In 1965, Popular Mechanics ran a small classified ad for Brookstone, a new catalog company that packed its pages with functional products and detail-oriented descriptions. Brookstone quickly expanded to meet the high demand for its collection of “hard-to-find tools,” and opened the door to its first retail location in 1973. Today, Brookstone’s more than 300 nationwide retail locations allow customers to test-drive its ever-growing lineup of interesting products, which range from Bluetooth-enabled massage chairs to power adapters designed for international travelers and their electronic passports. Staying true to its roots as a catalog company, Brookstone houses an even larger selection of products, each waiting patiently to be shipped, on its website.
For more than half a century, Mill Stores has dispensed an enormous array of high quality, ready-to-finish wood furniture and accents to enhance homestead comfort. As a factory-finished solid-oak rocker ($249.99) supports reclining spines, a three-step stool ($19.77), crafted from solid eastern white pine, aids customers in accessing difficult to reach shelves filled with stashes of candy and bacon fat. Stockpile bottles of grapey goodness in a solid wood Tuscany wine box ($39.99) or artfully arrange CDs and DVDs in the sliding separators of a solid pine rack ($23.99). A shingled-roof doghouse ($179.99) shelters canines in safe, cozy pine, and a cast-stone scroll birdbath ($49.88) cleanses neighboring loons and fallen airplane peanuts in its stylish cement surface. Shoppers unable to find their desired décor in stock can request customized designs, which Mill Stores crafts in two weeks or less.
Fast Frame originated in Europe and now has more than 300 locations worldwide. With the understanding that people are prone to changing their minds, the teams at these 300 Fast Frame stores back up all their custom-framing projects with a 30-day design guarantee, giving patrons a month to decide if they want to swap their memorabilia for one of more than 2,000 other frame styles, paying the price difference if applicable. For each project, a team with more than 60 years of combined experience performs the work onsite, generally completing designs in less than a week and sometimes on the same day. In addition to photos and diplomas, customers can commission shadowboxes or framing of bulkier items, such as jerseys or baby’s first rap sheet. For all finished projects, Fast Frame secures its craftsmanship with a lifetime warranty.
Every year just before ski season opens, the Boston Ski & Snowboard Expo gathers representatives from the sport’s foremost gear manufacturers and destinations under one roof for deep discounts and an unveiling of the latest models. Visitors can slalom from booth to booth, where they’ll be able to check out shiny new skis by Völkl and Salomon, take advantage of season-pass discounts from resorts across the country and the Northeast, or practice their shadow puppetry while wearing gloves by Marker. Meanwhile, interactive exhibits invite audience participation, and live demonstrations aim to wow onlookers.
Now in its 32nd year, the 2013 Expo also includes a massive sale of East Coast Alpine skis and snowboard and a beer garden brimming with beer from Long Trail Brewing Co. Killington Ski Resort looks to regale guests with acrobatic antics during the Flying Aces! Trampoline Show, and WBZ News Radio plans to operate a Kids Snowpark and Learning Center where youngsters can get ready for the winter without standing in front of an open freezer for days on end.
Shopping has never been more interesting than it is at Shake the Tree. This unique boutique features a little bit of this and a lot of that, from beautifully scented candles and rich hand lotions to a collection of perfume from various designers. Hand-milled soaps and silk scarves stand out for their uniqueness, while wool hats, locally-made jewelry, contemporary dresses and leather wallets and handbags are also available, each set perfectly on a beautiful display inside the sunny shop. Gift ideas include Sriracha cookbooks for home chefs, leather totes for the modern fashionista and even stuffed animals for youngsters. Shake the Tree also hosts monthly cocktail parties featuring some of the designers, with food from area North End restaurants.