Founded in or around 1937, American Science & Surplus exists today in the form of a science-oriented hobby store. It’s stocked with often quaint, sometimes unexpected, and plenty useful doodads, geegaws, parts, and tools for tinkerers, hobbyists, science buffs, and lovers of the curious and strange. Pick up lab glass and vessels (starting at $2.95) in which to make sand or grab a windmill generator or enviro-battery kit (starting at $11.95) for experimenting with green science. For lackluster homesteads, there’s house and garden trappings, such as chopping mats ($1.95 each), LED booklights (starting at $3.75), and a semi-autonomous bug bot ant ($11.95), a leggy little robot who will create his own electronic hill outside your abode. Dig through large spools of chain, dishes full of severed doll appendages, wide swathes of tiny toys in plastic wrap, military surplus, and infinitely more. The profusion of neatly categorized stuff and riot of color that is the AS&S shop is stimulus for at least five of the seven human senses––hobby-happy and crafty craftsfolk will salivate upon first glance.
At Ceramics Plus, the only limitations are the bounds of one’s imagination. With more than 14,000 ceramic molds and figurines lining the shelves, the studio is primed for perusal. Simply pick out a piece of bisque, decorate it to your liking, and then allow your piece to be fortified in the kiln. And when you’re looking to mix it up, the Ceramics Plus staff can share other artistic insights through jewelry-making classes or parties for special one-off gatherings such as girls’ night out or boys’ afternoon inside the mind of a pottery painter.
Every night the notes of renowned jazz, blues, and R&B performers echo through the glimmering walls of 88 Keys Piano Martini Lounge, where martinis and small plates meet beneath mood-setting blue lights in West Allis’s downtown stretch. The relaxed spot was conceived by co-owners Greg Barczak and Suzy Ball who, as West Allis Now reporter Mark Schaaf notes, “hope the city is turning a corner and want to make something more of the downtown” by attracting a younger crowd and lending the area an intimate, upscale nightlife option.
Inside the low-lit lounge, glass windows open and close to bathe guests and performers in a cooling breeze. Artwork and Wisconsin gangster memorabilia, including John Dillinger photographs and high-school report cards, beam down upon pots of fondue and gourmet pizzas. Behind the glowing bar, master mixologists blend a lengthy list of 28 specialty martinis and fill glasses with wine and beer.
Creative Fire Art & Pottery Studio has a roomy workspace where adults and kids can learn the craft of clay. The facility hosts day and evening classes. There’s also open studio time, where students can come and go as they please to finish building a piece or see if their clay pigeon has morphed into a real pigeon. In party packages, you and a group of friends can get a room to yourselves to work with clay under the advisement of an instructor. It’s also worth it to stop in Creative Fire Art & Pottery Studio’s gallery, which feature a number of original pottery pieces.
With 40,000 musical instruments in stock, Cascio Interstate Music supplies music lovers with the tools, gears, and repair services needed for any upcoming gig. The 30,000-square-foot retail store is packed to brim with gadgets, sheet music, instructional videos, and other products for rockers and orchestra loyalists alike. Guitar enthusiasts can use Classic Electrics ($14.95) to explore the history of their instrument, and pianists can browse Cascio's sheet music collection of classical masterpieces. Cascio carries any essential musical accessory, from Ernie Ball Regular Slinky guitar strings ($5.01) and Rico Royal Bb Clarinet reeds ($12.94) to viola shoulder rests ($23.85). The shop also features a crack staff of musical repairmen, who can help mend any injured guitar, violin, drum set, or whichever instrument on which you shred.