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Best of Connecticut 2020: Shopping

  • 11 min to read

It's back and better than ever! To create this year’s “Best of Connecticut”® list we debuted a new, souped-up reader survey, and we were blown away by your response! Here now are the winners — and the finalists from which they were chosen — in over 125 categories of food, fun and shopping. It’s our biggest list ever of the best the state has to offer — and we couldn’t have done it without YOU!

Also see the winners and finalists for the Best of Connecticut 2020 in Food & Drink and Fun & Leisure, and check out our writers' picks for "More Stuff We Love"

Finalists were nominated by readers and selected by Connecticut Magazine staff (* designates staff picks). The winners were selected from the finalists by our readers. More about the process here.

SHOPPING CENTER/DESTINATION

Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets, Clinton

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Best Shopping Center/Destination: Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets in Clinton

From pretty much any spot in our state, Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets is the perfect day trip. When you arrive, shop at the charming outdoor village center’s more than 70 designer and name-brand outlet stores. Stop into clothiers like J.Crew Factory, Kate Spade and Polo Ralph Lauren or shop for the home and family at Petsy and Le Creuset, to name a few. For sustenance, pop by a premium food truck or sit down at the Covered Bridge Grill. 860-664-0700, premiumoutlets.com/outlet/clinton-crossing

Shopping Center/Destination finalists: Blue Back Square, West Hartford* • The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk, South Windsor* • The Shops at Yale, New Haven* • The SoNo Collection, Norwalk* • Westfarms shopping mall, West Hartford

FLORIST 

It’s So Ranunculus, Marlborough

Showing your appreciation for a special someone or throwing your dream backyard wedding is seamless when you work with It’s So Ranunculus. Make someone’s day by showing your appreciation with a custom floral arrangement, or send a token of sympathy with flowers that say “thinking of you.” Owner Leah O’Hearn and her family have been creating timeless arrangements for all your floral needs since 2006. 860-295-1562, itssoranunculus.com

Florist finalists: Alice’s Flower Shop, Bethel* • Ashleigh’s Garden, Deep River • Beachwood Florist, Milford • Flowers on the Green, Guilford • Madison Flower Shop & Garden Center, Madison • Rosa’s Florist, Bridgeport • Wallingford Flower Shoppe, Wallingford* 

GARDEN CENTER OR NURSERY

Van Wilgen’s Garden Center, North Branford

With 56 acres, it’s no surprise that Van Wilgen’s has a huge selection of annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs and more. The staff is skilled and offers both garden designs and installation service. Putting a spin on make-and-takes, the center offers gardening kits people can take and make (at home). A recent hit was a three-tiered succulent garden. Besides the main location, Van Wilgen’s has garden marts in Milford, Guilford and Old Saybrook. 203-488-2110, vanwilgens.com

Garden Center/Nursery finalists: Acer Gardens, Deep River • Ballek’s Garden Center, East Haddam • Hollandia Nurseries, Bethel* • Logee’s, Danielson* • Paul’s and Sandy’s Too, East Hampton 

HOME DECOR

Saybrook Home, Old Saybrook

For more than four decades, Saybrook Home has helped homeowners live their best lives. The store presents warm and comfortable vignettes to show off a staggering variety of fine goods for the home, including furniture, rugs, lighting, bed and bath goods, window treatments and home accessories. Combining designer-inspired furniture with a boutique apparel shop, Saybrook Home offers seemingly endless options as well as custom interior-design services. 860-388-0891, saybrookhome.com

Home Decor finalists: Cindy’s Unique Shop, Wallingford • Mellow Monkey, Stratford • Plain Goods, New Preston* • A Pocketful of Posies, Middletown • Terrain, Westport* • Trish’s, Seymour 

LIGHTING STORE 

Connecticut Lighting Centers, Hartford and Southington

If you’re looking to brighten your day, look no further than Connecticut Lighting Centers. Products range from interior to exterior lighting needs but extend to both hardware and home decor. Owner David Director continues his parents’ 40-plus-year legacy by operating CLC as one of the largest independent lighting centers in the country. Their most recent endeavor, a “gourmet shop,” focuses on one-of-a-kind lighting, lamp shades, repair and restoration work. ctlighting.com

