Experienced framers Barry Stahl and Bob Clayton built Big Picture Framing from scratch in 2000, holding meetings around an old card table as construction roared around them. Today, framers at 15 area locations craft custom frames to display artwork, photographs, and record sleeves, and shadow boxes protect three-dimensional items such as ballet slippers, macaroni art, or a swarm of wasps. Patrons can dictate all design choices, choosing from metal and wooden frames in a multitude of colors and styles, or ask for recommendations from one of Big Picture Framing's resident experts. Big Picture Framing also stocks pre-framed art, prints, and posters to spruce up bare-walled homes or a drab doghouse.
Northeast Nursery Garden Center aids lawn and flower-bed caregivers in everything from water management to landscape lighting, all while offering a litany of gardening goods and a vast catalog of yard-sprucing plants. Beautify lawns with the tranquil petals of endless summer hydranges ($29.99+), or give gardens a smoldering look with knock out roses ($26.99+). Northeast Nursery serves 11 bagged mulch varieties ($4.99–$19.99/2 cubic feet and up) to sustain life in growing stems, as well as inorganic accents such as regular black cobblestones ($5.99/140 pallets), polished pebbles ($39.99/50 lb.), and offers perennial, annual, and fruiting plants, as well as a miniature Mick Jagger–shaped scarecrows and gourds to scare away pests. The gardening emporium also boasts tools and fertilizers to help ease the planting process, and a certified horticulturalist will be on hand at all times to field lawn-care questions.
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.
Alan J. Gardner opened his Salem factory in 1933, winning over generations of loyal customers with custom-made and odd-sized mattresses in a wide range of styles. Massachusetts-made pallets support sleepers with hand tufted construction and fluffy cotton fillings catered specifically to each client's specifications. The company's direct manufacturer-to-customer supply chain erases the influence of bothersome middlemen or arrogant, cigar-chomping mattress barons. Sleepers select from a variety of comfy cushion styles, such as latex, plush top, tufted, or pocket coils, with options for all-natural materials such as Joma wool and layers of thick cotton-knit fabric.
Though the horse-drawn vacuums of yesteryear have come and gone, North Shore Vacuum and Appliance retains its family-run ethos from when it first opened in 1934. Now helmed by fourth-generation salesman Wayne Simonelli, the shop carries vacuums from dozens of brands, such as Dyson, Eureka, and Panasonic, and the staff performs repairs on a slew of models as well. In an interview with the Daily Item, Simonelli said, "I know vacuums. I go to seminars, conventions. I probably repair 1,000 machines a year." This dedication has earned North Shore Vacuum and Appliance the distinction of Miele Diamond Dealer, with access to limited-edition models only made available to exemplary retailers and scientists still trying to build a time machine.