HOME & GARDEN
Antique and Artisan Center
Stamford, (203) 327-6022, stamfordantiques.com
At the Antique and Artisan Center, you’ll find vintage, mid-century and antique furniture all hand-selected and displayed by 60 top antique dealers. The 23,000-square-foot warehouse holds local and international artwork, jewelry and home décor. From a white Onassis chair by Karl Springer to bedding from Elanbach’s Royal Collection, the Center has something for you to discover. The professionals at the Center’s Studio of Design, Fabric and Upholstery can also repair, refinish and transform your favorite piece of furniture to make it look brand-new or to match your individual style.
Why it’s the best: Every day dealers bring in new and unique pieces to decorate their booths, which means more items and artwork for you to add to an existing collection—or a reason to start a new one.
Mill House Antiques
Woodbury, (203) 263-3446, millhouseantiquesandgardens.com
Mill House Antiques notes that it’s as well known for its gardens as its antiques. Both are superior, both worthy enough to give Mill House destination status. Once you get there, you’ll glory in the 17 showrooms, spread among five buildings, that house an amazing selection of antiques and accessories. As you walk from building to building “the sensation of being in Europe will not leave you as stroll by antique urns and statuary that once adorned the walkways and gardens of manors and chateaus across England the rest of Europe.” That passion of owner William Hildreth, expert collector turned shop owner, is infused in everything at Mill House.
Why it’s the best: The passion for antiques comes with a social conscience, and Mill House hosts events for organizations such as the Glebe House Museum, the Waterbury Symphony and the Pomperaug River Water Coalition.
Middlebury, (203) 528-0130, middleburyconsignment.com
If you’re looking for a new sofa for the living room, or if you’ve been meaning to sell that antique armchair in your attic, Middlebury Consignments is the perfect place to buy and sell antique and contemporary furniture and home décor. The 20,000-square-foot showroom contains furniture from some of the most notable designers—Theodore Alexander, Maitland-Smith and Henredon—not to mention a large collection of iconic checkered black-and-white ceramic pieces from MacKenzie-Childs. After a day of showroom shopping, relax at the café and try the creamy and thick pumpkin soup, or a gourmet ham sandwich prepared by an in-house chef.
Why it’s the best: As if the showroom didn’t already make you feel at home, The Kitchen at Middlebury Consignment also offers cooking demonstrations and the newly expanded private dining room is perfect for intimate dinner parties and events.
Danielson, (888) 330-8038, logees.com
A visit to Logee’s is akin to stepping into another world—five greenhouses teem with gorgeous tropical plants, some amazing specimens of which have broken through containers to take root (like the 114-year-old Ponderosa lemon tree that still bears five-pound lemons). Plus, there’s an abundance of fruit-filled boughs and blooming flowers that reach from floor to ceiling at every turn. More than 1,500 varieties of plants are available, from fragrant flowers to fruit trees to orchids and more. The newly expanded retail shop also covers all your growing needs.
Why it’s the best: Logee’s has been a destination for rare and tropical plants since 1892, and more than a century of experience is hard to top.
Multiple locations, (203) 743-8293, ethanallen.com
With seven locations in Connecticut, this Danbury-based home décor giant is always close by when you need a new couch, bed or table, or want to upgrade your living room, bedroom or home office. Choose your style—romantic, elegant, vintage or modern—or explore a variety of furnishings, fabrics and accessories inspired by locations from around the globe. Ethan Allen designs, manufactures, sells, delivers and installs its own furniture and home décor, all with an eye to help you love your home even more than you do now.
Why it’s the best: With such an established quality brand and variety of styles, Ethan Allen has something for everyone.
Hamden, (203) 288-1026, brokenarrownursery.com
Broken Arrow Nursery is a premier specialty plant retailer of woody plants and perennials in line with the best in the country. With contacts around the globe, the nursery is able to bring in top specimens from everywhere. Broken Arrow is the place to find native plants as well as the “uncommon and underutilized” options. Regardless of what you’re looking for or how experienced you are with gardening, the knowledgeable staff will be able to guide you to the perfect plant.
Why it’s the best: Broken Arrow specializes in both garden variety and exotic plants.
