The expert florists at Alaska Wholesale Flower Market, whose collection of flowers comes from all over the world, teach visitors the tricks of the trade in a laid-back, personal setting. Every Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., owner and AFID member Robin Phillips hosts hands-on bouquet classes that demonstrate how to bind and blend different fauna into eye-catching arrangements using provided materials. After putting the finishing touches on their budding masterpieces, students can saunter home with personalized bouquets great for tossing over shoulders at weddings or diverting a stampede of wedding planners.
Owner Sheri Olesen stocks her boutique Chartreuse with gently used apparel, jewelry, and accessories and blankets its walls in the creative output of local artists. Guests can cover upper hemispheres and tattoos of swear words with a women's top ($10–$30) or don a crochet hat ($30–$55) to keep noggins toasty. Legs shimmy into designer jeans or aerate calves in a skirt ($45 or less), and an array of belts ($20 or less) can keep wayward slacks from slipping off to rendezvous with capris sweethearts. Shoppers can drape collarbones in lanyards of handmade jewelry ($50 or less for most pieces) or adorn den walls with prints by local canvas-coaters ($25–$125).
The warmth of the staff at Mile 5.2 Greenhouse & Gift Shop rivals the warmth of its hand-tended conservatory. The affable plant buffs rely upon customer-focused service to combat impersonal "big-box stores," gladly guiding visitors through their greenhouse's lush pathways where flowers peek from hanging baskets and tropical plants share the roof with herbs. More than 125 types of perennials and fruit-bearing boughs boost their resilience as they endure the winter cold, training their blooms to return year after year so they can one day avenge their ancestors against the weed-whackers of clumsy gardeners.
In addition to its striking greenery, the Eagle River outpost stocks their gift shop with an array of gourmet foods, ranging from Lake Champlain chocolate bars and Oregon salt-water taffy to hearty soup and bread mixes. Additionally, home accessories such as wind chimes and scented candles can pair with potted petals to create colorful gift combinations.
All Fired Up serves as a portal to a wonderland of creative possibilities, where guests select figurines and dishware from multiple walls’ worth of pre-fired ceramics and unleash a flurry of brushstrokes over unembellished pieces. All of the shop’s bisques are dishwasher-safe, and its water-based paints are non-toxic and easily washable from hands, clothes, and Bride of Frankenstein wigs, making projects appropriate for artists of all ages. A panoply of pre-made designs makes a great starting point for gifts, which visitors can further personalize with hand, foot, or paw prints. Locally owned and operated, All Fired Up helps play its part in the community with a wealth of fundraising projects, such as paintable piggy-banks for donation drives.
The warm staff at Sleep Comfort by Nerlands invites people to laze about a showroom boasting more 50 mattress sets on a quest to find the dreamiest dream pad. Utilizing the technology of the Sleep Metrics diagnostic system, the scholars of slumber match weary people with mattresses, including classic duos of foam mattresses ($215) and basic innerspring mattresses ($248) with box-foundation counterparts. The pocket coils of the queen-size Luxury model Simmons Beautyrest ($677–$887) offer snoozers a night of support and comfort akin to crowd surfing on an audience wearing cashmere oven mitts. As a purveyor of Boyd Natural Flex Latex mattresses, Sleep Comfort by Nerlands introduces allergy-suffering clients to this bacteria-resistant bedfellow and its unwavering resistance to dust mites. Knowing that a good night’s rest is important to physical and mental well-being, Sleep Comfort guarantees blissful slumbering for 60 nights.