Best of Connecticut 2012: Style

 

Julie Bidwell

antiques: modern
George Champion Modern Shop
Woodbury, (203) 263-8442 (georgechampioncompany.com)
If you are a fan of 20th-century design, especially as it pertains to furniture and furnishings, you should make your way to this fabulous, utterly distinctive shop on Main Street in Woodbury. Here you’ll find, in suitably stark settings, prized pieces such as a Saarinen tulip side chair, a Noguchi side table, Frank Gehry “Hat Trick” armchairs, an Andy Warhol “Elvis” rug and a great deal more.

antiques: traditional
Antiques Marketplace
Putnam, (860) 928-0442 (antiquesmarketplace.com)
This celebrated antiques emporium, a happenin’ stop on the Quiet Corner antiques trail since 1991, has more than 350 dealers spread over 22,000 square feet and four levels. Is your kitchen calling for a 1850s butter mold, your mantle for a Seth Thomas clock or your dining room for a 19th-century maritime oil? You just might find some, or all, of these rare finds right here. Will you have to search through a lot of nooks and crannies first? Of course—but therein lies the fun.

boutique: gifts
Elegant Touch Fine Gifts
Cheshire, (203) 250-1165 (elegantouchfinegifts.net)
What makes this almost-hidden (in a glassfront strip mall) gem succeed is not so much that owner Anita Bruscino—sister-in-law of Sweet Maria’s Maria Bruscino Sanchez—has given her shop an “elegant touch,” although she has a fine eye for showcasing gifts with class in a way that appeals mightily to browsers. It’s that she herself has the “common touch” for making every shopper feel appreciated, so you’re especially glad you bought those Stonewall Kitchen preserves, Franz porcelain teacups or Pré de Provence body lotions. And she loves to work with those same customers in creating custom gift baskets—any theme you have in mind is a “go.”

boutique: hip
Flirt
Hamden, (203) 287-0092 (flirtboutiquect.com)
Flirt proves you can be hip at any age, with an awesome selection of clothing to flatter women of all figures and tastes. Visit for the latest styles in everything from cocktail dresses to jeans to business apparel, with top brands like Free People, Ella Moss and J. Brand lining the racks. Don’t forget the accessories—they’ve got it all, from jewelry and scarves to bags and belts. And—how cool is this?—you can book an after-hours, private shopping party at no charge, and everyone in your group will receive 10 percent off all purchases, plus light hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. Fun!

boutique: shoes
Shoes ’N’ More
Greenwich, 203/629-4309, and other locations (shoesnmore.com)
This Connecticut-grown shop has staying power. Started in Greenwich in 1990, Shoes ’N’ More has expanded exponentially since then, with three more locations in the state now (Ridgefield, Westport and New Canaan), plus three in New York. And that’s no accident: The shop carries a great selection of the season’s hottest shoes (Michael Kors, Kooba, See by Chloe, Butter and Pour la Victoire, as well as Ugg, Frye, Cole Haan and Tecnica); there are lots of cool handbags (Michael Kors, Carlos Falchi, JPK Paris and more); and a helpful sales staff stands at the ready to make sure the shoe fits.

boutique: teens
Urban Outfitters
Westport, (203) 226-2620, and other locations (urbanoutfitters.com)
The fashion landscape, especially for teens, can be overwhelming: so many shops, so many styles! The good news is that Urban Outfitters, new in Westport, takes the guesswork out of looking fabulous and always au courant for style-conscious teens (and tweens, even 20- and 30-somethings), no matter the look-at-me venue or time of day. From the latest in street clothes that “kill it” to trend-blasting dressy tops and bottoms, UO has it covered. Need shoes? Jewelry? Accessories? Intimates or vintage cutoff shorts (for real)? Check them out—especially their new arrivals.

boutique: women’s
Kimberly Boutique
Guilford, (203) 453-2554, and West Hartford, (860) 523-4894 (shopkimberly.com)
At the West Hartford shop and newer Guilford shop, owner Kimberly Mattson Moster, whose fashion savvy was honed at Barneys New York and Reem Acra, focuses on high quality and customized service. Among the designers featured are Diane von Furstenberg, Alexis Bittar and Nicole Miller. You’re sure to find the look you want in tops, pants, dresses, shoes and handbags.

