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Goods and Services - Staff Picks 

Best old business that Just doesn't add up

Lust Cash Transactor

With its jarring name – it's a nod to 80-year-old store proprietor Mark Lust, not a quantifier of felicitations – and even more surprising business focus on machines that don't often factor into modern life (cash registers, old typewriters, adding machines), it's hard to find a better merchant in Orlando to represent the battle between what is and what used to be. Lust launched his Cash Transactor 35 years ago, before there were dust bunnies and the smell of pending obsolescence in his shop, and he claims that, at least at one time, business was booming. These days, a few kind visitors and irony fans venture through his alarm-rigged storefront, but generally speaking, he's just waiting for the right time to exit himself.

See, Lust's story is less about a down-on-his-luck former entrepreneur and the stacks of papers and devices that surround him than it is a David and Goliath tale between one man and a city with unrealizable dreams. In 2006, the city signed off on big plans for the blighted Mills-Nebraska lumberyard, which is adjacent to Lust's property near the corner of Virginia Drive and Mills Avenue. The so-called Mills Park – evidenced today in the sun-bleached banners heralding its imminent arrival – was to be a boon for the city and the lifestyle it was becoming increasingly fond of pretending it could afford. About 78,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 272,000 square feet for office space and 564 residential condominiums were intended to add up to a $350 million mixed-use paradise. None of that, of course, would ever pan out.

But even when the city thought Mills Park – and its original developer, Justin Pelloni – was a near-certainty, Lust was playing hardball with the city, reportedly holding out for $1.25 million for his 5,250-square-foot parcel. A series of negotiations either did or didn't happen, depending on whom you speak to, and in the end the city was left with a massive pile of dirt and a lone holdout in the form of Lust. Alleged pressure from code enforcement and several written back-and-forths with the city have yet to produce any real agreement, and Lust continues to operate his gadget emporium with a bent spring in his step.

"It's the planners," Lust says of the city. "They plan on things for the future when the future's not there."

He is, however, still waiting on his big payout.

 

Best place to pretty yourself up on the cheap

Aveda Institute
495 N. Semoran Blvd., Winter Park; 407-657-0348; avedaflorida.com

In our ideal world, we have all the time and money we need to invest in our vanity – leisurely trips to the spa, stress-relieving mani-pedis and frequent, gossipy appointments with our favorite stylists with whom we never spend less than $250. But we live in the real world, where sometimes you can’t wait until your next paycheck comes to tidy up your bedraggled rat’s nest, months go by between manicures and … what exactly do they do at a spa, anyway? That’s why we’re happy to have an Aveda Institute in town – everything’s cheap (haircuts for just $12 by students in training, $18 by “masters”), you can get all your beauty treatments in one cavernous space and did we mention it’s cheap? Sure, you’re entrusting your good looks to a student, but it’s only hair – it’ll grow back.

 

Best enabler of urban chicken farmers

Palmer’s Feed Store
912 W. Church St.,;407-841-8924; palmersfeedstore.com

Every hipster in town these days seems to have a chicken – better yet, a flock – pecking and clucking and laying eggs in a shabby-chic coop in the backyard. You can chalk that up, in part, to the fact that Palmer’s Feed Store carries an assortment of small barnyard animals – chickens, ducks, the occasional rabbit – in its downtown shop (which, by the way, is kind of a musty, dusty, one-horse town kind of throwback to the Orlando of yesteryear). In addition to full-grown laying hens, they keep racks of adorably fuzzy baby chicks. Pop a couple in your purse and bring them home today – they’ll be pooping out eggs for you in no time.

 

Best gas-station rebellion

Independent convenience stores still selling fake pot

On Nov. 24, the DEA announced a crackdown on the chemicals prevalent in K2, the so-called “fake pot” that was selling like hotcakes at smoke shops around the country. We sounded the bell on Christmas Eve, when the ban was officially in effect. But months later, it can still be found aplenty in small, independently owned gas stations all over our great city, and so we salute you, brave merchants of generally South Asian descent. You keep stocking the good stuff and we’ll keep respectfully asking to buy really expensive “incense.”

