In early February, Vogue released a sprawling guide to the best and brightest small businesses across our nation. From coast to coast, we assembled a list of more than 59 of our most beloved boutiques for our shopping directory, the Independents. Scroll through our favorite shopping destinations—from Chicago’s Ikram to New Orleans’s Sunday Shop—that crawls across all 50 states.
A joint effort between several editors, the directory was born from our collective desire to shine a spotlight on some of our favorite small businesses amid the economic storm brought on by the pandemic. We know the power of fashion; how a pretty little something (for the home or the wardrobe) can lift the spirits, and we wanted to compile a list of places to find them. We also asked for your help and collected nominations from our readers—stores you wanted to see added to the Independents. We sifted and sorted through each and every one of your submissions and landed on these 18 stores. Read on for the plant purveyors, artisanal jewelry stores, and one-of-a-kind vintage shops selected by our readers.
D.C. might not be the fashion capital, but find yourself inside Relish and you’ll be surrounded by a wonderful (and sometimes whimsical) selection of fashion—from Dries Van Noten to Simone Rocha. Founded by Nancy Pearlstein 27 years ago, Relish is located in the heart of Georgetown in a modern multi-floor shop with polished concrete floors and sleek hardware railings. It’s frequented by a range of patrons looking for everything from Sofie D’Hoore to Undercover. There, you can find both minimally-minded pieces from Jil Sander, Joseph, and Lemaire, to more striking styles—a selection of looks from Molly Goddard’s colorfully bold spring 2021 collection and intricate one-of-a-kind pieces from Song for the Mute. —Maddy Fass
The three female owners of Seed to Stem in Worcester, Massachusetts, say that their shop is often described as a natural history museum crossed with a botanical garden: Weathered skulls and sage sticks are scattered among Venus flytraps; crystals adorn cacti; and mystical moon-charm necklaces sit nestled among Monsteras. But perhaps the most vibrant vegetation are the terrariums, where rare succulents, mosses, twigs, and rocks are arranged artfully under hand-blown glasses. Even if you aren’t in possession of a green thumb, Seed to Stem is worth the stop for its collection of ceramics. They carry a wide array of earthenware, ranging from incense burners to three-footed bowls crafted by artisans in Santa Fe, New York City, Los Angeles, and Detroit. —Elise Taylor
Some of the best things in life are seasonal—Sugar Tools Shop in the charming coastal New England town of Camden is among this list. Following the flow of traffic, the shop is open May through December, and in between, a well-stocked online shop can tide you over. Founded by Amy O’Donnell in 2010 (a New Yorker who unexpectedly relocated to Maine and opened shop a year later), the store sells all the trimmings required to live a beautiful life. There are things for the garden (copper plant-misters, colored twine, Swiss-style pruners), for the kids (cotton onesies, animal masks), for the kitchen (wood-handled measuring cups, tapered candles), and more. All of this is lovingly displayed inside the cozy shop, which has the hodgepodge charm of an antique shop, and online, product photography feels more like a Pinterest board than it does an e-boutique. – Lilah Ramzi
First and Little, founded in 2010, is a boutique dedicated to moms and their little ones alike. Situated in the heart of downtown Middletown, Delaware, the store brings exclusive brands to the area for a shopping experience that feels both new and distinct. The boutique is filled with treasures that range from women’s clothing, jewelry, and accessories, to home goods, and a wealth of children’s items, too—including teething toys and books. For shoppers far from town, First and Little boutique has an easy-to-navigate app that makes shopping the boutique’s many offerings from the comfort of your own home both fun and easy. – Rachel Besser
Charleston, South Carolina
First opened over 100 years ago on King Street by jeweler and hand-engraver William Joseph Croghan, Croghan’s Jewel Box is Charleston’s oldest jewelry store. Four generations later, the shop remains family-owned and run, situated in the same century-old building located in the heart of Charleston’s historic district. Throughout its storied history, Croghan’s has been a trove of estate and antique jewelry pieces. From Victorian engagement rings to Edwardian lockets and beautiful 1960s diamond-encrusted broaches, Croghan’s unique, old-world selection is unparalleled. But Croghan’s is not just about the bygone era, the shop has expanded to include an in-house design studio and workshop on the second floor, and a beautiful selection of contemporary pieces, too. Visiting Croghan’s is the ultimate marriage of old-meets-new with stunning jewelry that feels both yesteryear and entirely today. – Christian Allaire
