Winner of the Phoenix New Times Best Exotic Nursery award, Tropica Mango nursery fosters a forest of tropical and subtropical fruit trees and oversees a wide inventory of plants suitable for desert climes. Take home a banana ($35–$45), pomegranate ($35), or avocado ($49) tree to provide shade and edibility in your back yard, or watch mango ($55) and guava ($49) trees flourish under the blazing heat of the Sonoran sun. If you have gardening inquiries, Tropica Mango can dole out advice on fertilizing, nurturing, raising fruit trees in a desert environment, and burying VHS tapes in an eco-friendly manner.
In 1975, Jay Kogan's parents opened up a store that was literally a hall of frames—just a small store stacked with thousands of frames. At the time, they had no idea that that tiny corridor would expand to 12 locations throughout the greater Phoenix area, all still run by the Kogan family. Today, their shops have more than 4,500 custom frame options along with mats of all colors and textures, as well as seven glazing choices and expert assembly. They can answer framing questions and frame everything from documents and artwork to posters and small 3-D objects such as sports memorabilia and very still grandmothers.
When they custom-produce frames, the family cuts their mats exactly, miters frame corners precisely, and installs flawless glass. Or, since the stores' walls are lined with ready-made frames, customers can walk in and find what they're looking for quickly. Since installing framed art is an art unto itself, they also offer hanging services with an eye for placement and ability to install in difficult spaces.
Mind Over Batter, a confectionery delight in the heart of Tempe, opened its doors on Valentine's Day 2011 and shortly thereafter won the Phoenix New Times' annual Best Cupcakes award. After being dismayed by the banality of store-bought desserts and the lack of business ethics among shadowy sheet-cake cartels, the team at Mind Over Batter decided to set out on their own, eventually expanding their labor of love to two different locations in Tempe and Gilbert. The shops bake cupcakes in an array of traditional and less common flavors, such as peanut butter and strawberry or chocolate chip and fudge, with the bite-sized cakes come adorned in glittering sugar crystals or technicolored layers of creamy icing. Cake pops weigh down skewers with cake spheres dunked into various buttercream icings and candy coatings. Custom-made cakes commemorate baby showers, weddings, or the weddings of love-struck babies with batters such as chocolate red velvet or classic butter yellow, and fillings such as chocolate ganache or seasonal fresh fruit.
Manned by a staff that knows its stuff but eschews pushy sales tactics, Cozy Coyote carries bed accessories, traditional mattresses, pillow-top beds, and memory-foam mattresses, which are stuffed with pulped scrapbooks. The sleep pros have drafted an edifying write-up about the criteria mattress purchasers may want to consider, as well as guides to various mattress species and sizes. Kids are welcome to frolic through the store as parents test the beds' comfort levels and make their decisions. As they tote their purchase home, customers can find comfort in the 30/120 Pledge, which guarantees that if they don't start loving their bed in 30 nights, they have 120 days to exchange it.
Countless repairs and home-remodeling projects can undoubtedly trace their lineage back to Paul's Ace Hardware, which began doling out DIY equipment and home-improvement supplies in 1956. Founded by Paul E. Dauwalder, the shop quickly expanded from its original 1,800-square-foot space, branching out to five shops that now operate beneath the expert eye of Paul's granddaughter. Cleaning products, outdoor equipment, and pool supplies are just a fragment of the stores' inventory, with power tools awaiting steady hands, fishing gear beckoning lake dwellers, and building materials—including the Tempe location's 56,000 square feet of lumber—standing poised and ready to be assembled into dams by handy beavers. Still in the city of its founding, the Scottsdale location has moved and upgraded to its own building.
Bead Bar's bead baristas guide jewelry crafters with a wealth of bauble knowledge, provisioning projects from the amply stocked store. Students can bring their own spirited refreshments to make sessions merrier, journeying past bead-bedazzled walls and cascades of clasps to reach the workshop, where they'll discover the basics of jewelry creation during basic stringing and crimping classes (click here to view the schedule). After pupils choose one of five bracelet kits—which include a clasp, four fire-ball beads, finishing beads, wire, wire guards, and a strand of firepolish beads—instructors model foundational stringing techniques and imbue new crafters with a sense of symmetry and color combinations. Bracelet makers learn how to highlight feature beads and artfully select accent beads, then take an oath to use filler beads only for fighting crimes of bare-wristedness. To bring closure to both classes and adornments, the staff imparts advice on selecting clasps to make sure bracelets can't leave wrists or ankles without asking permission first.