Monroe, (203) 261-2133, twomblynursery.com
With an assortment of Climbers, English roses, Meidilands, Flower Carpets, Romanticas and Town and Country series, Twombly has a never-ending supply of roses. Japanese maples, hydrangeas or perennials are all readily available, and Twombly can also special order plants you want that aren’t in the nursery. Need a few tips on how to start your rose garden or take care of your old one? Twombly Nursery has a staff of trained horticulturists and on-site designers that are ready to help you expose your green thumb.
Why it’s the best: Twombly’s abundant collection of roses, multiseasonal and hard-to-find plants will flatter any home garden.
ARTS & CRAFTS
Art Supplies Shop
Hull’s Art Supply & Framing
New Haven, (203) 865-4855, hullsnewhaven.com
With more than 65 years of experience, Hull’s knows art, and knows it well. Home to artists new and old, it succeeds in providing “tools for the imagination” for all creative minds. Besides paint, pencils and brushes of various colors and sizes, Hull’s also has a children’s section—smocks and all—that will thrill any young Picasso. With a collection of architectural model building supplies, filled with basswood sheets, museum boards and cutting tools, Hulls is more than an art supply store.
Why it’s the best: Hull’s has every art supply you could possibly think of, and plenty that you didn’t know existed.
|Photo by Rick Baumauer|
Bridgeport, (203) 349-2618, thebarn-bridgeport.com
If you just moved into a new home, or your living space needs a millennial update, The Barn is your go-to fabric and home furnishing shop. However, The Barn is more than just a fabric store—its wide selection of draperies, tablecloths and bedding can inspire you to find your inner interior decorator. And if you can’t decipher the color wheel, a fabric specialist can create a personalized color story to reflect your personality. With such a vast array of selections, if you don’t find what you’re looking for in the store, you can place a special order for ready-made items, or the staff can sew whatever you need—from tablecloths to pillows and everything in between.
Why it’s the best: Fifty years after opening its doors, The Barn is still helping homeowners and professionals find the perfect designer fabrics from all over the world as well as custom designing items sewn right in the workrooms.
Black Sheep Yarns
Kent, (860) 927-3808, blacksheepyarnsct.com
Black Sheep Yarns is more than just a place to buy yarn, needles, hooks and patterns. This shop is more like your neighbor’s house where you’re always welcome to stop by. Owner Nancy Hamilton hosts “Fiber Arts with Nancy” on WHDD 91.9 and invites all shoppers to visit during the week for a free first-time knitting lesson. Classes are taught regularly by local designers and friends of the shop. There’s a rainbow of beautiful fibers to choose from, and there’s always coffee, tea, water and homemade treats for snacking.
Why it’s the best: There’s no intimidation, so whether you’re an experienced knitter or trying it for the first time, you’ll find the help you need.
BOOKS & MUSIC
R.J. Julia Booksellers
Madison, (203) 245-3959, rjjulia.com
For the last 25 years, Roxanne J. Coady, owner of Madison bookstore R.J. Julia Booksellers, has been committed to providing shoppers with an intimate, memorable experience. The shop is a little bit old—in the restored décor—and a little bit new with the ample book selection and of-the-moment guests stopping by. The shop hosts nearly 350 author-related events each year. A recent visit by prospective presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, who signed copies of her memoir, attracted more than 1,000 people.
Why it’s the best: All books are curated with specific audiences in mind.
The Book Barn
Niantic, (860) 739-5715, bookbarnniantic.com
There’s no shortage of books at this Niantic landmark. The Book Barn’s ever-changing inventory covers every shelf, is stacked to the ceiling and can be found in outbuildings and other spots on the property. The Book Barn buys books every day, offering checks and store credit to sellers. Books are brought here by the truckload, and as a result, you can often find items that aren’t in new bookstores or even libraries.
Why it’s the best: Sheer volume—you will find books here that can’t be located anywhere else.
George’s Music Center
Torrington, (860) 496-9362, georgesmusiccenter.com
Since George Donovan opened his Torrington music store in 1998, musicians from across the Northeast corner of the state have flocked to find the best in instruments, musical equipment and more. In addition to offering lessons (ranging from beginner to expert) and an instrument rental program (perfect for in-school musicians), George’s has The Guitar Stash—the “guitarist’s guitar shop”—with a selection of high-end, boutique and custom-made guitars as well as expert knowledge and guidance to help you find the perfect instrument for you.