 

Best boutique on a budget

Goodwill Boutique
750 Orange Ave., Winter Park; 407-628-5553; goodwillcfl.org

Adding the word “boutique” to anything in the retail world typically leads to hiked-up price tags, but that’s not the case for the Goodwill Boutique. The fairly high-end thrift store, located just down the way from the ultra-spendy retail strip on Park Avenue in Winter Park, offers an affordable, donation-based inventory, much like its savings-store brethren, complete with evening gowns, fur coats, men’s suits, TVs, purses, shoes and more. And for this store, location is key: Since it’s located in the heart of affluent Winter Park, the store is full of trendy designer labels and never-worn, tags-still-attached clothing.

 

Best place to pull together jewelry and an outfit

Dear Prudence Shop
2912 Corrine Drive,; 407-894-8941; dresssweet.com

This store is a hybrid of two Audubon Park retailers: the Bead Lounge and Sweet Boutique. The front of the space hosts a vast display of beads and jewelry-making supplies for DIY types who like to make their own accessories. The back of the shop is home to a full lineup of women’s fashions: super-cute sundresses, sandals, shoes, locally made jewelry, sunglasses and some vintage pieces. The store’s owners update their inventory regularly and post photos of their newest items on Facebook every week, so keep your eyes open for the hot new stuff.

 

Best produce market

Eat More Produce
1111 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park; 407-647-5292; eatmoreproduce.com

“A Canadian and a Brit open a produce market” sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but the Eat More Produce market is anything but. Ever since opening its Winter Park store in 2010 the market has grown from offering a meager selection of high-quality produce (both local and shipped in) to a full-service bodega. Now offering excellent wines, local dairy, dry goods and Boar’s Head deli selections at lower prices than the big-box competitors, Eat More Produce also takes pride in promoting local artisans like Olde Hearth Bread Company while continuing to carry hard-to-find produce like rondelle zucchini and purple asparagus.

 

Best place to dip your bacon in chocolate

Peterbrooke Chocolatier
300 S. Park Ave., Winter Park; 407-644-3200; peterbrooke.com

We’re not usually in the business of endorsing a corporate candy vendor that owns more than 20 stores spanning three states, but honestly, we can’t resist a store like Peterbrooke in downtown Winter Park where you can have your choicest slice of bacon dipped in chocolate. Your two options – milk or dark – are, to the untrained tongue, medium-grade chocolates, so choose your bacon brand accordingly. (The price depends on how much fudge clings to your bacon slice(s); both chocolates are $1.50 per ounce.) Make sure you bring some thick-sliced pork, unless you simply want a crunchy piece of chocolate with a faint whiff of bacon. If you don’t like it, you can always dump what’s left in your neighborhood pool.

 

Best low-rent shopping experience

Other Peoples Property’s Clothing Swap and Shops
otherpeoplesproperty.com

If you’re into vintage clothing or prefer to steer clear of the generic shopping-mall experience, you’d do well to acquaint yourself with Orlando’s Other Peoples Property. OPP [insert requisite call-and-response here] is an online boutique that specializes in vintage clothing from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, altered and updated to suit today’s trends – think shortened hemlines, capped sleeves and the like. Prices are a bit higher than we’d like to pay for used clothing, but we like that the money OPP takes in goes to a good cause: The company donates the majority of its profits to charity. And if you’re like us and love a good freebie, OPP hosts cool Swap and Shop events every three months where you can browse through piles of clothes that are completely free. For a $5 donation, anyone can take part: Just clean out your closet, bring the stuff you no longer wear and swap it for stuff somebody else brought. You might end up with one too many pairs of pants that you’ll never wear, but you can always bring them back to the next Swap and Shop and trade them in for something new.

