Most people probably don't consider the television to be a danger to their fresh bouquet of flowers. But because it's an appliance that gives off heat, it can easily wilt or dry out blooms. This is the kind of expert advice doled out by the women of Valentin Occasions, who in their years of flower-shop ownership have perfected the challenging art of ensuring flowers last as long as possible. Their experience has made them adept at handling a variety of jobs—they can put together everything from bridal bouquets and corsages to birthday vases and casket sprays. They also deliver weekly to businesses after an onsite visit to determine the appropriate size and shape for reception or boardroom bouquets.
Mattress Source's knowledgeable staff pairs customers with one of a wide selection of firm and flexible beds that augment deeper slumbers. Sealy luxury firm mattresses ($449.99+) allays stressful nights by supplying supple support, manufacturers' warranties, and a cache of warm kittens to rest at the end of each bed. Silk woven jersey knit surrounds a layer of memory foam on the Stearns & Foster x-firm mattress, which gently pillows joint pain and absorbs excess body heat ($1,219.99+). At 26 Charlotte-area showrooms, shoppers can take inventory of each mattress' aptitude in hypnosis or chat with affable staff members about desired levels of firmness.
Couture Cakes uses family recipes to sweeten special occasions with individually designed confections catered to its customers' imaginations. Creative consumers communicate the kind of cupcake they would like by mixing one of 19 flavors, 15 fillings, and 13 icings. Couture Cakes' culinary wizards then conjure these selections into customers' dream desserts. Unlock sweetness safes with a combination of chocolate buttercream-filled marble cupcakes, iced with almond buttercream, or orange buttercream-packed strawberry cupcakes, topped with fudge.
Old Colony Furniture, which has been family owned since 1946, inspires interior-design compositions with a 30,000-square-foot show room, showcasing both contemporary and classic pieces. Upon entering the expansive show room, guests will feel as though they're walking through an expertly designed home as they peruse rich, opulent furniture from more 50 respected brands, such as Sherrill and Hancock & Moore, artfully arranged in inviting vignettes. With a collection of dining chairs ($269+), patrons can strategically seat guests in vulnerable positions should a mashed-potato fight break out. A nightstand ($449+) provides optimal access to water glasses and bedside reading materials, and an upholstered occasional chair ($475+) coddles fatigued appendages. Shoppers glance into mirrors ($225+) to admire the way a shirt complements their pants and for instant reassurance of their non-gorilla status.
Kelly Ballentine Colacioppo is a third generation appliance salesperson. Her father owns a restaurant equipment store, so it’s fitting that her store, The Cook's Station, outfits home kitchens with professional-quality equipment. The selection of top brands includes GE Profile, Bosch, and BlueStar, whose 22,000-BTU gas ranges feature extra-large ovens and custom-configured burners modeled after those found in professional kitchens. Cookware from the Culinary Institute of America’s Masters Collection is designed by certified master chefs, and bakeware from Nordic Ware aims to create the perfect bundt cake. Unique gift collections from Nora Fleming, Beatriz Ball, and Casafina are also available. For those starting completely from scratch, the staff includes a licensed kitchen designer, a licensed contractor, and diagrams that illustrate the differences between forks and spoons.
However, The Cook's Station is not just about prepping kitchens—it’s also about prepping the people who use them. A full calendar of foodie events includes cooking and equipment demos, and an online cache of recipes gives chefs new meals to experiment with. Monthly Uncorked events explore wine and tapas pairings, and a knife sharpening service ensures blades are always ready to slice up veggies or that frustratingly impossible soufflé recipe.
Forrest Briggs claims the South as his home, and indeed he grew up and attended college there. As a photography student, he earned admission into several galleries and juried exhibitions, but his post graduate work honed his eye. He travelled the world, learning to speak fluent Vietnamese and becoming trapped in Nepal during the 2006 coup d’état, all the while documenting his journeys through his camera. The temporary expatriation sharpened his skills, helping him excel at photographic composition, natural lighting strategies, and more abstract concepts such as how to make photos “pop.”
Now, as a photographer and teacher, he passes along these lessons to a new generation of shutterbugs, while lending his eye and skill to clients in search of classic portraiture and boudoir shoots. He also has an eye for shooting martial arts action, working behind the scenes at mixed martial arts events and even pulling a stint as the personal photographer of Cheryl Murphy, nine-time US Nationals Karate Champion.