Best Of :: Shopping & Services
We call this one the little store with a big vision. Formerly named Wines of America, this Inner Loop mainstay now stocks some of Houston's most exclusive bars and clubs. From its origins in 1984 specializing in domestic wines, this oenophiles' paradise now offers up quality wines from around the world: France and Italy, natch, but also off-the-beaten-path regions like Uruguay, Switzerland and Slovenia. Houston Wine Merchant stocks a few spirits and accessories, so it also serves as a quick stop for a housewarming gift on your way to the big do, plus the store offers local delivery for special orders and gift baskets. Putting it at the top of our list are the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon tastings, which make being adventurous easy and fun, and oftentimes the winemaker or vineyard owner is present for added provenance.
READERS' CHOICE: Spec's
There's no "let's take a quick look around" with this one. Beyond the neon-green door in the historic Houston Heights, you'll find — by way of a collective of individual vendors — two stories stuffed and overstuffed with vintage, reproduction and retro garb. Looking to win the ugly Christmas sweater contest at work? Headed to an '80s Dynasty party? Want to win his heart with a retro-chic '50s halter sun dress? Retropolis has it all, plus an extensive collection of gently used cowboy boots for when rodeo season comes around. It might take a little digging to find that perfect piece, so bring a friend, grab some lunch along 19th Street, then take a trip down memory lane through Mom's or Grandma's attic.
READERS' CHOICE: Buffalo Exchange
If your life is an endless stretch of staring at screens all day, treat yourself to a dose of chiropractic work: Your neck will thank you. Susan Bradshaw at Lone Star Chiropractic will work your body in ways that will not only start helping with your issues but will also give you some much-needed relaxation. Even if you're not feeling any pain and just love to pop your joints, you haven't lived until you've heard what your spine and neck can do in the right hands.
Whether you're a pro looking for a high-performance racer or a newbie wanting to ride the trails, the staff at Blue Line Bike Lab has you covered. With bikes hanging from the ceiling and stacked on two-tiered racks, the store looks like a giant bike garage, and the staff wields pumps and ratchets in the back for full-service repairs. Not sure what kind of cruiser you need? Just chat with the staff and they'll point out the best ride for your height, experience and price range. On that note, Blue Line offers a layaway plan to help you afford the bike of your dreams.
READERS' CHOICE: Blue Line Bike Labs
With five locations, the comic aficionados at Bedrock City know how to spread the love around town, but we're giving props to the Westheimer store because of its size, selection and staff. It's got floor-to-ceiling games, graphic novels, statues, model kits, toys, posters, tees, back issues and so much more. On Free Comic Book Day, the staff handed out 10,000 comic books, bringing in artists, celebrities and bands to turn it into a party. Plus, there's always something going on like ladies' nights and Doctor Who Comics Day, and the shop's DC Rebirth and Civil War II #3 launch parties were epic.
READERS' CHOICE: Bedrock City Comic Company
If you long to be a modern-day Fred Astaire, Tap Happy will teach you the moves. This adult tap dance studio started out in 2008 with just a beginner class, but now founder Sara Draper offers options for all levels. All the teachers use Draper's standards, meaning you'll learn with tried-and-true techniques. Whether you already can perform a soft-shoe shuffle with the seemingly effortless grace of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson or are just now living out your childhood fantasy of becoming the next Ginger Rogers, Tap Happy has a class for you.
Texas native Esther Freedman designs clothes for the most discriminating consumers: children. Her online boutique, cuteheads, showcases some of the most adorable kiddo clothes you could imagine. A mother herself, Freedman has a real eye for design, but she also understands practicality. As she told the Press in 2014, "Everything is super-cute, super-comfortable, and we're all about getting dressed easily in the morning." We especially like how the company uses local seamstresses and factories. Oh, and we really dig the free shipping. Make sure to check out Freedman's blog, The Cuteness, to find out more about what she has planned.
This place is too cool for school. From bikinis and wetsuits in the summer to hoodies and camo jackets in the winter, Funny Furr has everything the most fashionable canine could want. The River Oaks shop has mini-tuxedos, party dresses with pearls, christening gowns, a Betty Boop pink denim jacket and even Goth leather wear. Funny Fur carries costumes and accessories, too, like hair bows, colorful collars and tags, as well as small dog carriers with breathable mesh netting (à la Paris Hilton) and even a rolling platform for the jet set. Très chic!
No one tells you when you buy a house that it doesn't come with a manual. And despite what shows on HGTV and DIY may lead you to believe, most problems require professional fixes. Finding a contractor who is trustworthy and willing to do a job smaller than an entire remodel isn't easy, but we have good news: Swinging Hammer provides honest, reliable and reasonably priced contractor services for jobs big and small. So, instead of trying to patch that drywall yourself armed only with a hacksaw and a YouTube video, stick with pros like Swinging Hammer.
Mayor Sylvester Turner was not messing around when he promised during his campaign to do something about the city's annoying, car-killing pothole problem. Immediately upon taking office, in January, Turner launched his pothole repair initiative, which required Public Works to fill potholes by the next business day when citizens reported them to 311. Since then Public Works has filled 3,951 potholes called in by Houstonians — and an additional 39,779 proactively on its own. The crews are working so hard that, during Turner's first State of the City address, he called a bunch of workers up to the stage to pay them special thanks.
Legend has it that the Briar Shoppe was founded in 1962 when single mother Alice Amason got Richard "Racehorse" Haynes to give her a $500 loan to start her own tobacco store. From there, Amason created a tobacco mecca that today offers a walk-in humidor you have to see to believe and about 100 different labels. The staff are renowned for being both friendly and knowledgeable. When you consult with them, you know you're talking to the kind of people who will make sure you've found the right cigar for you, whether you're a novice or you've been chomping on cigars like Winston Churchill every day for the past 40 years.
In a city seemingly built for hardcore shoppers, CityCentre is perfect for folks who don't treat buying like a contact sport. The vibe at CityCentre is just a lot more chill than at other malls, which makes it a fun place to kill a few hours. You can look in stores, grab dinner or dessert, or just enjoy some time outside without having to worry about getting run over. As CityCentre proves, there's more to a positive shopping experience than just the number of stores or square acreage.