The Ellis family traces its history of working with plants to the late 1800s, when they operated a pottery-manufacturing company in Texas. Current-generation family members build from their familial expertise at all five of their store locations, spread between Louisiana and Texas. Twice a year, the Ellises travel overseas to identify upcoming horticulture trends decided by UN meetings in The Hague. This has expanded their decorative focus to include all aspects of home décor to complement greenhouses filled with tropical blooms and locally grown shrubbery. Clocks, lamps, and vases score homeowners extra credit in interior-design classes, and fountains and outdoor furniture make gardens hospitable for warm weather. For those who want to get ahead on holiday decorating, they offer an extensive selection of seasonal decor and accents year round. The Ellises encourage creativity with hands-on classes in subjects such as making centerpieces, weaving wreaths, and tying ribbon into perfect bows.
Mother-daughter team Juli and Breanna, who just graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in metal smithing, share their love of artistic expression at Bee Creative Studio, where they invite guests to join them in painting pottery and fusing glass. Visitors browse the ranks of piggy banks, plates, and figurines of frogs and dragons before picking up paintbrushes or the end of their braids to dip in paint. Finished pieces stay at Bee Creative while the experts glaze and fire them, and their creators can pick them up in five to seven days.
Those who want to wear their art can paint designs that Bee Creative transfers onto T-shirts, baby’s onesies, or aprons for keeping clothes clean while cooking or performing mad, mad science. Or, guests can delve into the world of fused glass, layering colors for jewelry, plates, and sun catchers that the studio experts fire and ready for pickup in a week. In addition to its open studio hours, Bee Creative hosts parties for birthday celebrants and brides-to-be.
On a fateful day in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, a hitchhiker arrived at The Howdy Come In––a rest stop owned by Ben and Eva Winter––carrying only his clothes and a suitcase full of cabinet-making tools. The Winters decided to hire him to build a chifforobe for their new baby, Bobby, and were so impressed by his craftsmanship that they decided to go into business with their new friend. Soon the partners were selling new and refurbished furniture out of the Winters’ dairy barn under the name Winter’s Furniture Store, and they eventually moved to a storefront in the city of Emporia, where they could share their high-quality wares with more people and fewer confused cows.
Today, the family business is run by the Winters’ son, Bob, who oversaw its expansion into two showrooms in Topeka and Lawrence and gave it a new moniker––Discovery Furniture. His merchandise buyers select fine furniture from around the world, filling the design floors with trusted name brands such as Broyhill, Aspen, and Flexsteel. As a member of the Furniture First buying group, Winter is able to pass along the savings of buying stock in volume along with a guarantee that he will meet or beat any competitor’s advertised price within 75 miles. Interior designers on staff can help customers determine which pieces, styles, and colors best fit their needs, and most of Discovery’s furniture can be custom ordered in any style, color, or fabric, catering to customers who know what they like and like to match their upholstery to their clothes.
More than a decade ago, Carmen and Lynn Milazzo began making candles in their kitchen. They blended their wax with ingredients such as vegetables and fruits, an experimental alternative to the chemically fragranced candles they'd seen on the market. This hobbyist craft operation has since expanded into the online Mia Bella store. Now, the pair ships more than 100 scented-candle varieties throughout the country, helping customers fill their homes with the aroma of fruits and oven-baked dough without having to paint the walls with pie filling.
Mia Bella's candles burn for at least 60 hours, releasing fragrances distilled from soft wood, South Pacific fruits, baked goods, and fine wines through nearly soot-free palm wax dyed to soft blues, pinks, and bright oranges. Flameless candles disperse scents as they melt above the heat from a low-watt bulb, and candles housed in retro designer jars mingle aromas with potpourri as they burn. Carmen, Lynn, and their staff also mix a range of soaps and lotions from ingredients such as bamboo, lavender, and Japanese pear and grind makeup foundation from natural bismuth ingots.
At eight showrooms across the Kansas City area, SleepOne Mattress Superstore's aptly named sleep advisors recommend mattresses that will accommodate budgets and physical conditions such as stiffness and pain. After scouring the showroom's floor, the staff might suggest a Sterns and Foster mattress made with materials such as silk and cashmere. They also offer delivery and removal of the old mattresses.
SleepOne Mattress Superstore also fights nightmares with several guarantees. For example, their staff will refund 110% of the difference in price if customers find the same mattress sold for less. They also exchange mattresses for up to a year (only charging a redelivery fee) and offer a rehabilitation program for reformed boogeymen.
Since he bought Framewoods of Topeka in 1992, owner Gary Blitsch has continuously expanded the business's framing capabilities, with a wide variety of projects custom-built for each client. Customers can hang fine handmade mirrors, framed photography, and expertly restored portraits on the walls of their home or business, and they can visit the stunning 1,600-square-foot gallery to view and purchase pieces from local visual artists.