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.
Now in its third generation, Dressel’s Do It Best Hardware’s managing family decks its shelves with hardware for any project, complemented by knowledgeable service. The friendly and knowledgeable staff shepherds do-it-themselfers through a 70,000-item store inventory, plus a further 8 million parts for home electronics and lawn and garden equipment available via the store’s partnership with Partscription. Holiday items abound in the shop, including holiday-light sets ($2.49+) to festoon homes in a festive glow and a replica of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree ($14.99) that induces festive nostalgia and shelters gifts from fake snowfall.
At Back to Bed's South Loop location, manager Kip Wilkinson puts customers at ease with a friendly attitude, helping them find a bed that fits their individual needs and budget. The experienced delivery staff also sets up new beds and removes old ones, with a variety of delivery options available. At the show room, Tempur-Pedic, Stearns & Foster, and Simmons Beautyrest mattresses await rigorous testing, and the sleep-savvy employees help shoppers determine if they're more suited to a firm or soft mattress or to creamy or chunky peanut butter. Aside from a wide selection of mattress types and brands, Back to Bed also offers accessories such as ergonomic memory foam pillows.
Building on winter sport know-how for four decades, Viking Ski Shop boasts an educated staff that custom-fit boots and outfits winter sports enthusiasts of all ages with quality gear. Prevent a case of frigid digits with Kombi waterguard gloves ($38) or keep warm with Hot Chillys Underware for men or women ($38). Children can keep cozy on the slopes or all winter long in T-neck pull over fleeces from Spyder Speed ($49), named for arachnids whose eight legs power them down slopes faster than conventional skis. Killtec Namara men's fleeces swaddle torsos in downy and fashionable comforts ($49) while collisions with obstinate snowmen are softened when wearing a Giro G9 helmet ($99). Both shops are closed on Wednesdays.