So established is Circle K Midwest that even brand-new vehicles recognize what its red-and-white logo stands for—fuel, snacks, and everything else a car might need to keep powering down the road with its driver. Circle K's story starts back in 1951, when Fred Hervey bought three Kay's Food Stores in El Paso, Texas. Under his guidance, these three little shops grew into the more than 3,000 convenience stores that crouch on our nation's street corners today.
After rolling up to a Circle K, drivers can pump their faithful roadsters full of high-octane fuel and send them skipping through a car wash to experience the cleansing touch of Blue Coral Beyond Green and Rain-X products. Then it's time to step inside the air-conditioned shop for a peek at the provisions. Rows of sodas hibernate behind glass doors, and snacks, candy, and their ATM guardians stand boldly out in the open. Some Circle Ks also offer the Take Away Fresh Café, which presents an appetizing lineup of healthy road fare including sandwiches, fruit cups, and fresh-cut vegetables. Drivers can gear up for a long drive with premium coffees or enjoy a cold Polar Pop, whose specially formulated cup keeps drinks colder thanks to the family of tiny snowmen trapped in its foam walls.
The blossom bundlers at Northlake Flowers and Gift Shop gather fresh flora and festive gifts into eye-catching arrangements that cater to a full calendar of holidays and special occasions. The Tie a Yellow Ribbon bouquet ($39.99+) rallies patriotic-hued blossoms such as red roses, white daisies, and blue delphiniums in a ribbon-wrapped vase fit for a Fourth of July barbecue or a date with Uncle Sam. Deliver birthday how-do-you-dos with a sextet of shiny mylar balloons ($29.99) in your choice of designs. Or, send sweet wishes with a cupcake in bloom, in which a layer of white carnations frosts a cake-shaped vase and cradles a wish-ready candle ($24.99). For the romance-ready set, the a-dog-able basket ($54.99) affords the colorful cuteness of a carnation puppy without the exorbitant vet bill, and a modern rectangular vase of pink roses ($59.99) arrives topped with a stylish butterfly pick to woo the heart of any nature lover or hungry praying mantis.
Over the past four decades, Seattle’s Best Coffee has built strong, ethical relationships with coffee farmers around the globe. Taste testers sample each coffee shipment a minimum of three times before putting it into rotation, which is an effective way to ensure quality flavor and to stay awake for five days straight without blinking. Other parts of their process are equally perfectionistic: once a blend joins the repertoire, it's classified into one of five levels of intensity—ranging from mild and light to dark and bold—so that customers can swiftly select the flavor profile they prefer. Before they're packaged for retail or ground and brewed in shops across the country, the beans take a long, slow tumble in a roaster whose heat is controlled via a carefully calibrated roasting curve. In store, the toasty base might be topped by hazelnut cream, caramel, or sprinkles and paired with quick-serve breakfast sandwiches and baked goods.
In order to manage a collection of almost 10,000 libations, the staff at Sal's Beverage World must know their stuff when it comes to wine, spirits, and beers. The massive shop stocks shelves with bottles of wine from popular labels such as The Naked Grape and Snap Dragon, as well as 90+ point wines from Chateau Angelus. The inventory also boast more than 2,000 beers artfully brewed by domestic and foreign companies including Hoppin' Frog and Bear Republic craft breweries, while down the liquor aisles shelves are lined with a hearty collection of whiskeys, cognacs, and aperitifs, such as the Italian Cynar and Pernod 80 Proof. Sal's drink specialists also provide party planning services, regular beverage tastings, and run the Bacchus Wine Club, which offers members access to exclusive tastings of wine and ambrosia.
Arming Windy City's flower followers with a bevy of buxom blossoms since 1889, Amling's Flowers brightens occasions across the spectrum with its fresh floral arrangements. Built from the fruits of partnerships with independent petal peddlers, Amling's artistic arrangements help express emotions fit for a range of occasions, from birthdays to funerals to the first of many joyous parking citations. Lilacs soothe schnozes and seers with a sense-pleasing blend of lavender roses and fragrant hydrangea ($39.95), while the Cotton Candy's bursts of roses, carnations, and chrysanthemums issue forth with pastel explosions not seen since Gregor Mendel cross-bred hyacinths with a stick of dynamite ($34.95+).
The Uptown Shop is stocked with a mélange of whimsical clothing, bridal gifts, high-quality Trollbeads, and Vera Bradley products. Festoon a forearm with a Vera Bradley Emma bag ($35), a floral-patterned wristlet ($27), or procure a pattern-print Zip ID case ($12) with a front ID window to quickly show that you're of age to purchase Skittles. Bestow brides with gorgeous gifts such as a Seda France pagoda candle ($32) or a 5-ounce Trapp Private Garden candle ($20). The Brighton charming world necklace ($42) and Jay Strongwater starfish charm ($125) festoon necks, and cardigans and skirts garb golems in preparation for middle-school science fairs.