When the Putz family moved into its home in 1987, it discovered a trove of berries growing on the property. The family first picked the berries for homemade jellies, then Tony Putz began experimenting with winemaking. The hobby soon became a full-time job, and La Vida Loca Winery was born. The award-winning winery produces a variety of sweet, semisweet, dry, and cooking wines with hints of cinnamon, cherries, and blackberries. The winery also hosts numerous events, including dinners on an expansive deck that overlooks the vineyard, which was carefully bedecked to befit any wedding reception or divorce proceeding.
Grape Escape Winery’s name isn’t simply a boozy play on a Steve McQueen movie. For its vintners, planting their own vineyard signified the chance to break free from the typical work routine and spend more time together. From their 8 acres of grapes—supplemented by pickings from 15 other Iowa vineyards—the crafters fill their casks with 13 varietals ranging from sweet to dry. Visitors to the winery may saunter through the pastoral rows of vines, savor tastes of a red, white, or blush over the fire pit, or, on Saturday nights in summer, take in a movie right in the vineyard.
Though he couldn't have known it at the time, Adam Caldwell arranged what arguably could be considered one of the most successful first dates in modern history. He not only ended up marrying his date, Danna, but also had such a memorable time with her in the frozen-yogurt shop that the two of them were eventually inspired to start their own. They opened Menchie's Frozen Yogurt in California in 2007, and within just a few years, found themselves with a family of hundreds of thriving stores sprinkled all around the world and featured on Undercover Boss.
As the Menchie's brand grew, Adam and Danna kept a simple mission in mind: to make their customers smile. An adorable cast of animated characters is featured throughout the locally-owned and operated stores, including on the colorful spoons, and customers can have fun creating endless frozen-yogurt combinations or just grab a cup of freshly cut fruit for a quick snack. There are almost 100 rotating yogurt flavors, and of course, there are plenty of toppings as well, displayed in help-yourself bins filled with fresh fruit, nuts, cereal, and candy.
The yogurt is made from fresh milk from a California dairy, and it is free of the artificial growth hormone rSBT. All the yogurt is kosher with live and active cultures and probiotics, and certain flavors accommodate vegan and gluten-free diets.
Sticks sprung from humble origins when, in 1992, Sarah Grant began carving ornaments and candlesticks from birch, poplar, and driftwood in a small studio in Des Moines. As her work began to attract national interest and demand for it grew, Sarah enlisted the aid of other local artists and expanded her inventory to include handcrafted heirloom-quality furniture, whimsical sculptures, and intricate keepsakes.
Today, the artists’ work is showcased in more than 100 galleries across the country. Their installation projects have even decorated the walls of Blank Children’s Hospital, the Animal Rescue League of Central Iowa, and the student center at Iowa State University.
Sticks artists can often be spotted by the shores of local rivers, gathering driftwood for their work. They assemble the wood into custom-designed tables, beds, and armoires within their spacious, light-filled studio before painting them with colorful, whimsical designs, from smiling suns and moons to lush landscapes. The versatile artists even take their tools and paintbrushes to homes, businesses, and underground mad-scientist labs to craft custom art installations and interiors.
At Teddy Bear Connection, children’s imaginations run wild as they dream up stuffed-animal friends and customize them with clothes and a full boutique of colorful accessories. After they pick out a bear, kitten, zebra, or other plush friend, they hand their future friend over to a staff member, who plumps the animal with fluff, maximizing cuddliness but minimizing its ability to slip under doors and raid the cookie jar. Animals leave the store as is or can peruse walls hung with outfits and shoes for any occasion, real or imagined, with their owner. Creators can add a song or sound to play when their stuffed animal is squeezed, or record their own 10-second theme song, catch phrase, or campaign slogan.
Self-billed as a "funky little boutique for bellies, babies, and kiddos," Urban Belly's 6th Street retail space teems with fashion and gifts ideal for professional carpet crawlers and working mommies-to-be. Urban's staff lines the shelves with baby gifts such as nursing covers, diaper bags, and towel sets. For moms, the staff curates apparel that includes a lower-priced value-line of clothing. They also adorn hangers with an array of designer brands such as Oilian, Lilac Maternity, and Citizens of Humanity—which devotes a portion of its profits to various charities ranging from youth programs to stuffed-animal witness-protection programs.