Altoona's cookie bouquets add a touch of sweetness to already special occasions by bundling 14 colorful, individually wrapped cookies into one scrumptious bundle. Each baked bunch arrives on the recipient's doorstep bursting with a rainbow of eye-catching hues, complete with a chic bow, basket, and a heartfelt note from its birth oven. Hands unwrap the candy-colored rounds to reveal the dessert staples in a single flavor such as sugar, chocolate chip, peanut butter, or ginger. For an additional cost (not covered by today's Groupon), buyers can further accessorize their cookie cluster with mylar balloons, stuffed animals, or clumps of broccoli to render them Santa-proof.
Sticks sprung from humble origins when, in 1992, Sarah Grant began carving ornaments and candlesticks from birch, poplar, and driftwood in a small studio in Des Moines. As her work began to attract national interest and demand for it grew, Sarah enlisted the aid of other local artists and expanded her inventory to include handcrafted heirloom-quality furniture, whimsical sculptures, and intricate keepsakes.
Today, the artists’ work is showcased in more than 100 galleries across the country. Their installation projects have even decorated the walls of Blank Children’s Hospital, the Animal Rescue League of Central Iowa, and the student center at Iowa State University.
Sticks artists can often be spotted by the shores of local rivers, gathering driftwood for their work. They assemble the wood into custom-designed tables, beds, and armoires within their spacious, light-filled studio before painting them with colorful, whimsical designs, from smiling suns and moons to lush landscapes. The versatile artists even take their tools and paintbrushes to homes, businesses, and underground mad-scientist labs to craft custom art installations and interiors.
Born of one woman's idea to create a store that is completely kid-centric and appeals to children, Simply for Giggles is a cheerful, welcoming place that’s filled to the brim with necessities for being young and bearing young. The stock crosses all categories and includes—but is not limited to—furniture, toys, books, bedding, strollers, diaper bags, bath supplies, and slings for wearing a baby or letting a friendly Yeti wear a baby. The Hedgehog Family hanging mobile ($29.99) gives children an alternative to counting sheep; the Snuggle Buddy Lambie ($23.99) gives them a sheep to snuggle; and Sandra Boynton's Bath Time book ($6.95) gives them information about bathing sheep. Simply for Giggles carries Little Twig organic baby-pampering products, as well as JuJuBe diaper gear.
Farm & City Supply's friendly staff dedicates itself to stocking empty garages and bathroom cabinets with name-brand tools, pet supplies, housewares, and farm equipment. Do-it-yourselfers can wrap their opposable thumbs around a vast array of hardware, such as a window shrink/seal kit to guard households against winter blasts or a new hammer to finally pound that unsightly tree stump back into the ground. Armor All cleaner ($3.59) brings out cars' shiny personalities and Purina-wild-bird chow ($18.95) keeps feathered-kitchen invaders at bay. A vast array of automotive supplies keep horseless carriages galloping smoothly. While perusing the aisles, patrons can feel free to consult Farm & City's staffers, who can locate items throughout the store using high-tech divining rods as well as answer any questions and dole out expert advice.
There's a reason why the sandwiches at Keller's Deli and Cafe have brought local customers and food critics back for seconds and thirds. Owner and head baker Cameron Keller studied artisan and sourdough baking at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, learning the ins and outs of classic European recipes. He begins his bordalais bread with a 100-year-old German sourdough starter to impart maximum flavor, and he tops the hot, chewy bread with deli meats. Of the house-brined corned-beef brisket, Cityview Food Dude Jim Duncan says, "No other corned beef in town compares for tenderness and flavor." And after biting into the thick slices of it on the reuben sandwich, the author of the Distilled Opinion food blog remarked, "I was amazed because I’d never had corned beef quite like this." Other sandwiches of note include the handcrafted meatloaf, which boasts ground beef and an apple-cider-vinegar tomato sauce. The outdoor patio is an ideal spot to read a book or construct a sun visor out of a baguette.
Once a small chain of Chicago-area hardware stores, Ace Hardware has evolved into a global franchise of more than 4,600 stores across 50 states and in more than 70 countries. Despite that span, customers might feel like each Ace was its own unique entity. Although each storefront carries many of the same popular items, each location is independent, allowing storeowners from New York City to Des Moines to offer goods tailored to the community’s needs. The inventory always includes a wide range of products, from trashcans to appliances and tools to complete tasks in the kitchen, garden, conservatory, ballroom, or billiard room of any home. Typically, patrons perusing the aisles will stumble upon well-known brand names, such as Black & Decker, Craftsman, and Stanley.