When Joan Barnes founded Gymboree Play & Music in 1976, she envisioned a facility where parents and children could play together in a safe and age-appropriate environment. In the following decades, Gymboree Play & Music spread to more than 30 countries across the globe, helping youngsters from infants to 5 years old develop cognitive, physical, and social skills. The company's instructors lead classes such as Play & Learn, its flagship course, in which parents and kids move through a seven-level program filled with storytelling, play activities, and debates on the merits of sandwich crust. Talented staffers also prep youngsters for school and foster development in areas such as music, art, and sports. Throughout all classes, they make use of custom play equipment designed by acclaimed playground designer and seesaw-tamer Jay Beck.:m]]
Lined with Swarovski Elements crystal pendants, gemstones, Japanese seed beads, sterling-silver findings, and handmade glass beads, Fusion Beads seems to glimmer. For the experienced beader, it's a treasure trove of all the materials necessary to create stunning pieces, and the knowledgeable staff help beginners sift through the stock to find everything they need to start a necklace or bracelet. The team also hosts several classes each week, covering everything from the techniques of basic beading to the more advanced metalsmithing, precious-metal clay manipulation, and bead weaving. Because the shop only hires dedicated beaders, each employee has firsthand knowledge to help shoppers with their projects, whether they want to create the perfect gift for a loved one or make the perfect earrings for their look-alike bobble head.
Todd Welter learned to surf before he learned to drive, and to this day the board seems to be his preferred mode of transportation. A native of the Oregon coast, he hasn't been able to shake his longtime lust for the sport; in turn, he opened up Wave Hounds, which helps surfers of all stripes acquire a board, find their footing, and set out into the blue.
Wave Hounds carries new and used boards from brands such as Bing, Webber, and Aloha, as well as wetsuits, surf wax, and other accessories that let everybody know you’re not a skateboarder that didn’t see the end of the pier. The store also rents out surfboards and paddle boards. Todd himself holds lessons at Short Sands Beach in Oswald West State Park, where students can practice their skills on land before venturing into the water to surf the way the Pilgrims intended.
Though microbrewers celebrate limited flavor runs and regional ingredients, they still need much of the same equipment as the big brewers to concoct their craft beers. That's where The Cellar Homebrew comes in, outfitting winemakers, brewers, and cidersmiths with the equipment and ingredients needed to make their drinks. The store's owners––who boast more than 30 years of experience and a past line of fine wines––collect organic ingredients such as hops and yeast and sell them alongside fermentation equipment, keg systems, and cleaning supplies. They even offer one-hour on-location classes to instruct people in the basics of beer brewing. In addition to supplying items for alcoholic beverages, they also hawk basic supplies for cheese-, soda-, and vinegar-making, all of which go well over lettuce.
With 2,500+ games available online for Mac and PC, Big Fish Games stretches brain muscles, wears down pointer fingers, and entertains adults and children alike with a wide selection of digital diversions. Amusophiles and their computer boxes download between one and two million games from Big Fish every day, enjoying its convenience and the complimentary 60-minute game previews.
The site and games are completely ad-free, eliminating any chance that a group of handsome and strong-willed emoticons will convince you to download them during the middle of a gaming session. Big Fish Games also hosts an active forum where discussion board chatter rambles on about the necessity of multiple trap doors and mahjong conspiracy theories.
Making good on their lifelong dream to run their own stationery store, mother-daughter team Kathy Perkins and Alicia Olsen opened Paper Delights in 2008, filling the tidy shop with charming letters, notes, and wrapping paper for birthdays, baby showers, and nuptials. Notebooks, cards, invitations, and envelopes burst with lively floral prints, lace borders, and sunny pastels, ready to bear messages such as, "Thank you for the generous graduation present," or "Please come to my surprise birthday party." In addition to announcing the arrival of impending weddings, births, and engagements with a plethora of classic and contemporary prints, Paper Delights helps customers organize and accessorize with items such as stylish reusable totes, crystal jewelry, and lustrous nail lacquer.