consignment shop: clothing
DLC
Westport, (203) 255-9099
“Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.” So says Mary O’Toole, owner of DLC (Designer Label Consignment). She prides herself on being “very picky” and accepts only items in impeccable condition—with names like Gucci, Tory Burch and Prada, as well as midrange names like Theory and J. Crew, and lots of designer jeans. Best of all, O’Toole won’t hesitate to let you know when something just doesn’t work on you. What really sets DLC apart is the menswear section. It’s often said that you can’t sell men’s clothes on consignment because guys wear their clothes into the ground. But O’Toole has found some who don’t, who are apparently partial to Zegna, Hickey Freeman and Armani.

consignment shop: furniture
Middlebury Consignment
Middlebury, (203) 528-0130 (middleburyconsignment.com)
Not many could have foreseen this spectacular shopping destination growing up right smack in the middle of little Middlebury. The central feature is still furniture on consignment, and there are many, many wonderful things to behold and aspire to—from leather-top desks and EJ Victor dining sets to a splashy wedding-cake chandelier made with red Murano glass and a really cool screen-doored pie safe. But there are now lines of new furniture, too, and furnishings, and a café and cooking classes, and more new attractions all the time. Put it on your must-see list and allow yourself some time to take it all in.

crafts gallery
Artisan’s Marketplace
Plainville, (860) 747-4121 (artisansmarketplacect.com)
Year after year, Artisan’s proves itself to be the best place around to find high-quality American-made crafts, both decorative and functional, from jewelry and other personal accessories to items for the home and garden. It’s been a true family business for more than 30 years: Silversmith Martha Couture runs the shop with daughters Diane and Cynthia, in an elegant Victorian cottage built from the ground up by Martha’s husband Jim. More than 400 artisans are represented.

custom rings
Peter Indorf
New Haven, (203) 776-4833, and
Madison, (203) 245-5700 (peterindorf.com)
Since 1972, the talented Peter Indorf has been creating beautiful rings, focusing on engagement rings and wedding bands. He’s currently working more pearls into his designs, and launching a collection called Cosmos, inspired by astrology and integrating 22K gold and 100 percent silver with diamonds and gemstones. If you’d like an old ring transformed with a new setting, Indorf is a master at that as well.

destination shopping
Guilford (guilfordgreenct.com)
Guilford is where creative mom-and-pop shops go to thrive. You’ll find them from border to border, but the best place to start is the cluster of historic buildings surrounding the congenial town green. Though we always love browsing venerable favorites like Breakwater Books, Page Hardware and the Greene Art Gallery, lately we’ve been captivated by the audacious Mix Design Store, named “the best new business in town” by the Guilford Chamber of Commerce. And we never miss a chance to see what’s been added to Flutterby or Kimberly Boutique. Step off this beaten path just a bit and you’ll come to the oh-so-eclectic and funky Gallery Raffael (nestled in half a quonset hut) and BSK Designs, home to the vibrant dichroic jewelry of Barbara Shulman-Kirwin. If your passion is American crafts from A to Z, head straight for Evergreen—or get in your car for a two-minute drive to Blue Moon Artisans (on Route 1) and the Guilford Art Center (host of classy,  popular summer and Christmas expositions).

destination shopping
West Hartford (centerandsquare.com)
We suspect that West Hartford’s commercial district invented the phrase “shop till you drop”: The physical sprawl of this particular downtown makes visiting all your stores of choice a day-long project, at least. But what bounty is here—Whole Foods, Lux Bond & Green, Ten Thousand Villages, Comina and Jos. A. Bank, just for starters—and with it the opportunity to breathe fresh air and enjoy the passing scene. Head for the picturesque enclave Blue Back Square (down the flights of stairs from the Noah Webster memorial) to find  favorites like Barnes & Noble, Ann Taylor and Crate & Barrel. In between purchases, check out the fine fare at the Elbow Room, Grant’s or Max’s Oyster Bar, take in a movie at Blue Back’s Bow-Tie Cinemas or even peruse the recently renovated Noah Webster Library (a pleasant respite for the fattest wallet).

