If now is not the time for shopping, then when? Such philosophical questions can be answered at innumerous places around town. But when shopping for my girlfriends—and wanting something different than stunning local jewelry (see last week's column), there are a few small and large stores I always turn to.
The Grove in South Park (3010 Juniper St., www.thegrovesandiego.com) is known mostly as a hooker haven—it's primarily a knitting store filled with well-chosen yarn and needles. The book selection is also quite particular, but sometimes when the offerings are less than bountiful, you see more. (Ah, more metaphysical musings from the mind of me.) I might choose a few volumes of the new cloth-bound Penguin classics, so artfully vintage, or a gift certificate for knitting classes for my newly nesting pal.
In larger cities, museum stores are considered shopping staples so much that they even have their own catalogs. Not as much here, which is a shame. The San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park (www.sdmartstore.com) has an exquisite store, and, currently, it's chock full of the peripatetic, protean art of Alexander Calder—everything from his illustrated fables to books about his sculptures, jewelry and even his circus. Additionally, the small shop abounds with well-designed wares—Klein Reid porcelain vases from Brooklyn, Ibride laminate art trays, pretty Acme pens and even pipe robots you can create. These are unexpected gifts that ooze the care of consideration. Personally, I covet the Guides to Understanding Opera and the Gama-Go coin purses. Even the stationary and calendars are a cut above the rest. And the kid “department” (just a small corner of the shop) overflows with such quirky-cool stuff that it seems a shame to waste it on the little ones.
But the mecca for girlfriend gifts is actually in Seaport Village. Tourist trap! you scream. But no—Urban Girl Accessories (867 West Harbor Drive, www.urbangirlaccessories.com) is one of those stores you can enter not knowing what you want, exactly, but still come out with the perfect thing. That's because it's full of useless gifts, and I mean that in a most loving and positive way. There are little Japanese dolls that hold secrets, stiletto door-stoppers and anthropomorphic kitchen utensils. Does your friend like to drink? (We all have one or two of those friends.) There are wacky bottle openers, pretty flasks, wine-rating pads and more. Does she like to cook? There are silly salt and pepper shakers, aprons and pretty knives. Who needs a pretty knife? No one, but what gal would want to cut up veg with an ugly one when there's a bright-green apple-adorned one available? For the Hard Worker there are weird pens and desk accoutrements, and for the Traveler, luggage tags and airplane bingo and blankets made just for plane flights. You can get a gaggle of stuff with a monogram on it, and that always make for a personal touch. Plus, there are purses, scarves, candles and more—all the stuff you'd expect from a gift store, but far funnier, cooler and simply sweeter than you'd expect considering it's part of a compound locals make great pains to avoid. It's worth the trek and the parking fee.
Urban Scout is CityBeat's new shopping-and-trends column. Got an idea? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.