What kinds of stores are out there?
November 7, 2009 9:54 AM   Subscribe

What kinds of stores are out there? I've gotten so used to buying most of my things at department stores or large chain grocery stores that if they suddenly disappeared I wouldn't know where to go to buy things. So I'm wondering where you'd get things if you didn't get your things at a large store.

I already know you'd get meat at a butcher's, fish at a fishmonger's, bread at a bakery, etc. But where would you go for other household items? This occurred to me because I'd like to get a nice large bag of washing soda and I know that a fair number of grocery stores probably wouldn't carry that, but for sure there is a kind of store that would always having washing soda.

For practical purposes I'm interested in stores in the US, but out of more general interest anecdotes about store types in other parts of the world would be of purely academic interest too.
For example from personal experience I know that in Egypt there are store devoted exclusively to roasted nuts. Except for Western-style groceries catering to ex-pats, these nut roasters are pretty much the only place to get your hands on peanuts.
posted by Deathalicious to Shopping (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I buy many kinds of food (incl. meat, produce, and right now, especially apples) at a farmers market. There are many in Philadelphia.
posted by advil at 10:02 AM on November 7, 2009

Some of the specialty stores I've been to recently (in NYC) include - roasted nuts, small appliances, tea and coffee, imported gourmet foods (mostly European), imported gourmet foods (mostly Indian and Middle-Eastern), bulk plexiglas, and just socks.
posted by moonmilk at 10:04 AM on November 7, 2009

Best answer: My impression is that before there was Target and Walmart, people went to the hardware store for household items like washing soda. Not the Home Depot, but the corner hardware store.

Living as close as I do to the Mall of America, I can tell you that there are specialty stores for refrigerator magnets, preserved and mounted butterflies, and custom-embroidered baseball caps, in case you need any of those things. This was probably not the case back in the day.

I'm thinking about the things I buy on a regular basis at a large store, and I feel like I could get the majority of it at small, neighborhood versions of a hardware store, a pet store, and a market or individual food stores like you mentioned. For longer-lasting items, there would be a shoe store, a furniture store, some kind of boutiquey clothing stores, etc.
posted by vytae at 10:34 AM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I live in a small town in New England.

We go to the local hardware store (Ace or TruValu franchise, probably, though there are also family owned stores) for the kinds of things you might get at a WalMart or Home Depot. They sell a variety of cleaning products and depending on the size of one near you, they might have something like washing soda.

Other small or specialty stores we frequent:

farm stands (veg, fruit, eggs, milk, ice cream, meats, baked goods, breads, plants, flowers, gardening items);

tea and coffee shops;

stationery supply stores (cards, gift wrap, writing paper and utensils, monograms);

neighborhood toy stores;

kitchen supply stores (upscale);

gourmet beer and wine stores (they also have cheese, olives, candies, chocolates);

local confectioners (baked goods, breads, pastries, donuts, cakes, pies);

local furniture stores (from family-owned and low-key to very upscale handcrafted products);

local pet products store;

local art gallery and frame shop (there's an abundance of them!);

lighting stores;

rug stores; and

local bookshops.
posted by mmw at 11:07 AM on November 7, 2009

Nthing the local hardware store (also a New Englander), which is, for example, where I bought my cast-iron pan. Some household chemicals, and household items.

Second, local pharmacies for other household chemicals.
posted by cobaltnine at 11:46 AM on November 7, 2009

Best answer: Shopping in the Netherlands involves going to a lot of stores, which was a shock to me as an American who was very used to Super Wal-Marts and Super Targets.

The NL has stores like Blokker, which I'm not sure how to describe. At Blokker, you can get dishes, cookware, shower curtains, trash cans, buckets, brooms, mops, candles, small home decor (like photo frames and ugly knick-knacks), small appliances, patio furniture... it occupies that weird space between a grocery store and a hardware store. Things I've bought at Blokker: metal laundry rack, electric water boiler, fancy Brabantia trash can, lots of packages of trash bags.

Xenos is similar, but more low-budget, and part of their inventory is clearly overflow from other stores. Things I've bought at Xenos: a small mirror for the bathroom, plastic shelves for my shower, sesame seed cookies, ramen noodles. A similar store is Markskramer (I've only ever bought a Pyrex casserole dish there).

