Inside, Fire Works Ceramics’ studio looks more like a cozy cottage than a storefront, its shelves of blank ceramics and hardwood tables awash in sunlight as they wait to be painted at handsome kitchen tables. Visiting artists take their pick of blank mugs, dishes, vases, and figurines, all poured in-house rather than sourced from archaeologists’ garage sales. After decking out their chosen piece in as many colors as they like, guests surrender them to staff to receive a coating of glaze and a trip into the kiln. In addition to walk-in sessions, the studio can also host birthdays, bridal showers, and butterfingers’ support groups.
Display cases filled with frames by designers such as Ray-Ban and Paul Frank dress the lemon-yellow walls at Paquette Opticians. Licensed optician and personal eyewear consultant Bonnie Boney oversees the shop's extensive collection, which includes frames for kids, athletes, and nearsighted housecats. In addition to helping clients sift through frame styles, Bonnie and her staff also fit eyes with contacts.
BookBuyers' mountain of contemporary and vintage media packs the shelves with more than 300,000 used media items, from books and magazines to software and games, and even DVDs and a few space-age laser discs. Its stock includes trade editions in hardback ($9+) and softcover ($5+), pocket paperbacks ($2–$5), a battery of CDs and DVDs ($4+), audio books ($15+), and a small cache of collectibles, rare volumes, and leatherbound tomes ($30+). Deeply discounted items are scattered throughout the myriad selections, turning browsing for imagination stimulation into a hunt for buried dimensional-shifting, mind-expanding treasure.
For Books Inc., it's been a long road, and if you trace the lines back to its origins, it's California's oldest bookstore. After striking gold—literally—back in 1851, Anton Roman set up shop as a bookseller. Although the shop moved, was sold, burned down, changed hands again, and was rebuilt, the spirit remained intact, and today, multiple locations of the indie bookstore have sprouted up across The Golden State. Staff members keep the shelves lined with classic and contemporary tomes in all genres, and a myriad of book clubs help keep the love of literature alive. They also run a vibrant event program featuring author events and readings where patrons can enjoy an experience they can't download.
For the phone and tablet case designers at Speck Products, creating a case that enhances the user’s experience is paramount. Their line of iPhone, iPad, Samsung, and Motorola cases provide a variety of helpful features that seamlessly enhance gadgets, such as kick stands that allow for hands-free viewing and slots to hold credit cards. Tablet users can browse the web one-handed with a case featuring an adjustable handle, and hanging iPad cases allow users to video chat while stuck in a Chinese finger trap.
Cases are visually stunning, as well. Stylish designs include faux leather, plaid, geometric patterns, and even country flags, some made in partnership with popular companies such as snowboarding giant, Burton. And though the aesthetics play a large role in the case design process, functionality and protection has always been a top priority, even as far back as 2003, when Speck Products released the FlipStand for the original iPod.