At age 6, when most little boys are obsessed with their toy trucks and plastic dinosaurs, Ken Miller was interested in playthings with steel shafts and the ability to send a ball soaring over the grass. Young Miller?s passion for golf didn?t wane as he grew older: after making a splash on the junior golf scene, he attended Fresno State University on a golf scholarship and toured competitively before retiring to teach. But after 10 years of working for someone else, Miller was ready to realize his own dream: a family-friendly range that satisfied even the pickiest golfer. So, with his kids and wife in tow, Miller spent a year sculpting 19 acres of land into what is now McHenry Golf Center.
Today, the practice facility?which was named one of the Top 100 Ranges in America in 2009 by Golf Range?presents players with an all-grass driving range whose lighting makes it possible to play with balls that are afraid of the dark. After landing shots on the range?s seven target greens, which taunt them from 50 to 250 yards away, golfers can work on their short game at an 11,000-square-foot putting green, then head over to a practice green guarded by five circular and kidney-bean-shaped bunkers. If they want help with their chipping technique or sand play, they can take lessons with Miller and other PGA pros. Golfers can refuel with fare from the center?s snack bar after a lesson or independent practice.
While creating McHenry Golf Center, Ken Miller designed a pro shop to meet the needs of both casual and dedicated golfers, whether they carry a standard coin purse or suitcases filled with golden golf balls. Customers can get an expert fitting before picking their clubs, thanks to the center's TaylorMade SelectFit System and Ping Advanced Fitting System. For putters and woods that need attention, Golfsmith Clubmakers?trained Jim Tocco awaits at the repair center, where he fixes grips and shafts, working quickly enough to offer next-day service.
The cooks at Velvet Grill & Creamery understand the timelessness of classic diner fare and a cold scoop of ice cream. All day long, they make breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes from scratch and churn out fresh batches of more than 20 ice-cream flavors. Breakfast seekers satisfy savory cravings with three-egg omelets stuffed with ingredients such as avocado, crab, linguiça, and feta cheese. Sweet teeth tear into Velvet's original pancakes, made with real oatmeal and buttermilk from a special house recipe. Later-day options include classic comfort fare such as chicken-fried steak and smoked pork chops doused with an apricot glaze. Among the sandwich selection, the house-special mega grilled cheese ($7.39) combines four kinds of melted, gooey cheese between three slices of bread to form a meal hefty enough to knock over Mechagodzilla should he return from his semester abroad in Prague. Diners can also lap up the eatery's rotating selection of homemade ice creams, which were spotlighted in the Lodi News-Sentinel for their incorporation of such unconventional ingredients as wine and butternut squash. Customers can also suggest new flavors and request special batches, which in the past have included licorice, bacon, and the sweet, sweet taste of victory over chinese finger traps.
Paula Gauthier loved working at Yesterday’s Books through high school and college so much that she ended up there, years later, as a manager. When the owners retired, she and her husband, Phillip, decided to buy the store and continue its more than three-decade run as a repository of new, used, rare, candy-coated, and out-of-print books. Today, the Gauthiers continually update a collection of more than 100,000 titles, all categorized into sections such as general fiction, classics, theology, and children's books stacked on floor-to-ceiling bookcases. They also stock eight always-unlocked display cases with rare books, such as a first edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin that would buckle the knees of any bibliophile, history buff, or person named Tom. Other collectibles range from a specially bound copy of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six to a signed volume by Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of the Tarzan and John Carter series.
The Gauthiers have also brought modern updates to the shop, such as replacing the paper-based store-credit system with an electronic one, which even gives members an online account to track available funds. Phillip observes that some regulars swap out up to 50 books per visit. In addition to book collections, the Gauthiers maintain a catalog of CDs, DVDs, and sheet music.
Dream Dinners founders Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna want to help families gather around the table for delicious meals. Like many parents throughout the country, the two women tried to coordinate a family dinner, but their efforts were often thwarted by hectic schedules. As a dinnertime strategy, Stephanie began to prepare meals with fresh, raw ingredients and then freeze them so they could be quickly thawed and cooked during the week. This tactic became popular with her family. Before long, friends, friends of friends, and chimpanzee families that mimicked their friends wanted to learn her secrets. With help from Tina Kuna, she established the first Dream Dinners location, and the successful food-prep business has led to the creation of more than 90 stores in less than three years.
At each Dream Dinners location, customers find all the culinary tools to prepare a nutritious meal—everything from fresh ingredients to meal-packing materials. Each week Dream Dinners features a new menu of fix-and-freeze dinners that can be made for up to six people, providing customers with numerous options for planning quiet meals at home or dinner parties with friends. All ingredients are precut and measured to ensure an error-free fixing.
When the trio of Jenna Harvey, Ryan Woods, and Steffen Haro graduated from UC Davis, they decided to create their own jobs. "It's not in our character to throw up our hands and say, 'Well, we tried,'" Harvey says as she remembers doggedly planning a 400-square-foot shaved-ice shack with Woods and Haro. Their dream quickly evolved into a shop nearly five times as large, complete with an espresso bar, a kettle-corn popper, and a drive-thru window. Named Pura Vida for the Costa Rican phrase that captivated Harvey during a charitable trip in 2007?"Though it translates as 'pure life,' locals said they use it as 'live pure,' and we liked what it stood for"?the affable staff douses fluffy curls of ice with sweet fruits, puckery sours, and an array of sugar-free flavors accented with marshmallow topping or ice cream in the middle. Hot and iced coffees, which Pura Vida hopes to someday source directly from Costa Rica, enliven palates in between bites of kettle corn, which pop from whole-grain kernels. As soft music floats through the red-walled storefront, free WiFi ricochets across the hand-built bamboo counter and onto patio tables perched beneath a shady pitched awning.
A wildly successful alternative to traditional day spas?its more than 250 locations blanket 36 states and eight countries?Planet Beach Spa is a futuristic relaxation station where state-of-the-art machines administer all the spa and tanning services. These friendly automatons sometimes replace familiar treatments, as in the Luminous facial, a light-based service that delivers blemish-busting results similar to those of a conventional facial. But other equipment maps out new spa territory entirely: the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber moisturizes the whole body with nutrient-rich steam in order to offset the effects of a dry climate or a rear-end collision with a salt truck. The range of services include total skincare, wellness, weight management, relaxation and renewal treatments. Other machines whiten teeth, spray-tan skin, and massage muscles. Planet Beach operates on a gym-style membership system, meaning that members purchase packages or pay flat monthly rates. As members spend more time at the spa, they get to know the helpful assistants who are always on hand to demonstrate how to use the equipment without activating its ability to cry.