Friday Question of the Day – Favorite Retail in the District


With word of PULP closing soon and Corehaus closing a few weeks ago – let’s give some love to our favorite retail spots left in town. I’m gonna give some love to Willow located near the former Corehaus on Upshur Street. I’ll also jump on the bandwagon and say I’m a big fan of Labyrinth Game Shop near the Eastern Market Metro. Anyone who enjoys the ridiculously awesome album cover of the week posts will join me in my love for Som Records downstairs at 14th and T St, NW. Other great album covers (and more) can be found at Mom n Pop antiques at Georgia and Otis Pl, NW. And finally I always enjoy browsing the stained glass at Brass Knob in Adams Morgan and at Good Wood on U Street. Which are some of your favorite spots?

Corehaus formerly at 825 Upshur Street, NW

97 Comment

  • Wake Up, Little Suzie in Cleveland Park. Forecast in Eastern Market. They both have great, friendly and helpful staff and great taste. Love stopping into both.

    • +1 for Wake Up, Little Suzie

    • I live really close to Forecast but have never shopped there– for some reason I’d dismissed it as one of those boutiques that sold middle-aged lady clothes at exorbitant prices. I’ll have to check it out.
      I recently stopped in Pinktini, which just opened around the corner, and it’s a beautiful store. Prices are a little steep on some items (I consider $200 for a dress steep) but others are a little cheaper. There’s not a ton of merchandise but everything is high quality and unique. The owner’s really nice too. Next time I’m in the market for a new piece of clothing I’ll go there.

  • Miss Pixie’s on 14th is our favorite.

  • Violet on 18th St. The stuff is pretty affordable there and the staff is always super sweet!

  • binpetworth

    Chocolate Moose on L St for wacky cards and gifts

    • I work near Chocolate Moose and love all the quirky little things they have, but man does the staff have an attitude. Every once in a while you’ll get someone pleasant but most of the time they are really sour to deal with.

  • DC has always had a dearth of quirky places like Pulp. OTOH, Baltimore has a place called big fun that’s rather similar and has branches in Chicago and Cleveland. The places I liked when I lived here in the 90s like Mysterybooks are long gone or have become diminished like Hudson Trails. The sad thing is that this sort of thing is mostly confined to DC to the extent that it exists at all. Yes you can find ethnic grocery stores in various places in the burbs, but often they seem to be barely holding on. Many of the survivors are rather upscale or on the fringes of otherwise expensive neighborhoods. When people here slammer for something new, it seems to be something overrated like Whole Foods. In reality, small businesses pioneered most of the now hot neighborhoods and the usual stuffiness and high rents that follow drive them out.

    • +1
      Yup. When property values and extracting equity are a community’s #1 concern, then diversity is going to suffer.

    • Agreed.

      I was in NOLA this Christmas and Pyrtania, Magazine St, and even the Quarter for that matter, have a ton of cute retail boutiques. So many that I was a bit amazed when I realized that DC didn’t feel like it had as many considering the population size. Yes there is Georgetown, but much of that is national retail brands and bit upscale at that.

      There are a few in other places that are around like Miss Pixies and Homebody on 8th but most of the ground floor business are food related. There is nothing wrong with that but it does seem a bit limiting and for me, not very interesting. Sadly rental rates for retail discourage this type of place and I don’t really see that changing.

    • I think the problem is that people in DC simply don’t buy that much stuff. I love my local retail, and always go there for gifts, but I’m not going to buy anything for myself unless I truly need it. I think food-related retail does better here because eating and cooking is more of an experience, and DC residents tend to value experiences more than owning things.

      • I also think that part of it is that people come to DC for a job. Why would you take on a risk of owning a store when you already have a good, steady job? Most people come here for a specific type of job that they have been highly trained or educated for in that field. It also isn’t like going to culinary school where you train to be a chef and then open a restaurant. You don’t go to college and major in “small business store owner”.

        The cost of living here just doesn’t allow for people to take on the risk of a small retail business especially when they have spent thousands of dollars on an education.

        • That’s a good point too. Everyone in DC is either highly educated or extremely poor. Opening a small business doesn’t really make sense in either scenario.

  • I like Tabletop and Trohv, +1 to Chocolate Moose as well. I wasn’t that impressed with Miss Pixie’s when I went, but it seems like the inventory changes constantly. When I was there they were selling really cheap used IKEA furniture for more $$ than it costs to buy it new.

    • ??? I go to Miss Pixie’s all the time and have never seen Ikea furniture.

      • It was a BRIMNES dresser. Recognized it the second I laid eyes on it. Feel free to stop by and check it out for yourself. They had at least one, but I think two.

    • Love Trohv, and it is JUST inside DC so still counts. I am young and don’t have deep pockets, but the one time I was interested in a chair there the manager who helped me was wonderful and very low pressure.

