Which is the best Cambridge bike shop? Where in the city can you get the finest thrifted finds? Read on to learn which local stores took home top honors in the shopping category of this year’s Scout’s Honored Awards.
PEMBERTONFARMS.COM | (617) 491-2244
This Mass Ave. garden and specialty foods shop wouldn’t look out of place on a country road on Cape Cod. Here, you can find plants, tools and everything else you need for the garden along with gifts for the gardening lover in your life. Pemberton also offers a stellar calendar of events, including seasonal favorites like Pemberfest, craft beer tastings, tool sharpening days and a twice-weekly fish market.
TAGSHARDWARE.COM | (617) 868-7711
Tools? Check. Nails and paint? Check. Lawn furniture, coffee makers, home canning supplies and free popcorn? Absolutely check. The longtime family-owned store—it’s been around since 1955!—was sold to a new owner last year, but Tags continues to serve the diverse needs of Cambridge’s homeowners and renters with a range of tools, gadgets and supplies for the handy and the not-so-handy alike.
CAMBRIDGEBICYCLE.COM | (617) 876-6555
Regular two-wheeled travelers will tell you: Cambridge Bicycle’s attentive staff, fast service and wide selection of bikes and parts, plus bike repairs and even rentals, make it the go-to shop for all of your velocipede needs. The store stocks a full line of bikes from brands like Jamis, Raleigh, Bianchi, KHS, Fuji, Linus and Handsome Cycles and offers a range of new parts and repair services for your current ride, including custom work.
FURNITURE OR HOME DECOR
CIRCLEFURNITURE.COM | (617) 876-3988
Circle Furniture knows that when you purchase something for your home, it doesn’t just need to fit seamlessly with your interior design plan—it also has to last just about forever. That’s why they have a staff with saint-like customer service skills who will expertly answer all of your questions and let you take the time you need to decide which of the hundreds of furniture styles and thousands of fabric coverings is perfect for that made-to-order sofa.
THRIFT OR VINTAGE SHOP
THE GARMENT DISTRICT
GARMENTDISTRICT.COM | (617) 876 5230
Bargain hunters, vintage lovers and anyone with a great idea for a Halloween costume can be found flocking to this massive, magical secondhand warehouse. Everything from cheap beaded necklaces to vintage couture can be found within these shocking pink walls, where bedazzled denim jackets hang alongside old-school leather goods, classic rock tees—and contemporary clothing, too. And each morning, the store offers a broad mix of clothes and accessories for just $2 a pound.
CHEAPORECORDS.COM | 617-354-4455
Walking past Cheapo Records, you’ll notice that the shop looks like a blast from the past—and there’s often music to match spilling out the front door. But step inside, and you’ll find rows upon rows of new and used vinyl records, CDs and cassettes from every musical era, lovingly curated by one of the friendliest groups of people around. There’s a reason it’s been a community institution since the ‘50s.
SEEEYEWEAR.COM | (617) 868-1500
Nearsighted and farsighted Cantabrigians who want stylish frames in a convenient location love this Harvard Square eyewear shop. See offers a commitment to craftsmanship you won’t find just anywhere, and customers rave about the unique options, affordable prices and attentive, but never pushy, customer service.
JOIE DE VIVRE
JOIEDEVIVRE.NET | (617) 864-8188
With offbeat offerings for millennial shoppers and anyone with a sense of whimsy, Joie de Vivre has been a neighborhood fixture since 1984 thanks to its ever-changing assortment of gifts, trinkets and postcards. Cute, whacky, funny and fantastical items fill the shelves—this is one gift shop that truly lives up to its name.
CHINAFAIRINC.COM | (617) 864-3050
Whether it’s time to replace that mismatched set of plates or finally admit you’re an adult who should own more than three forks, this no-frills, no-nonsense Porter Square staple stocks aisle after aisle of cutlery, glassware and more—in seemingly every color and pattern—from top makers around the country and the globe. Better yet: It’s all offered at discount prices.
