Philadelphia's love affair with independence begins with classic icons like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but this individualistic spirit also shines in the city's thriving mom-and-pop-shop scene. Shopping is personal here, and small proprietors trump big box brands. No matter what customers are looking to buy, business is booming at our local independent boutiques and stores.
Things I Like Boutique (1038 Pine St., Phila., 215.617.6289) is one such cure for the chain store blues. Owner Nazaret Teclesambet stocks a mix of vintage and new finds, and fashion-forward Philadelphians know that this is the place to come for affordable style they won't see elsewhere. "Every woman is beautiful when she is confident in her own skin," says Teclesambet, who gives individual attention and helpful suggestions to every customer that walks through the door. Whether they purchase a chic new necklace or a stunning vintage ball gown, customers are hard-pressed to leave this treasure trove empty handed.
Offering a different type of feel-good shopping environment, Mushmina (1540 South St., Phila., 215.732.5500) began as an innovative collaboration between the O'Neill sisters: Heather, a former Peace Corps volunteer, and Katie, a jewelry designer. Together, these entrepreneurial siblings created a clothing brand comprised of handmade goods from Morocco. In 2012, the company launched a brick-and-mortar store on South Street, selling not only their own wares, but also sustainable and fair trade certified merchandise made by local and global designers. The store offers everything from wardrobe basics like dresses and t-shirts to accessories like scarves, jewelry and handbags, and customers leave knowing that their purchases are helping to promote fairness and human rights globally.
Smak Parlour (219 Market St., Phila., 215.625.4551) set up shop in Old City in 2005 with glittery décor and bubble-gum-pink walls,. "Our mission is really simple," says Abby Kessler, Smak Parlour's co-founder. "Making fashion fun!" The store is deliciously glam, evoking a playful, dollhouse-like atmosphere where city-wise ladies can shop for clothing, accessories and housewares.
A few blocks from Rittenhouse Square, Egan Day (260 S. 16th St., Phila., 267.773.8833) offers a luxurious and authentic shopping experience in a low key atmosphere. The brainchild of Kate Egan and Cort Day, the store sells small production jewelry made by world-renowned artists like Gabriella Kiss, Maria Beaulieu and Ted Muehling. The exquisite pieces here are minimalistic, artistic and based on nature and the surrounding world. "The things that people find here aren't available anywhere else in the city," says Day. "We want people to come in and be inspired."
Philly native David Grimes opened ARMOUR (704 S. Fourth St., Phila., 267.928.2002) Philadelphia in 2013. Located on Fabric Row, this menswear boutique offers fashionable and affordable clothing. The store's selection of offerings comes from a thoughtfully curated selection of brands. "We want people to understand that this guy, the ARMOUR guy, is really a global citizen—a man of his community and a man of the world," says creative director Eric Hatcher. Shelves are lined with items from progressive labels like California's Prospective Flow to Old School Shirt Makers New York, as well as indie designers including Circle of Gentleman and South Africa's Magents.
At Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (116 N. Third St., Phila., 215.922.2600), the shopping experience is as unexpected as the store's unique moniker. Since 2008, the flagship Old City location has served as a hub for Philadelphia's free thinkers and artistic innovators. The vintage sign that hangs above the door invites customers into a creative and welcoming retail environment. In addition to carrying the entire Art in the Age line of private label tees, the store stocks clothing and accessories like vests, hats, jackets and cuff links. As part of its mission to create a strong sense of community, Art in the Age collaborates with local students and vendors to create limited-edition products. The store also hosts performances and exhibitions by artists, musicians and authors.
Catering to the urban set, UBIQ (1509 Walnut St., Phila., 215.988.0194) on Walnut Street is at the forefront of sneaker culture. This lifestyle boutique takes its cues from street subculture, the skate and hip hop lifestyle, urban art and architecture, vintage design, and a love for Philly sports teams and local history. While this hometown spot remains true to its Philly roots, UBIQ has also received recognition on an international level, as evident in collaborations with major brands like Nike, Asics, Reebok and New Balance. And, with a rotating roster of in-store pop-up shops, events and product introduction parties, there's always something new to look at and experience.
At Commonwealth Proper (1839 Chestnut St., Phila., 267.319.1741), men can sip complimentary whiskey while they shop for suits, dress shirts and gentlemanly accessories. Tired of wearing ill-fitting clothing, former professional soccer player-turned-attorney Craig Arthur von Schroeder founded the company in 2008 and opened his Rittenhouse Square showroom in 2011. Quality and customer service are key here. "The combination of proper clothing and proper advice gives our clients a sense of security and confidence that they are looking their best, be it at work or after hours," says von Schroeder.
For kitchen supplies, look no further than Kitchenette (117 S. 12th St., Phila., 215.829.4949). "I went to culinary school, and I know what people need for their home kitchen, plus the fun things to go along with it," says store manager Michael Yurkovich. This Midtown Village spot specializes in gourmet kitchenware, ranging from upscale brands like Le Creuset to elaborate appliances like the coveted Vitamix to cheeky accessories like the store's famous "Will Cook for Sex" apron. "The kitchen should be fun," says Yurkovich.
On a sunny block of Pine Street, Omoi Zakka Shop (1608 Pine St., Phila., 215.545.0963) stocks an eclectic collection of modern fashion accessories mixed with home goods and imported stationery. "Taking cues from time spent living overseas and growing up in Philly, we are drawn to quality goods that refresh and delight, be it by texture, design, or function," says Elizabeth Sieber, who opened the shop in December 2006. "We feel that the best objects are the ones that make you happy to use them." This cozy lifestyle shop stocks new and independent brands like Fog Linen Work and BAGGU, many of which make their Philly debut here.
Over on Antique Row, SOTA Spirit of the Artist (1022 Pine St., Phila., 215.627.8801) provides handmade gifts, most of which are created by local American crafters. From jewelry to home goods, everything here is thoughtfully selected to fit the store's inventive aesthetic. "I take pride in providing these special items, imbued with creative energy," says owner Frank Burkhauser.
A few doors down, Happily Ever After (1010 Pine St., Phila., 215.627.5790) is throwback to the friendly, old-fashioned toy stores of yesterday. This family-owned haven for kids of all ages has been operating on Pine Street for nearly fifteen years. The store carries everything from R. John Wright dolls to musical instruments, puppets to puzzles. Storybook fans delight in classic books like Curious George, Winnie the Pooh and Madeline, many of which sit next to stuffed versions of the books' main characters.