All big movements start small, but many would be surprised to learn that Ten Thousand Villages—a nonprofit and retailer with 390 outlets nationwide—began out of a car trunk. In 1946, Edna Ruth Byler started the organization out of her car, taking a name from a quote by Mohandas Gandhi, who said, “India is not to be found in its few cities but in the 700,000 villages.” Her willpower and determination allowed her vision to grow into a nonprofit that today supports more than 130 artisans in 38 developing countries. These artisans' wares go on sale at the organization's nationwide retail outlets, which brim with items including jewelry, home decor, and refrigerator cozies.
Everything is made using environmentally friendly processes, and every artisan is paid a fair wage. The money raised from sales goes to supply the artisans—who might otherwise be unemployed or underemployed—with education, food, housing, and healthcare. The organization has risen to such stature that it won the People’s Choice Award for Green Business of the Year in 2005, and has acted as one of the founding members of the World Fair Trade Organization.
For more than two decades, American Mattress has promoted peaceful slumber in bedchambers throughout the Midwest with their vast selection of mattresses, headboards, and linens. The sleep experts strive to stay abreast of the latest bedding technology: their Serta mattresses are made with gel foam that supports curves, and Tempur-Pedic mattresses repel allergens, mites, and poltergeists looking to spoon. This devotion to a good night’s sleep has helped them earn the title of Best Mattress Store from suburban Chicago’s Daily Herald five years in a row. Additionally, American Mattress doubles down on each of its beds with a 30-day comfort guarantee and a 60-day best-price guarantee.
With pieces that have been featured on The Martha Stewart Show, hung in the White House, and chosen by Oprah to bestow upon Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes to celebrate their joint invention of the cotton gin, Sticks and Stones has made one-of-a-kind art ubiquitous. The company's master photographers have compiled a gallery of black-and-white art photographs depicting natural and structural images that represent each letter of the alphabet, which customers can peruse to craft a framed heirloom up to 14 letters long. Once finished, a panel of judges approves the message masterpiece, which, regardless of semiotic weight, gets framed and shipped. Lauded by numerous other celebrity and media outlets, these letter-based and individually tailored decor concoctions make ideal housewarming, wedding, and new-baby gifts.
Back to Bed is a trusted source for sound sleep, growing from a single store in 2000 to a mattress empire with more than 45 locations across the Chicagoland area. Tempur-Pedic, Stearns & Foster, and Simmons Beautyrest mattresses await rigorous testing at each of their show rooms, where sleep-savvy employees can help shoppers determine if they're more suited to a firm or soft mattress or to creamy or chunky peanut butter. Back to Bed also induces relaxation in a nonhorizontal form with a selection of plush massage recliners and Human Touch's Perfect Chair, which cradles bodies in a muscularly neutral position.
Fly Bird carries fun and inventive items that range anywhere from Diabolical Hot Dog T-shirts ($24.99) to French mermaid bottle openers ($28). For friends in the market for thoughtful gifts or paper airplane supplies, the store stocks a wide range of journals and paper goods, such as the 32-page instruction book for handling babies ($9.95), and the "Scribbles," "Squiggles," or "Doodles" coloring books ($19.99 each), which are designed by Taro Gomi, author of the eye-opening children's novel Everyone Poops. The items listed in the online catalogue are just the tip of Fly Bird's eclectic iceberg of mind-melting merchandise—to truly grasp the store's items without breaking them or putting them in their mouth, curious customers can simply stop by the store.
Sandhill Christmas Trees cultivates a festive forest of pines free of pesticides and paint to bestow customers with lush house adornments for the holiday season. Revelers peruse rows of vibrant conifers—plucked from the Earth in mid-November to preserve their freshness—and select the ideal 5- to 6-foot tree destined to uphold cherished North Star or titanium snow-yeti tree toppers. Servings of hot chocolate, cookies, candy canes, and peanut butter–filled pretzels warm up and refuel patrons as they explore the grounds. Though not included in today’s Groupon, Sandhill Christmas Trees stocks a number of wreaths, garland, tree stands, and box-and-rope elf traps as well as delivers sprawling saplings to local residents for a fee.