destination shopping
Westport
When is a mall not a mall? When it’s a lovely Main Street with parking along the great wide Saugatuck. Along with usual suspects like J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Williams Sonoma, Chico’s, Gap and Coach (and lovable stalwarts Max’s Art Supply, Oscar’s Deli and Sally’s Place), there are plenty of new kids on the block—Benefit Cosmetics, Nike, Kate Spade, West Elm and Theory. On surrounding streets there are BOC winners Dovecote, Soleil Toile and newbie Urban Outfitters. Speaking of which, the latter’s mother company URBN obviously finds lots to like in Westport: Up the Post Road a piece you’ll find two of their other properties, Anthropologie and totally gorgeous new home-and-garden store (an inadequate description if we’ve ever seen one) Terrain. 

eveningwear
Helen Ainson Darien
Darien, (203) 655-9841 (helenainson.com)
Choosing a special dress is a breeze when you let the fashion consultants at Helen Ainson Darien take charge. The shop is stocked with sophisticated sportswear, pretty cocktail dresses, knockout eveningwear and special- occasion designs from more than 150 manufacturers, with shoes and eye-catching accessories to match. A new area of sexy lingerie has just been added and includes boutique French lines Simone Perele and Le Mystère; a fitting expert is onsite. Best of all is the personalized service you receive from the delightful staff, who are truly expert at helping you find the perfect look.

eyeglasses
OptiCare
Waterbury, (203) 574-2020 (opticarepc.com)
If you wear glasses, your primary concern is getting the right prescription, fit and quality lenses that will bring your vision as close to 20/20 as possible. That is, after you pick out a striking designer frame. What we love about OptiCare (and its 18 Connecticut locations): You never have to sacrifice one for the other. Whatever tops your priority list—affordability, the best in eye care or the trendiest specs ever—you’re apt to be pleased with the eye-opening experience you’ll get at OptiCare.

fabric store
The Barn
Bridgeport, (203) 334-3396 (thebarn-bridgeport.com)
The Barn has been in business for half a century, providing fabrics and related items out of a historic 1869 storage barn that was part of the old Hurd Stone Factory. The area’s largest fabric store, it offers designer fabrics and trimmings from around the world, along with ready-made and custom window treatments, slipcovers, upholstery and such. Selection is wide, quality high and prices reasonable.

gift shop
Design Forum Gallery
Farmington, (860) 677-7568 (designforumgallery.com)
A fixture on Route 4 for close to 40 years, this little clown car of a brick store (dig those colorful windows!) never stops popping with ideas: unique (and that’s exactly the word) gift books, fine soaps, fabulous handmade clothing, appealing novelties (how about a Singing in the Rain shower curtain?) and some genuinely gorgeous crafts—art-glass clocks, vases, dinnerware and sculpture, as well as lines upon lines of jewelry from internationally known designers Ayala Bar, Amy Kahn Russell, Colleen Toland and Connecticut’s own Michael Michaud (Silver Seasons). Plus, the kind of greeting card selection—from graceful to bawdy—you’d never find in Hallmark. In general, when you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind item, you’d be crazy to start anywhere else but here . . . if by that, you mean a gift that will also be treasured for years to come.

gift shop
Elizabeth Richard Gifts
Waterbury, (203) 754-4438(elizabethrichardgifts.com)
Opened only four years ago by local entrepreneur Lori Greene (who was inspired by gift shops she’d admired in Charleston, S.C., and Wickford, R.I.), Elizabeth Richard has quickly become a go-to destination for gifts in the region. There are greeting cards, bath products and chocolates, china and items from Vietri, Le Creuset, Waterford and Julia Knight. And when in doubt about what to get for that guy in your life, may we suggest a Vineyard Vines tie?

gift shop
Newbury Place
Southbury, (203) 264-7333 (newburyplace.com)
If you love giving gifts almost as much as getting them, then Newbury Place will knock your baby ballerina socks off. This very cool shop in Southbury carries an extraordinarily original selection of clothing, jewelry, handbags and accessories—plus luxurious bath and body lotions, and gifts for the home. Among other brands, they stock Mariposa, homegrown Eliza B., Lacoste and Stonewall Kitchen. Oh, and the most adorable baby ballerina shoes we have ever seen.

