Watching Stephanie Bennett work with dogs is not quite like watching a dog whisperer, but it's close. At Peace Love Dogs, her facility in Spring Branch, she carefully observes and gives positive reinforcement to both pooch and pet parent. She's patient and, most important, realistic. Her guidance is designed for what is best for the animal, understanding that all dogs are different. From group classes to one-on-one training, Bennett and her team at Peace Love Dogs are as good as it gets, no matter what the breed or temperament.

READERS' CHOICE: Yuppie Dog

B-Cycle may not necessarily be brand-new, but the bike-sharing service is in the middle of a huge expansion, thanks to a $3.5 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration. With that money, Houston B-Cycle is nearly tripling its service, adding 71 new stations across the city and 568 new bikes. Rice University will be getting eight new stations in November alone, and there will be another 14 in the Texas Medical Center and three more in the Museum District. The rest will be placed over the next two years, with the end result being more than 100 stations and nearly 800 bikes.

If it seems like there is a mattress store on every street corner in Houston, that's because there often is. It takes something special to stand out in such a labyrinth of franchises, and Texas Mattress Makers found it in the soothing voice of founder and Israeli emigre Youval Meicler, who narrates the company's TV spots in a tone that might as well be a lullaby. Priced competitively with your neighborhood strip mall's Mattresses R Us, Texas Mattress Makers brings an artisanal degree of craftsmanship to one of the most fundamental decisions a family will ever make. As Meicler points out, at Texas Mattress Makers they build mattresses every single day.

Cactus Music

Browsing Cactus is overwhelming at first. The more you flip through every record and CD, the more you realize truly how long it would take you to finish. Not only does Cactus's expansive library include all your essential classics and alt-rock chart-toppers, but the staff also has a good eye for local gems — and excels at promoting them with album release parties. Those events are one of the store's great draws, featuring not only local acts, like Buxton and The Mighty Orq, but also touring acts, like Wild Belle and Titus Andronicus's Patrick Stickles, who play on the store's small stage and interact with the crowd in an intimate setting. You don't need an excuse to go — but if you want one, the beer is often free.

READERS CHOICE: Cactus Music

Big Kat's Tattoo and Barbershop

Big Kat's is about as old-school as they come. Spinning customers in black metallic chairs on black-and-white checkered tile, the barbers offer traditional cuts, pomade styling and hot-towel straight-razor shaves. With Ramones posters and skateboard decks on the walls, the place kind of feels like the inside of a drummer's garage. The walk-ins-only policy means you might have to wait a bit, but no worries: This barbershop's equipped with an old fridge, so you can sip on beer or root beer to pass the time.

READERS' CHOICE: Cutthroat Barbers

Walking into an e-cig supply store, especially for vaping newbies, can sometimes be a self-esteem-crushing experience. Not so at The Vapor Gypsy, which is staffed with super-friendly and erudite employees who aren't going to denigrate you or thrust their vape-filled nostrils into the sky. Prices are very fair for starting-from-scratch set-ups and juices, which include a weekly 50-percent-off flavor of the week, and the staff is schooled at pairing juice flavor with rookie and veteran vaper. The colorfully decorated shop — which also sells replacement parts and e-cig accessories as well as handbags and jewelry — recently expanded its lounge room and its already exquisite tasting bar.


Walking into Game Over Videogames is like regaining your childhood. The store carries titles, systems and accessories from across the long history of gaming, everything from ColecoVision to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You can make good money on trade-ins if you've got in-demand titles like the classic Final Fantasy discs, and Game Over is a fantastic place to find lesser-known gems that rarely make it into the download stores. Nowhere else in Houston feels so much like a temple to electronic fun.

The Dennis behind Dennis Auto Service Center is Dennis Moustakis, who got his start in the auto and petrol business in 1973, moving to the Galleria area about a decade later with purchases of Texaco and Mobil gas stations. He still comes to the repair shop every day, and enjoys a good discussion about global events, and he maintains an incredibly cerebral book collection in the reception area. Nephew and co-owner Robert Zaharatos handles most of the operations now, diagnosing problems and managing the garage. He's not one to trash-talk other mechanics, but you'll recognize his distaste for shoddy work through his quiet brooding. You couldn't ask for a better repair shop.

READERS' CHOICE: Christian Brothers Automotive

Erotic Cabaret

Shopping for friends and family takes time — one year we had to go to two different stores just to find a King Cock 8-inch Squirting Dildo and a Mangina Stroker — talk about a hassle! What if there were a place where you could find all the greatest toys, lingerie, naughty costumes and fetish gear under one roof? And what if that place were an established, landmark business right in the heart of Montrose? You see where we're going with this: Since 1982, Erotic Cabaret has helped keep the kink alive, spicing up relationships new and old. You won't feel weird going in there, either — it's totes professional.

READERS' CHOICE: Cindie's

Wright Pawn & Jewelry Co.

This ten-time Better Business Bureau "Winner of Distinction" leans more toward the high end, and its proximity to Memorial and Tanglewood means the place has bailed out more than a few of our tonier neighbors, which is great news for us. A recent stop showed three artworks valued at around $18,000 apiece. Other, more affordable objects reflect the diversity and decorating style of multiple swankiendas. There are designer handbags, furs, antique coins, Limoges and Swarovski, but the jewelry case is the big draw, spanning the entire length of the store and including fine timepieces by Cartier and Breitling. The folks at Wright Pawn are also experts at jewelry design and repair, which makes this pawn shop infinitely more convenient than a trip to the Galleria.

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