Named one of Parents magazine's Top 10 Birthday Chains in 2010, Color Me Mine's international franchise of DIY ceramics studios cater to an older crowd as well. Hundreds of unadorned ceramic pieces?including vases, flatware, and busts of Elvis?await the attentions of muses of kids and their keepers alike, as do glazes in earthy tones and bright crimsons to frighten bulls away from china cabinets. Guests follow simple step-by-step instructions that leave plenty of room for creative expression. When painters are satisfied with their work, the professional kiln-workers help glaze and fire it for them before customers retrieve the finished piece a few days later.
After gaining her gemology degree, Design 4 U, founder Ruby has been designing and repairing jewelry for more than 15 years. Now she works with all things sparkly at her shop, running consignment and retail, jewelry repair, and jewelry-making lessons. Ruby's birthday parties and classes teach groups of students how to design and create their own jewelry using silver clasps, metal wire, and beads in a variety of sizes. Design 4 U also stocks handmade jewelry such as crystal necklaces, beaded chokers, and turquoise earrings in an online shop.
Samira Dawn was a synchronized swimmer for 17 years before she discovered belly dancing. She stumbled on a performance by chance and found herself mesmerized by the sensuality and confidence of the dancers and signed up for classes as quickly as she could. After 14 years of performing and teaching belly dancing, she now shares her love of belly dancing with the community by leading women of all ages, sizes, and abilities through classes that include learning the skills and using the techniques for cardio exercise.
At Doll Face Permanent Cosmetics, Janell Lamela grants her clientele the convenience of having permanently spruced facial features with tattoos that mimic makeup. Her repertoire includes eyebrows, eyeliner, lip liner, and full lip color, examples of which can be seen here.
More than 80 stainless steel Italian fusti containers line the walls at Amphora Nueva, ready to dispense samples and full bottles of aged balsamic vinegar and single-varietal, extra-virgin olive oil harvested from farms in both hemispheres. The shop’s globe-spanning selection process isn’t just for variety—it also ensures freshness year-round, in accordance with the old saying “It’s always olive-oil season somewhere.” The curators of this bounty select Italian white and dark balsamic vinegar as well as unique specialty oils, including roasted butternut squash, pumpkin and Italian truffle.
Once they’ve added them to the casks, they post harvest dates, acidity levels, and polyphenol counts for each product to give an idea of its antioxidant content and flavor strength. Each staff member touts a comprehensive understanding of the chemistry and uses of olive oil and vinegar, always happy to share recipe ideas to jazz up everyday dinners or science fair volcanoes. They’ll also help put together gift sets and wrap any bottle for free.
The business, whose retail shop stands on a sloping street lined with trees and cottage-like storefronts across from the Claremont Hotel, has been in business for nearly a century. Beneath its high ceilings, however, the atmosphere harkens back to far more ancient times, with a marble tasting counter and oil containers balanced atop the rough clay of the giant, authentic amphorae that give the company its name. Guests stop in not just to do some shopping but to take in a laidback learning experience—the San Francisco Chronicle found a visit to the shop “as much fun as it is educational,” and manager Nate Bradley reported to Diablo Magazine that they’ve occasionally “had people spend two hours in here just exploring.”
Erica Varize of Evarize Fashion Café & Sewing Center greets each client to her tailor-made clothing boutique with a menu of her latest designs, described by Diablo magazine as "urban chic yet retro." The fashion entrepreneur—apprenticed by her grandmother and honored with Bank of America's 2008 local hero award—presents new designs seasonally on mannequins that play freeze tag throughout the studio. After clients select styles, Varize unrolls spools of fabric sourced from independent stores in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Africa, and invites clients to pick their favorite colors. Clipping patterns to fit each client's measurements, Varize proceeds to sew the garments and finesse them for pickup within about 10 days. Aside from designing, Varize leads a five-day summer camp for aspiring fashionistas called Sew What, which edifies pupils in patternmaking, design fundamentals and thimble-wearing technique. Summarizing the fashion-café experience, Diablo says women "from all walks of life frequent this warm, artistic space where one can get an outfit designed especially for them, or bring their children to learn an art form as well as tools to become self-sufficient." In addition to giving back to the community with classes, Varize donates a portion of MeasuRED line profits to support Uganda.