The Mattress Factory's knowledgeable, non-commissioned staff guide customers to high-quality memory-foam, hybrid and innerspring mattresses from brands such as Tempur-Pedic, Sealy, Stearns & Foster and Beautyrest. Customers can shop at ease in an atmosphere that's free of sales pressure, price haggling, and the complex conversion of U.S. currency into the steel ingots accepted by mattress-making dwarves. The Mattress Factory will also set up your new mattress and remove your old one for free.
Sensory overload doesn’t begin to describe Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. A seemingly boundless compilation of colors, textures, and shapes, the labyrinthine mosaic creation spans 3,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. The masterpiece originated in the brain of Isaiah Zagar, a Philadelphia native who grew up in New York. During his third year of art school, he stumbled upon Clarence Schmidt’s folk-art-inspired installations—assemblages of found objects and recycled materials—and the young artist’s view of the art world changed. “I didn't know that I was looking at art,” Zagar reflects in his mission statement. Self-admittedly, Zagar has been somewhat “copying” Schmidt’s dynamic, free-flowing style ever since.
The years after art school brought Zagar an onslaught of new opportunities. He spent time as an artist in China and India, joined the Peace Corps with his wife Julia, settled in Peru for three years, and even tried his hand at ceramics in Wisconsin. In the ‘60s, he and Julia returned to his birthplace—specifically, the waning South Street neighborhood. Isaiah quickly leapt into action, renovating dilapidated buildings and often adding mosaics to formerly barren walls. Eventually, Isaiah’s imagination outgrew their projects, and in 1994 he began constructing a new piece in a vacant lot near his studio—the project would become Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
Isaiah spent 14 precious years, which he should have applied to Y2K preparations, scooping out tunnels, erecting multitiered walls, and splashing the entire space in colorful tile. The finished product stretches across half a block of South Street; the outside enclosure shimmering with vibrant tiles, the inside housing folk art, colored glass bottles, and countless sparkling mirrors. Now a nonprofit organization, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens invites visitors to enjoy its visual candy with guided or self-guided tours.
Owner Nancy Nagle stocks a colorful rainbow of knitting supplies in her bright and eccentric gallery, which has become a go-to outlet for the local knitting community. To meet the demand, she constantly stuffs her shelves with new styles of material, ranging from traditional yarns to luxury fibers—banana, recycled silk, and Wookiee fur—to carry-along yarns with sequins, flags, and lash. Nagle’s passion for fiber arts has introduced her to a community of artists who dye and spin some of her more than 20 brands of yarn. She uses the shop as a gallery to display the work of these local artists—including Philadelphia native John Stango—as well as share her own bold collection of woven work such as hats, shawls, and sweaters.
City Paper's A.D. Amorosi describes the two-floor Nangellini as a "doubly colorful" space as "bright and open as a bay window in Sag Harbor." Amorosi admires the gallery's art collection, and between the vibrant space's "faux-tin ceiling" and "matronly rugs," Nancy leads open and privately scheduled classes on knitting, crochet, and lace work. Classes cover all the basic techniques required for newcomers to begin creating their own woven pieces, such as scarves and felt toupees.
It's a big leap from the bustle of an athletic field to the solitude of a darkroom, but Calumet Photographic made the transition seamlessly more than 70 years ago. From its origins as a Chicago sporting-goods store, the company evolved into a one-stop shop for cameras and darkroom equipment and eventually into an innovator of photographic technology. In the 1960s, Calumet's most brilliant minds were behind the development of the Caltar large-format-lens line and nitrogen burst film.
Today, Calumet Photographic continues to manufacture and sell professional photographic products and software across the globe, boasting more than 25 retail stores throughout the US and Europe. Their shops abound with both new and used high-quality cameras and equipment, rental gear, and knowledgeable technicians eager to help customers find the right equipment for the job. The company’s extensive online catalog enables shoppers to purchase equipment from around the world and have it shipped directly to their home, studio, or mall photo booth they’ve claimed as a studio.
Little Hands Art Studio's owner and teacher, Jessica Heisen, equips budding artisans with the supplies and know-how to explore their own creativity with delectable results. Heisen’s classes for adults, children, and intergenerational duos guide students as they bake cupcakes and top them with decorations such as fondant, mini marshmallows, frostings in piped pastry bags, and cookies hit by a shrink ray. Beyond the regular classes, Little Hands hosts private birthday parties for youngsters and, on Thursday and Sunday nights, grownups-only workshops, which encourage participants to bring their own wine and mingle as they create pastry art that reflects their inner muses’ 401(k)s. The studio also teaches children how to whip up afternoon snacks such as pastas and muffins, and conducts occasional beading and other art classes.
LifeArt Imaging’s lead photographer, Stacy, spent years searching for a photographer to capture her six children’s growth from infancy to maturity. Constantly disappointed by her findings, she took up a camera herself and has since aided many mothers in similar situations. At 1,500 square feet, the studio Stacy helms has plenty of room to prevent subjects from feeling confined during their shoots, and its full bathroom offers privacy for primping or reviewing the difference between a smile and a sneeze. Nestled in the Piazza at Schmidts in the Northern Liberties neighborhood, the studio’s location near varied sources of family-friendly fun is another attraction, although photographers can also shoot clients in their homes or in outdoor venues’ flattering natural light. Afterward, the studio can make prints of images or emblazon them on purses and photo albums.