“It’s like having Mr. Rogers teach your child to swim,” said one parent who left it up to The Swim Lessons Company’s Jim Reiser to show her child the secrets of not sinking. A third-generation swim teacher and coach, Jim approaches his pupils from a gentle, comforting angle that’s especially calibrated to meet the needs of infants, preschoolers, and adults disguised as Toys 'R' Us kids, employing fun activities and drills to impart skills. His friendship with water began in elementary school, and it was a friendship destined to last. To pay for college, Jim leased the university pool and used it to train young swimmers; he went on to teach aquatic courses at the University of South Carolina and lead multiple swimmers to state championships. "The Swim Professor"—a nickname Jim earned after founding Swim Lessons University, an online learning resource loaded with educational videos—now spends his days sharing the magic of swimming with people of every age, imparting the tips and tricks they'll need to survive in a pool, from holding their breath to performing a proper backstroke and catching Marco Polo.
Juicy tidbits of chocolate-dunked fruit arrive on the doorsteps of family and friends, done up in colorful bouquets and candy boxes by the skilled fruit arrangers at Edible Arrangements' more than 1,100 franchises worldwide. The company's in-house chocolatiers drizzle albion strawberries and daisy pineapples in a trio of chocolate flavors. Once properly chocolated, the workers organize the preservative-free sweets into lush arrangements that resemble flowers in bloom. Customers can choose to plop their bouquets in a variety of vessels, including vases, mugs, and sports- or holiday-themed containers that add a personal touch to the edible gifts. Alternatively, customers can opt to adorn gifts with the cheery, red lids of candy boxes, nestling 12 chocolate-dipped morsels inside to build anticipation and determine if loved ones have x-ray vision as they guess whether fruit will come dusted in shredded coconut or drizzled in white chocolate.
Bumble attires sprouting young seeds, from infants to tweens, in stylish duds from hard-to-find boutique brands. Anavini hand-smocked clothing ($66–$81) outfits toddling girls and a Guitar Rex tee by Wes & Willy ($25.50–$27.50) stands up to the wear and tear of boyhoods spent rolling in mud pits and eating ketchup by the handful. For fancier occasions, a Wee Ones large grosgrain bow headband ($9.25) pairs well with an owls Viola top by Zutano ($28). Bumble’s collection of tutu sets and capes outfits the whimsically minded, and a large collection of toys, books, and dolls makes for a great kid-distracter while the earthworm habitat is served an eviction notice.
With art degrees from the University of South Carolina, Tom Lockart and Mark Woodham teamed up to found One Eared Cow Glass, a glass-working studio and gallery. The duo started out in a rent-free Bishopville barn, according to Columbia Living, and named their enterprise after a carved wooden cow’s head that was nailed to the door. Much like Mike Tyson’s teddy bear, the cow had only one ear.
Today, at their studio location in downtown Columbia, Lockart and Woodham host live demos throughout the week. During these demos, the pair shape molten glass—which can heat up to 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit—into the translucent artwork that lines their gallery’s shelves. Their work ranges from vases to birdfeeders, though they specialize in indoor and outdoor light fixtures.
HandPicked's bauble boutiques brandish original, elegant adornments and sterling-silver jewelry handcrafted by artisans from around the world. HandPicked originals such as the Tiny Twinklers studs ($12) grant wishes for lonely lobes, and bare wrists find themselves encased in the turquoise globes of the For The Nurturing Center bracelet ($32), which pleases its parents by donating a percentage of proceeds to its namesake, a local therapeutic treatment center for child abuse.
Supplying academic athletics' programs from primary to university levels since its season opener in 1944, Todd & Moore has also been recognized as the Best Athletic Wear Store in 2011 by Columbia Metro magazine. Featuring a wide range of jock-stock for the all-American activities such as football, lacrosse, volleyball, and competitive soliloquizing, these sporting salesmen boast a nearly unfathomable stock of more than 300 athletic shoe brands and styles ($18.99+).