gift shop
The Bowerbird
Old Lyme, (860) 434-3562 (thebowerbird.com)
What do you consider an “impulsive necessity”? No matter. The Bowerbird, which stocks some 10,000 different gift items from 2,000 vendors, likely carries it. What this landmark Old Lyme gift shop, in the biz since 1989, considers “impulsive necessities” includes everything from fun and funky accessories for home and garden to cute and cuddly baby gifts to jewelry with just the right amount of bling. Did we mention gourmet goodies, playthings for the pampered pooch, fine stationery for the finicky mother-in-law—and that’s just to start? Hold on a minute: That gift’s for you? We won’t tell a soul. 

lingerie
Soleil Toile
Westport, (203) 454-8688, and
New Canaan, (203) 966-2887 (soleiltoile.com)
This mother-daughter act is our go-to spot for sexy underthings and sophisticated nightwear. Marilynn Lipton and Stacey Schumer offer a handpicked selection of beautiful lingerie (Chantelle, La Perla, Wolford, Marie Jo, Eres), silken nighties and pjs (Hanro, Natori, Oscar de la Renta, Cosabella) and fine hosiery. The shop also has great swimwear by Eres, Letarte and Manuel Canovas, among others. Best of all is the one-on-one service from the attentive staff.

men’s clothing
Mitchells
Westport, (203) 227-5165 (mitchellstores.com)
Any fashion-forward guy worth his salt will tell you that Mitchells is the place to shop if you believe that clothes make the man. A Westport icon since 1958, Mitchell’s is still family-run, and still at the forefront of men’s fashion in every way. The very generously scaled store (at 25,000 square feet) is filled with nothing but the best names and brands: Hickey Freeman, Agave, Diesel and Hugo Boss, to name just a few.

men’s hats
Delmonico Hatter
New Haven, (203) 787-4086 (delmonicohatter.com)
Combining old-school service with contemporary savvy has kept Delmonico in business for more than 100 years, selling lids with zazz to locals (at its old-school downtown digs) and worldwide (over the Internet, which the store discovered ahead of the retail curve). Fedoras, Panamas, Stetsons, Kangols and the more popular than ever “authentic” Indiana Jones hats are always readily available, along with a growing collection of women’s hats, scarves and gloves. Delmonico even cleans, repairs and hand-blocks your hats—find us another business in Connecticut that can make that claim.

men’s shoes
FootPrints Shoes & Accessories
Newington, (860) 666-3100 (footprintsshoes.com)
Let’s face it: Most of us abuse our feet. We stand on them all day and usually keep them tied up or covered, only exposing them to the light of day when the weather allows it. Consequently, it makes sense to at least treat them to some quality footwear, and with more than 50 name brands available, it’s easy to find that ideal shoe to keep those dogs from barking. From Bruno Magli and Ecco to Adidas and New Balance to Birkenstock and Sperry, Footprints has everything that you could be looking for in a shoe, and with 80 sales associates and more than 100,000 pairs in stock, you’re sure to find what you need when you need it.

men’s ties
Vineyard Vines
Greenwich, (203) 661-1803, and Westport, (203) 227-3400 (vineyardvines.com)
Starfish and umbrellas and airplanes, oh my! For 14 years, Vineyard Vines, a prep’s paradise, has been selling printed silk and woven ties (bowties, too) featuring all types of critters and symbols. At its flagship in Greenwich, the store also features several collections that are “tie-ins” with professional sports, including the MLB, NFL and NHL. From selling ties out of the back of a Jeep to establishing this tie  and clothing mecca, owners Shep and Ian Murray are a remarkable Connecticut success story.

jewelry: eclectic
Dovecote
Westport, (203) 222-7500 (dovecote-westport.com)
The sliver of a jewel shop on the edge of this lavish home furnishings emporium is a must-stop in Westport. Owner Sarah Kaplan, once a buyer for Neiman Marcus and Barneys, has a tastemaker’s eye for beautiful, unique things, and the jewelry here is truly exceptional. The diverse collection of beautifully displayed original pieces, at a wide range of price points (from $20 to $20,000), includes over 200 artists and vendors from across the country—names such as Me & Ro, Catherine Weitzman, Julieri, Lisa Freede, Stephen Vaubel Designs, Keri Starker, White Moth Jewelry—as well as Connecticut designers Ann Lightfoot and In 2 Designs.

