In 1911, 15-year-old Elroy L. Payne dropped out of his Lincoln, Nebraska high school and journeyed to Los Angeles. A year later, he persuaded his parents and seven siblings to join him, and by 1933, the Paynes were the largest manufacturer of gas furnaces in the western United States. That was also the year Elroy painted the company trucks to match the state flower: vivid orange like the california poppy. Throughout the decades, the home-air experts' focus shifted. Today, they repair air conditioners, perform regular maintenance, improve air quality with filters and UV treatments, and sell AC systems.
Payne trucks are still bright orange today, but now they're also fuel-efficient Scions, which the company estimates has prevented 384,000 pounds of carbon from leaking into the air. Likewise, eco-friendly refrigerant, instead of snowman tears, flows through every device technicians install, and the team designs custom energy-efficient "zoning" systems for homes whenever possible.
With the exception of apprentices, all on-staff installers and service technicians have between 10 and 28 years of experience in perfecting air quality and go through a rigorous in-house training program on top of that. Payne specialists are so confident in their AC-whispering abilities that they insure their repairs with a one-year guarantee. Specialists adhere to a strict set of policies on the job, promising to be punctual, tidy, and respectful of clients' homes, first burning symbolic offerings in crankier furnaces. Though the company offers products by York, Lennox, and Carrier, technicians do not work on commission, and pride themselves on eschewing pushy sales tactics.
While trekking across New Zealand, Matt Baker and PJ Lamont stumbled upon a burger shack in Queenstown and immediately became addicted to the eatery’s organic, grass-fed beef patties. According to a profile in Beach & Bay Press, the duo often dined there more than once a day and eventually convinced the chef to both part with his recipes and train them how to make them. Upon returning home, the pair recruited PJ’s brother Martin for their budding endeavor: a gourmet burger place that would rely entirely on organic, grass-fed beef from New Zealand. After finding the right spot for their gastropub, the three put their own sweat into renovating it; PJ carved the wooden menu himself without using a woodpecker even once.
That menu quickly garnered its fair share of media buzz and awards by combining beef patties, ground fresh daily, with unique ingredients such as pesto aioli, grilled pineapple, and beetroot. Organic, local vegetables make up the condiments and the house tomato chutney, New Zealand’s hardier version of ketchup. But Bare Back Grill does more than burgers, satisfying appetites with natural chicken and lamb, tempura tofu, and seared ahi tuna coupled with a wide selection of beers and wines. Guests can gulp down Kiwi Steinlagers or sip Australian and New Zealand wines while lounging at either Bare Back location.
Porcelanosa’s journey from mom-and-pop design firm to world leader in kitchen and bathware began in 1970 on the Mediterranean coast of Castellon, Spain. Today, the company’s founding family oversees more than 400 showrooms in 70 different countries, exporting the latest in European home design to the rest of the world. Its minimalist, modern designs play on clean lines and muted colors, incorporating elegant accents such natural stone bathtubs or rectified porcelain tile, which mimics the Carrara marble used to build the Pantheon, sculpt Michelangelo's David, and construct the world's first paperweight. Its engineered hardwood flooring draws eyes to smooth planks of white oak in a spectrum of stains, vying for attention against tiled mosaics made of stone, ceramic, or brick.
In addition to turning kitchens and bathrooms into walk-in works of art, Porcelanosa adheres to its founding principles of care for the environment and reducing ecological impact throughout its production chain, using water recycling and gas-burning technologies at its plants to reduce its carbon footprint.
Far more than an emporium of colorful textile patterns, Urban Burp holds over 5 tons of vintage fabric dating back to the early 20th century, collecting original vintage threads that weave memory and nostalgia into their very fabric. The studio takes its unusual name from the intense experience of recognition that seeing and touching a piece of familiar pattern can bring. "All that emotion has been shoved down into the lower chakras and all of a sudden it takes one piece of fabric to bring you back to that place," owner Electra Skilandat told The San Francisco Chronicle. She continues to elicit that response with bolts of cloth decorated with the floral designs and abstract art of the 1920s, or the bold color mixtures and fractal patterns that were popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Skilandat traces her love affair with textile design back to her childhood in Boston, where her mother lovingly hand-crafted all of her clothes for school and play. Over the years, Electra amassed a collection of over 1,000 bolts of fabric and experience in interior decor. After the death of her only son, she rediscovered her creative instincts, opening the fabric shop with upholstery and drapery services that would precede Urban Burp's stunning display of warp and weft. As guests peruse the studio's ample supply of original vintage pictorial and patterned designs, sewing patterns, and notions, Skilandat unfurls her decades of wisdom during interior decor consultations.
At Fresno Fencing Academy, head coach and former Soviet and Ukrainian champion fencer, Vladimir Ostatnigrosh, distills his experience to foster a new generation of duelers within a 4,200-square-foot facility that boasts electric fencing strips, a fitness room with weight machines, and changing rooms. Ostatnigrosh invites students of all levels, aged 7 and older, to discover the art of parrying and thrusting, which nurtures self-discipline while bolstering the cardiovascular system and developing the skills necessary to retrieve stolen lunch money from Zorro. The academy’s classes, which range from introductory to competitive levels, cover the three Olympic fencing weapons: the foil, the épée, and the saber. Those expert swordsmen and swordswomen who have mastered the fencing rules and refrained from detonating any last-resort grenades during a match defend the academy’s robust reputation at local, regional, and national tournaments.
Gina Rossi's art comes to life in a flurry of sparks and cauldrons of heat. A self-taught artist and certified metal-inert-gas (MIG) welder, her work incorporates fused glass, paintings, and organic metal figures, and has been featured in the Sacramento Press, as well as KCRA Channel 3 news. When she was young, Rossi's forays into art and imagination provided stable solace from her tumultuous and oft-troubled childhood, and her passion eventually flowered into a full-time endeavor. Through her growth as an artist, she adopted a trash-into-treasure approach, working with recycled metal and glass, and earning notoriety for getting Oscar the Grouch evicted to craft a piece from his former home. Her regular welding and fused-glass-art classes share her talents with eager students, as do her efforts with community art projects, which empower young, disabled, and elderly people to make their creative mark in the world.