"Lowly, unpurposeful and random as they appear, sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city's wealth of public life must grow."
- Jane Jacobs
We love independent businesses. They're one of a kind. Their owners know their products inside and out (unlike the guy at the big-box camera counter, who was probably in the tire department last week). They're lots better for the economy than chains. They customize their merchandise to meet the community's needs and interests. They're your neighbors.
If you love independent businesses, too, please support them. Here's a list of some great independent businesses online. Next time you're buying a CD or a pair of shoes, think about supporting these folks instead of some amazon.
Know of a great independent business you'd like us to include? We'll list them for free if they meet our guidelines.
ARCHITECTURAL ANTIQUES & SALVAGE
Southern Accents Architectural Antiques carries a wide range of windows, doors, doorways, mantels, bath fixtures, light fixtures, newel posts and other items and ships things throughout the world from its store in downtown Cullman, Alabama.
The Hamill Gallery of African Art , in Boston's Dudley Square neighborhod, offers rare African art, antiques and collectibles.
Check out Art To Go (Littleton NH).
The Faustina Gallery (Lewisburg PA) offers art by national and regional artists. They also do framing and gold leaf gilding.
Down the street, from the Faustina Gallery, the Open Door Gallery specializes in prints by Pennsylvania artists. They also restore photos and artwork.
BABIES AND CHILDREN
Just Kidds and More (Georgetown TX) carriess a wide range of clothes, toys and accessories for newborns and young children and offers a cool online "Moms and Grandmas Club".
Blueberry Babies (Egleston Square/Boston MA) sells clothes, toys and lots of unique things for babies and young children and offers an online gift registry.
Bicycles Pleasanton (Pleasanton CA) carries over 18 major brands.
There are thousands of great independent bookstores in the US. In addition to usually offering the same staggeringly wide range of books that the big chains do, they also offer things things you can't find anywhere else - like collections of books on specialized topics, out-of-print books, and rare, autographed and collectible books.
BookSense, the American Booksellers Association's program for independent bookstores, has a great website through which you can find a nearby independent bookstore and order books online. It boasts more than 5,000 members.
Among the many independent bookshops that sell second-hand and rare books is The Book Center (Oakland MD). Springfield, Illinois's Prairie Archives specializes in Abraham Lincoln, Vachel Lindsay, and Edgar Lee Masters. Golden Raintree Books (New Harmony IN) also has a great collection.
San Diego's Controversial Bookstore specializes in metaphysics, spirituality, psychology, health, and healing. Book Oasis (Livermore CA) specializes in science fiction, science, and romance books. About Books (Bloomington IL) has big collections of Illinois history, Americana, cookbooks, Civil War, WWII, railroads, and Abraham Lincoln.
Four Seasons Books, in downtown Shepherdstown WV, offers a 10 percent discount to online shoppers on over almost 500,000 titles and donates two cents to the Shepherdstown Public Library for every book sold.
One of the nation's biggest bookstores, Powell's Books (Portland OR), offers an enormous assortment of new, out-of-print, and collectible books and magazines.
We often cite Jack's Camera (Muncie IN) in speeches about the importance of multichannel retailing to main street businesses today (Jack's gets it).
The Stroudsburg Foto Shop (Stroudsburg PA) and Camera Land (Burlington IA and Macomb IL) sell cameras, darkroom equipment, telescopes, and binoculars.
CLOTHES, SHOES and FASHION ACCESSORIES
Wheatfields on Main (Garden City KS) offers clothing from companies like Pendleton, David Brooks and Nancy Bolen.
Dress With a Kick (Concord NH) sells designer shoes, handbags and accessories.
Eye-Q (Cambridge and Boston MA) sells very cool eyeglasses.
Kippy's, in Coronado, California, sells sequinned clothes (seriously), and you can satisfy all your Navy Seal merchandise needs down the street at Bullshirts.
You HAVE to visit Shorty's "Caboy Hattery". It repairs and restores cowboy hats (they show you how online), in addition to making custom hats, in Oklahoma City's Stockyards City.
One of us bought a pair of jeans from Langston's Western Wear, also in the stockyards, and they delivered them overnight.
The Boot Barn (Paso Robles, California) sells cowboy boots, jeans, and Harley-Davidson apparel.
When your boots need repair, ship them off to Lakatos Shoe Repair, in downtown Wooster, Ohio, and you'll get them back by return mail. They sell Red Wings, too, and offer Hungarian workmanship.
Nine Lives (Los Gatos CA) sells top-brand consignment clothing. Sign up for a personal shopping assistant, who emails you when something matching your profile arrives in the store.
Thomasville, Georgia's Unique Boutique, which sells prom dresses (among other things) made it into the New York Times a few years ago.
Champion Shoe (Lewisburg PA) offers brands like Birckenstock, Dexter, Hush Puppies, Naturalizer, and Clark's.
Nuway Western Wear (Cortez CO) is a third-generation western wear store.
