The Exclusive Company—a Wisconsin-bred music-and-movie retailer—has given the gift of song since 1956, earning a Best of Milwaukee award from Shepherd Express readers in 2011. Passionate staffers guide visitors toward sprawling collections of rock and jazz and bins brimming with DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, and loose 8mm slides from Kenny G's summer vacation. In addition to peddling new vinyl releases such as El Camino by the Black Keys and Revolver by T-Pain, the shop functions as a trading post, helping to find loving homes for preowned films and music. All used discs are carefully buffed into shape before meeting their new owners, and each comes backed by a money-back guarantee, which promises store credit if a preowned item exhibits biting tendencies. Most used CDs, DVDs, and vinyl cost less than $20.
Bookshelves stretch to the ceiling, cozy reading chairs beckon, and two resident cats?Bailey and Oliver?wander the stacks at The Readers Loft. The locally owned, independent bookstore not only carries more than 20,000 new and used titles but also features the work of local artists, including pottery, soy candles, bookmarks, and greeting cards. The bibliophiles on staff can make personalized recommendations to visitors searching for their next good read?or their next good nightstand ornament.
The Fire combats artistic snobbery with an all-inclusive array of creative building blocks. Inside the studio’s downtown location, rows of paints and unfinished ceramic pieces line countertops, and an old-fashioned television set leisurely recounts its favorite Lone Ranger episodes. Large work surfaces and a play place for kids ensure that both children and adults have room to take creative risks. Cavalier creators can paint pottery, craft mosaics, or cobble together a transparent 10-gallon hat with glass fusing (the average project is between $10.99 and $25.99). Pottery painters select their objects from a selection of plates, platters, and other decorative items, then begin painting with the help of a color consultant.
EAA AirVenture Museum exhibits more than 20,000 aviation artifacts and approximately 225 aircraft spanning the colorful history of human flight. Visitors can fulfill needs for imagined speed by gazing upon WWII-era fighter planes such as the majestic Spitfire or the muscular F-51D Mustang, inspired by the engineer's deep friendship with Pegasus. Specimens such as the skeletal Fike Model C and the appropriately named Stits Sky Baby, built in 1952 to be the world's smallest airplane, represent more experimental chapters in aviation history. Today's Groupon also includes a ride for two in a MaxFlight simulator that swings and rolls as it responds to complex stunts and aerial maneuvers.
Over the past 100 years, Regal Ware has forged quality American-made cookware designed to unite families via home-cooked meals. Products made in Regal Ware's Wisconsin factories, such as the American Kitchen cookware line, are sold in more than 130 countries and include stainless-steel saucepans ($70+) designed to ensure temperature distribution and durability. The American Kitchen line includes nonstick frying pans, stockpots, and sauté pans, which can be purchased in a complete 10-piece set ($200). Groupon holders can also pick up American Kitchen covered saucepans featuring glass covers for monitoring meals ($30) or baking pans ($30) and cookie sheets ($18) to cradle sweets with stainless steel during 350-degree naps.
Helmed by a professional duo of seamstresses, Fabric Shapers steers apprentices of all skill levels through two-hour private sewing lessons tailored to their individual goals and projects. Amateur stitchers can absorb basic threading techniques as those with prior knowhow learn to tackle more advanced subjects, such as linebackers made from yarn or fashion-design concepts. Acquire the skills to hem your own pants, or study the art of alteration for snugger, more flattering duds. Instructors can also guide students as they chart schematics for a custom garment styled from preexisting apparel, transforming an obsolete dress into a chic blazer or several hundred blindfolds for an upcoming consortium of piñata aficionados.