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Best of Connecticut 2019: Shopping

  • 4 min to read

Welcome to the 22nd annual Best of Connecticut, in which we celebrate everything we love about the state we call home. Across our three main categories of Food & Drink, Fun & Leisure and Shopping you’ll find many winners chosen by you, our readers, in an online survey. Combine that with editors’ picks in many more categories, and you have one seriously lovable list. Check out all the picks, and, as usual, let us know what you think.


BEST SHOPPING CENTER/DESTINATION

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Blue Back Square, West Hartford, 860-882-0678, bluebacksquare.com

Blue Back Square is in the heart of West Hartford and provides numerous options for shopping, dining and entertainment. West Elm, Crate & Barrel, and the Ooh La La Boutique are just a few of the shops located alongside fine restaurants and watering holes and the Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas.

BOUTIQUES

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Daswani Clothiers

BEST MEN’S WEAR

Daswani Clothiers, West Hartford, 860-233-4435, daswaniclothiers.com

Founded by Jack Daswani more than three decades ago, this old-school establishment and longtime Hartford favorite specializes in custom fittings and personalized attention. The clothes themselves are classic styles that “wear well and withstand the test of time,” just like this shop.

BEST WOMEN’S WEAR

Morneault’s Stackpole Moore Tryon, Hartford, 860-522-0181, stackpolemooretryon.com

The women’s attire at this family-owned shop is sourced from a combination of well-known domestic and international brands. Known in particular for its collection of stylish and tasteful dresses, pants, pantsuits, tops and blouses, you’ll find designer brands as well as boutique pieces.

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Cindy's Unique Shop

BEST CONSIGNMENT SHOP (Readers' Pick)

Cindy’s Unique Shop, Wallingford, 203-269-9341, on Facebook

GENERAL

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The Book Barn

BEST BOOKSTORE (used)

The Book Barn, Niantic, 860-739-5715, bookbarnniantic.com

The Book Barn offers visitors the chance to browse through about 500,000 used books in a memorable setting (cats are sprawled all over the place). Bring in your used books for sale and watch owner Randi White and his crew rapidly go through your unwanted books and make you an offer.

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Mystic Pet Shop

BEST PET SERVICES

Mystic Pet Shop, Mystic, 860-572-4424, mysticpetshop.com

Mystic Pet Shop specializes in American-made food, toys, and accessories for all animals, ages and breeds. They boast three freezers for raw diets and also carry feed for farm animals. As they say on their Facebook page, “We do not sell animals and are proud of it.” So, what about the two shop cats? Yeah, not for sale.

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Mystic Knotwork

BEST MADE-IN-CT SHOP

Mystic Knotwork, Mystic, 860-889-3793, mysticknotwork.com

The well-known white sailor bracelet and other fancy work started the Mystic Knotwork tradition more than 60 years ago. Their two workshops draw folks for custom bracelets, knots for weddings and gifts. The view is great too, as the creative workshops are right near the downtown Mystic waterfront.

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Atticus Bookstore

BEST BOOKSTORE — NEW/INDIE (Readers' Pick)

Atticus Bookstore Cafe, New Haven, 203-776-4040, atticusbookstorecafe.com

BEST GIFTS (Readers' Pick)

Mellow Monkey, Stratford, 888-300-0631, mellowmonkey.com

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The Toy Room

BEST TOY STORE (Readers' Pick)

The Toy Room, Bethel, 203-791-0531, toyroombethel.com

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Gerosa Records

BEST RECORD/CD STORE (Readers' Pick)

Gerosa Records, Brookfield, 203-775-7074, gerosarecords.com

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BEST JEWELRY STORE (Readers' Pick)

Quality Gem, Bethel, 203-748-4239, qualitygem.com

RECREATION

BEST BIKE SHOP

Pedal Power, Berlin, Essex, Middletown, Vernon, Willimantic, 860-347-3776, pedalpowerct.com

Pedal Power offers bicycle fitting, sales, service and repair in five locations. They have electric, mountain and road bikes of all sizes in stock and on order. The company, founded in 1996, also hosts a community of riders to participate in group rides and road-oriented rides during the week and off-road cycling on the weekends.

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Sound Runner

BEST RUNNING GEAR

Sound Runner, Fairfield (203-292-9466), Glastonbury (860-430-6712), Old Saybrook (860-388-3800), Branford (203-483-8222), soundrunner.com

Sound Runner, founded in 2001 by Julie and Bob Francis, is a go-to spot for runners and walkers alike. The shops host weekly trail and road runs and partner with race directors and organizations on races of all distances. Apparel, shoes, and athletic gear are among the merchandise offered, along with custom fitting and advice, clinics and informational forums.

BEST SPORTING GOODS

Farr’s Sporting Goods, Manchester, 860-643-7111, farrssportinggoods.net

Farr’s Sporting Goods was founded in 1955 as Manchester Surplus Sales by Jim Farr, who stocked toys and camping supplies. In the 1970s, Farr built a new shop and renamed it. Since he passed away in 2011, Farr’s four daughters have run the business, which sells gear for biking, camping, fishing, baseball, soccer and much more.

HOME AND GARDEN

BEST ANTIQUES (multidealer)

Stratford Antique Center, Stratford, 203-378-7754, stratfordantiquecenter.com

There isn’t a whole lot of wasted space in this 16,500-square-foot haven of hand-me-downs. It’s the size of a warehouse with the selection of Amazon. Well, maybe not Amazon, but you get the point. More than 200 dealers have set up shop in the big blue building just off I-95.

BEST FLEA MARKET

Elephant’s Trunk, New Milford, 860-355-1448, etflea.com

A typical Sunday attracts more than 500 vendors and an ever-changing mix of food trucks. At this country market, which has been featured on Flea Market Flip, we’ve found bargain-price antique chairs, old movie posters, magic sets, even welding goggles (we can’t recall the thinking behind that purchase, but hey, they look cool). And that’s just scratching the surface of what can be found here.

BEST ANTIQUES (Readers' Pick)

Cindy’s Unique Shop, Wallingford, 203-269-9341, on Facebook

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Alice's Flower Shop

BEST FLORIST (Readers' Pick)

Alice’s Flower Shop, Bethel, 203-792-2217, alicesflowershop.com

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Hollandia Nurseries

BEST GARDEN CENTER (Readers' Pick)

Hollandia Nurseries, Bethel, 203-743-0267, ctgrown.com

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Mellow Monkey

BEST HOME DECOR and BEST LIGHTING STORE (Readers' Pick)

Mellow Monkey, Stratford, 888-300-0631, mellowmonkey.com

“They have a unique assortment of items, many of which you won’t find elsewhere.”  — Judy Beaumont, Milford


More of the best:

This article appeared in the September 2019 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.

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.

Randall Beach is the longtime columnist for the New Haven Register, where his column appears Fridays and Sundays.