Each of Merrifield Garden Center’s three locations overflows with thousands of plants throughout the year, encompassing such variety that a reporter for CNN’s Eatocracy claimed “I might as well endorse my paychecks straight to them…because I always want to grow what they've got.” Knowledgeable garden experts, 25 of whom have been with Merrifield for 25 years or more, guide customers through row upon row of flowers, trees, shrubs, and other plants, or help them sort through an extensive selection of bulbs and seeds. Visitors may also bump into the founders themselves, or their children and other family members, 38 of whom still work at the thriving business that started 40 years ago. Merrifield doesn’t just proliferate plants, however; amenities such as cafes in Gainesville and Merrifield and a dog park in Gainesville make each garden center into a leisure destination as well. Three of its garden gurus run an hourlong TV show that's been going for more than two decades, and other staff publish gardening advice on the website and Facebook. The staff also work to protect the environment with a variety of eco-friendly initiatives. Besides stocking native plants and water-saving devices for their customers, they also compost more than 20,000 tons of soil and 25,000 cubic yards of brush left over from their comprehensive landscaping services every year. The Gainesville location also gathers old concrete, metal appliances, and rusted Optimus Primes for recycling free of charge.
With more than two decades of experience in the entertainment, fashion, and bridal industries, Gilda specializes in making her clients look and feel beautiful. Whether she is giving a European-style precision haircut, applying camouflage makeup, or administering laser skin-tightening or hair-removal treatments, her focus is always on her clients.
In order to continually improve her craft, Gilda attends international trainings taught by elite beauty educators, and keeps her eyes peeled for cutting-edge beauty trends. Before appointments, Gilda and her staff meet with clients to discuss their aesthetic aspirations and facial features before collaborating on a plan of attack, whether it be a new hair color, makeup application, or texture alteration, such as Japanese straightening or permanent waves. Waxing, threading and laser skin treatments round out the menu of salon services, which clients can enjoy while sipping complimentary mugs of coffee or glasses of wine. For those who cannot make it into the salon, Gilda still makes house calls to beautify brides-to-be and partygoers.
Since 1994, stationery visionary Heidi Kallett has helmed The Dandelion Patch, stocking its shelves with writing-related goods and thoughtful gifts. The shop, which has been named Best Stationer by Northern Virginia Magazine and Best of the Best by the Washingtonian, helps shoppers to tote belongings to and fro with paisley Vera Bradley bags and improve the aroma of homes with delicate candles. Heidi and her staff can engrave or monogram stationery and invitations that celebrate the birth of a baby or the ability to memorize addresses. The Dandelion Patch’s events include writing workshops—which teach young writers to master the art of the thank-you note—children’s etiquette classes, and wedding-etiquette teas.
Barely an inch of wall space at Stars Beads remains visible. The rest hides beneath a rainbow of bracelets and necklaces, as well as dangling baggies of shiny beads, semiprecious stones, and the materials to turn them all into expressive accessories. Drawing from this stock, jewelry-weavers of all skill levels can plump up home arsenals or gather together in the shop to bolster the beading community. Classes led by experienced crafters guide groups through projects such as creating beaded clasps, learning the arts of metalsmithing, or using pearls to create bracelets and necklaces instead of decoy-gumball collections.
Curtsies & Petals fills the shelves of its intimate boutique with original gifts fashioned by American artisans and craftspeople. Shopkeepers stock unique items, from handcrafted jewelry and frames to elegant stationery, candles, and soaps. They also maintain a selection of accessories and dresses for special occasions, such as weddings and the purse-toss portion of debutante balls.