner of Taft and Fairview, specializes in Mid-Century modern, that's not all the father-and-son team has to offer. Their selection of MCM is, however, one of the best in the city, especially when you factor in the prices, which are the lowest we've seen for good-condition vintage outside of garage sales and Craigslist.

Penzey's Spices

Of course Penzeys Spices is the best spice shop in the Houston area, you say. It's the only spice shop. Not true: There are specialty shops and grocers all over, some catering to only one type of cuisine. There are Chinese stores, Vietnamese purveyors, a Russian general store...we've seen them all in our culinary pursuits through Houston. But any spice you've ever dreamed of, you'll find at Penzeys. And then some. Think of the iterations of spice combos possible in this place! Being the only real game in town has not made them snooty, though. Pam and the other kind women who work there cater to you as if you are the only customer they've ever had.

Finish Strong Sports

Conveniently located just a few blocks away from Memorial Park, Finish Strong Sports is a runner's paradise. Staffers help fit you in the right running shoes, offering expert advice so you don't end up wearing a pair of fancy sneakers that will turn your feet into hamburger meat. When you finish your first marathon, be sure to send the staff some cupcakes. They'll just run it off anyway.

Want to spruce up your place but aren't sure where to start? Have no fear: The professionals at Calico Corners will help find the right look for you, whether you choose an in-store or in-home appointment. Oh, and did we mention that this wonderful consultation is free? Yeah, free guidance from experts who know their way around the 7,000 kinds of fabrics; the 250 furniture frames; the custom bedding options; the window treatments; and all manner of valences, treatments, coverings and other thingamajigs that will make your guests instantly jealous and ashamed of their own crackhouse-like dwellings. It doesn't matter if you don't know a duvet from a doily: These people are here to help, and if you're smart, you will let them.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore

If you are smitten with the perfect set of sconces or French doors or bathroom vanity or just about anything in this warehouse, you'd better snap it up: "About one half of the donated inventory moves in about a month," says staffer Mark Goodson. When Habitat picks up donations from people's homes, ReStore is where it lands. But the inventory is "not just torn out of a house," Goodson says. ReStore buys at a low cost from, for example, vendors for flooring materials such as laminate and tile, and adds a modest markup. They can even mix paint. Some companies, such as Lowe's, donate discontinued items such as wood cabinetry — three finishes, including a scrumptious cherry, are available — for the cost of unfinished wood from most dealers. ReStore customers are giving to a greater cause, as Habitat is able to build an average of one house from the monthly sales at each retail outlet. Don't forget networking: We found an excellent carpenter, James Montgomery, who's one of the volunteers at the store.

Mi Tienda

Score another one for H-E-B. Last year's winner was the South Houston/Pasadena location of their Mexican/Central American supermarket; this year's gran campeón is the Northside behemoth that opened last December and made the first one look like a mere bodega by comparison. Like its predecessor, the Northside Mi Tienda features a tortilleria, a carniceria and an aguas frescas bar, not to mention every spice, fruit, vegetable, queso and edible cactus from Tegucigalpa to Nuevo Laredo, all available at rock-bottom Walmart prices. Here's the thing: At 97,000 square feet, it's double the size of the Pasadena store and has a selection to match beyond its festive mango exterior and Saltillo-tiled portals. The meat counter is the length of a football field, and the tortilleria churns through so much corn, this Mi Tienda has its own freaking silo, one capable of storing 18 tons of maize. In the beer coolers, there's every Mexican brew available on this side of the river and quite possibly the world's largest retail inventory of Bud Light.

Houston Dairymaids

One of the best things about this not-so-hidden treasure is its support of Texas cheesemakers. The titular maids comb the state for the best home-grown cheeses (note: Cheese, we're told, isn't technically "grown") like Sand Creek Farm's gouda, farmhouse and brick varieties, or CKC Farms's baby caprino. Although we were disappointed to learn they don't sell our favorite artisan cheese — a Sicilian delicacy called "Velveeta," which is so rare it comes in its own protective sheath — their extensive selection includes such delights as Hoja Santa, Deep Ellum Blue, and Brazos Valley Havarti. What's more, the maids team with Saint Arnold Brewing Company to bring cheese-and-beer tastings to your home or office. Basically, if you want to make room in your life for more cheese; or if you're on a quest to find a variety to call your own, then consider Houston Dairymaids to be your spiritual guides. Yeah, it's totally cheesy — and we mean that in a good way.

Cactus Music

Besides, you know, music, Cactus Music is an excellent place to replenish your wardrobe. The Shepherd Plaza institution's T-shirt stock features bands from the Strokes to the Stooges and local landmarks like Saint Arnold's beer. And every self-respecting Houstonian should own a plain old Cactus shirt to go alongside their copy of Live at the Old Quarter. Cactus rotates its stock on a regular basis; this past summer, it's had trouble keeping two particular shirts in stock — one said "The plural of vinyl is vinyl," capitalizing on the recent surge of interest in LPs and 45s. The other was self-explanatory: "I'm not moving to Austin."

Just because K&H Autohaus has a waiting room as beautifully appointed as a Bugatti Veyron and as comfortable as a Mercedes S550 doesn't mean you can't afford to take your VW Beetle there. But unfortunately, there's little excuse to stay and enjoy yourself, because not only is the shop a block from the light rail, they'll often ferry you back to work. More important, your car gets pampered too, with the kid-glove treatment from service manager extraordinaire Markus Drunk. The crew, certified in both automotive (master status) and body work — including BMW, Audi, ICar and ASE Blue Seal certification in eight categories — can easily and swiftly grasp any automotive challenge. In the case of a collision, Drunk says, "We are focused on the individual customer, not the big insurance company." We learned the truth in this statement after a New Year's reveler slammed into our VW Passat. Thanks to K&H, the entire incident was pain-free.

The best-read member of the Houston Pavilions family, Books-a-Million is an ideal browsing stop before a meal at McCormick & Schmick's or Andalucia and/or some live music at Scott Gertner's or House of Blues. You can grab a quick cup of java at the in-store coffeehouse while you peruse something from its three walls of periodicals, or perhaps pick out one of the many gift items: Puzzles, games, stationery, globes, piggy banks, "As seen on TV" novelties, neck pillows, lap desks, RPGs and so forth. Amazingly, Books-a-Million also has actual books — best-sellers to brainier matters — thousands of them, often offered at 20 percent off or three for the price of two.

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