Walking into a HobbyTown USA is like immersing yourself in a science fair, toy store, and art-supply shop all at the same time. Stocked with items ranging from 1/25 scale 1969 Camaro model kits ($19.95) to easy-to-care-for ant farms ($17.99), the store has something for any age or interest. Spicy up the tide of warm weather with interactive outdoor activities, such as flying Turbo Jet 2000 gliders ($4.99) or kites shaped like 3-D space shuttles ($19.99), which, unlike real space shuttles, serve decent in-flight meals. For rainy days, pick up a 10-piece carving-knife set ($7.99) and an eight-color all-purpose paint set ($12.15) to repurpose any banister as a totem pole of achievement.
A massive collection of stylish adornments at warehouse prices, Decorating Mart packs more than 10,000 pieces of furniture (starting at $79.88), accessories (starting at $5.99), fabrics (starting at $4 per yard), and more into 50,000 square feet of décor decadence. Untamed, overstocked pieces from major manufacturers make Decorating Mart a temporary depot until loving buyers convince them to settle down. Browse armoires, bedroom and dining sets, and accent pieces in traditional and transitional styles to complete too-bare rooms, or purchase fine fabrics from top makers to reupholster chairs damaged by persistent rhinestone-jacket crazes. Decorating Mart also stocks a large selection of wallpapers and borders and can special order more styles from its library of hundreds of sample books.
Giving gifts is its own reward, but at The Gifted Ferret, get-well cards, trinkets and candles accompany a robust collection of boutique wines so gift-givers can reward themselves as well. The shop's wine racks brim with vino crafted by vintners who treat winemaking not just as a business but also as a passion as well as the best way to teach grapes a lesson. During onsite wine classes, industry experts regale attendees with information while pouring samples from among the shop's dozens of varietals. For those seeking an intoxicant-free fix, the staff brews Newman's Own coffee and Green Mountain Naturals apple cider. In the gift area, patrons peruse handmade cards and Arthur Court pewter home-decor items alongside gift bags and an expanded array of gourmet food items.
Customers choose their own adventures as they peruse the aisles of Book Browser, a literary goldmine where books by classic and contemporary authors open up new pathways for the imagination to wander. The shop’s mission to maintain a quality collection of used books results in a conspicuous lack of torn covers and dog-eared pages among the fiction and nonfiction offerings. Books by local authors highlight the selection of fresh-off-the-presses books, which share their shelves with handcrafted necklaces, Hot Shades reading glasses, and children put to sleep while flipping through the pages of Goodnight Moon.
Hidden just east of Cobb Parkway, a complex of low, slate-blue warehouses shelters a community of textile workers, sculptors, and graphic designers intent on refining their art. Beads by Design's shop and atelier contributes to this creative wellspring, and today the Southern Flames—a society of glass-bead makers—gather there for their monthly meetings. The shop opened in 1998, displaying a wealth of Japanese Delica seed beads, fire-polished and pressed glass beads, pearls, gemstones, and glittering Swarovski crystals under the high, exposed-metal roof. Visitors can pick up notions or tools, or stick around for jewelry-making classes. These begin with the basics of knotting wire rings and stringing necklaces and expand into the creation of broad, beaded cuffs inspired by Ndebele jewelry and macramé techniques for braiding copper wire. To give students complete creative control of their work, instructors provide propane torches attached to work tables, and safely teach how to fabricate glass beads and intimidate nay-saying critics.
Imagine That! and Future Tech founder Kelly Williams has always loved science and art—up until her children were toddlers, she had spent her life building a career as an environmental engineer working for the EPA. But when she began volunteering as a leader of art and science programs at her local church and school, she unexpectedly discovered that she loved teaching children even more. Since 1995, Imagine That! and Future Tech learning centers have fostered a passion for science and technology in students aged 3 through 14. Alongside hands-on, age-appropriate instruction in the basics of physics, chemistry, and simple machines, the kids learn to work futuristic wonders such as building and programming robots to navigate obstacle courses and follow instructions. Science camps and workshops at locations all over the Atlanta metropolitan area give children a firm foundation in the sciences and prepare them for tomorrow’s world of ever-more-advanced computers and automatic doors.