From a single shop opened in 1978, Amazing Fantasy Books & Comics curates a selection of new monthlies, graphic novels, manga, games, and action figures in four hotspots. Colorful characters from mainstream and independent publishers fill the pages of new issues ($2.99+) and graphic-novel collections, such as The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time ($10) or Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant ($17.95). Text-based novels recount tales of pulp vigilantes such as the Green Hornet ($15.15) and Zorro ($13.55), and 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography ($13.50) illustrates the spiritual leader’s life story with Japanese-style black-and-white art. Gamers can pick up a Don Quixote board game and join the valiant fight against alternative-energy sources depicted in Cervantes’s novel ($26.21).
Whole Cell Accessories supplies customers with more than 15,000 digital doodads and smartphone accessories at three Illinois locations. Customers can stop in for Bluetooth gear, a new case for their iPhone, or a screen protector to safeguard cell phones against cracks, chips, and bear attacks.
Frank Brandolino knows a thing or two about computers. That’s because he was already working with them as the manager of a computer center in 1985 when desktops began their ascent to household necessity. Now, as the owner of Velocita Technology, he and a team of knowledgeable technicians offer this extensive electronics-oriented prowess to today’s customers and their robotic pets. At a walk-in service center they mend computers, copiers, printers, scanners, and other devices or lend technical support backed by manufacturers. Additionally, their sales department keeps patrons well stocked in gadgets ranging from digital cameras to laptops to TVs.
Since 1989, Play It Again Sports has been keeping sports green, recycling gently used athletic equipment into new-to-you gear. Products from brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Wilson make up each store's enormous selection of new and recycled gear, which is replenished daily with goods for a wide selection of sports that ranges from baseball and football to snowboarding, skis, and ice skates. Treadmills and exercise bikes equip bodies with muscular suits of armor, and pintsize and adolescent equipment arms youngsters with protective padding until they eat enough bologna to grow muscles of their own. Knowledgeable staffers man each location, ready to answer questions, arrange gear deliveries or pick-ups, and even sharpen skates or wax snowboards. To ensure their stock remains robust, they also encourage athletes to collect their lightly used gear—including bicycles—and bring it into a local store to either sell or trade.
Choice-meat maestros at both Stefanelli's new location in Lockport and longstanding shop in Blue Island stock shelves with italian sausages, imported wines and cheeses, and fresh carry-out-menu items and catering platters. The breaded eggplant sandwich ($4.99) slumbers under a blanket of red sauce and cheese, and the muffolatto sandwich ($6.99) dresses to the nines in a three-piece suit of hot capicola, ham, and mortadella, garnished with a corsage of genoa salami. Cap off meals with a traditional cannoli ($1.49) picked fresh from an Italian cannoli tree. Alternatively, the catering menu ratchets up proportions with platters of pasta, chicken entrees, and sandwiches such as the torta round sub ($29.99), sized to feed 10 people or an entire convention of toddlers. The full pan of baked mostaccioli ($39.99) arrives topped with cheese and a desire to feed at least 20 people, and the half-pan of chicken or sausage vesuvio ($29.99) feeds 10–15 people and comes sidekicked with italian potatoes and mushrooms drizzled in a white-wine sauce.
WineStyles’ inspiration for its wine-tasting parties began, of all places, at a backyard barbecue. Some friends at the barbecue found themselves with too many bottles of wine. As an experiment, they decided to taste the wines blindly, so as not to be influenced by price or packaging. This impromptu tasting became the template for WineStyles, a boutique designed to help you choose a wine simply by taste. That is, wines here aren’t categorized by varietal or region, but instead by one of eight taste profiles: crisp, silky, rich, and bubbly for whites; fruity, mellow, bold, and nectar for reds. However, patrons interested in knowing more about their selected bottle can still do so—each bottle comes with a description of its characteristics and suggested food pairings.
Those looking to learn even more about wines can attend one of WineStyles’ weekly tastings or discovery classes. During these events, certified specialists explore everything from the history of different varietals to current trends in wine drinking, such as which wine goes best with texting. Different levels of wine-club membership give participants two to three bottles a month (each selected by a Masters Wine Panel, invitations to private tastings, and discounts toward additional purchases.