In 1975, Jay Kogan's parents opened up a store that was literally a hall of frames—just a small store stacked with thousands of frames. At the time, they had no idea that that tiny corridor would expand to 12 locations throughout the greater Phoenix area, all still run by the Kogan family. Today, their shops have more than 4,500 custom frame options along with mats of all colors and textures, as well as seven glazing choices and expert assembly. They can answer framing questions and frame everything from documents and artwork to posters and small 3-D objects such as sports memorabilia and very still grandmothers.
When they custom-produce frames, the family cuts their mats exactly, miters frame corners precisely, and installs flawless glass. Or, since the stores' walls are lined with ready-made frames, customers can walk in and find what they're looking for quickly. Since installing framed art is an art unto itself, they also offer hanging services with an eye for placement and ability to install in difficult spaces.
An enormous green lizard crawls up the yellow stucco house where Tuscon Clay Co-op makes its home. The painted reptile cranes its head curiously toward the door, beyond which the co-op's volunteer members lead students of all artistic levels through children's programs and adult classes in all things pottery. Youngsters can head to summer clay camp or learn hand-building alongside older family members, while grownups spin unformed clay into a bowl, a vase, or another pottery wheel. A gallery brimming with the artwork of co-op members inspires those who belly up to the paint bar to bring bisque pieces handmade by local artists into full-color life.
Named one of Parents magazine's Top 10 Birthday Chains in 2010, Color Me Mine's international franchise of DIY ceramics studios cater to an older crowd as well. Hundreds of unadorned ceramic pieces?including vases, flatware, and busts of Elvis?await the attentions of muses of kids and their keepers alike, as do glazes in earthy tones and bright crimsons to frighten bulls away from china cabinets. Guests follow simple step-by-step instructions that leave plenty of room for creative expression. When painters are satisfied with their work, the professional kiln-workers help glaze and fire it for them before customers retrieve the finished piece a few days later.
The locally owned Alvernon Optical has been distributing high-quality frames and tending carefully to each oculus since 1961, the year human beings first evolved eyes. More than 2,000 frames line the walls in each store, including top-shelf brands like Ray Ban, DKNY, Dior, Giorgio Armani, Nike, and Kate Spade. Customers will also have their pick of frame materials such as plastic, titanium, metal, semi-rimless, and stainless steel. Once you've found the frames that nail the "sexy NASA scientist" look you're going for, Alvernon can pamper your peepers with a number of lens package deals. Couple a polycarbonate, scratch-resistant single-vision lens ($89 standard, $205 with bifocals, $154 sunglass) with one of your choice of designer frames to ensure a haze-free hazing ceremony from your rowdy book club, or calm Pac-Man-weary pupils with a computer lens package ($199) that decks your specs with a protective plastic lens specially designed for computer use. Just in time for summer, try the prescription swimming-goggle package ($139), which pairs one of a select group of fine brands with 100% UV-protected plastic lenses to deflect the sun's wicked glare and intimidate pool piranhas.
Named best video store in Tucson by Tucson Weekly for the past nine years, Casa Video is an 8,000-square-foot rental retreat housing more than 50,000 movies, video games, and audio books. Casa Video specializes in carrying hard-to-find foreign films, classics, documentaries, and independent movies. Though this Groupon is only good for in-store rentals, Casa Video's website allows customers to browse its collection by actor, director, or cast, as well as language, awards, or use of the word "bacon." In-store browsing offers access to Casa Video's free, freshly popped popcorn in addition to the knowledgeable staff of self-proclaimed movie buffs. These connoisseurs of cinema can aid you in your quest to find a copy of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Will I Ever Be Back?, or recommend a new choice with in-person advice or the staff suggestions posted throughout the store.
Though it began as a used bookstore 30 years ago when Bob Schlesinger bought the place from his dad for $1, Bookmans Entertainment Exchange has grown into a massive media clearinghouse. Bookmans gets its inventory from its customers, relieving them of CDs, comic books, video games and systems, musical instruments, and any other media that might be potential deal-breakers when bringing a tipsy Martha Stewart back to one's place. Find a copy of the Necronomicon to replace the one you left at the beach, revive your quixotic childhood dream of getting past level 3 in Battletoads, or remind yourself why you sold your ukulele jam band box set in the first place. Bookmans offers cash or store credit for those items and typically sells them for about half their original retail value—providing an incredible value for eco-conscious consumers who want to cut waste and avoid encouraging production of new DVDs of Battlefield Earth with their ironic purchase.