Melanie "The Bead Empress" Bentley established her commonwealth of creativity after years teaching aspiring artists how to work with metal clays. Within her 3,000-square-foot embellishment emporium, Murano glass from Italy, hill tribe silver from Thailand, and Swarovski crystals fill shelves from floor to ceiling. Polymer clays, sterling silver, stringing materials, and Czech fancy glass that Melanie handpicked on a recent trip to the Czech Republic round out the store's stock and arm patrons with the materials necessary to line their family's treasure chest.
But Melanie goes beyond filling the supply boxes of local jewelry makers. She also aims to expand the crafting community by welcoming beading newcomers and showing those who don't believe in their creativity that there's an artisan inside everyone. Along with her fellow specialized jewelrysmiths, Melanie leads more than 45 classes per quarter, providing her customers with a means of acquiring jewelry that’s guaranteed to be free of curses.
The high ceilings and airy lighting of Wolfgang Jasper's studio and gallery create a welcoming atmosphere that stands in beguiling contrast to the hypnotic intimacy of his photographs. Extreme close-ups of budding flowers, melancholy studies of trees, and sepia-tinged portraits of empty Richmond streets showcase the distinctive beauty of each photo’s subject, turning everyday objects into works of art. More than 40 years of experience and a master of fine arts bolster Jasper’s ability to create unique images for any circumstance, whether they are artistic works or family portraits. Commissioned pieces or Jasper's independent work can be mounted and framed, giving customers original artwork they can proudly hang on their wall or on their neighbor’s wall while housesitting.
Four full-time certified mechanics tend to domestic and foreign vehicles at All Tune and Lube, a full-service auto maintenance and repair center. These mechanics can investigate engine troubles with computer diagnostics, ward off road trip delays with preventative maintenance, or repair air-conditioning units that have transformed speedy coupes into imperceptibly slow-moving icebergs. All of the mechanics’ handiwork comes backed by a warranty valid for 12,000 miles or 12 months.
Though there are 130 For Eyes Optical stores around the United States, the company still has the heart of a small start-up. Owned and operated since 1972, when a small group of friends started it in Philadelphia, aiming for quality eyewear manufacturing as well as customer service. These same friends, aided by a few family members, still lead the franchise today. They ensure that each location adheres to their original principles and mandates for mustard-colored shag carpets.
In each store, expert independent doctors test clients' visual acuity and general eye health with comprehensive exams. Then, a store associate helps each person outfit their eyes with designer frames by brands such as Ray-Ban, Prada, D&G, and Versace. For Eyes Optical has its own advanced 40,000-square foot optical lab in in Hialeah, Florida, where technicians shape, surface, and coat the lenses to fit each person's exact prescription. After creating the lenses—whether plastic, polycarbonate, or trivex Toughlites—they inspect and fit each into its corresponding frame by hand, a process that ensures quality control and guards against the robots, whose first objective is to hinder our eyesight.
Since 1972, The Mosaic Tile Company has been the distributor for all your ceramic tile and stone needs. As the largest independent distributor in the Mid-Atlantic Region, The Mosaic Tile Company offers ten Design Centers displaying some of the most diverse ceramic tile products from around the globe. mosaictileco.com
The Great Big Greenhouse's knowledgeable staff, which includes Virginia-certified horticulturists, doles out plant-care advice to green-thumbed guests while maintaining 3.5 acres of colorful foliage replenished daily. Customers can celebrate autumn's finest fruit by picking a pumpkin ($0.49/lb.) that's great for carving jack-o'-lanterns and filling with Easter eggs, or infuse gardens with the autumnal hues of fall pansies ($15.99/market flat). Visitors can surprise companions with a 3-gallon pot of encore azaleas ($29.99) or a 7-gallon pot of Compacta holly ($29.99). A 3-foot tall Leyland cypress ($29.99) adds lush greenery to lackluster lawns and half-occupied tandem bicycles, and a collection of garden ornaments, statuary, and wind chimes add purpose to vacant plots. Customers can browse the open-air Huguenot-Robious farmer's market every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to sample fresh-baked breads, locally grown produce, and wares crafted by local artisans.