Searching for something in particular? Chances are if you can dream it, it's available in Houston--from fresh-off-the-runway designer duds to one-of-a-kind, locally-produced artisan wares. Check out some of our favorite locally-owned boutiques and shops for covet-worthy finds and gift ideas.
Abejas is first on the must-shop list for local "It" girls in the know. If a Hollywood starlet is wearing the hottest jean or the biggest bag, then you can bet Abejas will have it on its shelves. James Perse, Cake, Johnny Was and Velvet are among the labels at Abejas, but the friendly staff can easily navigate the names and fits for shoppers. The much-anticipated sidewalk sale held twice a year is the closest Houston shoppers get to sample sales and women descend on the boutique in droves to try on and buy, buy, buy.
Asher Gallery, located within the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, serves as a retail showcase for the work of internationally acclaimed and emerging craft artists, giving visitors an opportunity to touch, handle and own objects created by artists featured in HCCC's exhibitions. Expect an exceptional variety of gifts, including unique jewelry, pottery, baskets, home décor, handbags and clothing.
Cactus Music: For more than 30 years audiophiles have united to peruse the latest tunes at Houston's premier independent music store. In the newest location, a stage hosts far-flung and local bands most weekends for free shows and St. Arnold's brew provided gratis. Don't miss the Record Ranch in back, where guest DJs spin sets for patrons picking through plastic-wrapped and bargain-binned vinyl. Other booty includes books, box sets, T-shirts, posters, DVDs, sundry souvenirs and rarities for the rabid collector. Behind the counter, sorting enormous piles of wares, the expert staff is ready to advise, assist and proliferate indie spirit. Whether you're into Pink Floyd or Neon Indian, Dinosaur Jr. or John Mayer, Cactus has you covered.
Dao Chloe Dao, Chloe Dao's boutique in Rice Village, is fast becoming a stop on many a tourist's list, thanks to Dao's winning of the second season of Bravo's Project Runway. Of course, local fans of her smart and sexy clothes already knew she and her boutique were champs. Besides her own line, shoppers will delight in designs by Single, Dress, Abaco and Li Li Rose, plus plenty of accessories and shoes. Success hasn't gone to her head either. Lucky shoppers can often find her still in the store hard at work.
The Guild Shop: Since the 1960s, this Episcopal church-run resale shop has donated all profits to the retired residents of Baytown's St. James House. This 11,000-square-foot shop is popular for more upscale consignment items including furniture, up-to-date and designer clothing, household items and jewelry. The shop also carries clean resale items such as clothes, books, original art, kitchen wares, ornamental objects, toys, collectibles and vintage items. Prices are reduced the longer items remain on the floor.
Hamilton Shirts: Still owned by the family that started the business in 1883, Hamilton specializes in bespoke and made-to-measure shirts of the highest quality. Hand cut from double-ply Italian and Swiss fabrics, the shirts are made at the Richmond Avenue store by trained specialists who have been with the company for years. You can watch them work through a picture window in the store and marvel at their artistry. Shirts made with such care and detail are investments, but you're worth it. (An added bonus: 10 percent of profits are donated to charity.)
Kuhl-Linscomb: One of Houston's best and most diverse shopping spots is Kuhl-Linscomb, a must-see five building complex that holds whimsical and luxurious surprises around every corner. Owners Dan Linscomb and Pam Kuhl-Linscomb have culled the world and brought back treasures for every kind of person and personality. Jewelry junkies will appreciate the array of pieces in various metals, stones and price ranges. Chefs and cocktail connoisseurs will revel in the accessories and gorgeous books just for them. Pet lovers can lavish their four-legged friends with unique collars and special shampoos. Kuhl-Linscomb's apothecary is a well-stocked spot with hard to find bath and beauty products for both sexes. Venture through the other buildings and discover modern and transitional furniture, lighting, rugs, linens and home accessories. Searching for something? Just ask. Customer service is top notch.
Pinto Ranch: Modern western wear has come a long way from rhinestones and Rocky Mountains. Pinto Ranch exemplifies the changes with its array of clothing, boots, jewelry and, yes, even saddles, at its Post Oak store. Throughout the year, serious cowboys and cowgirls shop at Pinto Ranch for the store's high quality and exclusive boot lines. Socialites abound stocking up on the latest cowgirl gear before each annual Cattle Baron's Ball, and when the Big Show gallops into Houston each spring, rodeo-goers have plenty of options there, too. The jewelry cases are not to be missed no matter what season because of the amazing hand-crafted turquoise, coral, ruby and citrine pieces.
Retropolis: Dig the 1950s? Stoked by the 1980s? Whatever your decade of preference, Retropolis will have something to suit you--even if that means mixing many styles from several past decades. With 25 vendors, the co-op covers vintage attire and accessories from the 1980s and beyond. Additionally, one vendor sews dresses and blouses from vintage stock fabrics and tablecloths, and another designs Endi Collins-inspired cigar box handbags.
Sloan/Hall: Even an everyday Joe can shop here for greeting cards. Beyond the amazing selection of cards, there are gifts like a set of red leather boxes, so soft, supple and striking. Also in store: the rubber-soled Prada footwear collection, toiletries and decorative housewares. Discover custom jewelry, engraving, anniversary rings and gold. Perfume brands include Agraria, Alora Ambience, Mariage Freres, Molton Brown, Ulrich Lang New York and other designers.
Spec's: Owned and operated by the same Houston family since 1962, Spec's is a true destination shopping experience. Stores located all over Houston offer the best selections of wines, spirits, beers, liqueurs, cigars and fine gourmet foods. The Warehouse Store is the crown jewel of the 28-store operation. With more than 40,000 labels of wines, spirits, liqueurs, beers, and finer foods, Spec's indeed fills all 80,000 square feet of selling space. The walk-in cigar humidor offers more than 900 cigars--more than many tobacconist stores. The deli also offers the finest in deli meats, pates, domestic and imported cheeses, fresh caviar, and a complete assortment of domestic and imported smoked fish and salmon.
Texas Junk Company: This well-organized warehouse of a store has been a favorite for Lone Star trinkets for more than 20 years. There are the cowboy boots (900 pairs of them), which vary in style from eel to ostrich and from no-name to handmade. All have been arranged neatly by size with the highest concentration to be found inside a small shelf-lined room. Texas Junk sells hundreds of picture frames, lamps, record albums, band uniforms, rotary telephones and doors.
Tootsies: After 25 years, Tootsies has moved from its Highland Village space into shiny, new West Ave digs. The 35,000-square-foot space is open and airy-bathed in natural light--with glossy, eye-catching accents sprinkled throughout. Shoppers will find new designers, an expanded accessories department and a private party room with space for your 30 nearest and dearest--complete with an adjoining catering kitchen.
To download high-res images, visit photo gallery.