    • Miss Pixie’s is very overpriced and highly overrated. Their used furniture isn’t that great, and some of it is just really cheap crap. Besides, what’s up with their no-bargaining policy? Who cares if they (allegedly) get their stuff from auctions? That’s no reason not to negotiate on an over-priced item.

      • It is funny but I do know that they get some of their stuff from auctions but it was only by chance. I passed that auction place on E NW right when they were setting up and saw this fabulous and adorable chandelier. It was quite distinctive and I would have loved to have had it had I had that style in my house. I was at Miss Pixies a week or so later purely by happenstance and saw that thing hanging from the ceiling and though it was no surprise that they wen after it.

        Saying that I wold be highly surprised if they got all of their stuff from auctions. I will say that they likely troll estate sales.

        • Can you give us more details about the auction place (exact address, name)? I’d love to check it out!

        • Pixies doesn’t buy from Weschler’s. Weschler’s is their own auction business that also buys from estates etc. and sells for their maximum profit. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Pixies & R & R buy from lots of places, but the auction you are thinking of is probably Crumpton’s in Md. It is enormous and you often have to buy entire “lots” of things.

      • Not being able to haggle on used furniture prices is just lame, though I guess they’re doing alright by convincing people with money to burn to part with it.

      • You could spent 100 hours and drive 100 miles visiting 100 estate/yard/auction sales and find 99% junk. Why do you take offense at someone making a modest profit for doing all that work for you, bringing in all the desirable stuff, and displaying it in an attractive, fun & quirky store? Which, by the way, was an anchor for development in both Adams Morgan and 14th St.

        • Yeah, you’re paying for the curating of the stuff. I just bought a dresser from Miss Pixie’s last week. I went to 6 thrift stores and 3 used furniture stores and found nothing, plus I’d been trolling CL for weeks to no avail. I went to Miss Pixies and they had a 9 drawer dresser in very good shape.

          They probably also succeed because they offer delivery. I will say that I thought my delivery was over priced, but I didn’t have to go rent a Uhaul and find someone to help me move the dresser.

          • How do you figure delivery is “overpriced” if it costs less than your alternative options?

          • I was disappointed that the tags on some items say that there’s a delivery charge, but their delivery pricing scheme doesn’t seem to be posted anywhere. So, I paid for my dresser (non refundable) and then I was told that the $30 delivery fee is on top of a $45 base delivery fee.

            I didn’t say it cost less than the other options, only that it’s logistically less of a hassle. I paid, what I think is a fairly steep price, to save myself time and annoyance.

  • Ruff & Ready, Good Wood, Miss Pixie’s and Pulp

  • Second the love for Tabletop!

  • Hills Kitchen – besides personal use Ive found it to be a good resource for gifts – and Sapore – LOVE the basil olive oil – both in EM

    • I was going to mention those as well. Whenever I need a gift those are the first two places I look.

    • LOVE Hill’s Kitchen. My wallet on the other hand hates it. I have to stop myself from stopping in, because I will undoubtedly walk out with something. They have the same stuff at the same prices as Williams-Sonoma and Sur le Table plus a lot of unique pieces. Great for gifts, and the staff is fantastic.

  • My favorite store is Hill’s Kitchen. Sure you can get kitchen supplies cheaper on Amazon, but the staff is so helpful and nice, plus they have cool DC kitchen things like cookie cutters and cutting boards. I also love their cooking classes. I also like Good Wood, Bridge Street Books, and Violet boutique.

    • Also the Proper Topper! Especially for their jewelry selection.

      • +1. Was planning to give a shout out to them. Stumbled on them before Christmas running errands in Dupont and walked out with lots of stuff, including cool kids books.

  • Labyrinth is a great store! Friendliest staff in town, they will help you figure out a gift with relentless enthusiasm. They’re also happy to explain the rules of any game in the store. I never showed up for any of the events they do, but those all look cool as well.

    • Seconded. They have a space in the back with tables and a wide selection of tabletop games that you can rent out. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon with friends if you’re into that sort of thing.

  • Hunted House on H Street (formerly on 14th) is a great store too. The owner is super friendly, in a genuine way, not just to make a sale.

  • I’m a frequent visitor to the quirky vintage furniture stores: Good Wood, Ms Pixies, Ruff and Ready, occasionally Hunted House and the Brass Knob. I wish there were even more. I’ll also give a shoutout to Idle Time Books – a very welcome break from the slew of Adams Morgan bars.

    • Really? I live up the street from Idle Time and think it is overpriced and terribly stocked.

      • Terribly stocked? Have you ever actually been inside? This is a great second-hand bookstore. And overpriced – sure – compared to a $1.00 for an old book at a yard sale, but they have a great – and well-curated collection of classic fiction and all sorts of history, art etc. Or you could just sort through the boxes of 1985 computer manuals at the yard sales.