Root Essence (Hyde Park/Boston MA) specializes in African and international clothing.
Ella Belle's (Kerrville TX) sells designer handbags, T-shirts and fashion accessories.
Roundhouse Relics (Chambersburg PA) sells railroad memoribilia primarily on eBay (store hours: "Tuesdays and Wednesdays 10-3 or by chance").
New England Comics (Hyde Park/Boston MA) has new and collectible comics and action figures.
Apple Tree Gallery (Piqua OH) sells collectible ornaments by artists like Basia and Christopher Radco.
Corner on Main (Garden City KS) carries a big selection of collegiate collectibles for Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma colleges, as well as some great wooden toys and other collectible lines.
Now You're Cooking (Bath ME) has over 3,000 items available online. If you're in the area, they also offer cooking classes.
Dorothy McNett's Place (Hollister CA) offers a large selection of gourmet cookware, specialty food items, cookbooks, videos
FLOWERS AND GARDENING
Studley Flower Gardens (Rochester NH) is an FTD florist.
FOOD and BEVERAGES
Cafe Campesino sells fair-trade coffee from its shop in downtown Americus, Georgia.
Laura's Cheesecake and Bakery (Mount Pleasant TX) ships gourmet cheesecakes all over the world.
Chutter's (Littleton, New Hampshire) has the world's longest candy counter (according to the Guinness Book of World Records). You can buy everything from root beer barrels to jawbreakers (they even sell piñatas).
Uncle Bub's BBQ Sauce (Westmont IL) - legendary barbeque sauce, sold online by the restaurant that makes it.
Dolle's Candyland (Rehobeth Beach DE) sells salt water taffy.
Purity Candy (Lewisburg PA) sells chocolates shaped like baseball mitts, tool kits and other things one wouldn't normally think of eating.
Tiny Trapeze Confections (Hyde Park/Boston MA) sells handmade chocolates and candies, packaging them in unique gift baskets.
Wertz Candy (Lebanon PA) features the amazing work of Jean Wertz, who makes chocolate paintings.
Style Peanut Spread (North Park/San Diego CA) makes and sells gourmet peanut spreads (with flavors like dark chocolate ginger and butterscotch).
A. Renee (Bloomington IL) sells Illinois wines and gourmet foods.
Adams Apple (Kerrville TX) ships food gift baskets featuring apples and "Texas-sized cookies".
Aunt Aggie De's Pralines (Sinton TX) offers every kind of praline confection one can imagine.
FURNITURE and HOME FURNISHINGS
Retro-Mart (Baltimore MD) sells "1950's and 1960's Mid Century Modern Eames Era space age decor".
Economy Hardware (Allston, Brookline and Cambridge MA) is a TrueValue Hardware member ... but it looks kind of like a small IKEA.
HomeRule, in Washington, DC's 14th and U Streets neighborhood, sells cool, contemporary kitchen and bath accessories.
Pompanoosuc Mills (Burlington VT) offers custom-made furniture.
Zotter the Potter (East Carson Street/Pittsburgh PA)
makes personalized pottery. Perfect for birthdays and special celebrations. Fireborn Studios - same district - makes sleek, handmade glazed pottery.
Perlora, down the street from Zotter and Fireborn, sells contemporary furniture and home accessories.
Laurel Ridge Antiques (Gonzales TX) specializes in American and Victorian furniture and ships throughout the US.
Geometrics Furniture (Manhattan KS) - home décor, office furnishings, and gifts.
Thar Treasures (Jamaica Plain/Boston MA) offers furniture, textiles and other home furnishings from India.
Marimary (Marysville KS) specializes in cast iron shelf brackets, nails, wall art, hooks, and other decorative items
Marklin Candle Design (Contoohook NH) makes liturgical candles and church supplies - and it buys beeswax, which it then recycles.
The Escape (Georgetown TX) offers beautiful hand-crafted games, chimes, clocks, pottery, and more. They've represented over 500 artisans since opening in 1996.
Abizak's (Rehobeth Beach DE) sells cool contemporary stuff. Be sure to check out the "About Us" section.
Kali's Meowtique (Paso Robles CA) specializes in cat accessories and gifts.
Ybor City, Florida's The Spitting Gargoyle sells gargoyles, fountains, and gothic statuary.
Holt's China (Staunton VA) sells fine china and crystal.
A few miles away, in Lexington, Virginia Born and Bred offers gourmet food, in addition to gifts.
Just down the street is Celtic Connection, which is kinda similar to the Celtic Exchange (Lewisburg PA).
The English Shop (St. Charles MO) sells pub items and gourmet food from the British Isles.
The Mississippi Gift Company (Greenwood MS) offers Mississippi gourmet food, gifts and art.
Pacific Rim (Manayunk/Philadelphia PA) features gifts and furnishings from the South Pacific, all hand picked by the store's owner.
Open Doors (Braintree and Brighton MA) sells metaphysical gifts and books. If you're in the neighborhood, you can drop in for a psychic reading, too.