There are drugstores (drogisterijen), like Etos and Kruidvat, where you can get shampoo, tampons, makeup (brands like L'Oreal and Maybelline), and some over-the-counter medications, but you can't fill prescriptions there. You have to go to a pharmacy (apotheek) for that. Pharmacies are usually, but not always, located inside a clinic (office where multiple GPs practice) or a hospital. You can get some higher-end makeup brands, and perfume, at Douglas and ICI Paris XL (and there are also quite a few Sephora boutiques opening here, inside V&D department stores).

We actually buy a lot of stuff at the outdoor market that happens three times per week... that's where my partner gets socks and underwear, and where we get muesli, fruits, fish, and some goodies like freshly made hummus. The same vendors are there each week, so you know what to expect.

We also buy a lot of stuff at non-chain stores, which appear to thrive in Holland. I feed my cat Science Plan food (called Science Diet in the U.S.), which we get at a family-owned pet store. Flowers come from a small shop next to the pet store. For really good pastries, we go to the local Muslim bakery. When I've needed passport photos, I've gone to locally owned film-processing shops.

In the U.S., I rarely went to "speciality" stores like sporting-goods stores, luggage stores, lingerie stores, electronics stores, etc. Almost everything I wanted was available at Super Target without a high mark-up (and if there was a quality difference, like say with work-out clothes, it was never big enough to bother me). But there's no Wal-Mart or Target equivalent here; Albert Heijn XL stores are close, but their non-food offerings are pretty weak compared to what you'd get at a Wal-Mart (especially when you consider Wal-Marts with garden, electronics, and automotive departments). There are a lot of speciality chains -- for example, there are at least five chain stores within a five-minute walk from my apartment where I could buy a new hard drive -- and there are a lot of privately-owned, non-chain businesses.
posted by transporter accident amy at 2:25 PM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

We actually have milk, juice, and some dairy products delivered. Sometimes seasonal things, too - they took orders for turkeys for Thanksgiving, and last summer started a weekly fruit and veg box along with the other delivery. We have a local food co-op which is where I'd go look for washing soda if I needed it. In Maryland, grocery stores aren't allowed to sell wine (for the most part - there's an occasional weird exception) so we like wine shopping at smaller stores.
posted by ersatzkat at 2:38 PM on November 7, 2009

To add to what has already been written, if you aren't afraid to buy online, amazon actually has some great specialty items (like washing soda).
For non-food but small household or decorative items. I love www.etsy.com.
Because I live near a large metropolitan area, finding a store that sells lots of only one kind of thing isn't really a problem (although washing soda? I'd probably go online to see if someone on our local yelp could offer some advice).
posted by notcomputersavvy06 at 2:54 PM on November 7, 2009

You would go to the butcher for meat and pultry, the baker for bread and other obvious baked goods, the locla hardware store for hardware, the 5 and dime for knick knacks and paper goods, the fruit stand or farmers market for things grown in the ground and other assorted items such as pies, the soda shop for a malted or candy by the pound, the drug store for drugs, the sporting goods store for balls, cleats and the like, the fish monger for fish and clothier for, well, clothes.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:38 PM on November 7, 2009

Local hardware stores are a godsend, but so are thrift shops (Goodwill, St. Vinnie's, Value Village, and local, smaller ones as well). I've found loads of pots/pans/silverware and other stuff that would cost 10 times as much, and not be as good.
It really depends on how much time/effort you have (or are willing to put in). Thrift shops take some sifting through, and you can't go looking for something, you have to be willing to get what you get when you're there.
posted by dbmcd at 4:54 PM on November 7, 2009

Response by poster: i'm not afraid to buy online but never saw the point for heavy, low cost items (like washing soda, for example). On Amazon, a 4lb box costs $7 plus $6 shipping, which amounts to around $3/lb, which is obscene (You can also buy around 42lbs for $96 plus $30 shipping, which is around the same). I'm pretty sure if you can find it in a store the price point is under a dollar per pound.

Looks like Hardware store is the best bet for general buying things. I really was looking more along the lines of the comment by transporter accident amy; it seems a shame that we don't have these sort of compartmentalized stores for general needs, even though we do have an overabundance of the kind of specialty stores you mentioned.

Part of it is there really isn't a nomenclature for that many types of stores. In other countries it seems like there are an abundance of these kinds of stores and a name for each of them. It'd be useful to have something like a guide to types of stores so someone could just say, "Oh, common household chemicals? You're looking for a --- store."
posted by Deathalicious at 11:12 PM on November 7, 2009

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