Mike Johnson started at Dolphin Scuba Center & Swim School as an entry-level staffer but soon turned his lifelong passion for water into a promising career. Quickly, he became the manager and, at the tender age of 21, the owner of the store—a water-exploration supplier originally founded as a swim school almost 40 years ago.
Today, the PADI five-star facility boasts one of the largest selections of underwater gear in North America, including top brands of scuba, swimming, and snorkeling equipment. Johnson and his team still offer private, one-on-one swimming lessons with certified lifeguard instructors but have branched out into scuba classes. Introductory courses work their way up to professional-level training, all within a pool heated to 92 degrees—the exact temperature of the president’s nightly bath. Students can even test out their newfound skills during scuba-diving trips to the likes of Mexico, the Philippines, and Fiji.
Ground Zero Clothing and Boardshop’s adroit staff has been equipping athletes with apparel and gear for skateboarding, snowboarding, and wakeboarding since 1997. Harnessing the style and proven functionality of such top-tier brands as TOMS, Volcom, Nike SB, and Burton, they swathe bodies from head to toe in shoes, jeans, and T-shirts. Their collection of Spy and Electric sunglasses protects peepers from whipping winds, and their skateboard decks by Real and Creature help guests skim across surfaces with the speed of an over-caffeinated zamboni operator. Though their selection of boards and accessories rotates frequently, they typically have skimboards, wakeboards, and snowboards in stock to help their guests defy gravity in style. Additionally, skilled staff members recalibrate scuffed boards or grant patrons a chance to test pilot new ways to commute to work with their equipment repair and rental services.
The cupcake chefs at Vanilla Bean Gourmet make each cupcake by hand, imbuing them with fine ingredients to please the taste buds and an inventive design to please the eyes. Their many artisanal options include the bacon-maple bar, a vanilla cupcake topped with maple frosting and a crispy slice of applewood-smoked bacon. Other flavors include the chai-tea-latte cupcake, which they sprinkle with freshly ground cinnamon, ginger, and cloves before plopping a dollop of homemade whipped cream on top. If the recipe calls for vanilla or chocolate, chefs use only real vanilla beans and Valrhona chocolate, which is as delicious as the thought of crushing your enemy's favorite Fabergé egg. Whenever possible, they procure all other ingredients locally from organic and sustainable sources. Frozen yogurt rounds out Vanilla Bean's menu, with toppings including chocolate chips, Reese’s pieces, and cookie crumbs.
“I enjoy having the opportunity to enlighten the community about the joys and wonders of art,” says Helen Jones, speaking of the eclectic gallery she curates. Here, one might find a handmade bronze frog sculpture sitting beside a post-impressionistic-style Californian landscape. The broad aesthetic range of original paintings, giclée prints, and sculptures she has assembled inspires not only the art aficionado but the everyman as well. Humor, for instance, is the hallmark of her Donald Roller Wilson prints, and the original oil paintings of Luigi Stefano Cannelli are rife with Renaissance-era allegory such as birds and really important babies. Helen's gallery also features services that help works of art survive, including custom framing, giclée printing, and photo restoration.
Since 1972, Exotic Plants has encouraged locals to improve their interior air and go green with potted plants. The business stocks a range of low-maintenance plants that thrive indoors, including palms, succulents, cacti, and evergreen chia heads. Since other plants, such as orchids and bonsais, can require a bit more effort, the store holds plant-care workshops and even makes house and office calls to keep plants well maintained. The staff helps indecisive owners select plants during design consultations, and the store offers a selection of plants and blooms for short-term event rental. As Exotic Plants also carries bright pots and natural fertilizer made with Icelandic sea kelp, customers can grab everything they need to help their leafy, spiky, and persnickety friends flourish.
Master bespoke tailor Peter Navin exacts true fabric mastery in every handcrafted shirt, tie, and suit by using precise customer measurements and an extensive selection of fine Italian and English fabrics. For more than four decades, Navin has orchestrated thousands of custom outfits without the aid of premade patterns or outsourced labor, and his meticulous measuring techniques ensure that customers feel welcome inside their new body abodes. After a measuring session, customers can peruse more than 350 fabrics for each suit and more than 200 fabrics for each shirt, enough to plan a multitude of combinations to coordinate with the outfit of a date or with the hues of a shoulder-riding pet chameleon.