Every spring and summer since 1985, the green thumbs at Everlast Nursery have helped transform neighborhood lawns into verdant backyard escapes. A vast cornucopia of plants and colorful blooms awaits to fill home containers, window boxes, and hangers, including a selection of “proven winner” annuals favored my most home gardeners in a recent taste test. A healthy selection of trees and shrubs is also available to help fill bare spots in home landscapes, as is a full range of gardening supplies that help ensure plants thrive in their homes.
The owners of Design Centers share their passion for artisan jewelry and accessories, assembling an international selection of pieces handcrafted from materials such as precious metals, gemstones, and fine fibers. They also support craftsmen through working with fair-trade merchants and donating a portion of their proceeds toward select nonprofit programs.
Annie's Book Stop of Worcester fills its shelves with new and pre-read tomes for adults and children alike. Though the inventory constantly changes as books are bought or exchanged for store credit, popular titles include classics by the likes of Ray Bradbury, Evelyn Waugh, and Madeleine L'Engle, which Annie's stocks alongside gifts and toys. The shop also hosts special events such as readings by local authors and poetry nights.
Concrete Wave brings a slice of California style to the Northeast. For more than 20 years, the shop's primary focus has been skateboarding. In addition to stocking decks and boards from makers such as Alien Workshop, Zero, and Original Longboards, Concrete Wave sells skate shoes and clothes from Nike, DC, Vans, and Volcom, among others.
Despite the emphasis on skating—which extended to the opening of a partner skate park in 2008—the shop is also as passionate about powder as an enthusiastic makeup artist. Technicians in the board shop tune up snowboards in preparation for the winter snow season and also sell boards, boots, bindings, and apparel from brands such as Salomon, Vans, DC, and Dakine.
Regardless of which of the hundreds of Target Portrait Studio locations you meander into, you can always count on a similar experience. Tucked into Target retail locations throughout the nation, each studio boasts a staff of professional photographers, premium lighting equipment, and advanced digital cameras. The seasoned crew takes pains to customize photo sessions to suit each customer's vision, setting up desired backgrounds and props before guiding families and high-school seniors through a mélange of poses. Afterward, customers will work with a professional to personalize their portraits with different special effects and styles, such as black and white or sepia tone. They then pick up their physical portraits at the studio in 7–10 days. If they don't feel like holding their breath that long to see the final products, they can access the images in an online gallery within 24 hours of the session, at which point they can order extra prints for gifts, collages, and greeting cards.
With the opening of its first store in 1989, Eastern Boarder established a foothold in the then nascent extreme-sports category and has since ridden the explosion in popularity of skating, snowboarding, and BMX. Today, at each of its five stores, devotees of these now mainstream sports can find gear, accessories, and apparel by manufacturers such as Volcom, Neff, and Nike. In recognition of its staying power, Snowboarder magazine named Eastern Boarder the Coolest Shop in the Country in spite of several sabotage attempts on its thermostat. The shop also sponsors a pro snowboarding team that’s been acclaimed by the likes of ESPN Action Sports.