Since opening in 1996, the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center has grown like a weed, from 1 to 182 acres, providing a home for thousands of birds, butterflies, and blossoming plants. Their gardens, greenhouses, trails, and boardwalks are set into the landscape of the Oso Creek, allowing guests to observe species in their natural habitat without provoking the ire of territorial snapdragons. Following a mission to advance knowledge and appreciation of the environment, the organization also hosts classes and workshops on topics such as orchidology and cooking cactus for dinner. Members’ annual contributions help to sustain the nonprofit organization and garner them unlimited admission, discounts at Nature's Boutique, and invitations to members-only events, such as the annual member-plant dance.
In the eight years since the start of Local Furniture Outlet, the cherished baby business of Mr. Aaron Masterson has grown up fast?from a 2,000-square-foot metal warehouse to four locations and more than 80,000 combined square feet of furniture. But the success didn't go to Aaron?s head. The proud father still traverses showrooms in casual flip-flops, enforcing a no-competition policy so that loyal staff members don?t feel pressured to make a quota. The stripped-down showrooms allow for lower price tags on direct-from-manufacturer brands such as Ashley, Simmons, and Crown Mark. Patrons are invited to peruse dining-room, living-room, and bedroom sets?or ?kick the tires,? as Aaron puts it?without the pushy-push of larger retailers, who may use turkey legs to reward team members for sales.
For more than 60 years, The Blossom Shop Florist has intricately arranged flowers, plants, and fruit baskets. The large selection of fresh and tropical flowers can be mixed and matched to create a floral display appropriate for special occasions, including birthdays, Valentine's Day, weddings, funerals, and monster-truck rallies. Peace lilies ($65), azalea baskets ($40), and a variety of mixed bouquets ($85+) are appropriate for everyday occasions; a dozen roses ($95) expresse love and two-dozen roses ($165) expresses even more love. In addition to flowers, fruit baskets are also available, such as the fruit-and-blooms basket, a mix of fresh seasonal fruit and a blooming azalea ($85), and the gourmet-and-fruit basket, which contains fresh fruit and a spread of epicurean edibles ($65).
The Ukraine, 1914. Sam Braslau, the son of a miller, has saved enough money to immigrate to America. When he arrives, he peddles clothing from a horse-drawn buggy to earn the money to send for his brothers. In 1925, the brothers open the first Braslau’s—a dry-goods store. In 1927, the brothers expand their scope, adding furniture to their inventory. With this decision, they ensure that their name would stay on the lips of design-minded homeowners for the rest of their lives and beyond.
Today, Braslau's Fine Home Furnishings has evolved into a 70,000-square-foot furniture showroom, where Blake Breslau continues to hone his family’s accumulated knowledge and experience in the furniture industry. Inside, customers browse desks, chairs, sofas, and dinettes from brands such as Ashley Furniture, Broyhill, Klaussner Home Furnishings, and LaCrosse. In the sleep center, mattresses from Sealy, Simmons, and Tempur-Pedic promise the perfect night’s sleep, or the perfect testing ground for amateur trampoline routines.
While there are chickens strutting around on the Chickenfarmer's Greenhouse property, they’re mostly for decoration. For the experienced gardeners on staff, the real focus is organic plants and the equipment and accessories needed to grow them. Everything sold at the greenhouse is designed to nurture organic plants, from the locally sourced exotic plants to the house-brand soils and fertilizers to the stunning aquaponic gardens that experienced staffers can install in clients’ homes. The nursery even boasts an all-organic, GMO-free produce stand, stocked with produce sustainably grown onsite. The veggies are grown from heirloom seeds provided by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which features decades-old strains of flavor- and nutrient-rich plants. For more decorative needs, the grounds are filled with tropical plants and palms such as hibiscus and plumeria, all sourced locally or created in the greenhouse's plant-cloning replicator pod.
The pink banner that curls around the fa?ade of Yolanda's Specialty Cakes calls to mind the creamy fondant streaks that grace many of the eponymous owner's specialty confections. Though Yolanda Amaya has been perfecting her craft since 1977, many locals are just beginning to hop on her train of sweet treats thanks to readers of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, who voted her shop the Best of the Best in 2010. On-hand consultants help brides- and grooms-to-be select the perfect theme for their wedding cake, and decorators spell out birthday greetings with swirls of icing. Yolanda and her bakers sculpt cakes into a variety of shapes and styles, from tiered towers to wearable quincea?era dresses.