The scent of freshly popped popcorn fills the air as customers carrying complimentary paper bags of the buttery kernels meander through aisles of birding supplies, gardening tools, home décor, and eclectic gifts from around the globe. Eighty employees advise customers on home projects and purchases such as gas and charcoal grills from brands including Big Green Egg and Weber. Before new grills fire up hamburger patties or outstanding parking tickets, the kitchen department's wall of gadgets, serving ware, and party supplies completes any checklist of barbecue necessities. The home-repair and project areas include a Benjamin Moore station with custom paint-blending services to mix up sample colors to find the perfect hue. Outdoors, the garden area encloses a hand-selected assortment of leafy green plants in a natural, garden-like setting alongside birdbaths and fountains. The birding department carries more than 100 different feeders and specialty seed blends to attract tiny hummingbirds or tiny bee-riding knights.
Boasting 28 and 38 years of experience respectively, the consultants at LightStyles and Decorative Lighting enliven living spaces with contemporary and traditional fixtures that illuminate indoors and out. Both locations offer a sizable selection of Golden Lighting products, including iron-forged wall lights with antique aesthetics ($62.30) and rubbed bronze hanging single lights ($58.40), which brighten dark rooms and gift visiting trapeze artists with the comforts of home. The electric candle dealers also stock a variety of lamps, chandeliers, and sconces from name-brand manufacturers such as Westinghouse, Kovacs, Arroyo Craftsman, and Troy Lighting. Friendly consultants roam the shops’ well lit floors ready to aid customers in choosing the ideal fixture for dining room renovations, living room updates, and hidden passageways to underground man caves.
Supplying contractors and do-it-yourselfers for almost nine decades, the family-owned Little Hardware Company stocks a complete selection of high-quality tools, hardware, and hard-to-find items. Customers can protect fingers from jobsite hazards, home-remodeling incidents, and roving gangs of manicurists with a wealth of insulated and regular gloves ($0.99–$36.99). Carve manifestoes into tree trunks with an assortment of pocket knives ($6.99+) such as the Kershaw Oso Sweet model ($23.89), or complete toolboxes with Little Hardware's full line of Irwin vise grips ($5.99–$44.79). Timberland boots enclose feet in stylish comfort ($85.49–$99.99), and power tools from DeWalt, Bosch, Makita, Milwaukee, and Festool supply wielders with more might than the enchanted screwdriver King Arthur used to install Camelot's spice racks.
Mattress Source's knowledgeable staff pairs customers with one of a wide selection of firm and flexible beds that augment deeper slumbers. Sealy luxury firm mattresses ($449.99+) allays stressful nights by supplying supple support, manufacturers' warranties, and a cache of warm kittens to rest at the end of each bed. Silk woven jersey knit surrounds a layer of memory foam on the Stearns & Foster x-firm mattress, which gently pillows joint pain and absorbs excess body heat ($1,219.99+). At 26 Charlotte-area showrooms, shoppers can take inventory of each mattress' aptitude in hypnosis or chat with affable staff members about desired levels of firmness.
Nestled between the mountains of North Carolina, the family owned and operated Blue Ridge Frasers helps families get firmly into the holiday spirit with their rows of Fraser firs. The crisp, cool climate serves as the perfect setting for Christmas trees to grow tall and develop their natural pine scent. Beyond their stock, the farm gets guests in the yuletide mood with colorful light displays, cups of hot chocolate, and smiling staffers on hand to help pick out the perfect tree.
Her name is Lisa Ryan, but everyone calls her Matty––an appropriate nickname considering she's the all-knowing force behind Matty's Mattress Warehouse. "I'm it!" she says with a proud laugh. "I move every one of the mattresses, talk to every person about their needs. Just me and a guy with a truck." She's a big fan of the more intimate service she can provide in her own store, especially after having managed huge retail chains. "I used to do furniture––always problems. Here, it's low overhead. Low hassle." And for Matty's customers, that also means lower cost. About 60% of Matty's business comes from referrals, so there's clearly something enchanting about her process. When asked what brings people in the doors—whether it's word of mouth or high-powered magnets—her response is quick. "What's not to love? You come in, get a new bed, you go home, and you sleep well." Her warehouse boasts a wide selection of mattresses ranging from Easy Sleep pillow-tops to orthopedic styles from Spring Air, but the pride of her showroom is the popular Bed Boss brand. These mattresses are forged from elastic memory foam that's infused with heat-dissipating, sustainable bamboo fibers, and they cost about one-third as much as similar mattresses from competing brands. Though Matty loves helping clients find a perfect mattress, the moments she cherishes the most are those when her mattresses become a game changer, when they really make a difference in a customer's life. "There was a guy who had back surgery," she explains. "He hadn't slept well in 18 months––been to the doc for insomnia. Sold him a mattress and he came back a week later. He was elated. It was really validating."