A baseball takes flight. A batter readies his arms. Steady hands and eyes send balls sailing into the netting, whereas uncertain swings produce only a focused breeze. In All About Sports's 15 batting areas, batters calibrate their swings as they smack baseballs across a 50- to 65-foot space. Friends can roll balls into manually fed pitching machines and watch as they hop over makeshift home plates, meet the bat with a resounding crack, then slide dolefully back to their home at the base of a ball pit. Athletes may also work on fundamentals with available equipment including batting tees and pitching rubbers. All About Sports requires all batters to wear helmets to guard brainpans against loose baseballs.
Heart Strings stocks a wide array of gifts, cards, and flowers specially engineered to generate mile-wide grins from any recipient. Petal Pushers, the in-store Teleflora flower shop, carries a bounty of beautiful bouquets to commemorate an anniversary, the arrival of a new baby, or the 30th birthday of a pet rock (all bouquets $45+). For a sweet-smelling gift that doesn’t require water or sunlight, choose from Heart Strings’ vast selection of WoodWick candles ($18.99) and Lampe Berger air fresheners ($19.99), or opt for a Willow Tree carved figurine that wards off bad odors with its adorably stoic expression ($14.99). Heart Strings also stocks Da Vinci beads for customizable jewelry creations, as well as ready-to-wear accessories ($21.99+) and bedazzled flat wallets ($16.99–$19.99).
Since its founding in 1980, Sun & Ski Sports has remained true to its philosophy: “do a few things, but do them better than anybody else.” The shop stocks equipment in five categories of extreme and outdoor activities, including camping, skating, running, bicycling, and water and snow sports. It specializes in these to ensure its merchandise maintains a high standard of quality, and its employees are knowledgeable participants in the sports their department represents.
Bikers can drop off their steeds for tune-ups from certified mechanics who put all brands through the rigors of a 12-point inspection, checking chains and adjusting wobbly pedals and malfunctioning spoke-card motors. While waiting, curious eyes might linger on a North Face two-person tent, a Blackburn Airtower bicycle pump, or a vast selection of shoes from brands such as New Balance and Asics. Men and women can traipse nearly barefoot in the park with Vibram FiveFingers, which offer minimal structural encumbrances for a more natural stride, or cast their feet aside for the new-wheeled prowess that comes with a Fuji SL-1 LE Ultegra performance road bike.
The staff at LXXI boutique doesn't believe in saving style for special occasions. The shop’s eye-catching pieces add flair to everyday wardrobes, with a focus on providing casualwear and plenty of items to layer. Boots, sandals, and intricate belts polish off ensembles forged from piles of shirts, sweaters, and jeans folded on nearby tables. Handmade jewelry dangles from displays, and Circle E candles line shelves, waiting to freshen up homes, offices, and mothball factories. Shoppers cultivate their looks amidst the boutique's bold primary colors, track lighting, and pop art.
At Küle, designer quality meets reasonably priced, accessible styles. Modish wares are available in sizes ranging from 0 to 24. The friendly staff works to accommodate every customer's needs, from finding the best-fitting jeans to selecting the ideal handbags, which, despite their name, are not really meant to store surplus mannequin fists.
FansEdge bestows sports enthusiasts with a selection of more than 1 million officially licensed NCAA, NFL, NBA, and NFL products to proclaim team loyalty. Cubs fans can brandish a personalized jersey ($99.99), and time-displaced youth can bask in the familiar glow of a Baltimore Colts Johnny Unitas T-shirt, emblazoned with an original logo ($21.99). Bulls fanatics can enshrine their laptops in bold Chicago colors inside a 15-inch laptop sleeve ($39.99) or seat a workplace mouse atop a Bulls graphic mouse pad ($9.99). Not content to outfit people and electronics alone, FansEdge also carries a selection of mantelpiece collectibles, including signed football helmets and the costumes of retired mascots.