Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Walking into Retropolis the first time can be overwhelming. The store is packed to the gills with clothes, jewelry, hats and shoes that have somehow survived long enough from the '30s, '40s, '50s and on to end up in this gem of a place in the Heights. It's basically a vintage mini-mall with different vendors offering up their finds. We still get giddy seeing all the racks of clothes just waiting to be pawed through in search of a '40s-era rayon swing dress, a polka-dot bikini from the '60s or the perfect 1920s red velvet dressing gown. You can wade in and dig through the entire stock if you're so inclined, or — once you've learned your way around — you can just head straight for the booths that specialize in the eras of clothes you're after. You get what you pay for, so prices will go up based on the condition and rarity of the items, but they aren't astronomical, and you can score some amazing finds with a little luck and good timing.
In life, sometimes the ride is more important than the destination, and sometimes it's both the journey and the place. The most exciting rides on the METRORail end at Reliant Park South. Whether it's rowdy Texans fans decked out in blue and red, little cowboys and cowgirls headed to their first rodeo, or music fans ready to sing their hearts out, you can feel the excitement as the train draws closer and closer to the station. You never know what will happen on the field or in the stadium or on stage, but in that moment when you step onto the platform at Reliant Park South, anything is possible and everyone is happy.
No dry cleaner can be perfect all the time, but it seems like Gorman's comes pretty close. Whether you need coffee stains zapped from your favorite dress or have a hankering to get your shirts laundered and starched with just the right amount of snap, Gorman's has you covered. The place has been around since 1948, so these folks have had plenty of time to hone their skills and become the best dry cleaners around. As if that weren't enough, Gorman's also offers preservation and alterations, which means your granny's dresses can be kept in pristine condition and you can wear that pair of slacks you love without dragging the cuffs on the ground. And did we mention they offer free pickup and delivery?
We keep waiting for someone to present a serious challenge to this perennial winner. But we can't even envision such a creature, since this Houston institution has it all. Whether you're already a Rembrandt, or a novice who can't tell a paintbrush from a hairbrush, this is your destination. Paints, inks, clays, leather crafting, embossing, textiles — if it's a material you can use to express yourself, Texas Art Supply has it. Even if you don't have an artistic bone in your body, it's the perfect place to find a gift for that special artist in your life — the friendly, knowledgeable staff will help you find exactly what you need. And chances are, you'll wind up coming back for yourself.
It's easy to pass by the junkyard-like visage of the Compound, as it's known in cyclist circles, and think nothing of it, but this is a haven for cyclists in Midtown and Third Ward. There's not much that bike fixer extraordinaire Dan Kan can't do. We bet he's busily working on a bike repair right now, or trying to find someone a cheap part deep within the Compound. The shop is usually open mid-afternoons to early evenings, Monday through Saturday. Stop by for details on the next group ride or to chew the fat about two wheels.
So the other night, we and our adorable pooch, Hound Solo, were getting ready to attend a swanky affair when Hound threw up his paws in frustration: He couldn't find any suitable duds in his wardrobe. "Don't fear," we told him, as we scooped him up and dashed to Funny Fur, where we scored an Isaac Mizrahi designer bowtie and Dogs of Glamour Dapper Vest. Hound was a hit. Since then, we've returned for more casual fare, like athletic jerseys and hoodies. He even found a nice denim jumper for his girlfriend, Deborah Hairy. Sure, he has to restrain himself while all the cats try on their outfits — Funny Fur doesn't discriminate — but he always leaves with some stylish threads on his back and a smile on his furry face.
Time waits for no one. When your watch breaks, you want that timepiece back in working order as quickly as possible. That's where Watches by Paulin comes in. It's not a terribly impressive place, just a shop tucked in a bland Garden Oaks strip center, but the clerks know the value of good customer service. Whether your watch is a family heirloom or something of the cheap Mickey Mouse variety, they will get it repaired fast and won't charge you an arm and a leg. These folks have been known to stay open late to allow customers to pick up their fixed timepieces, and those watches never fail to come back looking like new and keeping perfect time.
Remember in the great movie Mean Girls, when Rachel McAdams's character (who has unwittingly been fed a bunch of carb-packed fitness bars for weeks) is at one of those petite-clothes mall boutiques looking for a prom outfit? The shop girl tells her, "Sorry, we only carry sizes 1, 3 and 5. You could try Sears." That might be what the young people these days call a sick burn, but not to us. Now that the old Macy's downtown is a construction site, Sears at Wheeler and Richmond is the only old-school department store still open in the Inner Loop, dating all the way back to 1939. The store's escalator, the first of its kind in the state of Texas, still works. So does the rest of "Fort Sears," stocking goods from men's and women's clothes and shoes to lawn mowers and treadmills to throw pillows and kitchenware, to the tune of some 55,000 customers a year. That's nothing to look down on at all.
Houston has bigger record stores, and others that delve deeper into more obscure musical realms, but none that have quite as much off-the-wall local character as Sig's Lagoon. A couple of years ago, the cozy little shop on Midtown's "The Island" inherited the inventory of San Marcos's shuttered Sundance Records (where Sig's owner Tomas Escalante not only worked in his college days but also met his wife), increasing its stock by not only tens of thousands of LPs, but Sundance owner Bobby Barnard's vast archive of posters, flyers, newspaper clippings, magazine covers, cardboard cutouts and ticket stubs that now adorn the walls. Walk into Sig's today and you can read about late H-town rapper Big H.A.W.K. and notorious '70s lawyer/scenester Sanford Radinsky's untimely deaths as you shop for LPs, CDs, books, posters, action figures, T-shirts, tickets to Continental Club shows across the street and more. No other record store in town can say that, that's for sure.
If you're in the market for fashionable, sometimes limited sneakers to pair with a new snapback hat and Houston-centric shirt, you might like Premium Goods. Drake does. The Rice Village sneaker boutique was the site of Drizzy's Houston Appreciation Weekend pop-up shop. Why? Because the store is cool as hell. Premium Goods has the latest sneaker releases, and some really terrific Houston apparel designed by one of its own employees. You can find modified The North Face shirts labeled "The Third Coast" and redesigned LA Clippers logos that read "Houston Sippers." Slick-looking feet and flashy hometown pride are just a visit away.
It's easier than ever to go online and purchase what you need, especially when it comes to electronics. Everyone knows that. Now consider the nightmare scenario: Your computer dies. Suddenly you can't just jump online and order the right part for the problem. If that dreaded day ever comes (or if you're just the type who likes to hold something in his hands before buying it), you'll be glad you have Fry's. This store has everything you need for your computer, inside and out, and at fairly reasonable prices to boot. When you need that part now, Fry's has you covered. Because you don't always have the time to wait on two-day shipping.
Whether you're looking for a fancy new SIG Sauer or a pair of antique flintlock duelers, Collectors Firearms is your target. What began in 1975 as a 600-square-foot shop has grown into a major showcase boasting an inventory of more than 7,000 guns as well as a ton of ammo, scopes and other accessories. The weaponry lining the walls and display cases is vast, and features everything from new and pre-owned pistols, rifles and shotguns to samurai swords and military antiques. One thing we really like is the continually updated inventory on the website, so you can keep up with new acquisitions, like a brand-new Glock 17 9 mm and an ultra-rare Mannlicher carbine. This place is No. 1 with a bullet.