State investigator Suzan Armstrong sifts through heaps of paperwork, carefully mulling over government cases. Though her eyes focus on the documents' dense text, her thoughts momentarily drift away to daydreams about erecting a creative haven where people can funnel their imaginations into a slew of colorful crafts. In January of 2007, Suzan's reoccurring daydream materialized when she hung up her investigative briefcase, broke the glass on her emergency paintbrush holder, and opened her own franchise of Color Me Mine—named one of the top 10 places for kids' birthday parties by Parents magazine.
The 1,750-square-foot studio brims with décor and fixtures crafted by its own staff members, including custom-tile floors and a grandfather clock made from shards of shattered pottery. Patrons browse well stocked shelves of ceramic plates, vases, and—thanks to an exclusive partnership with the magic magnate—Disney characters, then garnish their chosen bisques around crafting tables in the main studio or long tables in the private party room. Experienced staff members stand closely by to help with bisque or paint selection and answer any questions about materials, design ideas, or how to emblazon Tinker Bell with a perfect Mona Lisa smile, then glaze and fire each creation to forge a bounty of long-lasting keepsakes.
From its humble origins in 1946 as a single glass shop, Speedy Glass has expanded across the country into a network of more than 120 locations, where technicians stand at the ready to repair and replace the glass in cars, homes, and offices. The centers’ automotive technicians handle all manner of automotive-window services, including repairing chipped windshields or shattered back windows cracked while drivers were chauffeuring opera singers. To overhaul homes' glass panes, the residential specialists can cut, polish, and install fresh windows. They tackle projects ranging in scope from fashioning new glass tabletops to building solariums for clients who run on solar panels inside their skulls. Speedy Glass's workmanship and quality are guaranteed, and all of its services are backed by an array of warranties.
What began as a colony farm built by the U.S. Army in 1935 became, by the mid-1950s, the childhood home of Reindeer Farm's head honcho, Tom Williams. After studying the habits of Scandinavian and Siberian reindeer herders in high school, Tom began to understand why the antlered creatures were considered the "cattle of the North": The brisk Alaskan climate suited their dense coats and languid presence at pool parties. In 1987, after years of practicing law throughout Alaska, Tom ventured to Canada to meet his first herd of reindeer, which he kept corralled next to a tiny sign and donation jar on the modest farm. Since then, that initial herd has blossomed into 150 reindeer, who graze beside 35 elk, 13 horses, one bull moose, and one surprisingly well-adjusted bison. Now a petting zoo, the farm has grown alongside the herd, with guided tours, scavenger hunts, and horseback rides treating guests to an up-close and hands-on experience with the majestic animals. Located in the colony's original chicken coop, a gift shop provides guests with any number of collectibles to commemorate their visits.
A wildly successful alternative to traditional day spas?its more than 300 locations blanket 36 states and half a dozen countries?Planet Beach Contempo Spa is a futuristic relaxation station where state-of-the-art machines administer all the spa and tanning services. These friendly automatons sometimes replace familiar treatments, as in the Luminous facial, a light-based service that delivers blemish-busting results similar to those of a conventional facial. But other equipment maps out new spa territory entirely: the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber moisturizes the whole body with nutrient-rich steam in order to offset the effects of a dry climate or a rear-end collision with a salt truck. Other machines whiten teeth, spray tan skin, and massage muscles.
Planet Beach operates on a gym-style membership system, meaning that members purchase packages or pay flat monthly rates. As members spend more time at the spa, they get to know the helpful assistants who are always on hand to demonstrate how to use the equipment without activating its ability to cry.
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).