Shop ’til you drop
by Phaedra Friend
I have to admit that I have never been my mother’s daughter when it comes to shopping. Childhood memories of traveling to a large city on certain weekends of the year to “power shop” for hours on end without a definite goal – other than to spend money on those can’t-leave-behind deals that you have to lose 10 pounds to wear – have severely tainted my thoughts on shopping. As an adult, I usually find the physical act of shopping intimidating and exhaustive. Because of this and the fact that I simply didn’t know where to shop, I have eluded Houston’s shopping scene – until now.
What I did not know is that shopping can be a pleasant and efficient experience if you just know where to go and what you are doing there. As a non-shopper, I had to formulate a plan. Aimless wandering from store to store would not only be a reenactment of my childhood but would also take the rest of my life. Houston has a vast and varied shopping experience to offer, and it would take a lifetime to fully appreciate all of Houston’s amazing stores.
I chose to visit the shopping areas of the Heights, Rice Village, the Westheimer curve between Montrose and Shepherd and the Galleria. My mission was to go to these specific Houston shopping venues, visit and absorb as many stores as possible and find four original items – all within a three-hour period. I was shopping for a housewarming present, something for my father on his 60th birthday, a present for a young child and something for myself.
So, with my footsteps weighted only by the things that I bought rather than fear and loathing, I shopped and shopped and shopped. To my surprise, my experience with shopping in Houston was refreshingly effective, non-threatening and fun.
The Heights is a cozy little area just north of I-10 and inside the Loop. This shopping area is definitely an antique-er’s paradise with a small-town feel. Shopping in the Heights can be hit or miss, but you can hit the jackpot with pricing, collectibles, antiques and trendy little gifts that are really unique. Every nook houses an antique store, and everywhere you turn there is something that you have to take home. Due to my self-imposed time restraint, I spent most of my time on 19th Street, but I know that there are little treasures to be found throughout the Heights.
Jubilee, 321 A 19th St.; (713) 869-5885
This store has it all! Not only are there select antiques, the shabby-chic fad is manifest throughout the store. Walk in, and you are surrounded by all kinds of swank jewelry, trendy clothing for men and women and an amazing second floor that features decadent furniture and plush home décor. I definitely could have filled my home with goodies from Jubilee but restrained myself and bought only a pair of leopard-print cat-eyed sunglasses with a great red tint. M H
Fashion has not skipped this store filled with funky clothing, jewelry and accessories, with fashions geared toward a younger, or at least young at heart, clientele. I could have worn anything straight out of the store to one of my favorite nighttime hangouts and felt like a price-savvy princess. One of my favorite items was a cuddly pair of pajamas with monkeys on them. M
La Maison, 321 W. 19th St.
This store has a unique blend of gifts, furniture, clothing and art. Resale clothing is hot right now, and it fills one corner of their second floor while the rest of it is sprinkled with functional artistic furniture and artwork. More gifts are located on the first floor where I found a great hand-painted hula girl ornament to go along with my Hawaiian theme. M H F
Alabama Furniture & Accessories
2200 Yale St.; (713) 862-3035
This massive store features new, consignment, resale and estate furnishings, art and accessories. A shopper could get lost in the possibilities here. From lamps to beds to tables and collectibles, that perfect find is waiting for you here and at the right price. Alabama Furniture’s inventory is made even more valuable by its honest prices. M H F
Yubo’s Ethnic & Folk Art Gallery
1012 Yale St.; (713) 862-3239
I felt like I was walking into old Mexico as I entered this treasure chest. Yubo’s embraces our neighbor country with its Mexican and Southwestern art, home décor and custom furniture. Religious themes run through this store and your house after you leave. M H F
Rice Village snuggles up next to the Texas Medical Center and Rice University, off of Kirby and a stone’s throw from U.S. 59 inside the Loop. This outdoor mall is filled with eateries, bars and, most importantly, great Houston shops. All your favorite corporate and franchised stores are here, from the Gap to Victoria’s Secret to Pier One. But I tried to stick to the real charm of Rice Village, the smaller, unique-to-Houston-only shops. Extensive amounts of time can be spent in Rice Village, but I took in as much as I could with my time limit and enjoyed every second of it.
British Isle, 2366 Rice Blvd.
Think English, and you will be on the same train of thought as British Isle. Everything they sell here has some connection to the Redcoats, from an extensive British tea and jam collection to Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter. Authentically English dishes and memorabilia fill the store, but my favorite had to be the panties (or knickers, as they say across the pond) made in the image of the Union Jack. M H F C
Chartreuse Cat, 2414 Rice Blvd.
This kitty can tackle any gift! Whether you bring in your own gift to be specially wrapped or you let them throw something gorgeous together for you, the Chartreuse Cat is capable of putting together a gift for every occasion and making it look beautiful. They can beautify baby presents, party favors, sales promotions and much more. M H F C
Circa Now Gallery, 2552 Amherst St.
This eclectic store is full of rare and special art, dishes, glassware, stationery and jewelry. I couldn’t decide between its precious puppy gifts and its martini glasses, so I bought a crazy wine stopper and a hula girl clock that shakes her hips with every second. Some inventory changes seasonally, but the perfect gift can always be found here. M H F
Screen Porch Art, 2422 Rice Blvd.
