With its circle of cushy chairs and iron-wrought footstools, the sewing area at Sugar Land Yarn Company bears a striking resemblance to a pastoral living room, where yarns of all colors fill a bowl resting on the coffee table and cubbyholes lined along the walls. Shawls and scarves hang in display to inspire future knitting projects, and a library of patterns and manuals demonstrates various techniques, such as stringing together a baby sweater without bursting into tears of joy. The shop’s wool-wizards lead classes in a wide variety of topics, allowing beginners and experienced knitters to socialize as they create wearable and decorative soft goods.
Radio-controlled cars speed along the dirt path of twin, 20,000-square-foot off-road racetracks at RC Hobby Shop, spurred on by shouts of encouragement and furiously twisting thumbs. Too colossal to fit inside the building, the tracks embody RC Hobby Shop’s serious approach to having fun. Inside the 9,400-square-foot retail space, stacks of toys line the aisles and beckon kids and hobbyists with battery-operated modern gadgets and timeless classics such as yo-yos and board games. Model makers of every age can stoke their creative sparks with detailed modeling kits that reconstruct classic cars, elaborate train sets, and Lilliputian crime scenes.
An UrbanPass works as a sort of universal ticket to sporting events, musical performances, theater productions, and comedy shows throughout the city. The idea here is as simple as it is brilliant: venues go to UrbanPass when they have excess tickets, and the company passes those tickets on to its members for free. The lineup of events rotates and replenishes regularly, ensuring UrbanPass members a constant rotation of weekend activities and virtually no time to sit around and think about the plight of all those cute endangered species.
For Meredith McCord, looking at a piece of pottery brings back decades worth of memories. McCord started The Mad Potter in 1998, and since those early days, she's used her kiln to immortalize countless special moments. She traveled to hospitals to capture the footprints of newborns, helped a young man create a dessert plate with the words "Will you marry me?" emblazoned across it, and auctioned off items for charity. Yet some of her fondest memories center on the day-to-day interactions with customers, specifically when they return to pick up their fired pieces and utter three words of amazement: "I did that?"
The Mad Potter has since expanded into three Houston-area locations, where children and adults come to paint their own works of art or create replicas of their ancient ancestors' garden gnomes. More than 500 bisqueware items line the shelves of each studio, including coffee mugs, plates, and figurines. Staffers then help visitors select from more than 54 available colors of paint and supply them with everything else they might need, including brushes and stencils. The staff can even take things over and create more intricate designs?while still consulting closely with the customer. Whatever route a person chooses, there's always time for a sip of wine or beer; the River Oaks location sells wine and beer while Bellaire and Woodway maintain a BYOB policy.
Q&A with Victoria Treadway, Owner of The Music Connection of Pearland
Tell us about your business.
We are a family-owned-and-operated music studio. We teach all styles of music, from jazz and blues to pop and classical. We teach individual lessons and group classes, primarily in piano, for ages 2 to adult. Piano is the most sought-after instrument we offer, [but] we also teach drums and guitar.
What makes your business stand out?
[First of all,] we are the only music studio in Pearland to offer group classes. They are more affordable, more fun because of the setting, and create a more independent student. We have our own curriculum, so we are able to give songs that are more well known and fun. [Second of all,] we are the only music studio in Pearland to offer Mommy and Me and preschool piano classes. Our program focuses on the piano and teaches theory through characters and different activities. Once the students have completed the different levels, they'll know the notes on the keyboard [and be able to] identify the dynamics of music, find the rhythm and recognize note values, and play beginner songs.
What inspired you to run this business?
This business has been in the family for 15 years. Once I [the daughter] got involved when I was going through college, I saw the potential to move from a business operating from home to a music studio. The reason we started the classes was for the student that wasn't self-motivated. Some students need a more fun environment than one-on-one lessons. I also strongly believe in starting your children in music lessons as early as you can to help children with their fine-motor skills, developing perfect pitch, and loads of other skills.
What is your most popular offering?
Group piano classes—once a week for 45 minutes—[and] individual piano [lessons, held] once a week for 30 minutes. [We also offer] preschool piano classes [and] Mommy and Me piano classes, [both held] once a week for 35 minutes.
What is the best reaction you’ve ever gotten from a customer?
One of our students [was] in shock over the amazing progress her son had made over the course of a year. He started as a beginner, and the next year he was playing songs like Solfeggietto and Moonlight Sonata. She recommended so many students to us. We called her our biggest fan.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
Watching the students' progress and teaching them different styles of music. It's rewarding to see our students develop a love for music.
Anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?
We care about each and every student that comes through our door. We never give up on someone who takes a little longer than average to develop their musical skills.
At the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, you might spy budding photographers snapping shots of herons in the wetlands. Situated on the western edge of Memorial Park, the 155-acre nature preserve acts as a sanctuary from the busy city that surrounds it. Visitors can walk along 5 miles of trails, which wind past forest, meadows, wetlands, and ponds.
The nature advocates at Houston Arboretum & Nature Center hope the Center serves not only as refuge from the urban bustle, but also as a constantly changing outdoor classroom. In the Discovery Room, for instance, interactive exhibits help young explorers learn about the Center?s diverse ecosystems. Classes and workshops range from home composting to breaking into the birdhouse-real-estate market. The Center also offers nature camps for kids, as well as other special events year-round.