The Exclusive Company—a Wisconsin-bred music-and-movie retailer—has given the gift of song since 1956, earning a Best of Milwaukee award from Shepherd Express readers in 2011. Passionate staffers guide visitors toward sprawling collections of rock and jazz and bins brimming with DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, and loose 8mm slides from Kenny G's summer vacation. In addition to peddling new vinyl releases such as El Camino by the Black Keys and Revolver by T-Pain, the shop functions as a trading post, helping to find loving homes for preowned films and music. All used discs are carefully buffed into shape before meeting their new owners, and each comes backed by a money-back guarantee, which promises store credit if a preowned item exhibits biting tendencies. Most used CDs, DVDs, and vinyl cost less than $20.
With more than one million book titles to choose from, Barnes & Noble stocks one of the retail world's largest selections of bound pages, along with a huge assortment of educational toys and games. Keep sprightly scribes from using walls, furniture, and siblings as writing surfaces with the help of LeapFrog’s Scribble & Write ($24.95 online), or indulge kids’ natural passions for outer space and solid detective work with a LEGO Space Police Smash ’n’ Grab set ($19.95 online).
Poynette’s Smokey Hollow Farm was founded in 2004 as a hub for family holiday celebrations, selling harvested fir trees to Christmas shoppers and welcoming astonished onlookers to compare shoe sizes and inseams with Big Jake, the world’s tallest horse. Standing 6’10” in withers, the 11-year-old Belgian draft horse graces the pages of Guinness World Records 2011, and was recognized on Today for his goofy personality and fundraising efforts for Ronald McDonald House. During the holiday season, clients can also hitch free rides on horse-drawn wagons to tour the farm's lush grounds, and year-round visitors can stop by the gift shop to stock up on potpourri, Amish baked goods, and other items made by local artisans.