        Why is everyone so grudging toward small shop owners actually making a profit? They charge 1/2 the cover price for most books. At an average of $5.00 profit a book, they would have to sell 100 books a day just to cover basic expenses.

        • Why is everyone so grudging toward small shop owners actually making a profit?

          Because people are fundamentally cheap. They want the convenience of shopping, dining, etc. locally, but don’t expect to pay extra for it. They think that smaller means less expenses, when in fact the opposite is usually true.

      • I wouldn’t call it terribly stocked. Eclectically-stocked, maybe–but that just comes with the territory for used bookstores. They’re not necessarily the best place to go if you really *need* a specific book. For that, I try Kramerbooks or Amazon. But I like Idle Time for those times when I’m in the mood to browse, wander, and stumble on some interesting books that I might not otherwise have picked out for myself online or in a conventional bookstore.

    • Yes for Idle Times – and Second Story Books in Dupont Circle too. And can’t forget Politics and Prose!

      • I’d like to add a bookstore to your list: Kramerbooks in Dupont. Kramerbooks doesn’t get enough credit for being a well-curated bookstore. Obviously smaller than most bookstores, but the books they choose to stock are all excellent.

    • I love TROHV too! They support local artists (like myself), and have such unique stuff. Everytime I go i find 100 things I would like to have. Plus they are super friendly. You go Trohv!!

  • Violet & Toro Mata
    Proper Topper

  • Second Story Books and Red Onion Records should be mentioned as well. Also, I recently found some really cool gourmet items at The Mediterranean Way, but they need to expand their selection a bit.

  • Tabletop is the best. I also love Trohv.

  • Simon Vintage! Really great prices on cool stuff!

    • Are they still open? I went last Sat. afternoon and they were closed with paper on the door window.

      • I went the Saturday before Christmas and they opened 30 minutes late. I don’t think they adhere to their hours that well. I don’t know about paper over the windows though. They had a lot of stock when I was there and the 50% off sale was billed as a holiday sale, not going out of business.

      • I hope they are still open but havent been there since before Thanksgiving.

  • I always enjoy browsing through Homebody on the southern end of Barracks Row after a few brunch mimosas on Sundays:

  • Sulivan’s Art and Toy store. Great selection of fun art and craft supplies plus toys!

  • +1 Tabletop, also Periwinkle

  • A lot of you are mentioning furniture stores, so maybe you guys can help me and my girlfriend out. She wants to get rid of our current bedroom furniture (high bed and two dressers) and replace them with a low platform bed that has stowage underneath, and maybe some unobtrusive other piece of furniture (a bench maybe?) for additional stowage. Something very simple in style. We’ve graduated from Ikea but can’t afford $2000 for a bed either. Where would be some good places to start? Closer to Capitol Hill the better.

    • I’m afraid this isn’t close to Capitol Hill, but I know West Elm sells the type of bed frame you’re describing–low platform with built-in drawers underneath (or at least, they did last time I looked at their beds about a year ago). It’s not leaps and bounds above Ikea, but it is a step up, and it’s pretty much where I am now, furniture-wise. (I wanted something that’s a little nicer-looking than Ikea, but many of the other options, like Room and Board, were just out of my budget. That said, I do still have some Ikea mixed in, since I like the simple design and budget-friendliness of their bookshelves.) Sorry I don’t have any suggestions for mom-and-pop furniture boutiques–personally, I’m not very good at shopping, so I tend to go the path of least resistance, ie the chains and the internet. (Although I love this thread for giving me some ideas for unique places to shop in the future!)

      • Yeah, I did some Internet sleuthing already and came up with the West Elm and Room and Board options. 🙂 I’m really lazy when it comes to shopping and don’t want to be driving all over the city perusing brick-and-mortars that don’t carry the kind of furniture we have in mind, but I’m guessing some of these mom-and-pops would specialize in furniture that’s suited to urban living.

    • Other than West Elm and Room & Board you can try CB2, Crate and Barrel, or World Market (in Friendship Heights). You may also want to check out Loft Living in Bethesda, Vastu, Urban Essentials and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams (all on 14th St, but possibly over your price range). Value City Furniture and Ashley Furniture (both in Falls Church) are chains which will have more affordable items including beds.

      Urban Outfitters sells furniture as well, including beds, though none have storage.

      Personally I love Room & Board. Although their items can be pricey, there ARE deals to be found here and there and the quality is excellent. Most of their pieces are solid wood construction made in the USA and they have a very good customer service and warranty dept. I have at least 6 large pieces from them including a sofa and a bed. Right now they are having a floor sample sale — I’m guessing a lot of the furniture is gone (I was there 4 or 5 days ago and it looked picked over).

      Most mom-and-pop places in DC do not sell original (i.e. newly built) furniture, they sell used or vintage. And very few of them sell beds. I’m guessing most medium range furniture stores are going to be located in the suburbs nowadays, but expect more of them to come back into the city more people move in.

