After years of working for others in corporate America, owner Karen Thompson enlisted the help of three other like-minded women to form the quartet of bead-savvy experts behind A Beadtiful Thing. With heaps of individual experience designing jewelry, staff help customers sort through the strands of beads that line the sunny shop's walls and wink in the light like an English teacher after an especially good pun. The ladies also angle visitors toward a large table in the store, where they can delve into their own projects or participate in classes in basic or more obscure techniques that incorporate leather or chainmaille in addition to shimmery baubles.
From a single shop opened in 1978, Amazing Fantasy Books & Comics curates a selection of new monthlies, graphic novels, manga, games, and action figures in four hotspots. Colorful characters from mainstream and independent publishers fill the pages of new issues ($2.99+) and graphic-novel collections, such as The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time ($10) or Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant ($17.95). Text-based novels recount tales of pulp vigilantes such as the Green Hornet ($15.15) and Zorro ($13.55), and 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography ($13.50) illustrates the spiritual leader’s life story with Japanese-style black-and-white art. Gamers can pick up a Don Quixote board game and join the valiant fight against alternative-energy sources depicted in Cervantes’s novel ($26.21).
Between Gorilla Games' bright yellow walls, knowledgeable gamers stock shelves with new, used, and retro video games and accessories. They help customers choose discs and cartridges to take home or accept trade-ins of old games to feed to an ever-changing selection spanning all generations of Nintendo, Sega, Xbox, and PlayStation. Along with merchandise, the store holds a collection of pay-to-play classic arcade games and a game room breathlessly referred to as the Cage. Inside the Cage, paying visitors find 42-inch HDTVs, reclining padded chairs, and PS3, XBox 360, and Wii systems, upon which they can test their skills in any game found at the store. To aid beleaguered gamers, store staffers also resurface scratched discs, mend broken consoles, and reveal which castle the princess is in.
Spread across four arts venues, the school's performance program presents finely honed productions of new and classical dramatic works and hosts internationally acclaimed musicians of all genres. Catch violinist Rachel Barton Pine with piano accompaniment at the state-of-the-art, 13,000-square-foot Wentz Concert Hall (from $40), or exchange the smiley comedy mask for a frowny tragedy one with the Greek-inspired Phedre at the artsier, black-box-style Madden Theatre ($10).
Put Me In The Story connects parents and kids during bedtime reading rituals with one-of-a-kind storybooks personalized with children's names and photos. After choosing a best-selling children's book as a template, customers submit their child's name and upload a photograph and special message for their boy or girl. Within two weeks, parents and grandparents can snuggle with babies and toddlers, flipping through books filled with the child's own name and picture.
In addition to promoting literacy and family bonding through its selection of kids' books, Put Me In the Story creates heartwarming gifts with customized photo books that celebrate the link between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and grandparents.