Lighting Store finalists: Affordable Lighting Center, Branford* • Lamp Shades Plus, Orange • Mellow Monkey, Stratford • Valley Lighting & Home Decor, Derby

ANTIQUES CENTER (MULTIDEALER)

The Shops at Marlborough Barn, Marlborough

With dozens of dealers spread across multiple levels of interconnected buildings, The Shops at Marlborough Barn is an ideal spot to spend hours browsing through all manner of antiques and vintage finds. Antique and mid-century furniture, jewelry, lighting, glassware, artwork, handcrafted and upcycled items — there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for an even bigger selection, check out one of the outdoor sales held throughout the year, including a flea market scheduled for Sept. 19. 860-295-1114, shopsatmarlboroughbarn.com

Antiques Center (Multidealer) finalists: Antiques Marketplace, Putnam* • Antiques on the Farmington, Collinsville* • Clinton Antique Center* • Memories Too Antique Center, Coventry* • Old Saybrook Antique Center* • The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village, Montville* • Stratford Antique Center, Stratford* 

ANTIQUES SHOP

Past to Present, Niantic

A relatively new player on the Connecticut antiques scene, Past to Present has developed a loyal following since transforming from a gift shop to an antiques and collectibles haven in 2013. And as of 2019, the business has two locations in downtown Niantic. The main store features an ever-changing assortment of antique furniture, home-decor items, vintage tools and hardware, rugs and more. The second location, On the Corner, boasts a more curated collection of unique pieces, as well as regional and contemporary art. 860-449-3312, pasttopresentct.com

Antiques Shop finalists: Edwin C. Ahlberg Antiques, Guilford* • Geoffrey Flett Antiques, Milford* • Mill House Antiques, Woodbury* • Nathan Liverant and Son Antiques, Colchester* • Silver Lining Consignments, Ridgefield* • Three Ladies Antiques, West Hartford* 

VINTAGE FINDS

Treasures, Old Lyme

Tucked near the water in charming Old Lyme, Treasures is home to an array of vintage, antique and classic furnishings and home accessories. The store believes life is a treasure hunt and leaves it to the shopper to discover hidden gems. Of course, the floor is beautifully organized and displayed, with an array of inspirational vignettes throughout. 860-434-9338, treasuresoldlyme.com

Vintage Finds finalists: Blaze and Bloom, West Hartford* • Cindy’s Unique Shop, Wallingford* • Mine in Mystic* • Miss Dallas’ Shop, Milford* • Turnpike Antiques & Vintage, Berlin* 

FLEA MARKET

Elephant’s Trunk, New Milford

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Best Flea Market: Elephant's Trunk in New Milford

When pulling into Elephant’s Trunk Flea Market, you’ll notice cars with license plates from New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. That’s because this massive bazaar draws the most coveted antique and vintage vendors from all over the Northeast. To score a rare piece, serious collectors will want to pay for the “super early” or “early” entry before 6 a.m. ($40 and $20, respectively). For everyone else, an afternoon of hunting and haggling costs just $3 from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. As of mid-August, the Elephant’s Trunk remained closed, but pickers and deal-seekers are hoping for a fall return. 860-355-1448, etflea.com

Flea Market finalists: Bethlehem Indoor Flea Market* • Boulevard Flea Market, New Haven • Mansfield Drive-In Theatre and Marketplace, Mansfield • Redwood Country Flea Market, Wallingford* • Woodbury Antiques & Flea Market*

BRIDAL BOUTIQUE

The White Dress by the Shore, Clinton

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Best Bridal Boutique: White Dress by the Shore in Clinton

At The White Dress by the Shore, it’s about more than just the dress (which, of course, needs to be stunning). Owner Beth Chapman is dedicated to delivering a luxury experience, where brides-to-be enjoy private suites and an individual stylist. On the floor, browse a couture collection of gowns and a separate bridesmaids atelier. 860-669-4596, thewhitedressbytheshore.com

Bridal Boutique finalists: Brides to Be, Glastonbury • Love Me Two Times, Taftville* • Lucille’s Bridal Shop, Orange • The Wedding Dress, Portland* • The Wedding Embassy, Watertown 