jewelry: estate
Peter Suchy Jewelers
Stamford, (203) 327-0024 (petersuchyjewelers.com)
All things bling thrill us to no end . . .  and there is no end to the stunning selection of estate and antique jewelry sold at Peter Suchy—or so it seems. In business in Stamford for more than 30 years, Suchy’s is the serious jewelry seeker’s go-to shop for the finest rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and watches. Whether you’re in the market for gold, platinum or diamonds—and especially if you have a hankering for something vintage by Cartier, Tiffany or Rolex—Peter Suchy is a great place to find it.

jewelry: fine
Lux Bond & Green
West Hartford, (860) 521-3015 (lbgreen.com)
This family-owned business has been serving Connecticut’s fine-jewelry needs for 114 years.  Whether it is a special occasion and you’re in need of diamonds, or you’re looking for a unique jeweled gift, Lux Bond & Green has an extensive collection of rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and watches—not to mention fine dinnerware and other gifts—that are surely timeless treasures!

splurge: shopping
Greenwich Avenue
Greenwich (shopgreenwichavenue.com)
LA may have Rodeo Drive, but we have Greenwich Avenue. Connecticut’s prime shopping mecca is a little less haute—but that’s what we like about it. It’s got heart. Sure, there are big names—Ralph Lauren, LaCoste, Tory Burch, Coach, Kate Spade—but there are also Connecticut originals like Vineyard Vines, Betteridge Jewelers, Mis en Scene and Tahiti Street. Sprinkled in between are florists, nail salons, home-grown restaurants, etc. Someone cared enough to see it didn’t turn into wall-to-wall chain stores like some other towns we can think of, and that has made all the difference.

swimsuits
Tahiti Street
Greenwich, (203) 622-1878 (tahitistreet.com)
Andrea Bisordi knows swimwear—she should, she’s been in the business for 22 years. Her cheerful Greenwich boutique features a wonderful selection of bikinis, one-pieces and tankinis by more than 30 cutting-edge designers—names like Eres, Kuny, Letarte, Karla Colletto and Tommy Bahama. There are mix-and-match two-pieces in B, C and D cups, lots of great cover-ups, accessories and a bigger-than-ever collection of adorable sundresses—and an experienced staff that will help you get the best fit.

toy store
Age of Reason
Westport, (203) 226-8199
At your wits’ end coming up with a birthday party present? Get thee to Age of Reason, deliver yourself into the capable hands of one of the trusty saleswomen, and presto, problem solved. They’ll take you by the hand and lead you around, pointing out this or that wonderful creative gift idea among the abundance of toys, models, books and games. What you won’t find: commercial tie-ins, action figures and the like. “In general,” says manager Helene Kurtz, “if Toys R Us carries it, we don’t.” What you will find is a host of interesting, educational (in a good way) alternatives such as Lego Architecture kits, jewelry-making and tie-dye kits, Djeco French puzzles and crafts, Haba blocks, books of Chinese fairy tales, and plenty of things that appeal to “kids of all ages.”

vintage clothing store
Grape in the Shade
Washington Depot, (860) 868-9119 (grapeintheshade.com)
Sarah Jessica Parker immortalized a Grape dress in Sex and the City 2; local friend-of-the-shop Christine Baranski wore one of its pins on “The Good Wife” a season or two ago. You’ll feel like you’re visiting the costume department of an Audrey Hepburn movie: These beautiful handmade examples of American couture from decades past all look to be roughly her size and are so carefully maintained, you’d swear they were brand-new. The Grape also provides the best chance to play dress-up you’ll ever have, thanks to the motherlode of mint-condition accessories (hats, gloves, purses and costume jewelry) owner JoAnne Lombardi has acquired over 11 years—we coveted a classic Trifari bracelet with cut-glass flowers, several beaded summer purses and about a dozen pillbox hats, especially the one made of yellow feathers.
 

Best of Connecticut 2012: Style

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