 

Best flies on the wall

Orlando Outfitters
2814 Corrine Drive, 407-896-8220; orlandooutfitters.com

Audubon Park is Orlando’s hipster-central neighborhood, so it may seem an unlikely place to find a store that caters to the rabid outdoorsman. But Orlando Outfitters on Corrine Drive, a Bass Pro Shop-type store that caters to the fly-fishing crowd, is located right in the thick of it. In addition to more mundane fishing gear, Orlando Outfitters also has a huge selection of colorful, handcrafted flies: pink ones, plain ones, sparkly ones, ones that look like little mice. If you can’t find something pre-made that strikes your fancy, there are also supplies to build your own lures. Even if you’re not that into fishing, this shop is worth stopping into just so you can gawk at the impressive selection of flies on the wall. (Fly on the wall! Get it?)

 

Best place to get booted out

Stockman’s Harness and Saddle Shop
1820 Lee Road; 407-295-0331; stockmansharnessandsaddle.com

A homey, multi-room establishment on Lee Road, Stockman’s sells tack, clothing and assorted paraphernalia for riders both English and Western. Serious horse people know that saddles run into the thousands of dollars, which is why there’s such a huge selection of maintenance supplies, as well as an in-house repair service. Best of all, Stockman’s tack exchange buys and sells used saddles, stable supplies and even boots. Non-riders who are just looking for a form-fitting pair of jodhpurs, a well-broken-in pair of tall shiny boots, or a crop can find the authentic deal here – no questions asked.

 

Best mani-pedi

Koi Nail Spa
2025 W.P. Ball Blvd., Sanford; 407-302-3655

Local nail blogs (and yes, Orlando has a few) are generally devoted to DIY manicure-crafting, with their intimidating array of shatter finishes, splatter art, rhinestones and nail charms. But Kari Klein, puppeteer, reformed nail-biter and mistress of the Once Bitten Blog, recently recommended Koi Nail Spa to us on Twitter: “I do my own nails, but when I have someone else do them I go to the Koi Nail Salon in Sanford.” When you want a tiny bouquet of rhinestone-centered flowers painted on your toes but aren’t able to execute it yourself, this is the expert-anointed place to go.

 

Best new therapy

The Salt Room
1804 N. Mills Ave.; 407-965-3065; saltroomorlando.com

Isak Dinesen said that salt water can cure anything – whether it’s sweat, tears or the ocean. The Salt Room isn’t offering anything that will make you perspire or weep, just a “salt cave” (a big white room full of chaises longues) with a salt-air circulator and the promise that “halotherapy” alleviates asthma, sinus infection, eczema, allergies and other skin and respiratory ailments. It might seem illogical to pay for artificial sea breezes when we’re only an hour from the actual beach, but who knows – that hour behind the wheel might negate the therapeutic gains. It’s not cheap – about a dollar per minute unless you buy an unlimited pass – but at a certain point in the spring when the pollen count starts to soar, we’d consider paying almost anything to stanch the sniffles.

STILL GREAT A flashback to Best of Orlando, 2005

Best place to get small

Ron's Miniature Shop
751 W. Colonial Drive, 407-841-9333

WE SAID THEN: Need an Oriental rug that will fit in your wallet? How about a ficus tree as tall as your finger? Or a pizza the size of a quarter? Actually, "need" doesn't describe the fascination some people have for the tiny goods available at Ron's. If you want to see a little girl's eyes light up – even the tomboy types – take her to Ron's and turn her loose in the museum section up front, where dozens of dollhouses and shadowboxes are crammed together. There's a Chinese pagoda, a Victorian theater (with yawning audience, actors changing backstage, and a tiny Phantom abducting a tiny Christine in the cellar) and my personal favorite, a spooky-ooky Addams Family mansion. Those for whom shadowboxing does not involve jabs or fancy footwork can find everything they need to create, God-like, a minute replica of the real world – from furniture and figurines (OK, dolls) all the way down to bitty little newspapers and replica Roseville vases. Imagine the sick possibilities: a dinky re-creation of Marilyn Monroe's death scene, complete with little Pucci scarf, itsy box of hair dye, tiny vodka bottle and a spill of microscopic pills.

WE SAY NOW: This shop is still Polly Pockets' dream mall, where you can find anything from a tiny pink pig for 25 cents or a Barbie-sized mansion for $1,700, pre-assembled. We're glad some things never change.

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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