Best Of :: Shopping & Services
It isn't just readers who love Murder by the Book bookstore; writers love it, too. Charlaine Harris, the author of The Southern Vampire Mysteries featuring Sookie Stackhouse, counts the store as one of her top two in the country. It's easy to see why. MBTB hosts several author appearances a week, all of which are well attended by the store's voracious readers (with so much experience, the staff routinely produces hiccup-free events). But it's the work the staff does between signings that wins authors' hearts. MBTB's knowledgeable crew is as well read as its customers and able to guide readers to exactly the right book to fit their interests, making both a sale and a new fan.
What to say about Replay, the 19th Street Heights vintage boutique run by Laura Levine and "Crazy Mike" Hildebrand? It's simply the best vintage store in town and has been for years. It would be better to clue you in on how to shop at Replay in order to find the best deals. Follow them on Facebook, where they often post photos of their hauls and special discounts. Attend the numerous parties the staff throws, whether it's a street fest like Lights in the Heights or an art gathering with a DJ and photographer ready to catch you in those vintage duds. Looking for something specific, like, say, a vintage dirndl? Call the store and ask if they've seen any lately. If they have, they'll let you know, and even set it aside for you. And Houston now has double the vintage. In September, Levine and Hildebrand opened a second shop, called The Place Upstairs, above the Continental Club.
A rider recently posted to the Critical Mass Houston Facebook page to complain about a half-assed bike tuneup he'd received at one of those chain bicycle shops. "They took it in and two minutes later it rode out — they just shifted thru the gears and said it was fine." That sort of thing would never happen at West End. Blaine Grove and his team care about cyclists — all kinds of cyclists — whether you're looking for a daily commuter, a Dutch-style bike or something to ride in the MS 150. They'll even let you test-drive infinite styles through their Memorial Park-area neighborhood. The store's employees are almost all daily riders who won't hesitate to show your their own rig, and most are willing to make quick adjustments for you on the fly if you happen to be in the neighborhood. The best part, though, is that the service you'll get comes without snark or a "holier than thou" attitude, no matter what you ride. Plus they house an awesome vintage bike collection — not for sale, unfortunately.
Okay, so the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association is endorsing her opponent, but the Houston Police Department still loves her — just a sign of what happens when candidates become officeholders and there's not enough money to go around. Mayor Annise Parker, now running for a third term, stays on top of social media (we love that she follows the Houston Press Rocks Off music blog on Twitter) and is working the city's way back out of the reduced circumstances caused by the recession (public library hours are being restored!). She's gamely helped out promoting BARC's dog and cat of the week while presiding over City Council meetings in a fair and reasoned manner. The business background of this Rice University graduate and previous City Controller makes it difficult to paint her as anything but what she is: a competent, non-corrupt public official with a deep love of Houston, where she and her partner are raising a family. She doesn't sidestep her credentials with the Houston LGBT caucus but stresses that she's mayor of all of Houston. And she's staying focused on her goal of continuing to promote Houston as a good place to live and to add jobs.
There are few politicians, regardless of level, who can provide the emotive range of state Sen. Dan Patrick, who represents northwest Houston. Whether he's ripping into pro-choice advocates in a public hearing or choking up when discussing students eligible for his neo-vouchers, Patrick serves his deep-red district with enough artistic aplomb to make any televangelist jealous. And while he's seemingly content manning the Senate Education Committee, don't be surprised if Patrick soon reveals that his sights are set on higher office. His tears deserve a larger audience, anyway.
Since 1989, this behemoth of a flea village — we're talking more than 100 acres — has been a Valhalla for those who not only love a good deal, but love the hunt. You don't go to Traders Village on a quick errand — you go there for the day, and you inevitably wind up finding treasures you didn't expect. Furniture, clothes, music, art, home decor, tools, electronics, auto accessories, pet supplies, toys, luggage, appliances — Traders Village has it all, and at excellent prices. Whether you're on a solo sortie or you take friends or family, you're guaranteed to have a blast. Trust us.
In just three short years, Jeremy and Annie Bulloch have established one of the most perfect geek havens in the city of Houston. 8th Dimension is packed to Namor's gills with everything a comics fan could desire. Their back-issue stock is impressive, as are their collections of toys and T-shirts. Jeremy Bulloch's knowledge of current comics stories, artists, news and trends is utterly remarkable, and if you want a guide to lead you down the path to geek nirvana, there's no better person in the city. He will find you the series you didn't even know you wanted to read. Plus, they maintain one of the best gaming rooms around, with food delivery from several shops coming right to your table. Got eight hours to spare? Ask about a round of Twilight Imperium.
Earlier this year, Houston's best and biggest farmers' market began running all weekend long. Now if you simply cannot make it to the Saturday morning market (hangover, cough, cough), open from 8 a.m. to noon, you can join the fun on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. There you'll find a plethora of farmers and vendors ready to help you pick out some of the best locally harvested produce and meats, freshly baked treats, and artisan goods around. You'll also find hot brunch items from local chefs, tons of food samples and even live entertainment — they often have live music, cooking demos or showcases like the world's largest paella. Come hungry. Leave happy.
Texas Junk's hours are wonky. If it's open at all, it's only open Friday and Saturday, and calling first is mandatory. But if you have a shred of pack rat in you, you owe yourself a visit even if you have no intention of buying anything. The three garage doors in front are your first clue that this is a place for serious stuff, for which the owner spends the rest of his time scouring the Southwest. (That's why the hours are so limited.) Known for its mind-boggling selection of cowboy boots — so much so that it takes months to fully restock after rodeo season — Texas Junk also boasts an equally impressive array of picture frames, books, cassettes, clothing, household knickknacks, gadgets, and both odds and ends. Come inside for a quick look around and you may well find yourself spending all day browsing through all the wonderful, reasonably priced...stuff. No credit or debit cards.
Renee Guerdrum operates You Had Me at Woof out of her Montrose home, and getting a dog-sitting session with her isn't easy. For one thing, most of her clients come through recommendations. And she auditions each and every dog she watches (one wonders if it's really the dogs or the owners getting the auditions). But it's that attention to detail and deep love of animals that come through when your fur baby is in her care. Guerdrum offers daytime care, vacation boarding and overnight sleepovers, and best of all, she's always willing to work with your schedule for late pickups or weekend visits. One look at Guerdrum's Facebook page shows a bevvy of happy furballs playing in her backyard. Don't be surprised if, while you're out of town, you get tagged with a photo just to let you know how well little Spot is doing in your absence.
When Billy Gibbons's pre-ZZ Top garage band the Moving Sidewalks reunited earlier this year, guess where they came to get their gear? Every city has a music store staffed by musicians who can teach you not only how to play an instrument but how to fix it, too, and luckily Houston has been blessed with Rockin' Robin for more than 40 years now. It's been in its spot near Shepherd Plaza since 1980, featuring a fantastic mural of another of Rockin' Robin's best customers...the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. If you can make music on it — all manner of guitars, basses, mandolins, ukuleles, drums — they've got it, plus a wide array of amps and pedals that will make that instrument sound just right. Because it's just that righteous, Rockin' Robin even sells surfboards.
As a licensed interior designer, Gibbins has an especially discerning eye, and it shows in her shop's remarkable selection. This includes Welsh dressers, cricket tables, trunks and more period oaks than you can shake a stick at. According to her Web site, "Carol makes three to five buying trips every year, which helps her keep the shop in Houston full of inventory on three large floors." So you're guaranteed to fall in love with at least one piece any time you go. Whether you're a beginner or you've been antiquing your whole life, you won't be disappointed.