Chain stores... chain gang, chain smoking, chain of fools, ball and chain. The associations are almost without exception unflattering. But they have beaten us into submission with their big fist of convenience. I lose entire days in Michael's or The Home Depot for only the most obvious supplies - never any real surprises or variety (and often not even what I came in for). The sheer number of stores and longer hours of operation (granted, career savers at times) draw me like a moth... Always conflicted patronizing the chains, I feel a huge sense of relief walking (literally, I can walk there) into my local mom and pop owned hardware store - or it's sister art supply store directly across the street. I inevitably find what I came in for and several very cool things I didn't. Here are a few of my recent finds that make the chains look like amateurs.
The clip-on work lamps below (practically free) are a perfect example of classic utilitarianism. Their design has been virtually unchanged for 60 years. My local hardware store has them with 2 different shade sizes (The Home Depot doesn't carry them). By building a wall mount from a scrap of oak and a length of eucalyptus branch I created simple adjustable bedside lighting. And the total cost for two was less than shipping for one from a chain store.