Looking for Philly souvenirs, or to while away the hours browsing some speciality shops? Here are author Karrie Gavin’s picks for the best shopping around Philadelphia’s Center City East, whether you’re looking for vintage housewares, artisanal chocolates, fair-trade handicrafts, or the perfect gift.
AIA Bookstore and Design Center
The AIA Bookstore and Design Center (1218 Arch St., 215/569-3188; Mon.-Sat. 10am-6pm, Sun. noon-5pm) began in 1976 as a resource and information center for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) convention in Philadelphia, but has grown into much more. Architecture and design buffs will continue to find endless items of interest throughout the varied selection, while there is also plenty for the layperson to enjoy as well. The books (many ideal for a coffee table) cover a wide range of home and design topics along with collecting, tasting, urban studies, politics, and more. Plenty of quirky gifts and housewares are also available, including lighting, jewelry, puzzles, and cute baby clothes and toys. This is the store where you can find a gift for that person that already has everything—particularly if that person has a penchant for art or design. A novel collection of greeting cards and screen-printed note cards is available for anti-Hallmark types.
Half café and half specialty upscale food market, Grocery (101 S. 13th St., 215/922-5252; Mon.-Fri. 8am-8pm, Sat. 11am-7pm) has something for everyone, whether you need an on-the-go lunch, snack, or sweet, or to find a gift for a foodie friend. Owners Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran sell several of the restaurant’s specialties in the store. Flavored oils, spreads, and tea are offered along with a small but excellent supply of kitchenware.
While the items found at Hello World’s Rittenhouse and Antique Row locations vary somewhat, both maintain the same standard of quirky and high-end gift and houseware excellence. Retro barkcloth and Bakelite bangles dress the windows, while sleek Chadwick doormats and placemats keep the floors and tables clean. Save the trip to the flea market and scoop up one of owner and textile designer J. Lamancuso’s hand-picked vintage lamps, tables, and chairs. Although the shop offers mostly new designs, there is also a small selection of carefully chosen second-hand items. The diverse offerings include pillows, jewelry, handbags, clocks, and cute T-shirts for babies. Hello World’s first location is in the Antique Row area (1007 Pine St., 215/545-7060; Tues.-Fri. 11am-6pm, Sat.-Sun. 11am-5pm). The second location is in the Rittenhouse area (257 S. 20th St., 215/545-5207, Mon. noon-7pm, Tues.-Fri. 11am- 7pm, Sat.-Sun. 11am-5pm).
Ten Thousand Villages
It takes a village, or in this case, ten thousand, to raise a handicrafts store totally dedicated to the support of fair trade and child labor laws in the developing world. Ten Thousand Villages (1122 Walnut St., 215/574-2008; Mon.-Sat. 10am-7pm, Sun. noon-5pm) is a unique chain that has outposts scattered throughout the United States, offering items ranging from textiles, baskets, and jewelry to musical instruments, ceramics, and handmade soaps—crafted by artists from every corner of the globe. With a portion of the proceeds benefiting the economic vitality of these artisan communities, you and your newly purchased Bangladeshi recycled tote can shop guilt-free. You can also check out the outpost in Chestnut Hill (8331 Germantown Ave., 215/242- 3040, Mon.-Sat. 10am-6pm, Fri. until 8pm, Sun. noon-5pm), carrying many of the same as well as some other remarkable items.
Verde (108 S. 13th St., 215/546-8700; Mon.-Sat. 11am-8pm, Sun. noon-6pm) was named “Best of Philly” in 2010 for Hostess Gifts and as a One-Stop Shop by Philadelphia magazine, and it offers delicious chocolates that have been featured in the New York Times Magazine; it seems there is no one that does not love Verde. A perfect addition to the Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran empire along 13th Street, Verde does it all, from flower arrangements to sparkly jewelry to special Philly gifts and souvenirs that are tasteful, not tacky. Among the many perfect gifts you will find here are the nine-piece handcrafted chocolates, each stamped with iconic Philly images, or any of the T-shirts or adorable baby onesies from the We Heart Philly line.