Adler's Hardware has been in business for almost eighty years. Their ads say, "Little store. Big selection. Huge personality." That about captures it! If there is any quality item you need for your home, Adler's is the place to go first. Forget the big box stores. Trying out a new color for the kitchen walls? Adler's will provide a miniature can of paint so you can see what it looks like "on". Decorative hardware, custom window treatments, wall-coverings, housewares and the sorts of things you don't really know where to find -- a storm lantern, recently -- can all be located by the exceedingly knowledgeable and helpful Adler's staff. Okay, maybe you feel strange about visiting a hardware store if you're a guest in the United States. Why not go just to make the comparison about what you'd find at home?
What to buy: Adler's does carry various housewares and some items which could conceivably be considered souvenirs, but I think I'm recommending that you go and BROWSE, whether or not you decide to buy. The location, just down the street from the Coffee Exchange, allows you to stop in for coffee and a pastry afterwards, or meander over to one of the nearby art galleries, after you've had your fill of hardware.
What to pay: Roughly what normal hardware would cost elsewhere. The personal touch, they throw in for free!
Craftland is just what it advertises: a place devoid of mass production. They claim to specialize in "sparkly hand-made objects" including jewelry, T-shirts (my favorite is the one with the huge outline of Texas, encompassing a tiny outline of Rhode Island, with the legend, "Don't mess with Rhode Island, either!"), prints, journals and home accessories -- and in season, wild holiday greeting cards -- all created by talented folks, most of whom are local. I believe they also offer classes but since I haven't taken any of them, I'm not even sure in what.
Open Monday - Saturday 11am - 6pm, Sunday 12pm - 5pm. Free parking.
What to buy: I'm still chuckling over the tote bag, silk-screened with "Rhode Island: 3% bigger at low tide" but I've found many gifts for house-warmings, birthdays, and holidays here.
What to pay: The cards are a little more expensive than average, which you'd anticipate for hand-made goods. Otherwise, I'd say prices are standard.
Rhode Island's biggest used bookshop, Cellar Stories is definitely worth a visit. I found an old "Nancy Drew" mystery to start my grand-daughter off on the right foot.
Their website says it best: "Cellar Stories has been buying and selling all types of books for over twenty-eight years. We're the largest used and rare bookstore in the smallest state in the US. While we specialize in Rhode Island History, New England History, Art & Architecture, Modern First Editions, Poetry, and Mathematics, we have a stock of approximately 60,000 volumes covering all categories from vintage paperbacks, pulps and collectible ephemera to antiquarian volumes on many subjects. "
What to pay: The well-preserved Carolyn Keene from 1935 set me back $35.00.
Eno is a really classy addition to Westminster Street's corridor of fun and useful places to spend your money or while away a little time. It's pretty small, but the store designer hasn't wasted a single inch of space; the place is floor-to-ceiling wine (and some nice beers as well). Free wine tastings are held on Fridays from 4:30-6:30 and on Saturday from 3:00-5:00.
There really isn't another place so convenient to downtown (certainly for those without a car, who are staying in any of the downcity hotels) where someone knowledgeable can help you select a good wine.
Open Monday-Saturday 11:00-10:00 and Sunday from noon-5:00. Free parking (for two hours) is available in the lot just across from Tazza.
What to buy: Wine, wine, wine!
Today's Providence Journal had the following great tip: Marcus and Barbara Thompson own a 1790 farmhouse in Harmony, Rhode Island, where they raise Border Leicesters and Hampshires -- sheep, to those of us not in the know. Along with seventeen other local members of the Rhode Island Sheep Cooperative, they contributed the wool which is eventually woven into blankets at S&D Spinners in Millbury, Massachusetts. Those blankets carry the designation "Rhody Warm" and they're available in very limited supply. The inaugural edition (2006) is close to selling out, but new blankets will be available around December, 2007 and presumably annually thereafter. These blankets are beautifully soft, warm and fuzzy, in a classic windowpane pattern of either brown/gray or brown/gray with white. Help a local farmer remain in business, and keep a wonderful souvenir of your visit to our bucolic little state. Throws (45" x 72") are $92 each. Queen blankets (90" x 90") are $184 and twin blankets (72" x 90") are $130. I might just order them for my far-flung sons!
What to buy: "Rhody Warm" blankets and throws
What to pay: Priced from $92 to $184
This mall opened in 1999 and was the crown jewel of Buddy Cianci's revitilization plan of downtown Providence. It's a 5 level shopping mall with restaurants on the lower level and a food court on the 3rd level.
It also has a 5 level parking garage that is hell on earth to get out of at closing time.
What to buy: It has all the chain stores you'd expect to find in a mall.
What to pay: As much as you can afford
More than twenty years ago, Gibb Brownlie and Michael Lamar were new RISD graduates interested in finely crafted lighting. Now, they and their staff combine "handcast elements in ceramics, resin, and metal to create precise and artiful lamp stems. All of the shades are then meticulously painted by hand with rich detail" and trust me, they aren't kidding! Very unusual patterns -- sand dollars, spring buds, blossoms and wild grain -- are on display in the Altamira Lighting showroom in Warren, which is only a twenty minute drive from downtown Providence.
