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.
For decades, JCPenney Portraits has welcomed families into its friendly studios, where photographers expertly photograph subjects of any age. Digital cameras, professional lighting, and a wide selection of backgrounds all work together to ensure a polished, personalized look for every family portrait, school picture, business headshot, or baby announcement. To customize the session even more, the staff also encourages guests to incorporate items with special meaning such as a baby blanket, a family heirloom, or the wishbone from grandma's first Thanksgiving.
After the final flash, clients and a team member head to the viewing kiosk, where they can select their photos and customize them. Beyond prints, memories may also be preserved on high-resolution MyImages CDs, gallery wraps, or through JCPenney Portraits' archival program, which allows clients to store and share their portraits online.
The depilation artists at Brow Art 23's boutique produce carefully sculpted eyebrows and perform precision threading and waxing services. During their signature eyebrow-threading services, the boutique's technicians wield two threads over fuzzy body surfaces to pull out fine hairs or sculpt fuzz into neat shapes quickly and effortlessly. Their arsenal of eyebrow-pampering products also includes angled eyebrow brushes, stencils, and makeup to glam up bland brows and keep new looks fresh at home. Threading can also be done on other parts of the body besides the face, leaving any area smooth or remaining hair formed into the name Denise. The boutique also offers henna tattoos and eyelash extensions, rounding out its suite of beautifying services.
Joining the witness-protection program is the best way to disguise your identity, but the vast array of costumes at Halloween Express gives the program a run for its money. For more than two decades, the chain’s 300-plus stores have supplied customers with costumes year-round from vampire capes for Halloween to Caesar togas for the Ides of March.
In preparation for the fall of 2013, they’ve added more than 3,000 new items to their Halloween collection. These costumes range from Day of the Dead masks to Darth Vader costumes for dogs. The store’s party supplies add a spooky touch to festivities and include tombstones, rotting pumpkins, and giant hairy spiders.
Angie Acosta, founder of Queen City DanceOut, has a simple motto for her students: "If you're moving, you're doing it right." This encouraging, low-pressure attitude attracts people of all ages to her dance-inspired fitness classes, which meet at 18 public locations. Angie and her instructors aim to make exercise feel like a celebration and a refreshing break rather than a dreaded routine. To this end, their classes incorporate intuitive dance moves and invigorating music. DanceOut, the signature course, blends genres as diverse as swing, hip-hop, and reggae into a workout, relying on repetition and basic choreography to keep everyone grooving. Other highlights of the curriculum include the Latin rhythms of Zumba; the Dance Impact class, which fuses dance and kickboxing; and JamStrong, a mixture of core-conditioning, dance, and fun.
Community is a central aspect of every DanceOut class. As pupils practice their twirls, they can follow both the teacher and the Jam Crew—a team of regulars who help make the steps easy to follow and can assist fellow dancers. In addition to group workouts, instructors host skill workshops such as Booty Bootcamp, where attendees learn rump-shaking techniques and how to turn any chair into a rocking chair. They also put on performances and lead private classes for special events and parties.
Each day, students on horseback gallop alongside attentive instructors on Creekwood Farm’s 30 acres of undulating terrain, learning the subtleties of English saddle-seat riding during private and group lessons. In addition to helping everyone from beginners to advanced riders improve their technique, instructors also take time to teach the essential non-saddle skills of grooming and tacking horses. They encourage each fledgling jockey to learn at his or her own pace, whether riding goals include competing in American Saddlebred Association of the Carolinas shows or simple pleasure riding. The farm’s indoor and outdoor facilities ensure that lessons take place throughout the year, unaffected by winter cold, summer heat, and horse spring break.