WOMEN’S WEAR

Red Door Boutique, East Hampton

Red Door Boutique strikes a balance between clothing that is in fashion without chasing overly trendy fads. Its selection of blouses, dresses and casual separates for women is offered at a reasonable price point that also strikes a balance between fast-fashion and investment pieces. Customers love both athleisure staples and unique-occasion styles they won’t find anywhere else. 860-365-0334, reddoorstyle.com

Women’s Wear finalists: Darien Sport Shop* • Deja Vu, Milford • Kimberly Boutique, West Hartford* • Morneault’s Stackpole Moore Tryon, Hartford* • Pearls & Plaid, Old Saybrook • Timeless Designs Apparel, Avon 

MEN’S WEAR

Anchor & Compass, Deep River

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Best Men's Wear: Anchor & Compass in Deep River

In business for just over a decade, Anchor & Compass has a simple tag line: “a store for guys.” Indeed, dudes here will find casual and comfortable styles from brands like Woolrich, Carhartt, and Tommy Bahama. Of course, the retailer sets the mood with an exterior designed to resemble an English pub. Inside, you’ll see original maple flooring and hear tunes from the likes of Johnny Cash, The Beach Boys and Dave Matthews. 860-322-4327, anchorandcompass.com

Men’s Wear finalists: Daswani Clothiers, West Hartford* • Enson’s, New Haven • J. Alden Clothiers, Essex • R. Derwin Clothiers, Litchfield* • Raggs, New Haven 

VINTAGE CLOTHING

Tova’s Vintage Shop, Old Saybrook

True vintage lovers won’t be disappointed by the selection at Tova’s Vintage, stocking fine clothing and accessories from the late 1800s to the 1970s. Find antique gowns, sweaters, skirts, as well as purses and jewelry. The aesthetic hones in on Hollywood glamour. Think rhinestones, beaded bags, ’60s leather box purses, and feathered felt hats. 860-395-1955, tovasvintage.com

Vintage Clothing finalists: BLISS Boutique, Willimantic • Civvies, New Haven • Fashionista Vintage & Variety, New Haven • Vinanthro Modern & Vintage, New Haven* 

CONSIGNMENT SHOP

Uptown Consignment, multiple locations

With four locations across the state, Uptown Consignment is a favorite for both consigners and shoppers. The store offers an enviable assortment of high-end goods (like a genuine leather Tory Burch handbag) and steals to create a whole outfit for under $15. Along with clothing and accessories, the shops stock footwear, jewelry and watches, as well as home goods. Rocky Hill, South Windsor, Southington and Hamden, uptownconsignment.com

Consignment Shop finalists: Cindy’s Unique Shop, Wallingford • Consignment Originals, Avon, Cheshire, Orange, Rocky Hill and Manchester • Fantasia Consignments, Old Saybrook • Miss Dallas’ Shop, Milford • Pennywise Consignment Shop, Mystic* • Savvy Swap Consignment, Portland* • Your Closet or Mine Consignment, Middletown* 

BABY & CHILDREN’S CLOTHES

Just Hatched, Guilford

If you’re looking for a unique baby gift, Just Hatched has it all. It began 20 years ago when owner Karen Helburn was seeking out organic fabrics and natural cotton clothing for her young son. Today, the store is stocked with responsibly sourced, heartwarming clothes and gifts for the little ones. Find adorable tutus, the softest onesies around, plush stuffed animals and a ton of hardcover books. Need something for a coworker? Just Hatched does corporate gifting as well. 203-453-5100, justhatched.com

Baby & Children’s Clothes finalists: Duck Duck Goose, Milford • Wiggles & Giggles, Darien*

JEWELRY STORE

Malloves Jewelers, Middletown

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Bes Jewelry Store: Malloves Jewelers in Middletown

Malloves is stocked with wedding bands, engagement rings, designer watches, and diamonds for every occasion. The store is also unique in its selection of fashion jewelry, perfect for graduation gifts, birthdays and anniversaries without a sky-high price tag. Customers also lean on the shop for watch and jewelry repair as well as custom designs. 860-346-9204, malloves.com 

Jewelry Store finalists: Becker’s Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, West Hartford* • Christo Jewelers, Clinton • Marks of Design, Shelton • Michaels Jewelers, multiple locations • Quality Gem, Bethel • Valentine’s Diamond Center, Milford 