A.J. Soseby certainly fits the bill of a small business: It’s run by a two-person team and the store is only around 200 square feet. Its focus? Functional yet artisanal home goods. Think enamel mixing bowls, a copper-and-steel garden pruner, a goat-haired durst brush, leather fly-swatters, and hand-carved wooden teaspoons. If you’re wondering, exactly, if you’ll ever use that egg cup, ask owners Adam and Johnathan, who will convince you the answer is without a doubt yes. A.J. Soseby is only steps away from their 125-year-old Victorian house and their shop’s product selection is inspired by their own Old Town East lifestyle. (It’s easy to see the connection between the two properties, as they share the same, distinctive, pine-green color scheme.) Plus, a portion of proceeds is donated to the Franklin Fund, a local animal rescue charity.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Terra Shepherd’s refined assortment is focused on all things eco-conscious. Clothing-wise, you’ll find classic pieces made of organic cottons or hemps; it also has an entire conscious clothing line, made with sustainable or ethically sourced materials. Its natural beauty products are also a definite highlight, including sage and rose face mists, CBD balms, and cyprus and coconut deodorants. In the home section, self-care is also the focus; one can shop a variety of crystals, candles, or bundles of Palo Santo to create a peaceful home oasis. Whatever the category, it’s the perfect destination for a thoughtful last-minute gift. —Elise Taylor
In addition to the fun selection of one-of-kind designer jewelry, you’ll find an assortment of animal-print and glitter kicks from Golden Goose, a handful of rainbow-colored sweatsuits from Free City, a collection of vintage band tees from Madeworn, and eye-catching eclectic fashions from Libertine. On the accessories front, the Birmingham-based shop is known for its fine jewelry selection. Stocking both playful and refined pieces—from Spinelli Kilcollin’s mixed-metal stacking rings to colorful, gem-encrusted magic mushroom necklaces from Brent Neale. As the store’s name suggests, it carries jewelry, clothing, accessories, and “etc.” and has been a destination in the south for more than a decade. And if you happen to be visiting the buzzy ski town of Aspen, you’ll find the sister Etc. store somewhere between the Caribou Club and the Baldwin contemporary art gallery. —Maddy Fass
The Edition Shop is the epitome of southern charm with a modern twist. Located in downtown Savannah on a beautiful tree-lined street, just a few blocks from the Savannah River, it stands out among its neighboring shops. A quick step inside, it’s a refreshing, serene palette of white interiors with gold hardware accents and earthy florals. Founder Meredith Barfield is meticulous in her store’s curation, bringing many fashion-forward designers to her shop and her local community, stocking favorite NYC labels like Ulla Johnson, Self-Portrait, and Staud as well as international gems like Scandinavian-favorite Ganni. —Julie Tong
Some stores, like the Conservatory, can feel more like a gallery than merely a place to buy clothes. The concept store, with locations in Dallas, New York, and Napa, curates an experience of “luxurious minimalism” for its customers online and in store. Founded by Dallas retail veteran Brian Bolke, who cofounded Forty Five Ten and previously worked with Neiman Marcus, the Conservatory focuses on sumptuous, trend-less classics. This is the destination for statement pieces you’ll never regret buying, like wide-leg leather pants, or an essential cashmere sweater you can hardly believe you ever lived without. —Sarah Spellings
Looking for architectural, funky clothing in Austin? Go straight to Kick Pleat. Founded by Wendi Koletar Martin, Kick Pleat has grown a loyal customer base thanks to its mix of emerging and established designers who cater to the artsy set. Kick Pleat’s edit feels perfectly in touch with wider trends in the fashion world, without ever losing that Texas edge. In its locations in Austin and Houston, as well as online, you’ll find a delight of slick finds including chunky Marni flatforms, Rachel Comey tie-dye jumpsuits, and Issey Miyake turtlenecks. —S.S.
Oglewood Avenue is a “modern house plant boutique,” situated on North Broadway Street in Knoxville, Tennessee. An apt description because Oglewood is, indeed, not your average plant store. Founded by Jade Adams, who studied botany and has a degree in microbiology, every aspect of the shop is interwoven with Adams’s expertise and affinity for plants. Oglewood’s motto is “making all people plant people,” priding itself not just on its plant curation (which includes beginner plants like cactus and succulents, tropical prayer-plants, and mature plants that make for statement pieces), but on providing customers with the education and tools needed to ensure that each plant that leaves the shop thrives. They even offer consulting and plant-styling services for homes and businesses alike. In short, Oglewood Avenue is the best place for local plant parents to source their offspring.
