finding unique retail or touristy businesses
March 11, 2020 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I just started working in a new area, I moved to a new city a couple years ago, and I travel a lot. As a result, I'm often in areas I don't know particularly well. Finding interesting restaurants is pretty easy - my problem is usually finding more restaurants than I have time to try. But what about other stuff? Retail stores and the like.

If I know the category of store, I can obviously search for that. I've found a lot of great bookstores and specialty groceries this way, and since I've had kids, I've started looking for children's clothing stores and toy stores. But what if I don't know the category, and I just want to find something fun or unique? For example, when I lived in St. Louis, I came across a typewriter store. I would have never thought to search for "typewriter stores". Or, as another example, we got lucky and found a really wonderful shoe store in my new town, but I'd never really think to search for shoe stores, because aren't they all the same? (No, as it turns out!) Another example is the much-mourned Spoiled Rotten in Buffalo, which I guess you'd call a local-interest clothing and gift shop? I don't know; it was one-of-a-kind.

So how can I better find these? Trip Advisor only has its "Things to Do" category, which is OK for small towns but not bigger or even medium-sized cities, and Yelp's Shopping category tends to feature chains like Target or Marshalls. I'm not opposed to chains (visiting the flagship Wegmans was awesome), but a normal Target next to a mall isn't what I'm looking for. Do you have any tips or tricks?
posted by kevinbelt to Shopping (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
have you tried instagram? I just tried #shopportland for kicks and it turned up some pretty cool stuff, maybe if you try different hashtags and see what pops up?
posted by speakeasy at 7:58 AM on March 11, 2020

Many cities have a "Local First" movement. It can be productive to search the name of the destination with the keyword "local first."
posted by Miko at 8:29 AM on March 11, 2020

When I'm going to someplace new, I tend to use the search term "quirky" when I'm looking for places to go or unusual shops or different ethnic restaurants. For example, search for quirky shops (add in town or location) or quirky things to do in XXXX (add in town or location). That brings up google results that I would've never seen otherwise.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:45 AM on March 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

See if there's a subreddit specific to your city. (e.g. /r/chicago or /r/buffalo) There will be a lot of noise and a handful of jokers/trolls but you'll also find some helpful people if you hang around long enough.

Like Metafilter, be sure to search existing posts first to make sure you're not asking something that's been asked a dozen times before which irritates the regulars.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:46 AM on March 11, 2020

My kind of silly hack is to search “hipster guide to [city] shopping” or substitute “trendy” “funky” “chic” “weird” “hip.” It sounds strange but I’m looking for some guide/blog post that someone else has already compiled.
posted by amaire at 9:48 AM on March 11, 2020

I tested the "quirky shopping ____" thing for my old city to test the validity, and it brought up a lot of the things I'd suggest to people, so I'm calling it a success.

I don't use IG or Reddit, so I never think to look there, although both are good suggestions and I'll try to remember them going forward.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:16 AM on March 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Atlas Obscura is always my first stop when I'm researching what to do in a city I'm about to visit. The listings for most large-ish cities include a handful of unique retail shops.
posted by burntflowers at 10:34 AM on March 11, 2020

Local publications often come out with gift guides before the December holidays that list interesting local shopping options.
posted by yohko at 12:27 AM on March 13, 2020

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