Founded more than 25 years ago at a single store in suburban Maryland, Wild Bird Centers has since spread its bevy of birding gear and wildlife-watching supplies to approximately 50 locations across the United States and Canada. At each shop, knowledgeable and friendly staffers compile an immense inventory of top-quality birdseed, including their own exclusive blends of premium, field-tested ingredients. They equip patrons with a cavalcade of bird-watching accouterments such as binoculars, birdhouses, birdbaths, and Big Bird costumes and help customers to enhance their wildlife wisdom with gardening tools. To further help patrons to decipher the symphony of birdcalls they hear, Wild Bird Centers proffers a Backyard Birds Field Guide, which includes helpful information about the characteristics and habitat of common avian species. Additionally, all purchases contribute to customers' Birdie Bucks accounts, Wild Bird Centers' customer-rewards program.
When it comes to footwear restoration, the experts at Cobbler’s Bench Shoe Repair don’t just go through the motions. Instead, they put in the extra effort to return each pair to a like-new condition, a quality instilled by the company’s founders, Charles and Sara Stern, in 1946. All repairs are completed within three days and use equal or better materials than the original manufacturer, which helps protect shoes from environmental damage and teasing from snobby loafers. Cobbler’s Bench also maintains an offsite plant with special equipment to carry out particularly complicated repairs.
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.
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.
Owner Greg Klein first learned the art of customer service as a child, watching his father found the store that, 37 years later, would continue to bear his name. Greg remembers, "My father would close a sale and say, 'My name is Willi Klein. If you ever have any problems, you find me⎯I'll make it right.' It is still our motto today." This commitment to customer care is passed along to the sales staff at five locations, helping them pair outdoors enthusiasts with name brand gear from Burton, Nordica, Oakley, and Ride Snowboards. Team members take pride in helping boarders and skiers find boots that conform to their feet, a seemingly small detail that can make an enormous difference in staying comfortable on the slopes, performing on halfpipes, and attaining top speed while running off with a friend’s poles.
The Taste of Scuba course introduces aspiring mermen and maids to the basic underwater breathing techniques in a safe, unthreatening environment. The two-hour class takes place in a portion of The Dive Shop's indoor pool that is only three feet deep, letting students experience the sensation of weightlessness without the weightiness of realizing that you're just a small fish in a shark's pond. The Dive Shop provides students with all necessary equipment (except towels and bathing suits), and highly trained instructors helpfully demonstrate how to operate the gadgetry, both underwater and in the case of bathroom emergencies. If your taste test of scuba piques your aqueous appetite, speak to one of the friendly and informed instructors about seeking additional training opportunities, getting your hands on some gear of your own, or gobbling up the glory of one of earth's all-natural bowls of seafood soup.