Over the course of 20 years, family-operated Just Like New has inspected apparel, accessories, and home furnishings from thousands of consigners, accepting only the pieces that meet strict quality and style standards. At the start of each fashion season, the family treks to New York City to gather enough designer duds to restock two 5,000-square-foot locations. Clothing, shoes, and accessories by classic brands such as Coach and Ann Taylor adorn shelves and keep mannequins from being charged with public indecency, and a children's section outfits youngsters in apparel purchased exclusively from catalog brands and specialty stores. Just Like New's jewelry selection glitters with 14-karat gold and sterling silver; vintage and costume jewelry occasionally makes the cut by way of jingling the shop owners' favorite songs. Vintage glassware, furniture, and artwork make unique design accents for the home.
Jeff Lederman took a hobbyist's interest in personalized crafts more than 30 years ago, and today that hobby has blossomed into a gift mecca tinged with a distinctively masculine edge. RhinoGifts.com and its sister storefront Recognition Inc. fill orders big and small for all kinds of inscribed paraphernalia, from apparel and watches to cedar humidors for stogies, and incorporates customers’ own artwork, logos, and personalized messages to complete each gift. The outfit also emblazons trinkets for companies with no minimum order sizes, meaning big corporations and mom-and-pop shops alike can treat their employees to a commemorative pen on Dr. Spock’s half birthday.
Owners Carolyn and Stan Giliberto of Over the Rainbow Toys, one of CBS Connecticut's Best Toy Stores of Hartford, regale youngsters with specialty toys from trusted U.S. manufacturers and importers, as well as one of the largest selections of toys from Playmobil. A cheery sales staff stands by to help parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles discover age-appropriate gifts, while warning customers against common child-gifting flubs, such as presenting second graders harboring tightrope-walking aspirations with wire and a balancing pole. Arts-and-crafts projects, science and learning kits, and both kid and adult jigsaw puzzles fill the bright store. Young ones can sputter airplane impersonations with a Playmobil Click and Go jet ($11.99) or hone pin-toppling skills with the sunny colors of a Happy Giddy bowling set. A set of frog-shaped baseball mitts ($12.99) enables kids to impersonate their favorite major leaguer in the backyard and prevents calamities in china shops. The shop also offers creative, free gift-wrapping, sparing parents the inconvenience of hiding toys by putting them inside of other toys.
Every morning at 4 a.m., Kevin Bassette and his sleepy staff don rain suits and rubber shoes, even on the driest summer days. They're heading into the cornfield, where every stalk wears a jeweled armor of dewdrops. For about two hours, they pluck and bag all of the ears they'll sell that day. The sweet, always fresh-picked corn is only one of the draws of his farm's produce stand and farmer's market booths. In fact, his 85-acre farm produces an astonishing variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, which a brood of 350 free-range hens watches over as they lay eggs. These crops grow with low-level or no pesticides; rather, Kevin's integrated pest-management systems use ladybugs and very tiny scarecrows to ward off any troublesome bugs. Locals can get a taste of this fresh fare by visiting Killam & Bassette's stands at community farmer's markets or right on their land. Often, the farm's owners man the booths, chatting about crop varieties and recipes. They're an experienced bunch. The farm has been in owner Henry Killam's family since the 1800s, and Kevin began working there when he was only 9. His wife worked alongside him while they were dating, and today their five children share the ownership—and the chores—of the business.
The window dressers at Connecticut Shade and Blind have embellished bare panes with custom blinds, shades, and sumptuous draperies for more than a quarter century. Interior rooms exposed to overly enthusiastic sunbeams or binocular-bearing blue jays cover vulnerable windows with light filtering double-cell shades ($546 for a 36"x54" panel). The futuristic blinds are energy efficient, helping to defend against winter drafts and roasting summer suns. Wood blinds ($549 for a 36"x54" panel) or faux wood blinds ($413 for a 36"x54" panel) add texture and a touch of the outdoors to stylish interiors. A variety of fabrics in woven blends or ethereal sheers dress window interiors as curtains or human exteriors as stylish togas. Any accrued shipping costs are included in this Groupon.