Oct. 13 2014 04:22 PM

A survey of fresh independent shops in Hillcrest, North Park, University Heights and Mission Hills

The Front Porch’s containers of olive oils and vinegars
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Don't downplay the benefits of retail therapy (save for you weirdos who hate to shop). And, when you spend your money at indie stores, not only do you stimulate the local economy; you also score karma points with the small-business gods. 

Here are five cool shops, all in the Uptown-ish part of San Diego (we'll get to you, next, North County) that are worth some of your coin. Initially, we set out to find new shops, then realized that one of 'em has been around for two years—so let's call the theme for this column "new-ish."

Bird-topped mirrors at Establish
Photo by Kelly Davis

South Park has Progress, North Park has Pigment and Hillcrest has Establish (1029 University Ave.). Open for about a year-and-a-half, it's a store that manages to be everything to everyone without feeling unfocused. Kids section? Check. Table full of candles for a quick hostess gift? Check. Girl stuff and guy stuff? Check and check. We especially dig the collection of Fishs Eddy vintage-inspired glass bowls (located near the equally cool Charley Harper glasses) and the goth-yet-hip-with-a-bird-on-it decorative mirrors. Ladies, check out the travel bags from Apple & Bee, which have an Orla Kiely thing going on, but at a more affordable price.

Kaleidoscope (3030 University Ave. in North Park) is the quintessential mom-and-pop shop, owned by husband-and-wife Bekki and Lee Kaplan. The store's all about design-minded cookware / kitchenware / serving-ware. Here, you'll find stuff you never knew you needed, like the Lekue citrus misters (spray tops that you screw into a lemon or lime—brilliant!). There's a nice selection of dishtowels of the sort you'd find at Anthropologie, but for less. And we'll be back for a set of the Oenophilia tumblers, made from recycled wine bottles.

A lot of places do customizable furniture, but Urban Fusion Décor (145 W. Washington St. in Hillcrest) does it without leaving you feeling totally overwhelmed by all the possible configurations and fabric choices. Not to say there isn't a huge selection here—there is—but the shop's vibe is welcoming and user-friendly, thanks in large part to owner Frank Libby, who gets a gold star for being the perfect no-pressure sales guy. There's also a nice selection of vintage pieces and reclaimed-wood furniture. 

There are a lot of great midcentury furniture stores in San Diego, putting Vestige (4633 30th St. in University Heights) in good company. It's been open for a little more than two years, but we noticed it only a few months ago, so it's new to us. To get a good sense of the type of goods you'll find here, check out Vestige's Facebook page, where new items are regularly posted. Be warned: You'll mourn all the cool stuff you missed (looking at you, olive-green wood-frame chair). Vestige is part of a trio of adjacent shops: Artful Ruins is next door and sells old apothecary items and some lovely soaps, while Artisan Collection specializes in custom jewelry and original pieces.  

With decadent gourmet specialties like duck fat, chimichurri sauce and artichoke and green-olive tapenade, Mission Hills' The Front Porch (928 Fort Stockton) is for fancy-food fans. A sister store to The Patio restaurants, the cozy shop offers tastings of most of the products it carries. Be sure to sample the pumpkin-spice balsamic vinegar—it's delicious. Also cool are the repurposed wine bottles, filled with unfiltered, first-press flavored olive oils.

And amid the loads of cool retail, one of our favorite shops is closing. A couple weeks ago, the owners of Little Italy's Mixture announced they were moving to Louisiana to be closer to family. We'll miss this go-to spot for hip goods. But, for the next month or so, everything in the store's being sold at a discount, including a great selection of kids books, fun barware and jewelry by local designers. 

Write to editor@sdcitybeat.com.


See all events on Friday, Dec 2