A massive saguaro cactus towers over the entrance garden to California Cactus Center, shadowing a stone pathway surrounded by potted bromeliads with its sky-scraping height. The nursery deals exclusively in desert plants from around the world, stocking dozens of cacti species and other succulents and drought-happy botanical specimens. Inside the center, trays of tender succulents spread out over long tables as dangling strings of decorative rocks and glass sway gently above them. Dusted tones of lavender, sage, and scarlet-edged olive grace each leaf, and tillandsias—air plants that require no soil to live—sway gently within glass domes. Metal gates emblazoned with cacti lead to a section of clay and ceramic pottery, as well as decorations including brassy crescent moons and smiling suns. Outside, lily pads float in a peaceful pond as barrel cacti stretch their knobby heads from between agave plants, prickly pears, and prolific palm fronds. The nursery’s staff can guide patrons in any of their botanical pursuits, whether choosing the proper plants for their yard, maintaining their landscapes, or figuring out whether or not their saguaro actually likes wearing its sombrero.
FrameStore's craftsmen have created more than 250,000 custom frames in the store’s 35-year tenure, designing pieces that now adorn the walls of prestigious institutions such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Ritz-Carlton, and the Walt Disney Company. Professional designers guide FrameStore’s clients through the 2,200 moulding options that can accent paintings and treasured items while adding style and elegance to rooms. The store’s craftsmen then fashion pieces to patron specifications, outfitting frames with classic or museum-quality glass that blocks UV rays from bleaching out images or censoring pictures of the moon. Every piece goes through a 16-point inspection before it is given to patrons, and the team averages a seven-day turnaround on all of its projects.
Family patriarch Nordy Rockler opened the doors of his first store in 1954 to supply his fellow craftsmen with knowledge, friendly advice, and a large selection of tools for at-home woodworking projects. Now, the chain of retail outlets brims with more than 20,000 tools and specialized woodworking equipment. Next to a steely rainbow of hinges, casters, and screws, a supply of lumber and exotic hardwoods provides planks for building tree houses or just leaving around as a warning to uncooperative trees. The tenor buzz of power tools operated by newly knowledgeable guests drifts from educational sessions on operating equipment and woodworking.
Since 1937, Burkard Nurseries has beautified gardens throughout Southern California with a selection of chromatic flowers, robust shrubs, and the supplies to keep them healthy. Though the nursery originally specialized in hybrid flowers, it now defies specialty with a wide range of plants including citrus trees, exotic bulbs, and an extensive list of roses. Third-generation owner Frank Burkard, Jr. also offers professional landscaping for public spaces, private gardens, and deserts envious of the ocean floor’s mysterious reputation.
Cynthia Harvey has been designing fashion-forward ensembles since she was a kid. “At 9 years old I literally and figuratively looked up to my aunt, a professional model who made most of her clothes. She encouraged me to use the scraps of fabric to make my Barbie doll clothes and eventually my own clothes," says Harvey. Her interest in current trends led Cynthia to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in LA, where she studied and eventually ascended to the post of professor. Though she's spent her time doling out fashion tips to the likes of George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, and Janet Jackson, it was her time as an educator that inspired Cynthia to cofound The Sewing Studio. She aimed to counteract a decline in local arts programs, due largely to the great popsicle-stick and glitter fire of 1996. She explains, “I wanted to offer fashion sewing classes that are fun and affordable, with an emphasis on looks inspired by current fashion designers."
Her classes, which cater to the novice seamstress and advanced sewing student alike, achieve that aim. Led by Cynthia and other experienced teachers, the sessions range from introductory classes where pupils of all ages learn basics and stitch together totes or dresses to fashion design and sewing programs. Camps, workshops, and other learning sessions culminate in handcrafted apparel and accessories that students can take home and incorporate into regular wardrobe rotations.
All big movements start small, but many would be surprised to learn that Ten Thousand Villages—a nonprofit and retailer with 390 outlets nationwide—began out of a car trunk. In 1946, Edna Ruth Byler started the organization out of her car, taking a name from a quote by Mohandas Gandhi, who said, “India is not to be found in its few cities but in the 700,000 villages.” Her willpower and determination allowed her vision to grow into a nonprofit that today supports more than 130 artisans in 38 developing countries. These artisans' wares go on sale at the organization's nationwide retail outlets, which brim with items including jewelry, home decor, and refrigerator cozies.
Everything is made using environmentally friendly processes, and every artisan is paid a fair wage. The money raised from sales goes to supply the artisans—who might otherwise be unemployed or underemployed—with education, food, housing, and healthcare. The organization has risen to such stature that it won the People’s Choice Award for Green Business of the Year in 2005, and has acted as one of the founding members of the World Fair Trade Organization.