In 1965, Popular Mechanics ran a small classified ad for Brookstone, a new catalog company that packed its pages with functional products and detail-oriented descriptions. Brookstone quickly expanded to meet the high demand for its collection of “hard-to-find tools,” and opened the door to its first retail location in 1973. Today, Brookstone’s more than 300 nationwide retail locations allow customers to test-drive its ever-growing lineup of interesting products, which range from Bluetooth-enabled massage chairs to power adapters designed for international travelers and their electronic passports. Staying true to its roots as a catalog company, Brookstone houses an even larger selection of products, each waiting patiently to be shipped, on its website.
Unique Property Maintenance gives rebellious lawns crew cuts with its myriad landscaping services. The company’s techs can do simple mowing and weeding and more complicated tasks such as building irrigation systems, fertilizing without pesticides, and removing tree trunks. They also do gentle pressure washing to remove leafy debris from gutters or dogs’ rants against mailmen chalked on driveways.
Founded more than 25 years ago at a single store in suburban Maryland, Wild Bird Centers has since spread its bevy of birding gear and wildlife-watching supplies to approximately 50 locations across the United States and Canada. At each shop, knowledgeable and friendly staffers compile an immense inventory of top-quality birdseed, including their own exclusive blends of premium, field-tested ingredients. They equip patrons with a cavalcade of bird-watching accouterments such as binoculars, birdhouses, birdbaths, and Big Bird costumes and help customers to enhance their wildlife wisdom with gardening tools. To further help patrons to decipher the symphony of birdcalls they hear, Wild Bird Centers proffers a Backyard Birds Field Guide, which includes helpful information about the characteristics and habitat of common avian species. Additionally, all purchases contribute to customers' Birdie Bucks accounts, Wild Bird Centers' customer-rewards program.
The nursery at Evans Homes and Gardens has a wide variety of photosynthesizing sentinels in both annual and perennial models. Check out this year's Proven Winners (specialty flowers in four-inch pots, $4.99), or mix and match to your heart's content with a market flat of annuals ($2.50 per market pack, or a full flat of six for $18). Perennials run from $5.99 for the quart size to $19.99 for three gallons, and ninja plants are available in hanging baskets, dangling in mid-air to surprise your friends and delight your enemies ($19.99). Asiatic lilies make wonderful gifts ($12.99), and for $14.99 you can catch clematis. To completely transform your living room into the tropical utopia depicted in the critically acclaimed Bio-Dome, cover the carpet with a yard of topsoil ($32) or hardwood mulch ($27) and ignore the landlord's angry letters.
The team at PPG Pittsburgh Paints has dedicated 90 years to sprucing up homes with its revered brand of vivid paints, stains, and primers. Multiple sheens of Manor Hall ($61.38+/gal.) and Manor Hall Timeless ($67.65+/gal.) paint stand ready to replace previous exterior embellishments, such as presidential portraits painted in mustard. Sun-Proof, whose penetrating formula provides long-lasting UV protection ($58.41+/gal.), helps to prevent al fresco fortifications from cracking and peeling during super-soaker season.