Best Of :: Shopping & Services
The superlative punctuation is its own, but it deserves it. For an entrance fee of $1.95, a player gets access to 7,000 square feet of pure gaming joy. (Bring 10 or more people with you, and the price gets zapped down to $1.25 per person. That's at least a few rounds of air hockey.) Pizza, prizes and Pac-Man: pretty much everything you need to take you back to the days when Nintendo's Power Glove promised to change gaming . . . forever! Nickel! Nickel! has about 180 games, spanning all decades of arcade play, most ranging in price from one to four nickels (newer and fancier ones can cost up to nine). Street Fighter to Soul Caliber—and the latest Dance Dance Revolution to get you moving. Who said gamers were lazy? Play the free games that line the walls, and you won't have to spend a nickel more: Defender! Asteroids! Arkanoid! When you've developed blisters on your fingers from too much button-mashing, head over to the ticket games to wheel in some prizes. Sure, you could have bought that stuffed animal for less at the swap meet, but getting it like this is way more fun.
Cats are the perfect pet. You leave them alone; they leave you alone. Unless they are hungry, in which case, yours will glide between your ankles, purring that gentle "Feed me now or I'll swallow your breath as you sleep" type of purr. But a pet store? A neighbor's litter? That's promoting overpopulation, buddy. Instead, adopt the perfect pet relinquished by a previous owner to this nonprofit, "no-kill" shelter that was founded in 1968. Legend has it future humane officer C. Richard Calore was hunkered down in a foxhole in France during World War II when a kitty ambled up and helped to keep him warm overnight. (He knew it was a cat and not a fox because it gently purred, "Feed me now or I'll swallow your breath as you sleep.") Calore vowed thereafter to help cats the rest of his days, and his widow, Gerri, carries on as vice president of public relations.
Have you ever gotten the feeling as you walk into a thrift store that the value implied by the sale of secondhand products just isn't there? Have you ever spent $17 on a pre-owned printed T-shirt? If yes, you got hosed, and the fat-cat store owner is chuckling smugly. But hark, on the horizon, striding atop a white horse, comes the Assistance League. The nationwide charitable organization operates several secondhand thrift stores—including a facility in Costa Mesa—that sell used clothing at honest prices. A pair of slacks might set you back $5, a new parka $20. But the reason the league makes our list isn't the prices, but rather its dedication to local underprivileged schoolchildren. With the money earned at its stores, the Assistance League funds a program providing basic dental services to kids who can't afford them. Among the several other services it offers is a program called Operation School Bell, which provides clothing to needy children.
You know the feeling of finding something you never knew you wanted, but once you see it, you realize you can't live without it? Stray Cat Vintage & Costumes is full of knickknacks like that. It's a regular-sized store in downtown Fullerton filled with everything from bootleg records to jewelry, wigs, Santa Claus outfits, stickers and DVDs. Of course, there's also vintage clothing, organized by era—from as far back as the 1800s to the 1980s. The space also houses a music store called Black Hole, smack-dab in the middle of Stray Cat so that effluvium of beloved '80s icons (Morrissey DVDs, Madonna headbands, vinyl signed by the Misfits) spills over into clothing racks. Crammed with everything you could ever want (or not), this space is probably ideal for getting shopper's fatigue—who wants to buy everything in sight, even if you could?
Despite the untimely death of well-loved owner Pete Toulios earlier this year, one of Long Beach's favorite boutiques remains open for business. If you're looking for rock & roll gear for your 3-year-old—take your pick from the Sublime, Kiss and Grateful Dead onesies (these will set you back around $20 or so) or the Bob Marley "One Love" T-shirts (also about $20)—this is the place for you. There's a large collection of devil-themed bric-a-brac, including rubber ducks, and some decidedly non-satanic vintage-era toys and retro clothing for those leery of paying sartorial homage to Beelzebub. About the size of a barbershop, the storefront is conveniently located next to a pair of über-hip Vintage Row clothiers for mom and dad. The eclectic selection will keep your toddler looking cool all year. You fucking hipster.
Staffers at Dee Lux are choosy about which used designer threads they buy. They get their denim from such labels as Hudson Jeans, Seven for All Mankind and J Brand, and they specialize in straight- to skinny-leg jeans in dark and light washes, distressed, and work-wear trousers. Discerning shoppers know they're getting high style in the $20 to $80 price range. You can find both current and vintage dresses, blouses, shoes and T-shirts from bands such as the Doors, the Beatles and the Smiths. There are fashionista-friendly bargains on everything from jewelry and other accessories to all-season outerwear. The attentive employees organize the goods and cater to the hip bargain hunter's every need. Ladies aren't the only ones to benefit from the spacious store's fab inventory, either. Up front, men can shop for their favorite flannel button-down or American Apparel T-shirt. You can trade your extra clothing for 35 percent cash or 50 percent store credit. It's definitely great bang for your buck.