  • Violet
    Toro Mata
    Miss Pixie’s
    Fia’s Fabulous Finds (Petworth)

  • Right next to the soon-to-be-former Pulp spot, Home Rule, can be a fun spot to stop in. I usually find something I want there. Similar to Hill’s Kitchen although not as big. Also, it’s expensive as all get out but Salt and Sundry in Union Market as well.

    Also, a little different than retail, but if you’re ever in need of a last-minute gift, run into Cocova in Adams Morgan and get a little 4-box of chocolates. They are to die for and such a perfect, easy but thoughtful gift.

  • Does Metro Mutts count? I do all my pet shopping there!

  • I have to agree with POP, Willow is awesome. Love that place.

  • Redeem! On 14th St. next to Doi Moi.

  • wow! 50 comments deep and not one nod for Fragers?

    • Yes, how could I forget Frager’s?? Also, down the street from where it used to be is a great little yarn store called the Knitting Loft.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        Well, Frager’s is a tough one because it burned down and has reopened in a few sections. I think when it reopens in full it will top the list again.

        • it burned down 6 months ago, and it has an arguably higher profile presence on the pad across from Eastern Market. I was more surprised at the omission given the Fragers lovefest happening on the Hill and in DC in response to the firel

  • Reading this makes me feel a little guilty — the only stores listed that I’ve really patronized are Second Story Books and Som Records. (I think it’s because I came to the D.C. area as a graduate student, and was so poor at the time that anything remotely boutique-y was out of the question price-wise. I tend to forget that that’s not the case any more.)

    • I feel a little guilty too, but I don’t normally buy records or books or furniture or games or many of the other things these stores carry. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. 🙂

  • How about right outside of DC? There’s Fanklin’s in Hyattsville.

  • I love Lou Lou!

    • I did some Guncle shopping at LouLou for my nieces and thought they had some great stuff at good prices!

  • Willow on Upshur has become my favorite retail for women’s clothing and gifts. I also love Proper Topper for same.
    Kramerbooks is my “Old DC” favorite. When I was working in a bookstore in Ft Worth, Tx in the late 80s, the owner told me I needed to check this place out when I moved to DC–I did and haven’t stopped since.

    For second-hand–Bentley’s on Upshur and Ruff & Ready on upper 14th now. I also have found some great patio furniture at Miss Pixie’s–agree you need to follow it regularly to find the good stuff b/c of high turnover.

  • Federal

  • Best toy store ever – Child’s Play on Conn. Ave. Well staffed and all are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable.

  • My favorite is Target. They’ve got me covered on most stuff I need. Also partial to Banana Republic and Zara.

  • One more vote for Proper Topper. And Politics and Prose and Kramerbooks. Appalachian Spring is great for gifts. And I’m glad that Geogretown has a Lush. Not quite DC is Dale music – which is a treasure. And not even close to DC is Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center – which is another area treasure that used to be in DC proper many many years ago. And the Velatis candy store – which also used to have a store downtown.

  • I love the fact that this question garnered so much attention for Shopping Local in DC. There are so many great places in so many more neighborhoods than just ten years ago. It’s really up to us as the consumer to make conscience efforts to shop local so the small/local retail stores can continue to open and thrive. Rents will continue to go up, but our favorites can remain if we frequent them. I am really sad that Pulp is closing – I remember hugging Ron the first day he opened which was the first time I met him. His spirit will live on up and down 14th Street. My New Year’s resolution is to spend more time getting to know the local businesses that make DC so great – Pixie’s, Hill’s Kitchen, Vastu, HomeBody, And Beige, Home Rule, Lettie Gooch, Politics and Prose, Kramer’s, Union Market, and on and on and on. Thanks for asking the question!

  • It gives me so much hope to see so many people knowing and listing and loving all of our local independent retailers… hopefully you are spending your dollars and telling your friends. DC does have great retail gems and if we want to retain them and attract more we need to continue to support them!!!

    Full disclosure, I am an director of an organization (Think Local First DC) that believes healthy community is filled with independent business. I work hard (with an amazing group of people) every day to support these businesses through advocacy, education and promotion. Personally, as a DC resident I want us to have more retail on each block but I also know from experience that it does not happen with mere want. I was a retailer for almost 7 years and I have to tell you, it is a hard business. As a consumer we (collectively) are fickle (see above responses) — we want convenience, we sometimes want something for nothing and we are not as forgiving as I wish we would be. If we all could remember that we play a part in this, this being city that we want to live in, that our dollars and words count we can make a difference in the place we live.

    My love of local business is as much about the people and keeping DC a place I want to live as it is the product I need to buy. So, remember that when you pass the place on the street that you mentioned– go in and spend your dollars, tell them that you how important they are to “your DC” and most importantly send other people to support them.

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