Unique Photo’s story wouldn’t be out of place in a Horatio Alger essay: entrepreneurs Bernard and Harriet Sweetwood opened a small storefront photography supply store in Brooklyn, which, through their continued hard work, grew to become one of the largest privately owned photographic-supply distributors in the world. Now dubbed a photographic superstore, Unique Photo stocks more than 20,000 products from popular brands such as Canon, Epson, Fujifilm, Nikon, and Sony. From digital cameras and camera bags to video equipment, darkroom supplies, and prints of 19th-century presidents eating ice-cream cones, the shop houses gear for enthusiasts and professionals alike. On a mission to help clients “Create Better Pictures,” staffers draw upon their photography training to help customers with a full-service photo lab, rental equipment, and free tech support. Experts also lead a full curriculum of classes and seminars that cover topics such as photo composition, Adobe Photoshop, and lighting techniques.
Posh Boutique’s chic catalogers fashionably aggregate their favorite designer clothing and accessories from Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City to create authentically American looks. Ladies enrobe denim-loving legs in the embraces of 1921 jeans ($165) or swaddle torsos in tops such as the EcoSkin Crescent Tunic ($88), harkening back to medieval fashions without the need for Renaissance-fair tickets or 20-sided dice. In the men’s section, Trunk shirts ($48+) drum up rock-band representation, and 575 jeans ($195) fade into form around macho calves. Handbag selections ($174+) carry heavy shopping clout, and accessories include cranium-shading hats ($58+) and a metallic-silver python snap bracelet studded with gunmetal Swarovski stones that protect wrists from unfashionable appearances and the bite of feral shirt sleeves.
The skilled stylists at Fantastic Sams Lincoln Park turn their deftly handled shears not only to the hair atop patrons' heads, but also to unruly facial hair, performing beard and mustache trims. Other services include facial waxing, color and texture treatments, and updos for formal events.
The Village Inn may look like an simple country kitchen, but the food is nothing short of gourmet. Chef and owner John A. Martino calls on his training at the Culinary Institute of America and Le Cordon Bleu to craft a menu of contemporary American Continental cuisine, which ranges from potato-crusted Chilean sea bass to a veal porterhouse topped with sautéed mushrooms. After the chef inspects the dishes for quality, presentation, and political leanings, they emerge from the kitchen to waft gourmet scents through four separate dining areas. Everyday diners sidle up to white-clothed tables amid floral carpets and drapes in the Fireplace Room, while top-shelf liquors come together to form a host of creative cocktails in the wood-lined bar. For private occasions, groups of up to 20 gather at a long oak table beneath the cozy, low ceilings of the Wine Cellar Room, and large events bask in the glow of a towering chandelier in the bright and airy expanse of The Great Room.
For more than 60 years, Toys“R”Us has been helping kids be kids and grown-ups to revisit their childhoods by providing one of the largest selections of top-brand toys, electronics, games and everyday baby essentials. Founder, Charles Lazarus, revolutionized the toy business by modeling his stores after supermarkets, providing a variety of options to suit varying ages and interests and offering customers to help themselves and have fun in the process. Today, that sense of playfulness is evident at nearly 600 stores in the United States alone, including a flagship location in Times Square where kids are greeted by a 60-foot Ferris wheel, a 5-ton animatronic T-Rex, and a life-sized, 4,000-square-foot Barbie house.
Beyond everybody's favorite bikes, trains and video games, each Toys“R”Us store keeps its shelves stocked with the season’s must-have toys as well as nostalgic standbys that never go out of style. Time-tested brands such as LEGO, Radio Flyer, NERF and Fisher-Price share the shelves with an expansive selection of electronics for older kids, including Wii U and tablets. And though the company has inspired generations of boys and girls to try their hardest not to grow up, it also strives to ensure budding brains develop right on track by devoting a significant portion of its stores to “smart-play” with a wide selection of electronic learning toys and software.
Toys“R”Us—whose extended family of brands includes Babies“R”Us and FAO Schwarz—has earned a number of awards and recognitions through the years, including a spot on Fortune’s list of the World’s Most Admired Companies in 2012. The company has also drawn considerable recognition for its expansive charitable efforts, which include partnerships with the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and Save the Children. This year also marks the tenth consecutive year that the company has partnered with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to collect new, unwrapped toys and monetary donations in its stores to benefit the organization.