When considering your holiday shopping needs, don’t just think about heading out to that store or this boutique. There are many pockets throughout the state where you can carve out a bulk of your holiday shopping in one go. This holiday season, go for the streets, not the stores.
Thames Street, Newport
Wishing you had more sea-themed t-shirts (and coasters and clocks and doormats, oh my!)? This is the place to go. Thames Street in Newport has a baffling amount of luxury items, novelty goods and everything that falls in between. You will find entire stores dedicated to candy, fudge, tea, portable plastic mugs, Christmas ornaments (including a crying onion ornament, a bingo game ornament and around 30 football-themed stockings), and a store dedicated to knitting.
There is also more than one store where you can buy the dried meat sticks of obscure dead animals (scorpion, rattlesnake, and three flavors of packaged dead cricket snacks also for sale (motifri.com/newportjerky)), and more handmade, local, organic, all-natural, high-in-some-made-up-mineral-content soap stores than I was willing to enter or count. Note: Soap is an acceptable holiday gift only if it includes at least three of the aforementioned qualifiers.
The upper Thames area houses upscale name-brand clothing stores that mingle with tourist shops and art stores. If you’re looking for a good winter jacket, every high-end outdoors-wear company has set up shop. But don’t get anchored down in the nautical; sail on to lower Thames and the concentration of sea-themed shops per capita will decrease to make room for curated vintage boutiques. Stop into the Armory Antique Marketplace on your way for a huge building filled all things old and beautiful.
From cashmere sweaters that cost twice your rent to handmade glass ornaments and pottery, you’ll be able to find something for the person who has everything. Shopaholics beware: Don’t bring a credit card or the next morning you’ll wake up in debt for life, alligator jerky in your sheets, fudge and expensive jewels in your hair, and no amount of organic seaweed hemp soap will wash away the shame (or your new anchor tattoo).
Wickenden Street, Providence
What used to be the heart of an old Portuguese neighborhood, Wickenden Street is now known for its funky shopping and unique restaurants. The street maintains a somewhat homier vibe, containing fewer big name commercial shops than its counterpart Thayer, not too far away. Located next to Brown University, it caters to a sometimes odd combination of both students and East Side residents, which means you can likely find gifts for a variety of demographics.
Littered with antique and furniture stores, you’ll be able to pop in and find some fancy end tables or a tea set that your mother will love. Meanwhile, Wickenden’s vintage stores are the more upscale, curated variety. You know the type — for people willing to spend extra money to create the impression they don’t have any. You’ll also be able to find some reasonably priced handmade pottery created by local artists, or go for locally made jewelry and art on display in the stores among old jean jackets and vintage lunch boxes.
Don’t forget to explore the side streets for some more thrift shops or the Providence Perfume Company (see story on page XX).
Wayland Square, Providence
Not too far off from Wickenden Street, Wayland Square has a definite ‘young professionals’ vibe about it. The coffee will be a bit pricier, and instead of local crafts, you’ll find upscale designers, local and otherwise. Instead of Wickenden’s whimsical knick-knacks, here you’ll find everyday items in their fanciest iterations. This street is bringing the wealthier residents of Providence things like rare manuscripts, obscure cheese and fine housewares for those times when Walmart just won’t do.
Wayland Square is a good choice for Christmas gifts if you are buying for a suit-wearing type likely to excuse themselves from the festivities to take a business call. Or, it could be a good place to go to treat a significant other to something special for the home.
With Books on the Square not so far away and a collection of nice bakeries and coffee shops, it might be worth stopping through, even if the majority of the shops are out of the average folk’s price range.
Broadway (& Westminster) Street, Providence
Buying gifts for bearded white men in their 30s? This is probably the neighborhood to head to. The home for local art and artisans for the younger, hipper, West End crowd of Providence. Stop into Dash Bicycles, one of the record shops or Ada’s Books.
The vintage stores on and near Broadway will likely bring better finds than the huge catch-all consignment stores, and with better prices than you’ll find on Wickenden. Come collect accessories and art made by local artists.
Or just pick up a gift card for one of many well-regarded restaurants such as Julians or The Grange, or treat your loved one to a concert at the Columbus Theatre.
For much more on shopping Broadway, see our previous article at motifri.com/broadwayshopping
Hope Street, Bristol
Hope Street in Bristol has a similar vibe to Newport, only a bit cozier and perhaps clunkier. For being a high-traffic street, its multicolored leaves on the ground, old fashioned street lamps and storefronts covered in twinkle lights make the street feel intimate and welcoming. The stores even smell cozy with fir tree and pumpkin spice scented candles burning in the doorways.
Organized clutter seems to be the theme as ornaments, jewelry, decorative house accessories, artwork and furniture pile beside and sometimes on top of each other, and shop owner after shop owner apologizes for the disheveled state.
Enjoying the sea-shops by the sea-shore, but wishing they’d combine your love of water with intelligent wordplay? Head over to Aqua and pick up a “nautigirl” shirt. Also for purchase are bath oils, bright colored plastic purses, plates plastered with sayings about how great dogs are (or cats, if that’s your thing), and 30 different versions of alcohol bottle cozies.
Being by the seafront, there are the obligatory tourist, gift and ocean-themed shops, less so than Newport, but with just as many, if not more, antique shops. Despite most of the stores being dedicated to nothing-in-particular, you’ll probably be able to find something for everybody. And with many of the stores being locally owned carrying local products, you’ll support RI businesses and find something unique and unexpected while you’re at it.
Main Street, Warren
There’s not as huge a selection of shops on this street, but there’s enough variety you’ll be able to get your shopping done. Warren boasts an old-fashioned candy shop, clothing stores, art stores, antique shops, a record store and a handful of empty storefronts.
Wander off to MUSE only a couple streets away to get everything that can possibly be handcrafted or pick up some adorable fox prints. Stop into Podsnappery, specializing in the kitschy, and collect some old Elvis records and memorabilia from yesteryear to remind your loved ones how old they’ve gotten.