Gary Poppins's popcorn proprietor draws upon the tongue-pleasing know-how he garnered at the Culinary Institute of America to outfit freshly burst kernels in classic coatings and creative flavors, dreaming up creations that have been praised by New York's Daily News and snatched from the shelves of specialty stores. The shop mixes up 24 different flavors, from traditional Chicago-style favorites such as cheddar to honey-mustard popcorn that combines stone-ground mustard and the tears of a dramatic queen bee. The shop also purveys roasted nuts, available plain or frosted with a blend of cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla that spreads its heavenly scent without the bitter taste of a pine-tree car air freshener.
So established is Circle K that even brand-new vehicles recognize what its red-and-white logo stands for?fuel, snacks, and everything else a car might need to keep powering down the road with its driver. Circle K's story starts back in 1951, when Fred Hervey bought three Kay's Food Stores in El Paso, Texas. Under his guidance, these three little shops grew into the more than 3,000 convenience stores that crouch on our nation's street corners today.
After rolling up to a Circle K, drivers can pump their faithful roadsters full of high-octane fuel and send them skipping through a car wash to experience the cleansing touch of Blue Coral Beyond Green and Rain-X products. Then it's time to step inside the air-conditioned shop for a peek at the provisions. Rows of sodas hibernate behind glass doors, and snacks, candy, and their ATM guardians stand boldly out in the open. Some Circle Ks also offer the Take Away Fresh Caf?, which presents an appetizing lineup of healthy road fare including sandwiches, fruit cups, and fresh-cut vegetables. Drivers can gear up for a long drive with premium coffees or enjoy a cold Polar Pop, whose specially formulated cup keeps drinks colder thanks to the family of tiny snowmen trapped in its foam walls.
The blossom bundlers at Northlake Flowers and Gift Shop gather fresh flora and festive gifts into eye-catching arrangements that cater to a full calendar of holidays and special occasions. The Tie a Yellow Ribbon bouquet ($39.99+) rallies patriotic-hued blossoms such as red roses, white daisies, and blue delphiniums in a ribbon-wrapped vase fit for a Fourth of July barbecue or a date with Uncle Sam. Deliver birthday how-do-you-dos with a sextet of shiny mylar balloons ($29.99) in your choice of designs. Or, send sweet wishes with a cupcake in bloom, in which a layer of white carnations frosts a cake-shaped vase and cradles a wish-ready candle ($24.99). For the romance-ready set, the a-dog-able basket ($54.99) affords the colorful cuteness of a carnation puppy without the exorbitant vet bill, and a modern rectangular vase of pink roses ($59.99) arrives topped with a stylish butterfly pick to woo the heart of any nature lover or hungry praying mantis.
Over the past four decades, Seattle’s Best Coffee has built strong, ethical relationships with coffee farmers around the globe. Taste testers sample each coffee shipment a minimum of three times before putting it into rotation, which is an effective way to ensure quality flavor and to stay awake for five days straight without blinking. Other parts of their process are equally perfectionistic: once a blend joins the repertoire, it's classified into one of five levels of intensity—ranging from mild and light to dark and bold—so that customers can swiftly select the flavor profile they prefer. Before they're packaged for retail or ground and brewed in shops across the country, the beans take a long, slow tumble in a roaster whose heat is controlled via a carefully calibrated roasting curve. In store, the toasty base might be topped by hazelnut cream, caramel, or sprinkles and paired with quick-serve breakfast sandwiches and baked goods.
In 1930, Dr. Joseph Rosin and his brother, Maurice, opened a small shop on Cermak Road in Cicero. In 80 years, the shop has grown from a small family-run optometrist's office to a regionally renowned business that has sharpened the eyesight of celebrities such as Joe DiMaggio and Plácido Domingo and left its mark on the Chicago area by designing famous symbols such as Harry Caray's trademark glasses and the novelty shades that adorn the John Hancock Center. Today, Rosin Eyecare rests in the hands of the third generation of Rosins, ably helmed by brothers James and Jonathan, who continue a proud tradition of warm, personal service as they improve eyesight with high-tech LASIK and PRK treatments as well as stylish eyeglasses with scratch-resistant lenses. At 16 locations, including the newest office Long Grove, a staff of optometrists keeps optical orbs in high function with comprehensive exams, treating each patient's individual needs with products such as a contact-lens implant or a prescription safety eyewear.