Screen Porch Art offers American folk art and fine crafts ranging from beautiful dolls and jewelry to dishes and hand-painted furniture. Seasonal gifts can be found here, and every room leads you to a new avenue of American beauty and culture. M H F C
Wellhausen’s, 2425 Rice Blvd.
This shop not only boasts some great gifts, it also custom frames them. Fine art prints decorate the walls of this gift shop, and beautiful glass art and photo frames lie around every bend. Prints can be purchased here, or outside art can be brought into the shop. Either way, the frame and art will be beautiful at Wellhausen?s. M H F C
Urban Outfitters, 2501 University
This trendy store is known for it?s 70s- and 80s-style apparel, but it also has books, home décor and accessories. Urban Outfitters features clothes and more that the 20 to 30 somethings wore while growing up with puma shirts and Dr. Seuss books. It’s like going through your old closet without having to worry about the grass stain you got at recess last week. M H C
The Westheimer Curve
This shopping area is between Montrose and Shepherd on Westheimer, and it’s full of antiques, resale and special fashions. While it tends to boast the off-the-beaten-path retail store, the Westheimer curve is uniquely Houston, an experience in itself and all about resale.
Buffalo Exchange, 1614 Westheimer
At Buffalo Exchange you can buy, sell, trade and donate. This utterly unique resale shop has fashions from every era at an affordable price. Merchandise is constantly changing with the amount of selling and trading that goes on here, making shopping at this store a surprise every time. After you make your must-have purchase, you can opt not to receive a bag and donate a five-cent token to a local Houston charity. M
Leopard Lounge, 1637 Westheimer
Another great resale shop, this new store is a clothing exchange with a bite. The furniture and carpet are covered in leopard print, making it feel like an adventure to mingle among racks of vintage and urban clothing. Be sure to find Houston?s downtown club scene dressed in Leopard Lounge?s goods. M
Old Blue House Antiques
Old Blue House Antiques is expansive, as are its antiques. It must have taken a lifetime to collect all the antiques that this shop has accumulated, and it would take about that long to appreciate them all. Old Blue House Antiques houses unbelievable amounts of antique furniture, collectibles and housewares. M H F
Antique Warehaus/Trash and Treasure Since 1947, 1714 Westheimer
(713) 522- 6858
Character comes with age, and Antique Warehaus definitely falls under that category. There are little life quips posted throughout the store like, “Visualize getting off the phone.” As I listened to other shoppers ask about merchandise, I was amazed that the salesperson had a story or explanation to go along with many of the pieces. Not only is this store full of remarkable antiques, you can learn the history behind them. M H F
The Emporium, 1800 Westheimer
The Emporium claims the title of “Houston’s largest resource for residential and commercial architectural antiques.” This is an antique and hardware store that includes massive doors and fireplace mantels and a vast assortment of garden fountains and gates. I fell in love with an antique golf bag and clubs for my father. The Emporium also does refinishing and restoration. M H F
Dealers Direct Imports
1735 Westheimer; (713) 528-3974
Dealers Direct Imports specializes in Indonesian and Mexican arts and furniture. Wrought-iron furniture and granite and limestone tabletops abound in this store. Every nook and cranny is filled with some special piece, whether it is a bed or the barstools I almost took home for myself. M H, F
This area is located just outside the 610 Loop on Westheimer. The popularity of the mall here has exploded to define the area. The Galleria is an immense shopping area that not only describes the mall building, but also the shops surrounding it. The Galleria area is the king of shopping areas for many and includes such stores as Emporio Armani and Gianni Versace. I had trouble finding Houston-owned shops during my time there but did the best I could to find some stores that stand out.
J. Tiras Classic Handbags, Inc.
5000 Westheimer; (713) 840-1998
J. Tiras keeps up with the trends while remembering the classics in handbags. One of the many purse designers they carry is Maya, which are handmade resin purses with a strap that can be converted into a belt. This handbag haven also features such designers as Angela Frascone, Francisco Biasa and Monsac. M
Caruggi’s, 5000 Westheimer
Caruggi’s carries women’s apparel that is classic with an edgy twist. One of the many designers that this beautiful store carries is Bernard Zins, who has a line of tropical weight wool that Houstonians can wear. The clothing that Caruggi’s carries is directed specially toward the Houston woman. M
Piccolini, 5000 Westheimer
As you walk through the beautiful ironwork door of Piccolini, you are transported into a fairyland full of precious children’s clothing. I never realized that children could look so in fashion, but if you get clothes at Piccolini – anything from the tiny red mules to the feathered blouse – you’ll know the child will be in style. C
Soho, 5015 Westheimer
Despite the alarm going off as I walked into the shop, I could see that Soho is full of the latest trends for Houston’s young generation. They carry all the hip lines from Bhatti to Miss Sixty and Phat Farm. The salesperson hinted toward one of their designers being worn by Britney Spears. M
Build A Bear Workshop
Probably the sweetest store I?ve ever experienced, Build a Bear Workshop is a child’s paradise. This store custom builds teddy bears from the fur to the name to the stuffing and heart. A bear that is built here is made with love, and it goes home in its own condo to your home to be loved. M C
Field of Dreams
If you are into sports, this is the place for you. Field of Dreams specializes in all kinds of sports memorabilia – signed basketballs and baseball cards fill this store. Field of Dreams will probably be able to find anything you ask for, signature or sports related, even if it?s not located in the store the day you walk in. F C