NOMADCAMBRIDGE.COM | (617) 497-6677
The perfect antidote to mall stores, Nomad is the spot for shoppers who are tired of showing up to work and discovering three other women are wearing the same top. In addition to funky, fair-trade fashions from around the world, Nomad also stocks offbeat home décor items, an array of eye-catching jewelry and folk art.
THETANNERY.COM | (617) 491-0810
At the Tannery, you’ll find the city’s best selection of high-end footwear brands, as well as a broad range of fine clothing, outerwear and accessories. This is the place to splurge on a new pair of boots or a down jacket in Harvard Square, and the friendly, multilingual employees ensure no shopper leaves unsatisfied.
ARTIST AND CRAFTSMAN SUPPLY
ARTISTCRAFTSMAN.COM | (617) 354-3636
This cheery shop in Central Square has splashes of paint on the ceiling and floor and brightly colored items lining the walls and shelves. Whether you consider yourself an artist or just a crafty person, you’ll find a huge selection, including rare items you might otherwise have to search online to find. You’ll also encounter a cheerful staff who will help you with professional framing at an affordable price. Personable, expert service that doesn’t break the bank? That puts us in a good frame of mind!
PORTER SQUARE BOOKS
PORTERSQUAREBOOKS.COM | (617) 491-2220
A full-service bookstore that focuses on building community and hosting events, Porter Square Books is a haven for everyone from early morning commuters looking for a cup of coffee and an enjoyable read to children and adults eager to meet their favorite author or hear a story read aloud. Just inside the door, Café Zing dishes out delicious baked goods, lunch treats, coffee and more. And the indoor seating area is the perfect place to snack while you read your newly purchased books.
THE CURIOUS GEORGE STORE
THECURIOUSGEORGESTORE.COM | (617) 547-4500
As the reincarnation of the beloved Curious George and Friends, this Curious George-themed book and toy shop is a mecca of family fun located in a whimsical building right in the heart of Harvard Square. Puzzles, toys and games— many of which feature the famously mischievous monkey himself—cater to tourists and locals alike, and the selection is rounded out by a wide variety of children’s books. Let’s put it this way: If you have a kid’s birthday party coming up, you won’t want to get their present anywhere else.
BOSTON DOG COMPANY
BOSTONDOGCOMPANY.COM | (617) 858-3647
This pet sitting and walking service, with two locations in Cambridge and more elsewhere in the area, also has a full shop stocked with food, treats and toys for your favorite furry friend. Patrons of the dog walking service can get pet food delivered right to their home, for free, and those who board their pets with Boston Dog are boarding with the best—the company’s rigorous daycare application process only accepts 5 to 10 percent of applicants.
GOURMET OR SPECIALTY SHOP
FORMAGGIOKITCHEN.COM | (617) 354-4750
For the cheese lovers of Cambridge (and beyond), Formaggio is heaven on earth—a heaven that also has sausages and wine. Come for the classes, which cover everything from wine pairings to spices to fermentation, and stay to shop, putting that newfound knowledge into practice. A few afternoons at Formaggio and you’ll become the best party host around.
LIQUORWORLDCAMBRIDGE.COM | (617) 547-3110
Liquor World, with its warmly glowing neon sign, has long been a favorite spot in Porter Square for fans of adult beverages. Whether you’re looking for the classics or want to try something new, their experienced staff is ready to guide you through an impressive selection of beer, wine and spirits. Their tagline, “All the goods—none of the pretense,” is true even on their Twitter account (@LiquorWorld), where they announce new top-shelf arrivals with fun pop culture references and potable puns.
FACEBOOK.COM/CAMBRIDGESPIRITS | (617) 494-9000
Cambridge Spirits deserves applause for its impressive use of space—the shop packs a well-curated collection of locally sourced, special selections into a tiny store. The staff is amazing, and they really do their research to make sure they’re able to answer questions about even the most obscure bottles. Feel overwhelmed by the great selection? Check out one of their tastings—they frequently announce them on social media—to help narrow down the choices.
This story originally appeared in the September/October print issue of Scout Cambridge, which is available for free at more than 240 locations throughout Cambridge and just beyond its borders or by subscription.