This post is a bit of a departure from the norm, and something I don’t see myself doing too often. But as it’s the holidays and everyone (including myself) is doing quite a bit of shopping, this seemed like a good time to do it.
The largest mall in my immediate area underwent a massive remodel over the last year and a half. Remodel is an understatement. They gutted it and rebuilt it almost from the ground up in some sections. It is now the most beautiful mall I have ever been in…although it’s less of a mall, more a shopper’s theme park. Many of the stores are “firsts-in-the-area,” and make exploring the mall very exciting. On my first ‘mall-crawl’ I stumbled across a little gem called Marbles: The Brain Store. The name of the store does not do it justice. It is the coolest little game store I’ve ever been in.
Wall-to-wall games, games of every sort, small tables with games set up to play, card games, board games, wooden games, action games, party games, but all of them family friendly games. No Cards Against Humanity here. It’s not so much a brain game store it seems, as a family game store. My family takes games very seriously. At pretty much every family gathering games are played, whether the adults or the little ones – games will be pulled out at some point. And many games my family knows and loves were at Marbles, along with dozens I knew immediately we would learn to love. For little ones, versions of Spot-It I never knew existed, for bigger kids and adults things like Labyrinth, Telestrations, and Apples to Apples.
But what really made it for me were the employees. I don’t know about you, but for me the hard thing about buying games, is that if you’ve never played it, it can be very hard to decide if it is actually as good as it may look, or sometimes they seem too difficult based on the “back of the box” blurb. At Marbles if you show interest in a game, or seem perplexed by it, an employee almost immediately offers you a demonstration at one of their game tables or the front counter. Some of the more popular games are already set up around the room, or open behind the counter ready to go. The employees take the time to give a quick but thorough run-down of the rules, and play a round with you so you can get the feel of the game. Some places I shop, I don’t like being “sold to.” I like to browse and leisurely select my own choice. At Marbles, it is a very different dichotomy, and I greatly appreciate the hands-on experience of a game before I choose to spend the money on it. I want to know what I’m getting.
Marbles, you’re doing it right. And now every time I’m in the mall I pop in there, and frequently I walk out with a new game for the family.
Then on my second mall-crawl, which happened to be Black Friday (no, I’m not crazy, nor am I one of those people) I wandered into a store, not even hardly realizing what it was. What it was, was David’s Tea. I like tea. By that, I mean I like curling up with a warm ‘cuppa,’ I like the endless flavor profiles you can enjoy, I like that I don’t get the jitters like I do with coffee lately. But as much as I enjoy a cup of tea I’m not usually one to go tea rooms, tea shops, or really go out of my way at all for a specific type of tea. Nor have I ever dabbled in loose-leaf tea. That all changed with David’s.
You walk in and are immediately greeted by smiling employees behind a loooonnnggg counter that runs along one entire side of the store. The smell alone is good enough to make you buy up the entire store on the spot, but then you notice what is behind the counter. An entire wall, from waist height, almost to the ceiling, of very large, very colorful tea canisters, each one clearly labeled, their rainbow of labels beckoning for you to try every. single. one. The other long wall is covered in neatly presented gift packages, sampler sets, tea mugs (no froo-froo tea cups here), infusers, tea pots, tea bags – anything your heart could desire. And the final shorter wall is a small counter, glassed off from the rest of the store, where you can order a to-go cup of any tea in the store, hot, iced, or as a latte.
The highlight is definitely the smelling experience. This isn’t as odd as it sounds. What better way (short of tasting it) is there to pick out flavors you might like to try, than inhaling it’s natural, earthy, herbaceous goodness? The employees are extremely helpful, make excellent recommendations based on your taste, and will pull down any of the dozens and dozens of canisters for you to smell. But don’t worry, when you pick one (or several, if you’re me) you’re not buying the tea that everyone’s noses have been over. There’s a shield, hiding the real stash of tea from the smelling samples. By the time you’re done shopping, there are usually a dozen or so canisters that you’ve been enthusiastically sniffing, at your spot on the counter.
Now at first, I was disappointed when I realized that it was primarily loose-leaf tea, but that went away very quickly. Loose-leaf always seemed a little intimidating to me. I didn’t know what was involved, or how to do it all, so I ignored its existence. Big mistake. David’s got me over that very quickly. While they do sell several of their mixes in tea bags (or sachets, as they call them), loose-leaf is how you get the most out of the brand. And they couldn’t make it easier to get into. Most of the tea mugs, and many of the pots come with lovely little built in infusers. You dump a bit of your loose-leaf in the infuser, pour the water over it, let it steep, and either pull the infuser out of the mug, or if it’s a tea pot, go ahead and pour it into your vessel of choice. And every container of loose-leaf is clearly labeled with recommended measurements and steeping time. Couldn’t be easier. They also have small enclosed infusers you can use in any mug, and perhaps coolest of all, little disposable tea bags that you can measure your loose-leaf into! My little haul:
The rewards program is very generous. You’re constantly earning free tea rewards, and there’s a free cup of tea on your birthday. And while everything seems fairly reasonably priced, they have excellent sales and combination deals that make it quite affordable, even to a cheapskate like me. I’ve seen that if you buy online, every order comes with free samples as well. And after emailing customer service with a question about my account, I can definitely say their customer service is excellent. Not only were my questions answered, but they helped me find a few rewards and things I hadn’t worked out on my own yet.
If you have a David’s anywhere near you, it is definitely worth inventing an excuse to go visit. Five stars all the way.
I haven’t done these posts reviewing stores in the past, and I don’t intend to do them terribly frequently. I don’t really want to over-commercialize things here, but I was so excited about my recent finds I had to share them.
Have you ever run across these stores, or any others that might be similar?
(Note: I did not receive any compensation for these reviews. All opinions are entirely my own.)