June 27 2012 11:04 AM

The town might be getting ritzy, but some stores are keeping it real

Detour’s wall of Bumble & Bumble
Photo by Carissa Casares
I'll come right out and say it: Encinitas is a bit confused when it comes to retail. It exudes a Zen-like vibe that totally contradicts itself. South Coast Highway is lined with businesses with the words "lotus" and "bliss" in their names. Alas, the peaceful feel is overshadowed by how darn ritzy everything is. Most of these shops are charging top dollar for their enlightened products; and don't get me started on the bizarre kitschy shops full of tourist-friendly junk that'll soon end up in a landfill. But amid all that are some gems that make a trip from San Diego proper worth it.

Just off South Coast Highway, between D and H streets, you'll find the Lumberyard shopping center. It's basically a strip mall, but with some beach-town charm. I stumbled into Birkenstock of Encinitas (745 S. Coast Hwy. 101, 760-942-2177). Don't assume I'm some kind of hippie because I'm endorsing a Birkenstock store. Rather, I'm a practical girl obsessed with shoes, and I'm constantly searching for a stylish pair that won't kill my feet. Usually I'm disappointed, but this little shop stocks some of my favorite hippie-meets-fashionable brands: Pikolinos, Earthies, Mephisto and Camper. I had to avert my eyes from all the Crocs and Uggs, but I was otherwise impressed by the selection. These shoes aren't cheap, but you're paying for quality and durability (and that lovely "Made in Italy" stamp). Your feet will thank you.

There are several businesses in Encinitas that have San Diego locations, as well. First, there's HOME (629 S. Coast Hwy. 101, 760-632-6880, second location in North Park), a teensy new-and-used-clothing shop that's chock-full of hipster gear. Ironic tees and '80s styles abound, but if you dig a little, you might come up with something whether it's for a costume party or everyday wear. There's also a Flashbacks (576 S. Coast Hwy. 101, 760-632-2658, second location in Hillcrest), which has a vast selection of kooky vintage that's always fun to peruse.

If you're a girly-girl (and I mean that in the best possible way), stop in at Detour (594 S. Coast Hwy. 101). It's a salonslash-boutique, but it's a good one. They stock extra-trendy clothing (hello, neon!), accessories and jewelry, including Jack by BB Dakota, Free People and Pura Vida bracelets. All of it has price tags that don't make you gasp. I really liked the jewelry by 31 Bits (read more about their story here), which features bright-colored paper beads made by Ugandan women. Detour is a Bumble & Bumble salon, so there's a whole wall of fancy hair stuff (yay for testers!). I really can't live without the Surf Spray—it makes your hair thick and wavy and amazing.

The store that perhaps sums up Encinitas best is Ecotopiia (543 S. Coast Hwy. 101). They stock all kinds of good-for-the-Earth goodies, and they do it with heart. Behind the register you'll find awesome bumper stickers ("Break the Chains! Shop at Independent Stores."). You can get BioKleen laundry and dish-washing liquid "on tap" so you don't have to keep buying more plastic bottles. There are bundles of local white sage, Semilla snack bags (cute printed bags to replace your disposable plastic ones) and, perhaps best of all, champagne bottles of Kombucha—the weird drink containing live, active cultures that's suddenly become mainstream-popular. Hopefully, Ecotopiia can stay afloat now that Whole Foods opened up just a mile down the road. Maybe all the Encinitas tree hungers will show their support.

And if you can't find your Zen at any of these shops, stop by the Self-Realization Fellowship just up the road for a little bit of meditation. Now that's Zen.

Write to carissac@sdcitybeat.com and check out the Urban Scout blog at sdcitybeat.com/urbanscout.


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