Experienced framers Barry Stahl and Bob Clayton built Big Picture Framing from scratch in 2000, holding meetings around an old card table as construction roared around them. Today, framers at 15 area locations craft custom frames to display artwork, photographs, and record sleeves, and shadow boxes protect three-dimensional items such as ballet slippers, macaroni art, or a swarm of wasps. Patrons can dictate all design choices, choosing from metal and wooden frames in a multitude of colors and styles, or ask for recommendations from one of Big Picture Framing's resident experts. Big Picture Framing also stocks pre-framed art, prints, and posters to spruce up bare-walled homes or a drab doghouse.
Alan J. Gardner opened his Salem factory in 1933, winning over generations of loyal customers with custom-made and odd-sized mattresses in a wide range of styles. Massachusetts-made pallets support sleepers with hand tufted construction and fluffy cotton fillings catered specifically to each client's specifications. The company's direct manufacturer-to-customer supply chain erases the influence of bothersome middlemen or arrogant, cigar-chomping mattress barons. Sleepers select from a variety of comfy cushion styles, such as latex, plush top, tufted, or pocket coils, with options for all-natural materials such as Joma wool and layers of thick cotton-knit fabric.
A person would have little use for a wall calendar if they lived beneath the colorful canopy of hanging plants of Fran's Flowers. That’s because the selections of foliage, flowers, and produce changes as the seasons do. In fall, shelves brim with crisp apples from local orchards, winter brings poinsettias and balsam wreaths, and annuals arrive in Spring from local growers. Petals from the prismatic mélange of plants fill the outdoor gardening store with a vibrant spectrum of colors.
The seasonal blooms don't happen by themselves, though. Owner Fran and his family have gardening in their blood. Fran started the business with his father more than a quarter of a century ago when flowers only came in three shades of grey. His passion hasn't waned since. Along with his family, Fran happily chats with customers to help them pick out flowers or explain how to properly plant them in gardens. This attention to customer service, along with the immense handpicked selection of plants, earned the business the distinction as “a diamond in the rough” by Chronicle in 2009.
In 1965, Popular Mechanics ran a small classified ad for Brookstone, a new catalog company that packed its pages with functional products and detail-oriented descriptions. Brookstone quickly expanded to meet the high demand for its collection of “hard-to-find tools,” and opened the door to its first retail location in 1973. Today, Brookstone’s more than 300 nationwide retail locations allow customers to test-drive its ever-growing lineup of interesting products, which range from Bluetooth-enabled massage chairs to power adapters designed for international travelers and their electronic passports. Staying true to its roots as a catalog company, Brookstone houses an even larger selection of products, each waiting patiently to be shipped, on its website.
No matter the season, Wagon Wheel Nursery and Farmstand helps homeowners spruce up the household with seasonal decor, flowers, fruit baskets, and produce. In the nursery and garden center and award-winning landscape division, you can find annual and perennial flowers and shrubbery. There’s also brick, stone, or gravel to accentuate your yard or theater production of The Three Little Pigs. In fall, the nursery stocks healthy supply of pumpkins. Come by in the colder months and Wagon Wheel becomes an outpost for seasoned firewood, as well as holiday decor such as fraser and balsam fir Christmas trees and custom-made decorated wreaths and kissing balls.