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.
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.
It's a big leap from the bustle of an athletic field to the solitude of a darkroom, but Calumet Photographic made the transition seamlessly more than 70 years ago. From its origins as a Chicago sporting-goods store, the company evolved into a one-stop shop for cameras and darkroom equipment and eventually into an innovator of photographic technology. In the 1960s, Calumet's most brilliant minds were behind the development of the Caltar large-format-lens line and nitrogen burst film.
Today, Calumet Photographic continues to manufacture and sell professional photographic products and software across the globe, boasting more than 25 retail stores throughout the US and Europe. Their shops abound with both new and used high-quality cameras and equipment, rental gear, and knowledgeable technicians eager to help customers find the right equipment for the job. The company’s extensive online catalog enables shoppers to purchase equipment from around the world and have it shipped directly to their home, studio, or mall photo booth they’ve claimed as a studio.
The readers of Washingtonian magazine voted the family-owned Princess Jewelers "Best Jewelry Store" in 2008, winning the company well-deserved notice for the careful, custom craftsmanship of its talented, certified jewelers. Two elegant showrooms display engagement and wedding rings set with diamonds or semiprecious stones, as well as earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and cufflinks that make a glittery gift for significant others or surprised trick-or-treaters. The company imports a large inventory of loose gemstones and diamonds, which may be fashioned into original designs or replicas of pieces in photographs, and jewelers can also restore damaged pieces to their previous beauty and wearability. On-site graduates of the Gemological Institute of America are capable of identifying legitimate gemstones by scent alone, using their bling-based expertise to appraise customers' new and antique jewelry and assist them through each step in the selection of a quality showpiece.
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.