Despite my adolescent past as a mall rat, over the years I’ve developed an aversion to big box stores and shopping malls. Give me small stores that are charming, useful, and manageable.
Remember that sweet little bookstore in the film You’ve Got Mail that was driven out of business by the big bad chain store? That’s my kind of store.
Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood has several blocks of such great little shops right on the street where you can hop in and out quickly (or slowly if you want to browse longer). And small doesn’t necessarily mean more expensive.
Here’s a run-down of must-visit Ballard shops in a neighborhood that’s becoming a bit overrun with trendy restaurants. Head to Ballard for the feel of a true urban village and support these quality small retailers!
Just a few doors east of Ballard’s main intersection (Market and Leary) is La Tienda Folk Art Gallery, which features hand-knitted hats, gloves, socks, lots of cool jewelry, fabrics, and more with an international, ethnic flare. Look for the frame-worthy hand-embroidered, colorful molas from the San Blas Island of Panama and beautiful Woodstock wind chimes.
|Woolly knit gloves at La Tienda|
On the next block west are several more shops worth a visit. Romanza is the place for extravagant Christmas decorations, lotions, soaps, and of course much more. This is one of my go-to shops for tree ornaments.
|One of the beautifully decorated trees at Romanza's|
A few doors down to the west is Annie’s frame shop, which also sells artsy cards, posters, and other interesting knick knacks. I always find gifts here when I’m in need of inspiration. Then just a few steps away is Ballard’s prime indie bookstore, Secret Garden Books. Besides books, they also carry cool calendars.
For the foodie on your gift list, stop in Savour (west past Bop Street Records, which sells vintage record albums). You might be tempted to grab a tasty sandwich or gourmet mac ‘n cheese to eat there while picking up unusual imported and local foods like divine hot cocoas, honey from Tasmania, or fine Washington wines.
|Treats from Italy at Savour|
Cross to the south side of Market street mid-block at the pedestrian crosswalk and angle down historic Ballard Avenue, which I think is the most charming several-block stretch in all of Seattle. There are too many wonderful little shops on Ballard Avenue for me to list here without this post getting way too long, so here are some gems.
|Historic Ballard Avenue|
Pass several great bars, pubs, and restaurants en route to Kavu, home-grown in Ballard. Kavu, which expanded their retail space couple years ago, sells locally designed and made hip, casual clothes for guys and gals that are relatively inexpensive. And they regularly have great sales!
After shopping for a spell, stop in Miro Tea for a relaxing break and sip some fine tea. And then pick up some tea or accoutrements for the tea drinkers on your gift list.
Continuing down Ballard Avenue, you must stop in Curtis Steiner’s new, larger digs. This world-famous, jewel box-like shop features exquisite jewelry, beautiful artisan cards, and other unique hand-crafted stuff. Not cheap, but everyone needs a splurge now and then, right?
A couple doors down is d’Ambrosio Gelateria Artiginiale, where you might just need to indulge in the best gelato this side of Italy when you’re buying gift certificates. Proprietor Marco d'Ambrosio's father Enzo, who is a master Italian gelato maker, helped Marco develop the business and gelatos. Check back often for their seasonal flavors.
Cross the street to stop in a string of cozy and lovely little shops. One of my favorites is Lucca Great Finds, an enchanting store designed to echo Parisian gift salons of the 1920s and ‘30s. Want a paper cut-out of the Eiffel Tour? This is the place. You’ll also find fine linen tea towels, soaps, beautiful cards, and such. Continue to the very back for a tiny hand-paved courtyard with rustic garden ornaments.
Next door is Camelion Design, chock full of quality home furnishings as well as some gorgeous jewelry around the front counter. Check the very back of the store for handsome leather purses.
Had enough of the oh-so-charming giftie stores? Go down almost to the end of the next block to Second Ascent for the outdoorsy/backcountry person on your gift list (or yourself, in my case). With the closure of Outdoors and More, this is now THE place for discounted outdoors clothing and gear in Seattle. They get and sell samples from many top-rate brands like Mont Bell, Arcteryx, and even Patagonia that are new but not quite so outrageously expensive. Get backcountry ski gear, climbing gear, snowshoes, bicycle gear, hiking boots, and lots of clothes. In the very back you’ll even find some used clothes, which are a great bargain.
|Venue features artist studios within their store|