JEWELRY MAKER

Marks of Design, Shelton

For something truly custom, Connecticut residents have been counting on jeweler Kathleen McNichols-Marks since 1985. The gemologist and goldsmith has hand selected everything in the store and also designs and produces custom “wearable art.” McNichols-Marks can craft a special piece featuring your choice of gemstones. From engagement rings to milestone gifts and luxury watches, find luxe jewelry at an array of price points. 203-924-0030, marksofdesign.com

Jewelry Maker finalists: Deep River Jewelry Design, Deep River • Évocateur, Norwalk* • JL Rocks, Westport* • Quality Gem, Bethel • Sarah Byrnes Jeweler, Simsbury • Steven Fox, Greenwich*

GENERAL STORE

Franklin’s General Store, Mystic

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Best General Store: Franklin’s General Store in Mystic

An institution in Olde Mistick Village, Franklin’s General Store offers the best of the past. As soon as you enter the store, you’re welcomed by the aroma of handmade fudge (one of 36 kinds) cooking in a big kettle. You can also taste specially aged Vermont cheddar and the best saltwater taffy around. Along with treats, shop New England-themed books, wooden toys, and hardwood cutting boards from Maine. A stop here always calls for a basket full of preserves, mustards and sauces, as well. 860-536-1038, franklinsgeneralstore.com

General Store finalists: Clevelands’ Country Store, Plymouth* • Colebrook Store* • Hadlyme Country Market, Hadlyme • Newtown General Store, Newtown • Old Wethersfield Country Store, Wethersfield • Riverton General Store* 

UNIQUE GIFTS

A Pocket Full of Posies, Middletown

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Best Unique Gifts: A Pocket Full of Posies in Middletown

A Pocket Full of Posies founder Dottie Smith began selling handmade wreaths in a local artists’ co-op, Durham Artworks. When the company disbanded, Smith set out to create her own space in 1989. Ever since, Posies sells an array of wares that make the perfect gift for any occasion. Think darling mobiles for newborns, oil-and-vinegar dipping sets for housewarmings, reclaimed beer-bottle candles for dad, and therapy pillows for sympathy. 860-343-0123, posiesmiddletown.com

Unique Gifts finalists: Artfish42, Milford* • The Bowerbird, Old Lyme* • East Street Arts, New Haven* • Hartford Prints!, Hartford* • Lavender Pond Farm, Killingworth* • Mellow Monkey, Stratford* • Miss Dallas’ Shop, Milford* • Mystic Knotwork, Mystic* • Trish’s, Seymour* 

INDIE BOOKSTORE

R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison

Billed as “a great place to meet books,” this bookstore is known for its author events, selection and all-around bookstore feel. Close your eyes and picture an ideal bookstore: the image in your head will look something like this popular Madison destination. There is also a cafe connected to the store. 203-245-3959, rjjulia.com

Indie Bookstore finalists: Atticus Bookstore Cafe, New Haven • Bank Square Books, Mystic • The Book Barn, Niantic • Books on the Common, Ridgefield • Byrd’s Books, Bethel • Turning the Page, Monroe 

TOY STORE

Amato's Toy and Hobb, Middletown and New Britain

Vincent Amato began his 70-year career in the hobby business by building models and selling model planes from his father’s appliance and plumbing store in Middletown. Today, Amato’s Toy and Hobby shares trains and model kits along with every toy, doll, game and puzzle you can dream up from two locations in the state, both of which are still in the family. amatosmiddletown.com, amatosnewbritain.com

Toy Store finalists: Evan’s Toy Shoppe, Hamden / Jesse’s Toys, Orange / Jordie’s Toy Shoppe, Guilford • Necker’s Toyland, Simsbury • The Silly Sprout, Litchfield* • The Toy Room, Bethel • The Toy Tree, Newtown • Toys Ahoy!, Essex 

PET SALON/BOUTIQUE

What the Pup, Shelton

Housed in downtown Shelton, What The Pup operates on a mainly cage-free format. Owner and stylist Jenna Intelisano-Lupo has been grooming for about 20 years, and she has experience as a veterinarian technician. Intelisano-Lupo is always adding new gifts and furry friends and animal lovers into the pet boutique. Shop locally made pet-odor candles and a selection of yummy treats. 203-513-8153, facebook.com/whatthepupsheltonct