Even without stepping foot inside, A’maree’s offers something to marvel at—its swooping, swanky 1960s structure. Located dockside in Newport Beach, the undulating arched space was built by architectural firm Ladd & Kelsey following the era’s tastes for futurism. Its distinctive shape is also said to mimic the sails of the boats that bob in nearby Newport Harbor. The striking building originally housed the now-closed Stuft Shirt restaurant before Nancy Brown—proprietor of A’maree’s—took it over. For more than a decade, the building has been in her loving care and she’s filled it with top-tier fashions from Maison Margiela to Maison Rabih Kayrouz. There’s also paper-thin porcelain from Astier de Villatte and striped cashmere throws from the Elderstatesmen. Brown has also enlisted the help of her three daughters Apryl, Denise, and Dawn in the running of the shop. It’s a go-to for the yacht-set given its convenient location and has become a retail icon in southern California. – Lilah Ramzi
Founded by Christy Kimball and Stephen Clark, Framed Ewe set out to offer the best experience for its customers looking for a new pair of eyewear. Shop a wide assortment of spectacles and sunglasses from labels such as Salt and Ahlem as well as specialty frames from Jacques Marie Mage. Easily set up an eye exam consultation and styling session (virtually or in-person) or peruse the online shop for the perfect set of shades. Framed Ewe was established in 2012 in Phoenix and has since launched outposts in Los Angeles, including Fred Segal. The founders see Framed Ewe as not only a place to help bring independent eyewear designers to the forefront but a place to support local communities. The shops host fundraisers and act as gallery spaces for up-and-coming artists. —Julie Tong
Established in 2007 by South Korea–born, Oregon-raised Diana Kim, Stand Up Comedy is an unusual yet intriguing storefront that sits along Southwest Broadway in downtown Portland. In what looks like a jeweler shop plucked from the diamond district in New York City, Stand Up Comedy’s current home happens to be in one of the city’s few remaining original and historical storefronts, which dates back to 1912. You won’t find any retail items on display in the shop’s untraditionally small windows, though. Kim prefers to use the windows to showcase her designers’ creative processes instead of actual merchandise. One of the more notable window displays was a collaboration with New York–based pop-up concept shop, Cafe Forgot. Beyond the doors, you’ll find a very thoughtful and non-hierarchical assortment of clothing, books, and objects (jewelry and accessories). Among them a fine selection of forward-thinking emerging and established designers such as, 69, Building Block, Comme des Garçons, Eckhaus Latta, Issey Miyake, Lauren Manoogian, Maison Margiela, Suzanne Rae, Medea, and Martine Rose. For those who aren’t local to the shop, you’re in luck. Stand Up Comedy’s web store ships worldwide.
Los Angeles, California
Gallery Dept, the label and the store, defies categorization, so much so that the New York Times profile of founder and designer Josué Thomas ran with the headline “Is It Street Wear or Is It Art?” Located in West Hollywood, the store is open by appointment only, and sells Thomas’s cult-favorite jeans, screen-printed shirts (one available online is faux merch for the “Coronavirus world tour”), and more. The collection began in 2016, when Thomas sold a celebrity stylist a hand-sewn denim poncho. From there, Thomas grew a following with his custom pieces, which then became Gallery Dept’s highly-coveted line. Virgil Abloh is a fan, along with Kendall Jenner and LeBron James. If you’re lucky enough to get one of the coveted time slots, jump at the chance. -—Sarah Spellings
“Homebody is the antithesis of mass production,” says Dory Pratt of her interior decor store, which sits upon the edge of Denver’s upscale Cherry Creek neighborhood. The shelves are stocked with a worldly assortment of artisans: There’s Astier de Villatte ceramics, Byredo candles, Georges Pelletier lamps, Lito jewelry, and Mud dishware. The most important criterion for collection, however, is comfort—“I’m a very visual and tactile person,” says Pratt. “I look for soft, inviting fabrics and colors.” —Elise Taylor
Number 808—located in Haleiwa on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii—was founded in 2015 by North Shore natives Cappy Tseu and John Esguerra. The store is a celebration of distinctive Hawaiian style, merging a surf aesthetic with a cool, streetwear feel. Here, you’ll find labels for him and her such as Stussy, Levi’s, and Kapital—mixed in with a selection of one-of-a-kind vintage pieces, too. The shades, tie-dye tops, and graphic tees are fun and the whimsical beach towels are just as eye-catching. It’s a go-to spot to make sure you’re the best-dressed on the beach. The store itself is also modeled after the founders’ personal living spaces, filled with cozy rugs, wooden cabinetry, and quirky art. – Christian Allaire