The General Store
305 Harvard St, Coolidge Corner
A good general store is the kind of shop where you might fill a basket (ideally a nicely woven one) with a decent steak knife, some homemade jam, perhaps a bunch of linen napkins, and a jar of bath salts. April Gabriel spent her childhood summers in the Berkshires with a grandmother who instilled in her an appreciation for good old-fashioned quality. And she spent these summers in and out of the general stores in the area. Somewhere between the grandmother with good taste and the charm of those provisions, Gabriel got the idea for what would become her General Store. Nestled into Boston’s Coolidge Corner, Gabriel’s shop is just like those of her youth, redone in a modern way. Tightly wrapped bunches of sage and sticks of palo santo, natural-wax candles, Mast Brothers chocolate, hand-pressed cards—they're all here. But Gabriel’s a woman who is true to her roots: The homemade jams are there, too.
46 Waltham St, South End
An outdoor market in New York City led John Joss and Don Carney into a love affair with buttons and wool. Inspired by vintage flea-market finds and a simple desire for good old craftsmanship, the two began making delicately embroidered-hats embellished with those vintage, flea-market-find buttons. New Yorkers developed quite an appetite for these distinctive hats, and Joss and Carney’s success only grew from there. They went big with scarves, bags, fashion items, and, eventually, home décor, forming what is now a full lifestyle design studio, appropriately named Patch NYC, in homage to their made-from-scratch origins.
34 Newbury St, Back Bay
Alan Bilzerian and his family have been bringing their own—quite specific—point of view to Boston’s sartorial scene since 1967. This is not the place to come for a simple white button-up and sensible flats. Bilzerian homes in on Japanese and European fashion specifically, and the stock of designers speaks the family’s broad-ranging tastes: Thick, chunky knits from Irish designer Lainey Keogh sit alongside floaty Isabel Marant blouses and voluminous Issey Miyake silk pants. On the home front, the store skews toward modern, sculptural vases and candleholders, while the Murano stemware is strictly old-world—gilded and formal in a count-and-countess-are-coming-for-dinner way.
53 Dartmouth St., South End
In Irish, “follain” means wholesome, and this word is certainly an apt descriptor for Tara Foley’s beauty emporium. The legal professional turned clean-beauty entrepreneur has turned her frustrations—the dearth of nontoxic beauty products—into a brick-and-mortar business with two locations in Boston and seasonal pop-ups all over. The store itself, with its rustic farmhouse vibe, is the kind of place you instantly feel comfortable. Bright and beautifully merchandized with white subway-tile walls, deep sinks stacked with cotton towels for trying and washing off products, and shelves lined with plants and products by the likes of goop-approved Tata Harper, May Lindstrom, Pai, and True Botanicals to name a few of the over fifty lines Follain stocks. More often than not, Foley herself is on hand to offer advice and point you and your skin concerns in the right direction.
9 West St., Downtown Crossing
We go weak for a good independent bookstore, and Brattle meets all of our criteria. Three floors heaped haphazardly with new and used books, more than a few antiquarian and first editions, and an adjacent alley down the side of the store stacked with the overfill. Brattle has been fueling Boston’s literary curiosities since 1825, and the current proprietor, Kenneth Gloss, is a past president of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association and sits on the Boston Public Library’s board. Not only is he a man who loves a good book, but Gloss knows his stuff. So much of the pleasure of finding yourself in an independent bookstore is spending an hour or two getting lost among the titles and maybe sitting down with a bundle of books on your lap reading some, discarding others. Brattle regularly hosts readings and literary events, enthusiastically attended by this university city’s more erudite crowd.
134 Newbury St, Back Bay
Serenalla has occupied this elegant townhouse in Boston’s Back Bay for over thirty-seven years and is a testament to the locals’ love of a neighborhood standby. Stocking the likes of Bottega Veneta, Erdem, and Gucci, as well as harder-to-find brands like Vilshenko and Marlo Laz, the store is a pleasure to browse in. Serenella is easy to navigate and the staff could not be more helpful (or knowledgeable). The store often hosts trunk shows with international designers. You’ll find sister stores in Palm Beach and Nantucket.
70 Charles St., Beacon Hill
On picturesque Charles Street in Boston’s Beacon Hill, Dress is the boutique for the pieces we never knew we wanted. All the bases are covered with clothing, outerwear, shoes, accessories, fragrance, and jewelry. Dress champions smaller, more niche designers, with significant square footage allotted to Americans brands, like Clare V, Nili Lotan, and Janessa Leone. The store itself is a serene space to shop, with extra-roomy dressing rooms we wish every store had.
88 Charles St, Beacon Hill
December Thieves could be described as a home and lifestyle store infused with an international aesthetic. (The owner, Lara Barakat, was born in Lebanon and raised in Jordan.) Loose Japanese-style clothing and unusual bags and shoes set the store apart from others on Charles Street—Dress is just a few elegant doorways down. We’re especially partial to the interesting selection of both delicate and chunky jewelry studded with rare gems—the kind of interesting jewelry you pick up while traveling and rarely see in the US. Barakat’s boutique is the perfect place to pick up gifts or something to make your own home coffee table or bathroom more exciting, with the candles, Turkish soaps, towels, and French ceramics at the top of our list.
Bow Street Flowers
108 Beacon St., Somerville
A native Californian with a love of French and English gardens, Shelley White has been running Bow Street Flowers in Somerville for nearly 20 years. If you happen to be in the area, going to the shop is an experience—it's home to four bunnies—but Bow Street also delivers to Boston and surrounding areas.
977 Tremont St., South End
A neighborhood shop located in Boston's South End, Lotus Designs welcomes walk-ins and also delivers all over town (about a 20-mile radius from the store) provided your flower order is a minimum of $60-plus. And you can place orders online, too. Their cut-off for same-day delivery is 3pm. Lotus Designs carries a little bit of everything but they specialize in fresh cut flowers and orchids. And they also do weddings and events.
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