Why it’s the best: George knows and loves music, and is always willing to share that with everyone who walks through the door.
Milford, (203) 693-3140, babylovealways.com
If you’re looking for clothes for mom and baby, nursery design and even jewelry for dad, Baby Love is your one-stop shop. From cribs and dresses to custom bedding and wall art, the mix of vintage and modern styles is perfect for designing any nursery. Besides setting itself apart with a focus on American-made and organic specialty items, Baby Love has a selection of handpicked toys and comfy blankets that will make your little one feel loved.
Why it’s the best: With eclectic collections for mothers, babies and nurseries, Baby Love makes the transition into motherhood as smooth as possible.
Over the Moon
Avon, (860) 676-9599, overthemoonkids.com
If you have children, you already know that you can find clothes for them almost anywhere, but what makes family-run Over the Moon special is not only the range of clothes—from preemies up to size 12—but the quality of the selection. You’ll find brands like Isobella and Chloe, Pink Chicken, Tea, Charlie Rocket and City Threads in addition to great outerwear, footwear, hats, accessories and more. Over the Moon focuses on high-quality, durable products because as parents themselves, they know it’s important to buy clothes that are as good as they look.
Why it’s the best: People with kids selling clothes for kids makes a good match.
Westport, (203) 557-8111, grooveforkids.com
Opened in 2012, Groove carries a wide selection of clothes and gifts for toddlers to teens and everyone in between. The apparel for teens is especially exceptional—with hip, on-trend clothing, shoes and accessories, there’s bound to be something for even the most hard-to-shop-for teenager in your life. On the racks, you’ll find laid-back, West Coast-style jeans and tops from popular brands like Flying Monkey, Nation LTD, Alternative Apparel, Wildfox, Chaser, LAmade and Rebel Yell. If you’re in a last-minute gift dash, pick up one of Groove’s handmade candy creations or choose from an array of phone cases, pillows, bags and jewelry and head straight to the party or event.
Why it’s the best: For true California style right in Westport, Groove has the best selection of clothes from the hottest West Coast brands and fun gifts for every kid, tween and teen on your list.
R. Derwin Clothier
Litchfield, (860) 567-4095, rderwinclothiers.com
On West Street in the center of historic and charming Litchfield, R. Derwin Clothiers is responsible for the two most arresting window displays, which serve as gateways to the separate but related boutiques of men’s and women’s country chic fashions. You find yourself lingering outside the men’s shop, coveting items like a custom R. Derwin tweed blazer and shirt, adorned with a wool tie handmade in the UK by Seaward & Stearn, or something more casual but equally stylish like an R. Derwin chambray shirt, Adriano Goldschmied vintage jeans and waxed suede chukka boots from Frye. Started by Richard Derwin more than 20 years ago, this family business provides each customer “with the highest level of personal attention” in “a sophisticated country atmosphere.”
Why it’s the best: R. Derwin offers clothing you don’t find anywhere else, allowing you to put together looks that, figuratively and even literally, make you a new man.
Stackpole Moore Tryon
Hartford, (860) 522-0181, stackpolemooretryon.com
Through co-owner Jody Morneault’s expert eye, Stackpole Moore Tryon—the Hartford fine fashions landmark—is a treasure trove for women, offering a blend of classic and timeless designs and labels with more adventuresome younger looks. Any woman with a misplaced fear of finding Stackpole’s lines skewing to an older demographic need only to take a peek at the styles and lifestyle messages on the websites of labels Morneault has sourced like Agave Denim and Gerry Weber. Best of all, the women’s department has just gotten a major makeover, with a wine-and-cream color palette, new dressing rooms and more.
Why it’s the best: Co-owner Ron Morneault says, “Here we are in the 21st century and Stackpole is reinventing every day to help women interested in quality clothing to find their personal style.”