Showroom open Tuesday-Saturday 11 AM-4 PM. Summer hours, Tuesday-Friday 11-4, but between August 15-September 5, the showroom is open "by chance or appointment only".
What to buy: Unique artisanal floor and table lamps.
What to pay: These are hand-crafted items. Expect to pay $200-$600 per lamp.
With a motto like that one -- emblazoned on a fine banner across Heir's coat of arms, so to speak -- you just know you're going to love the contents of the store. I fell for it when Heir won the Downtown Merchants' Christmas Window contest, hands down, creating a hearth straight out of a Victorian Christmas. I wanted to climb into the window and play with the train! But that was in Heir's original, tiny space on Eddy Street. It has grown, and now has a much larger emporium on Westminster Street with the rest of the fashionable and funky shops of the Downcity Renaissance.
Officially, Heir carries antique furniture and home accessories, RISD works (art and jewelry), and "odd curiousities". But the owner has such a discerning eye and a flair for putting things together so that you WANT it all.
Because I am in the stage of life when I'm trying hard to pare down my worldly goods, I've limited my purchases to Heir's wildly entertaining cards for all occasions. These often have a classical or old-fashioned "front" and a thoroughly modern message inside, adding to the fun.
Free parking is available in the lot across from Tazza.
Update, 5/2011: Heir disappeared while I was on vacation. The flag is up but there's nobody home. I'll update you if there is a new address, but for the time being I think we'd better assume the worst.
For several years, I wondered who did the magnificent flowers which appeared each Sunday at the Cathedral. Then I became Senior Warden, and I learned that they came from Jephry. I am very fortunate to have been sent a number of their arrangements over the years, so I can personally vouch for the fact that they are creative, tasteful, and gorgeous. One bouquet was so fragrant that I would go out of the room just for the pleasure of returning and getting another hit of the scent!
Monday-Friday 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM, Saturday 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM
What to buy: Flowers, of course. But they also carry such lovely extras as Japanese floral shears, imported brass frogs, and K. Hall Moss liquid soap.
What to pay: More expensive than average. Worth it.
Our local newspaper described it thus: Clever toys for grownups as well as beautifully hand-crafted gift items and accessories for the home and to wear are among the intriguing items you'll find at the Curatorium. The new store has a metro, eclectic feel and is great fun to browse in -- a perfectg spot to look for fun and unusual stocking stuffers like pig-shaped soaps, sticky notes with funny sayings, frog flashlight-keychains, elaborate action figures like a Marie Antoinette doll whose head pops off, etc.
Open daily from 10 AM to 6 PM (Thursdays until 8 PM), Sundays 11 AM to 5 PM
In a tiny hole-in-the-wall shop, two teenagers from Providence's East Side have embarked on what turns out to be an excellent business: creating delectable, pretty cup cakes and donating the proceeds to hunger charities. So patronize away, Providence visitors and residents alike. It's all for a good cause!
There are the usual flavors, plus lavendar, lemon, red velvet and carrot cake, all beautifully decorated. Incidentally, there are NO NUTS for those who have allergy concerns.
The shop is only open Wednesday-Friday 11:00 AM-2:00 PM
What to pay: Single cupcakes are $2.75. Mini-cupcakes are $1.75.
Southwest Passage is a great place for those of us who love Native American jewelry and artifacts, but haven't quite got the travel budget to get to New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, etc. Actually, most of the selections are either from NM or AZ, bought directly from Native American artists and their families on the reservations. Each piece has a story to tell. Ask the owner, Gayle Gertler, and she'll fill you in. My personal favorites are the Acoma pottery but if you're a turquoise lover or miss Zuni things in your home...this is a great little store.
Open T-S 10 AM to 5 PM (later on Friday and Saturday), Sunday 12-5 PM.
Here you will find Nordstrom's, J.Jill, Gap, Borders Books, Cheesecake Factory, Renovators Supply, Pottery Barn, jewelers, nail salons, gigantic movie theater, food court, game room, shoe stores, and the list goes on.
Be sure to go to the 2nd floor for the views out of the wall of glass. You can see the Waterfires from there...and the train & river running under the mall. . . 18th century architecture on the far hillside of the East Side.
The flea market in the city has vendors selling vintage clothing, blown glass, jewelry, lots of food trucks and wonderful views of the city. Located along the river, there is a breeze and plenty of people watching .. or a short sit under a tree.
We took Watson today. He loved it.
Miko sells sex. More precisely, it sells exotic clothing (it's a lot of fun to go shop just before Hallowe'en or Valentine's Day) and accessories, some of which should not be described on this website.
Oddly enough, it now resides only blocks from a Providence elementary school, having begun life as a downtown fixture and then moving to an unused fire station on the East Side. Our local newspaper describes the shop as "combining a fun take on all things sexy with a responsible and even wholesomely education approach." I think you owe it to yourself to see if they're correct -- and Wickenden Street has a lot of other interesting shopping and dining options.
Open M-Sat 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM, Sunday noon to 6:00 PM.
What to buy: This is my favorite place for fishnets.