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.
Thomas Volmer credits his wife, Rachel, for inspiring them to start helming boot camps. She wasn’t always a fitness guru, though. "She was a commercial banker and she was 70 pounds overweight," Volmer recalls. Once she started to reclaim her life, "she just fell in love with fitness," he says. She eventually dropped 80 pounds with proper exercise and nutrition, spurring her to earn her AFAA personal training certification and pursue a career as a full-time trainer.
Personal experience lends Rachel and the other trainers—including Sharon Monk, who lost more than 200 pounds by exercising and eating healthily—empathy and a motivating demeanor when working with campers. At each location, they get groups doing pushups, swinging kettlebells, and flipping tires in a positive environment that's focused on teamwork, rather than competition. "You start as a group, you finish as a group," says Thomas. "But the activities that you do in between might be different based on your abilities."
In addition to leading sessions, Rachel creates easy-to-use online meal plans (including a vegetarian plan), which campers can customize to help them stay on track. Options range from the simple, such as cereal with fruits, nuts, and flaxseeds, to the creative, including honey-sweetened oatmeal peanut-butter cookies. She also includes the calorie count for each recipe. Users can pick from simple meals made for one person or larger entrees designed with an entire family or pet elephant in mind.
At Vada Spa, staff members devote their international training to beauty rituals that use natural and organic products from GM Collins and Pevonia Botanica. Two floors accommodate spacious mani-pedi bars, styling stations, and private, candle-lit treatment rooms that all swirl with activity until 9 p.m. every day. The owners of the Spa make sure that each service is administered by a true specialist––laser technicians only do laser procedures and aestheticians never hand over their facial duties to an assistant or nearby welder. "We're very particular about who we hire," one of the spa owners says. "It has to be someone who's experienced. We don't have anyone here who's just starting out or fresh out of school."
Since their mission is to be a one-stop destination for head-to-toe spa services, Vada's owners do their best to reserve hairstyling chairs and treatment rooms for walk-in customers. They also pride themselves on their expertise with the male aesthetic, offering a lineup of guy-specific spa services including back facials, shoulder waxing, and spare-tire rotations.
An affordable and monumental selection of sofas, beds, desks, and sarcophagi mingle good-naturedly in Ashley Furniture’s wondrous warehouse. A Conrad backless barstool ($48) commands shoppers’ attention with its sleek, contemporary design, and Kira furnishings provide stylish sites for storage, studying, or snoozing. A Bulkman pub table with four chairs ($399), sofas, and barstools anticipate increasing the comfort of various human inactivities.