Fairfield, (203) 254-6411
For fifteen years, Fairfield fashionistas from teenagers to more mature women have known the place to go for the most stylish accessories is Capri Clothing. Chic handbags, unique jewelry (such as IN2 necklaces and bracelets), monogrammed scarves and more—all at generally reasonable prices. Capri also has a hip selection of women’s clothing (designer dresses, tops, jackets, etc.) and a staff that’s devoted to helping each customer find the perfect complement to any outfit.
Why it’s the best: Designer accessories and competent, friendly service—what more could a girl want?
Darien, (203) 655-9841, helenainson.com
From mother-of-the-bride wear to cocktail dresses and evening gowns, Helen Ainson has been dressing the lovely ladies of Darien (and well beyond) in the most stylish designs for more than 35 years. Damianou, Rina diMontella, Alberto Makali, Blake & Co., David Meister and Teri Jon—just a sampling of the dozens of luxury fashion designs (in sizes 2 to 24) that are on hand when you’re looking for casual chic or business formalwear, attending a society event, or looking to turn heads on the red carpet.
Why it’s the best: Super hot styles, top-name designers and expert fashion advice makes it the premier destination for women’s formalwear.
Orange, (203) 795-3682, saxonkent.com
Undergarments are not overloooked at this boutique store. Saxon-Kent believes in finding the perfect fit for all women, with a large selection of bras on hand to ensure that. The service here is highly personal and discreet, just as it has been for more than 50 years. The shop carries a variety of intimate apparel, all chosen to make you look and feel good. There’s even a seamstress on staff to make custom alterations.
Why it’s the best: They carry more than 60 different brands of bra, so there’s always one that’s best for you.
Greenwich, (203) 869-2165, consigneddesigns.com
Consigned Designs and its even more luxurious sister shop next door, Elle Encore Couture, are a dual paradise for women with impeccable taste and style who want the best labels at the best prices. The shops are located in a proverbial and literal oasis in Greenwich, not far from bustling Greenwich Avenue. “Every big name you can think of” is represented in the two shops, owner Ellen Atkinson says, ticking off names like Prada, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Kate Spade. Clients reportedly include actress Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Why it’s the best: The shops look and feel like designer boutiques, but the items start out priced at about one-third of retail, and those that don’t sell after a period of time get marked down by another 50 percent. So you look like a million dollars for a (very tall) stack of dimes.
|Photo by Bob Grier Photography|
New Haven and Madison, (203) 245-5700, peterindorf.com
Although there are many jewelers who make their own jewelry, Peter Indorf takes it to another level, often creating handcrafted custom pieces—primarily in gold and platinum—that also incorporate diamonds, colored gemstones and pearls. From initial consultation through the design process and to completion, Indorf and his team labors until each piece is nothing short of an artwork and every customer is thrilled with the result. Let them create something beautiful for you today.
Why it’s the best: Peter Indorf makes sure it shines on your finger, so it’ll shine in your heart for years to come.
Lux Bond & Green
Multiple locations, (800) 524-7336, lbgreen.com
Lux Bond & Green was founded in 1898 by Morris A. Green, who sold pocket watches and gold eye frames from a horse-drawn cart in Waterbury. Today, watches, diamonds and jewelry from all the top designers can be found at Lux—names like David Yurman, Honora, Ivanka Trump, Marco Bicego, Mikimoto—as well as terrific pieces like the stunning cuffs of Connecticut-based Evocateur. What ties it all together is the family-owned aspect of a business that equally respects customers no matter the price point, and adds them to the family with impeccable care and service.
Why it’s the best: An anecdote: You bring in the Baume & Mercier watch you bought there for a new battery and checkup. The technician has a bit of difficulty making the watch behave, so you have to wait more than a few minutes, and for that he declares: no charge. Translation: For the Green family, your happiness, and sparkle, is passion No. 1.
West Hartford and Guilford, (860) 523-4894, shopkimberly.com
In these sister boutiques (one in West Hartford and the other in Guilford), the fashion is forward and curated to offer up only the best pieces each season. That goes for the jewelry too, which is selected to complement the clothing. Here the jewelry makes a statement without being too expensive. Currently, the store is featuring a selection of geometric-style jewelry, BCBG statement necklaces and ear cuffs. The designs of Connecticut-based designer Ann Lightfoot, who works with natural stones, are popular here.
