From super-chains to local names, these six sections of Philly have everything on your shopping list covered. –Chelsea Karnash
Ah, Old City: a bastion of cobblestone streets, hidden alleyways and killer lofts. Oh, and history, too. Loosely defined as the area bordered by Spring Garden Street, 4th Street, the Delaware River and Walnut Street, this is where you’ll find a bevy of totally unique boutiques with equally one-of-a-kind goodies for sale.
Let’s break it down:
If you’re in the market for clothing and accessories, head to Sugarcube (124 N 3rd St), Smak Parlour (219 Market St), Third Street Habit (153 N 3rd St), Vagabond (37 N 3rd St) or Scarlett Alley (241 Race St); most offer a high/low mix of vintage and new designer merchandise that you won’t find anywhere else in the area.
If you want get creative (or—let’s face it—just shop for stuff that you wish you were capable of creating) try The Clay Studio (139 N 2nd St) or Hudson Beach Glass (26 S Strawberry St), where classes are regularly offered for the DIY crowd.
And at Viv Pickle Design Studio (21 N 3rd St), you can design your own custom handbag from an array of fabrics (and for well under $100!). Once you’ve imagined your bag, a Philly seamstress will create it. As for the “pickle” part of the moniker? No one seems to know, but apparently, the store used to give out pickles on a stick most Fridays. Rumor has it they were pretty good, too.
Finally, don’t forget to save ample time for exploring Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, the gallery-home decor-clothing boutique that gave birth to the trio of alcoholic delights ROOT, SNAP and RHUBY. If you don’t know, don’t bother asking—just get thee to Art in the Age for a taste-test ASAP.
NORTHERN LIBERTIES – THE PIAZZA AT SCHMIDT’S
X-rated toys. Vintage graphic tees. Art that walks a very fine line between really interesting and just plain weird. And a gratuitous amount of flannel and tattoos.
That last one, of course, refers to the clientele, not the merchandise.
Yes, recently-gentrified NoLibs—located just north of Old City—is an informal hipster Mecca, but personally, I think hipsters have good taste. The neighborhood’s most famous attractions, The Piazza at Schmidt’s and the nearby Liberties Walk, are home to a shopping and dining paradise that offers everything from cutting-edge sculpture and gourmet gelato to fairy costumes for kids and upscale, imported home décor.
If it’s vintage you crave, head to The Piazza’s The Toothless Cat gallery and its adjoining boutique, Jinxed. Inside, you’ll find tons of records, books and toys that are a reasonably priced blast from the past, as well as a rotating display of local art.
For cutting-edge interior design, Millésimé (The Piazza) is where it’s at—the showroom spotlights contemporary furniture, clothing, lighting and more from both American and international designers, and while some of it might put you in debt for the next decade or two, you might just find a few things that are in your price range.
And while we’re on the subject of exorbitant prices, fans of Anthro will find a great alternative in The Piazza’s Bloom, where flower appliqué-adorned clothing and beautifully packaged beauty products abound, but prices are actually affordable.
Finally, for some X-rated fun, make your way to Liberties Walk, where you’ll find the Velvet Lily’s selection of toys, costumes and, um, accessories for the bedroom. If you’re feeling brave, you can take a spin on the in-store stripper pole, too.
Inside the city’s ritziest zip code, you can literally shop ‘til you drop–preferably into some sweet sidewalk seating at Rouge or Parc. This is where you’ll find all the big retail names: there’s H&M (one at 18th and Walnut and another at 16th & Chestnut), GUESS (1520 Walnut St), Urban Outfitters (1627 Walnut St), Gap (1510 Walnut St), Banana Republic (1401 Walnut St) and a massive Anthropologie (1801 Walnut St) that spans three floors of a gorgeous historic home. There are the Shops at Liberty Place (1625 Chestnut Street), which has a Claire’s, a J. Crew, and an Express. And there are the Shops at the Bellevue (200 S Broad St), where you’ll find Nicole Miller and Williams-Sonoma, among others.
And of course, there are the stores for the high-rollers. At Boyds (1818 Chestnut St), you’ll find gowns that cost as much as a new car, while at Joan Shepp (1616 Walnut St), there are endless pairs of covetable (and super-expensive!) Louboutins. Plage Tahiti (128 S 17th St) will keep you up-to-the-minute in resort-wear–regardless of the fact that your idea of “resort wear” is a cheap sarong and you haven’t taken a beach vacation in years. And for upscale apparel that’s pretty and functional, there’s Knit Wit (1718 Walnut St), which stocks seemingly endless racks of cozy, quality cashmere and cute dresses.
And that’s literally only scratching the surface. There’s Bluemercury (1707 Walnut St) and LUSH (1428 Walnut St) for cosmetics, JoS. A. Bank (1650 Market St) and Andrew’s Ties (1625 Chestnut St) for the guys, DiBruno’s (1730 Chestnut St) for edible gourmet goodies and Barnes & Nobles (1805 Walnut St) for the bookworms. Zara (1715 Walnut St), Daffy’s (1700 Chestnut St), South Moon Under (1731 Chestnut St), Tiffany & Co. (1414 Walnut St), Diesel (1507 Walnut St) Armani Exchange (1429 Walnut St), Free People (1725 Walnut St)…they’re all here. And so are about a million others.