Regan Jewelers (Garden City KS) has been designing and manufacturing fine jewelry for more than 30 years.
Weird Harold's (Burlington IA) offers over 40,000 collectible vinyl albums online and charges only $2 for shipping.
Buch Spieler Music (Montpelier VT) sells vinyl, cassettes, and CDs and specializes in soundtracks.
You'll find Guitar Sam just around the corner. They sell guitars, banjos, mandolins, drums, and many other musical instruments.
More stringed instruments and supplies:
House of Strings (North Park/San Diego CA)
Northern Lights (Littleton NH)
Mr. Music's (Allston/Boston MA)
You can get drums and sound equipment at City Music (Brunswick, Georgia), also.
Springfield, Illinois' Recycled Records offers new and used albums and CDs, stereo equipment, and video games.
For vintage guitars, sitars, and ukeleles, and Beatles memoribilia, check out Pittsburgh Guitars.
Looking for something a little different? Wm. Rees Instruments (Rising Sun IN) sells harps, psalteries, and accessories.
Herring Printing (Kerrville TX) offers online discount printing.
Logan Stamp Works (East Boston MA) manufactures and sells a wide range of rubber stamps and signs.
The Write Touch Online (West Des Moines IA) sells personalized stationery, announcements, napkins, and things like that.
The Lathers' Lair (McMinnville TN) sells "lotions and potions", bubble bath, incense, fountains, ionizers, and lots of other relaxing bath accessories.
Believe it or not, there are over 20,000 independently owned pharmacies in the US - and, according to Consumer Reports, they typically offer lower prices than the national chains and even than most big-box stores. Some of them operate through co-ops, like Good Neighbor Pharmacies, which give them access to volume pricing on pharmaceuticals.
Among the independent pharmacies in historic town centers are
Wagner Pharmacy (Aledo IL) and Osborn Drugs (Miami OK).
SEWING, KNITTING and QUILTING
Seems like downtowns are the only place to find fabric and yarn shops anymore. A few good ones:
Halcyon Yarn (Bath ME) - yarn, fiber arts, felting, equipment
Needles & Pins (Frederick MD)
Patches (St. Charles MO) - quilting supplies; huge assortment of buttons
Distinctive Knits (Aurora IN) - knitting and fiber arts supplies
The Button Hole (McPherson KS) - USA's fourth largest independent fabric shop
A Quilter's Dream (Leesburg, FL) - very nice, personable quilting website
Broad Street Market (Freeport TX) - fabric; yarn; stencilling supplies
Warrior Emporium, in Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood, sells martial arts clothes and supplies.
Looking for camping gear? Try these:
Jeans Westerner (Montrose CA). Also sells jeans and Stetson hats.
Dunkelberger's Sports Outfitters (Stroudsburg PA) offers a full range of fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and archery equipment and supplies.
W.L. Donehower Shoe and Sport (Lewisburg PA) sells shoes for just about every sport imaginable - track and running, skating, dancing, soccer, softball, football, you name it.
Blue Mountain Sports and Wear (Jim Thorpe PA) offers outdoor sports clothing and sporting goods. They also offer bike and kayak tour reservations online.
Dom's Outdoor Outfitters (Livermore CA) offers a large selection of outdoor clothing, shoes, camping equipment, and travel packs
TOYS and GAMES
Has anyone noticed how difficult it's becoming to find an independent toy store these days? And now Toys R' Us is tanking.... So, navigate to:
Puzzle Me This (Provincetown MA) offers a comprehensive range of jigsaw puzzles and games.
Main Street Toys (Lindsborg KS)
Amatos Toy and Hobby Stores (Middletown and New Britain CT)
The Animal Kingdom (State College PA) - stuffed animals and puppets
Bear on the Beach (Rehobeth Beach DE) - plush toys, including endangered species and sea creatures
WEDDING AND PROM DRESSES
Sonia's Bridal (Jamaica Plain/Boston MA) sells bridal gowns online. They offer just about every size, style and color imaginable.
Time for Prom (Thomasville GA), a spin-off from Unique Boutique,
has been featured in the New York Times.
NOT QUITE SURE HOW TO CATEGORIZE THESE...
The Theatrical Shop (West Des Moines IA) sells Santa suits, costumes, cheerleading uniforms (and batons), dancewear, and makeup. And it's in a historic theatre.
The Vermont Country Store sells everything you'd expect a country store to sell, from clothes to camping supplies. It has several locations in Vermont and a very successful mail order catalog.
Untique (Wilton NH) sells unusual clothes. And books. And office accessories. And home furnishings. Why not?
CD Tees (New Philadelphia OH) silkscreens T-shirts and signs ... and manufactures custom wooden nickels.
Nancy Lee Anderson Accessories (Oceanside CA) makes custom designed luggage and purses.
Martin's by Hand (Seymour IN) is a coppersmith, manufacturing and selling all kinds of copper utensils, sculpture and gifts.