Pet Salon/Boutique finalists: The Groom Room, Ridgefield • Groomingdale’s, Danbury • Village Pet Spa & Kennel, Wallingford 

RECORD/CD SHOP

Merle’s Record Rack, Orange

A true survivor, outlasting almost every record store in Connecticut, Merle’s first opened in 1962. Owner Mike Papa credits vinyl’s resurgence for keeping his store humming. With a huge vinyl inventory in all musical genres, Merle’s also has CDs, while doing a brisk business in rock ’n’ roll memorabilia, along with selling hi-fi components and repairing equipment. 203-795-9033, merlesrecordrack.com

Record/CD Shop finalists: Exile on Main Street, Branford • Gerosa Records, Brookfield • Mystic Disc, Groton • Redscroll Records, Wallingford* • The Telegraph, New London • Willimantic Records, Willimantic

BIKE SHOP 

Pedal Power, multiple locations

Whether you’re an avid rider or total beginner, Pedal Power is a one-stop shop for all your biking needs. With five locations, the team has you covered from sales, parts, service and knowledge. The pandemic has had a huge impact on transportation, with biking seeing a surge in popularity. Pedal Power is there with the gear you need to hop back onto the seat. Berlin, Essex, Middletown, Vernon and Willimantic, pedalpowerct.com

Bike Shop finalists: The Bicycle Cellar, Simsbury • The Devil’s Gear Bike Shop, New Haven • Ridgefield Bicycle Co., Ridgefield • Tony’s Bikes & Sports, Milford • Zane’s Cycles, Branford 

RUNNING GEAR

Sound Runner, multiple locations

From a single store in 2001 selling running and walking shoes, Sound Runner’s multiple locations are now a destination for people across the state to receive advice on proper running, walking and active equipment. They also provide guidance on how to participate in group runs, clinics and informational forums. Fairfield, Glastonbury, Old Saybrook and Branford, soundrunner.com

Running Gear finalists: Fleet Feet, Hartford • Kelley’s Pace, Mystic • Ridgefield Running Co., Ridgefield • Woodbridge Running Co., Woodbridge

SKI SHOP

Alpine Haus, Wethersfield

Alpine Haus knows winter sports, but just as importantly, excels at customer service. The staff takes time to properly fit customers with the right ski and snowboard equipment from poles and skis to boots and bindings, whether you are buying or just renting. The shop also has tuning services and the selection for new equipment is unparalleled. Focused on training, staff keeps up to date on industry trends and products. 860-563-2244, alpinehaus.com

Ski Shop finalists: Bob’s Sports Chalet, Avon and Bristol • Outdoor Sports Center, Wilton • Rotary Ski & Snowboard, Stratford • Ski Haus, New Milford 

SPORTING GOODS

Sartorius Sports, Avon and Glastonbury

Looking for a one-stop sports shop for everything from running and lacrosse to snowboarding, swimming and field hockey? Sartorius is the place to visit. With two locations, the stores have central Connecticut covered, and their knowledgeable staff will make sure you get the right fit, whether it’s a running shoe or an inline skate. sartoriussports.com

Sporting Goods finalists: Farr’s Sporting Goods, Manchester* • Outdoor Sports Center, Wilton • Wesco Sports Center, Brookfield 

WATER SPORTS SHOP

Scoot & Paddle, Milford and Derby

Over seven summers in the sun and sand of Milford, Scoot & Paddle has become a landmark in Walnut Beach. Stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and motor scooters are all available to rent or buy, and bicycles can be rented. Don’t want to go it alone? Join a group paddle on Long Island Sound, and keep an eye out for “singles night” if you’re so inclined. S&P also opened a new location this year in Derby on Lake Housatonic, an impoundment in the Housatonic River. 203-713-8282, scootandpaddle.com

Water Sports Shop finalists: Adventure Mystic • Black Hall Outfitters, Old Lyme • Collinsville Canoe & Kayak • West Marine, Stratford 

Also see the winners and finalists for the Best of Connecticut 2020 in Food & Drink and Fun & Leisure, and check out our writers' picks for "More Stuff We Love"

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.