Waukee Beds’ packed showroom displays a breadth of spine-supporting mattresses from brands such as Ideal Bedding, Symbol, and Serta. Memory-foam bed toppers—the store’s specialty—conform to body shapes better than a latex onesie, and contain pressure- and temperature-sensitive materials to ease tossing and turning. Helpful staffers make themselves available seven days a week and until 7 p.m. on weekdays to answer questions and help customers determine the ideal mattress fit for their sleep style, be it on their back, side, or with both eyes open. Also available for purchase, framed wall art, including prints and photos, hangs along the showroom’s walls.
Sticks sprung from humble origins when, in 1992, Sarah Grant began carving ornaments and candlesticks from birch, poplar, and driftwood in a small studio in Des Moines. As her work began to attract national interest and demand for it grew, Sarah enlisted the aid of other local artists and expanded her inventory to include handcrafted heirloom-quality furniture, whimsical sculptures, and intricate keepsakes.
Today, the artists’ work is showcased in more than 100 galleries across the country. Their installation projects have even decorated the walls of Blank Children’s Hospital, the Animal Rescue League of Central Iowa, and the student center at Iowa State University.
Sticks artists can often be spotted by the shores of local rivers, gathering driftwood for their work. They assemble the wood into custom-designed tables, beds, and armoires within their spacious, light-filled studio before painting them with colorful, whimsical designs, from smiling suns and moons to lush landscapes. The versatile artists even take their tools and paintbrushes to homes, businesses, and underground mad-scientist labs to craft custom art installations and interiors.
Ticket stubs, needlework, oil paintings: the experts at The Great Frame Up have handled them all, turning them into wall-ready hangings. Their selection of hundreds of frames, matting options, and varieties of glass makes it easy for clients to find the right colors and textures to complement their artwork. In addition to custom framing, the professionals offer conservation framing for paintings with monetary value or used napkins with sentimental value. Three-dimensional objects are also a specialty: The experts can slip hockey pucks and musical instruments into acrylic cases or send clients home with one to keep empty in anticipation of finally acquiring that unicorn horn. Inside the store, customers can peruse a selection of ready-made frames and framed art work.
Operated by a family with more than 80 years of experience in furniture retail, Artis Home Gallerie outfits homes with opulent chairs and tables from upscale brands such as Stickley and Harden. Elegant interiors find the ideal appointments with leather or stylishly patterned sofas ($3,000–$3,600), and bodies weary from holding floors in place find comfort in chairs with intricate Morris upholstery and tiger-print styles ($1,900–$2,500). Knowledgeable designers squire visitors around geometric coffee tables bearing colorful glass vases and fluid sculptures, and a fanciful wine-barrel lamp ($625) illuminates abstract paintings and landscapes. Meanwhile, dining room tables admire their silky dark-wood reflection in mirrors framed by metallic curlicues.
Ted's Garden Center, in operation for almost three decades and housed in a new facility since 2007, harmonizes a symphony of verdure and home-garden supplies. The center's 88 acres house annuals ($3.99+), perennials ($9.99+/gallon), unpredictables to populate flower patches, and ornamental grass to spruce up drab carpets of regular grass. Customers can collect trees ($59.99+) for a burgeoning cubicle forest, whereas pottery ($8.99+) and garden art ($19.99+) pass for colorful petrified foliage.
When In Lieu of Flowers owner Kara Jund's parents passed away, she found solace in a remembrance lamp. "It was the single most helpful and meaningful gift I received. It gives back to you—it gives off this glow and warmth."
Now, Jund strives to provide similar solace for others with her collection of handcrafted remembrance lamps. She selects each design based on its symbolic meaning. Butterflies symbolize celebration, for instance, and hummingbirds symbolize resurrection. She's happy to draw upon her knowledge to guide newcomers around the shop. "If people come in and need to have their hands held, we’ll go through everything—symbolism, style, and color."
Once customers have honed in on their ideal lamp, Jund will carefully gift-wrap it and include a personalized card that highlights the lamp's symbolic meaning. "I tie the spirit of the light with the spirit of the person who passed away. Then people understand, and they can tie that warmth with the spirit of the person they're grieving."