Go for the shopping, stay for the people watching. Because on South Street, the freaks (and the tourists, and a few average folks like yourself) are always out. So as you diligently search for an antique mirror or a new print for your living room wall at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, you can also enjoy a truly riveting sideshow starring drunk college kids and non-natives stumbling from one bar to the next.
Still, this is the neighborhood for comics, records, art, antiques, and of course, gag gifts.
For old school vinyls, try Relapse Records (608 S 4th St) or 611 Records (611 S 4th St). Art-lovers and amateur antique-ers will find fun stuff to look at in the Arts Street Textile Studio (626 South St), Home Gallery Inc (720 South St), Neri Antiques and Lighting (313 South St) or Antiquarian’s Delight (615 S 6th St). And for Comic-Con regs, there’s Atomic City Comics (638 South St) and Showcase Comics (642 South St).
What if you’re in search of something wearable? Rest assured–South Street is a great option for trends on the cheap. Seeking a dress that’s perfect for a friend’s bachelorette party or a night at the Borgata? Try Lulu.ish (520 South St)—which is, admittedly, expensive-ish for South Street—or Guacamole (422 South St). You’ll find exactly what you’re looking for, and you won’t burst into tears when the seams start come apart in a couple months.
For footwear that runs the gamut from skateboard-friendly to stylish, there’s Samsun Footwear (532 South St), Unica (317 South St), Payless (410 South St) and a Bare Feet Shoes (609 S 4th St).
Finally, there’s Condom Kingdom (437 South St). Because it’s a landmark, and you absolutely can’t leave South Street without stopping in for a cheap laugh…and maybe a bag of pasta shaped like male genitalia. Gag gift, of course.
For funky shopping with a small-town vibe, head a few miles northwest of Center City to Manayunk’s Main Street.
Looking to spruce up your digs? There are the big chains—Pottery Barn (4230 Main St) and Restoration Hardware (4130 Main St)—as well as the locally-based Dwelling (4050 Main St), a 24,000-square-foot showroom of designer goods. And if you’re looking for a piece of home décor that’s totally unique and/or vintage, cross your fingers and make your way just up the hill to Three Potato Four (376 Shurs Ln), where you’ll find a treasure trove of lovely items collected or created by real-life lovebirds Janet & Stu—if you’re lucky enough to find the store open, that is!
When it comes to clothing and accessories, your options are extensive. Athletes will love the Bryn Mawr Running Company (4320 Main St), with its sneakers and work-out gear galore. For fashionistas with money to spend and galas to attend, there’s formal-wear fav Nicole Miller (4249 Main St). And don’t forget about T.A.G. Denim (4358 Main St), which stocks (of course) tons of denim as well as trendy tees and tops, plus vintage stores like Vamp (4231 Main St), The Attic (4335 Main St), Up-Scale Resale (4255 Main St) and Worn Yesterday (4228 Main St).
Finally, if you’re looking to beautify, there’s Beans Beauty (4405 Main St), which has everything from Bumble & Bumble hair products to make-up from Bare Escentuals.
Two minutes on the cobblestone streets of Chestnut Hill, and I’m already waxing poetic about life in the ‘burbs, picking out my favorite spot at the Chestnut Hill Coffee Co. and selecting which of the massive stone mansions around the corner I plan to purchase.
You know, when web editors suddenly make millions of dollars. Or when I “accidentally” step in front of that slow-moving SEPTA bus…
But seriously, spending time in this section of Philadelphia, located just 12 miles outside Center City, will have you believing you’re not even in Philadelphia. With its tree-lined sidewalks, 19th century train station, cobblestone streets and cutesy boutiques galore, Chestnut Hill—specifically, Chestnut Hill’s Germantown Avenue—is the perfect place to plan your alternate reality. And, of course, to shop.
Inside Robertson Florists (8501 Germantown Ave), you’ll find more than just gorgeous blooms—there are also candles, seasonal items, bags, hats and scarves galore, often on sale. (And FYI, you should really at least peek into the store’s attached greenhouse-turned-restaurant, Cake, which is gorgeous enough to host a wedding.)
For everything from clothing and jewelry to adorable British fascinators (because Harry might be popping the question any day now, right?) try Artisans on the Avenue (8440 Germantown Ave).
Similarly, Quelque Chose (8437 Germantown Ave) stocks lovely, eclectic stuff for men, women and children—including a pretty decent selection of Lilly Pulitzer and Vineyard Vines for the prepsters–while El Quetzal (the area’s other foreign-named “Q” shop, 8427 Germantown Ave) offers well-priced clothing and jewelry just for ladies. And of course, there’s old standby JoS. A. Bank (8400 Germantown Ave) for dudes in need of dapper business attire.
But interior design buffs and those looking to revamp or update their humble abode are also in the right place. Chestnut Hill’s got a Ten Thousand Villages (8331 Germantown Ave) for ethical crafts, and for lux linens, try the aptly named Linen (8133 Germantown Ave). Peruse the aisles at Hipster Home (8236 Germantown Ave) for modern, quirky and organic designs. And for home décor items that scream Terrain but come at Home Goods prices, try one of my favs, Lavender Hill (8121 Germantown Ave).
Finally, there are all of the antiques stores: Antiques at the Secret Garden (12-14 Hartwell Lane), Bird-in-Hand (8419 Germantown Ave), and the Antique Gallery (8523 Germantown Ave) are just a few of them.
Oh, and don’t skip the Philadelphia Print Shop (8441 Germantown Ave), where you’ll find the most fab collection of antique botanical prints you never knew you wanted.