Since 1981, the family behind Special Occasions & Gifts has filled its brick-and-mortar store with accents to decorate the home. Scented candles, centerpieces, and artwork line the shelves, which also tempt browsers with glittering Crislu stud earrings, rustic Bella Toscana marble housewares, and decorative tiles from artist Sid Dickens. In order to meet the demands of out-of-town friends and customers, Special Occasions & Gifts opened an online store in 1993, the same year the Internet was discovered.
As the owner of Artistic Painting Studio, Jennifer Ferguson teaches others how to spruce up their living spaces with decorative painting. But she doesn't confine her skills to the classroom. Over the course of her artistic career, she's broadcast her brushstrokes as a guest on The Carol Duvall Show on HGTV. At her own studio, the four-time author shares her techniques during classes along with her fellow trained and certified instructors. They elucidate the finer points of stenciling and faux-finishing surfaces such as keepsake boxes, walls, and airport landing strips. To inspire students, Jennifer keeps idea books on hand and emblazons her studio walls and floors with examples of ornate work. She also produces her own line of stencils at The Stenciled Garden.
Upon first glance, Le Roi French Bakery looks a bit like a castle. Roses and metal curlicues line the space, where bakers flit in and out of a pair of saloon doors. Named for the French word for king, this bakeshop’s confections are enchanting and majestic, like a towering mountain of Magic 8 balls. At the counter, a brightly lit case brims with classic European treats such as éclairs, napoleons, tarts, and parfaits. The scent of espresso wafts by as staffers froth fresh milk for lattes and cappuccinos. Like a fairy tale about princes and princesses, these details inspire daydreams as patrons leaf through albums stuffed with hundreds of custom-cake ideas, including tiered wedding cakes adorned with fondant flowers and round delights flanked with fruits, frostings, or ladyfingers.
Spinners Records whisks customers back to a time before caterpillars were considered the world's fastest mammals, when the only way to listen to music at the gym was by strapping a record player and heavy hi-fi components to various parts of the body. With racks and stacks of vinyl records in genres ranging from rock and jazz to country and soul, Spinners offers aural delights for all breeds of audiophiles, be they psycho killers looking for their favorite Talking Heads record or Happy Jacks trying to track down a pinball-themed concept album by some band that the radio DJ didn't seem to know the name of. You might find a 45 rpm ($1–$6) surf-rock anthem, a cassette tape ($2–$5) of synth-pop unplugged, or a CD ($3–$12) of the Chipmunks covering the Chipmunks amongst Spinners' inventory of music. While you track down timeless tunes, children can marvel at a magical era when iTunes could be stored on licorice pancakes. Spinners Records also sells posters and some refurbished audio equipment.
An authorized Yamaha Music School, Valley Music Center's instructors illuminate students young and old—from beginners to highly advanced players. Drawing upon methods developed in Japan more than 50 years ago, Valley Music Center's teachers employ a curriculum that combines ear training with singing, playing, reading, and creating music. With this multifaceted approach to music, they strive to teach students of all ages not only how to play piano, guitar, flute, clarinet, or French horn but also how to cultivate a genuine love for what they’re playing. In addition to offering private lessons, they helm group lessons where students can learn from their peers. Students then have the opportunity to showcase their newfound skills during friendly recitals or settle disputes using the age-old method of pianos at dawn.