Best Of 2020

Best Stimulus Shopping

USPS Postal Store catalog

store.usps.com

Last week found us smashing the Add to Cart button on the commemorative Ruth Asawa stamps. But our real love is the Gifts section. If you dig, you'll find puzzle postcards that become 3D dinosaurs, miniature mail trucks, even mail carrier costumes for kids (and dogs!). While the USPS store isn't strictly local shopping, Florida is one of 34 states that offers no-excuse mail-in voting and Floridians have grown accustomed to it – and USPS is hurting for money these days. Take away the postal service, and you're kneecapping what's become an integral part of the process of democracy here.

Best Non-Essential And Yet Essential Curbside

Park Ave CDs

parkavecds.com

Curbside delivery was a necessary innovation during the coronavirus pandemic for people needing groceries but not able to go into the store, or wishing to patronize their favorite restaurant when dining rooms were closed. On the rare occasion that we had disposable cash, we happily availed ourselves of curbside record pick-up at Park Ave CDs. With Instagram drops of records posted daily and online transactions, you could pull right up to the shop and a masked and gloved musicologist would drop your brown paper-bagged treasure right to you. And these days, a tiny joy like new music is worth the world.

Best Way to Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve

Orlando Merch Store

orlandomerchstore.com

It started as a way to help out Orlando's bars, restaurants and a certain free weekly newspaper (ahem) hit hard by the pandemic. But over the months, this bare-bones virtual storefront has swelled to showcase more than 150 designs supporting scores of small businesses and nonprofits – $10 of each sale goes right to the business, plus a $2 contribution to Second Harvest Food Bank – and the designs are mostly dope. Share the love, wear the love.

Best Bottled Cocktails

Sunroom

sunroomcocktails.com

Times really are tougher-than-tough for our bars right now. Mandated shutdowns plus lack of governmental support – in the form of livable unemployment aid for employees and real help for small businesses, not this farce of untraceable PPP dollars – means people are circling the drain financially, not to mention emotionally. We're awarding the Best of Orlando crown to the Sunroom's bottled cocktails because they really are the best of all the ones we've tried (toodle-oo, Spicy Boys, and you too, frozen hurricanes!) and not only are the drinks tasty, the bottles are pretty to look at and maybe pop a plant cutting into after you've drained them. But no matter where you shop, folks, please help out these the bars that work so hard to create and support Orlando's many social scenes.

Best Truly Safe Cinema

Drive-in movies

If you hesitate to step back into a movie theater, even if they are mostly reopening – maybe you're immuno-compromised or live with someone who is – but you're sick of staring at movies on a laptop or worse, a phone, a good compromise exists. Drive-in movies are back, baby! They never really left, but the few admirably stubborn holdouts are having a "who's laughing now" moment, and pop-up drive-in screenings are multiplying to boot. In addition to the Ocala Drive-In and Lakeland's Silver Moon Drive-In, keep your eyes peeled for future collabs between Bungalower and Enzian Theater or other DIY pop-ups.

BLM earrings by Jessica Becker

instagram.com/gorjessart

Jessica Becker's handmade earrings supporting anti-racist initiatives were THE protest accessory this summer. Gloriously huge, painted with portraits of Breonna Taylor, They Live OBEY skulls, and various slogans like "Say Her Name" and "Revolution in Progress," and made of lightweight foam, they swung from the earlobes and gauges of many a woke marcher. And the only payment Becker asked for was a receipt for a donation of $10 or more to a local Black Lives Matter organization.

Best Local Palate Expander

Bandcamp No-Fee Fridays

bandcamp.com

In March, Bandcamp presented the first no-fee Friday, a day when the service waived its revenue share on all purchases in order to support musicians struggling to get by during the pandemic. It was such a success that they made it a monthly tradition, and more than $75 million has since gone directly to bands. We like to look at no-fee Friday as a chance to spread the wealth locally by trying out releases from local bands like Sean Mingo, Witchbender, Ray Brazen, Bacon Grease, E-Turn, Red Rodeo and more. The next one is Sept. 4 (hint hint).

Best Underground Couture

Uncle Lou's T-shirt

Destined to become every bit as iconic and ubiquitous here in Orlando as CBGB shirts are to musicians in New York, the Uncle Lou's T-shirts are a must-buy item for local music heads wanting to show some monetary support for the much-loved Mills 50 dive bar and underground destination. Available only from Lou in-person, seeing people sport theirs online with pride warmed our cold hearts. Go for the glo-in-the-dark one.

Best Plant Dad

instagram.com/planted_perfectly

The proprietor of Planted Perfectly doesn't just have plants and plant accessories to sell you – he's got opinions about growing where you're planted and for him, that's Pine Hills. "Too often when I'm asked where I live it's always followed by a chuckle and 'you live in Crime Hills,'" says Cec, decrying the stigma "on what I consider to be the most amazing community in Orlando. Plus the best food!" He was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, but moved here 12 years ago. "I chose to purchase a house in this community because I believe in my own people, and I believe in order to combat prejudices and stereotypes you cannot run away, you have to stand and be a part of the change." Amen to that.