One man crouches low, weapon resting on his shoulder. Another stands erect, a pair of binoculars held to his face. An entire military squad of toy soldiers stands ready for eternal battle within a shadow box crafted by Neal Raffensberger. The shadow box is one of 4,000 framing options showcased inside Raffensberger Photography & Framing's red-brick façade, where professional photographer and custom-framing specialist Neal and his assistant help patrons conserve their most beloved mementos. Multitudes of frames, mats, mountings, and glass—including conservation glass that blocks 99% of color-dulling UV rays—come together to display anything from photographs and posters to jerseys and wisdom teeth. Neal, who first dabbled in photography at the age of 5 in his father's basement darkroom, also flaunts his artistic eye behind the camera in the store's onsite studio. Families, couples, and proof-seeking Bigfoots can capture history in portrait sessions, which use digital photography to allow for immediate viewing after each shoot.
Since 1983, families have spent their holidays around the television, watching A Christmas Story and joining in the triumphs and failures of 9-year-old Ralphie as he struggles to secure a Red Ryder BB gun from Santa's bag. Although the cult-classic film showed Ralphie living in Indiana, the house in which the movie took place rests in Cleveland—and is now a museum. When MSNBC interviewed lifelong fan and A Christmas Story House & Museum owner Brian Jones, they profiled the story of how he found the house on eBay and jumped at the chance to own it. Today, he’s turned it into a year-round place of pilgrimage for fans and the site of an occasionally-held convention for Ralphies.
Jones’s restoration has returned rooms to exactly how they were in the film, letting guests gaze at the tinsel-strewn tree with its star falling off and explore the bathroom where Ralphie’s mouth was washed out with soap—a time-tested method for cavity prevention. Visitors can even attempt to hide like little Randy in the cabinet under the sink. After seeing the backyard that still houses the original shed, where Ralphie defended his family against Black Bart, fans head across the street to the A Christmas Story House & Museum. Here, original props such as the toys from the Higbee’s department-store window, Randy’s snowsuit, and Miss Shields’s classroom chalkboard join other memorabilia and hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos. Before leaving, guests drop into the gift shop to pick up a leg lamp just like the one Ralphie's old man cherished so dearly.
At Neusole Glassworks, gurus of all stripes and skill levels come together to fuse, blow, and mold glass both for independent projects and classes that explore the art form. The nonprofit facility sets the stage for inspired creation with flame-working, hotshop, and fusing studios that help the crew and their pupils transform raw materials into polished paperweights, unique pendants, and colorful new windshields. Upstairs, Neusole Glassworks invites browsers to tote pieces home from the gift shop or let their eyes feast on the myriad colors and textures at Atmosphere @ Neusole—a gallery for emerging artists and the facility’s students. In addition to welcoming anyone into its facility, Neusole Glassworks dispatches a mobile glassblowing studio to enliven street fairs and churn out slippers for palace dance parties.
Ken's Flowers, a top-ranked Teleflora and FTD merchant, brims with an ambrosial array of bouquets, flanked by scented candles, fine wines, and a bevy of edible delights. A sun-drenched potted chrysanthemum beams photosynthetic love rays ($19.95), and delicate stargazer lilies nestle ethereally in a crystalline vase ($25). A dozen roses present an ideal means of identifying oneself to blind dates and showcasing powerful 12-rose-gripping jaw power ($25). The shop's blossom artists sculpt European-style, contemporary, and traditional bouquets, as well as dried and silk arrangements.
Custom Spray's trained turf technicians endow lawns with lushness via aeration and overseeding services. Like a referee separating boxers in a clutch, the driving fingers of the aerator delve 2–3 inches through tough layers of compacted dirt and thatch, releasing their headlock on turf and deflecting approaching noogies. Lawns flourish after aeration, which encourages root development and water retention. During overseeding, technicians customize a gauntlet of hardier grass seeds to join the indigenous blades, making lawns more resistant to insects, disease, and shrunken kids.
Boston's Bistro and Pub takes beer seriously—17 taps pour a rotating selection of global craft brews, and the beer list teems with more than 100 bottles. A beer garden gives its brews a place to roam outdoors, and an onsite brew school teaches beer enthusiasts the finer points of brewing while instilling etiquette and charm into rowdy porters and stouts. Owner David Boston balances this passion for beer with his family's Hungarian heritage, serving a bistro menu of traditional magyar kolbasz sausage, pork kraut, kosher soft pretzels from Rinaldo's Italian bakery, and Zwack slaw and incorporating European meats and cheeses into paninis, pizzas, and spinach salads.
David Boston and his pub trace their history back through the coal mines of West Virginia and the factories of Ohio, en route to West Dayton, where in 1927 David's ancestors set up their own business, the Ole Time Bar, on Fifth Street. Boston's Bistro and Pub is the family's latest culinary enterprise, now carrying the torch for fine, frothy brews and Magyar delicacies for more than 30 years.