Why it’s the best: You can get a statement piece to accent any outfit without spending a fortune.
Multiple locations, opticarepc.com
Specializing in eye care for over 30 years, OptiCare Eye Health and Vision Center is the premier place for routine eye exams and eyeglasses, and with 18 locations throughout Connecticut, there’s a center near you. When it’s time for new glasses, choose from a selection of modern and classic frames from Calvin Klein, Ray Ban, bebe, Tom Ford, Versace, Prada, and several other great brands. For eye health issues requiring surgery, there’s no need to head to the hospital—with the Ambulatory Surgery Center in Waterbury and Laser Vision Correction Center in Danbury, a team of professionals and surgeons will take care of you every step of the way.
Why it’s the best: By using the latest in lens technology available and state- of-the-art equipment, OptiCare will make sure you leave looking and seeing your best.
|Photo by Bob Grier Photography|
Old Lyme, (860) 434-3562, thebowerbird.com
As The Bowerbird likes to brag, it offers 4,500 square feet of “impulsive necessities”—including items that are fun, special and trendy—from more than 2,000 vendors. Decorative home and garden accessories, toys, books, baby gifts, stationery, clocks, collectibles, frames, jewelry, seasonal gifts, gourmet food . . . the selection goes on and on, with even more items available in its online collection. Half the fun of a visit is browsing the shop and quickly realizing that there are more great gifts here than you have people to buy for!
Why it’s the best: If you can’t find the perfect gift here then you’re not going to find it anywhere.
Canton, (860) 693-8014, kiddlywinks.com
Imagine a store à la “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” except that the merchandise consists of toys not chocolates. Kiddly Winks is family-owned independent shop whose owners “have been hunting down whimsical, wonderful and magical toys for more than 20 years.” Sure, the shop has a selection of de rigueur LEGOs and other items you’ll find at large chain stores—but there are lots of award-winning, brain-building toys the big stores don’t stock. Think of it like “Masterpiece Theater” on PBS vs. the latest sitcom on network TV: Kiddly Winks says, “We believe in children,” and it’s evident in how they source things children should have rather than what they demand based on TV marketing. And guess what? When kids enter Kiddly Winks, they seize the good stuff with a passion so powerful that any parent’s “no” will melt into a “yes.”
Why it’s the best: Because Kiddly Winks truly celebrates children; that and its location in an open-air-mall oasis that is The Shoppes at Farmington Valley.
|Photo by Melanie Stengel/Register|
The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop
New Haven, (203) 773-9288, thedevilsgear.com
Yes, you can certainly buy a new Kona, Jamis or Brompton, or find a professionally refurbished gem here, but The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop truly believes in “the joy of riding,” which means that everyone on staff loves to share their bicycle knowledge and expertise with every customer regardless of skill level. In addition to making repairs and having replacement parts and accessories, the shop is committed to supporting the local riding community, sponsoring bicycling events throughout the year.
Why it’s the best: A small, friendly shop with an unsurpassed passion for bicycling makes for a great bike-related experience every time you walk through the door.
Woodbridge Running Co.
Woodbridge & Brookfield, (203) 387-8704, woodbridgerunningcompany.com
If you do any sort of extended running and exercise, you know there’s nothing more critical to your success and continued health than the shoes on your feet. Woodbridge Running Co. knows this too, and the staff—all runners themselves—works to find the right shoe for every individual runner and their particular needs. Top brands like Nike, Adidas, Asics, New Balance and Saucony are carried in stock (or can be ordered), and there’s all the key accessories (watches, inserts, energy products) as well as running-related clothing.
Why it’s the best: It’s a shop for runners run by runners. That should cover it!
Rankin Sporting Goods
Danbury, (203) 743-7601, rankinsports.com
In a world increasingly dominated by large box stores and one-click Internet shopping, it’s refreshing to stop in at this family-owned and -operated business. Established in 1971, it features a wide variety of sporting goods and a knowledgeable and helpful staff. There are baseball and softball bats, gloves, basketballs, tetherballs, badminton, croquet, bocce ball, football gloves, training videos, coaching books and more.
Why it’s the best: It’s big enough to have what you’re looking for but small enough that there is someone to help you find it.