Old Takoma: Retro to Rawhide

I'm not sure if it's the signs in store windows calling for peace and White House impeachments or the mix of vintage clothing stores and local artistic flair that scream hippie scene in Old Takoma. But it's definitely there in the few blocks of Carroll Avenue and several cross streets that make up Takoma Park's Old Town. This little-known shopping area straddling Washington and Maryland is good for unique gifts, hippie clothes and even a chew toy for Fido.

Among the mix of stores is Rerun, which sells previously-worn retro clothing and shoes, not to be confused with vintage clothing. Retro clothes are the threads people wore in the 1960s and 1970s and vintage refers to the 1920s and 30s, so says Rerun's owner. Half the store features the '60s and '70s garb, including a lacy wedding dress with a matching floppy hat for under $200 and some nicely broken-in men's Frye boots for under $50. The other half of the store has modern clothing with a hippie aesthetic. The store feels like it is stuck in a time warp with posters of Janice Joplin and Jimi Hendrix adorning the walls, along with old records and pins and bumper stickers calling for peace in the world. Some things never change.

Moonshadow and Polly Sue's are two vintage stores across the street from each other, both selling clothing, shoes and knick knacks. Moonshadow has the feel of a typical vintage store, selling a variety of clothes and shoes from as early as the 1920s, as well as vintage postcards, plates and tchotchkes. Some of the interesting finds were an Asian cloth-covered box purse for $12, vintage postcards from all the 50 states for $2 or $3 and dressy wool women's coats for around $65. Polly Sue's comes across as a vintage boutique with a wider selection of clothing, including wedding dresses for $110 to $175. I was struck by a 1960s cream dress with short jacket, a la Jackie Kennedy, for $42.

Now & Then, a few store fronts down from Polly Sue's, sold a wide variety of stuff but not in an overwhelming way like so many gift shops tend to do. The store had everything from yarn, toys, soaps and lotions to notecards and handmade purses. I found a funky purse made out of felt for $44. Who knew you could do that with an art supply popular with preschoolers.

I wandered down a curve of Carroll Avenue away from the main Old Town area and stumbled upon The Big Bad Woof . I had to go in once I spotted its mantra: "Essentials for the Socially Conscious Pet." I'm not sure my dog is very socially conscious (especially when he lifts his leg on my neighbor's manicured bushes), but I like the idea of it. The pet supply store had the run-of-the-mill toys but also a plethora of holistic medicine to treat everything from canine diabetes to digestive problems. Hey, whatever floats your boat. A large backroom also had a wide selection of upscale pet food and dog beds made from recycled materials.

I couldn't help but be enchanted by S&A Beads. The small corner store sell rows and rows of tiny beads and trinkets for jewelry making. Some of the beads go for as little as 25 cents to several dollars. Even if you're not a jewelry maker, it's worth a look.

Old Takoma even had a dose of culture with a handful of stores selling craft by local artists, including Takoma Old Town Gallery/Point of View and American Craft.

Know of any neat local shopping areas off the beaten track?

By Tania Anderson |  November 8, 2007; 3:00 AM ET General Interest
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Ah! You forgot my favorite shops in Takoma Park! The Magic Carpet, next to Now and Then, has provided many essential accents for my home- from hand-painted Turkish plates that hang in our kitchen to the half-dozen Tiffinay-design lamps we now have, to great covers for throw pillows and even leather furniture. Down the street is a local bike shop with a friendly fix-it guy who can rennovate that old clunker or fine tune a hot roadbike. Then there is the music shop and an arts and crafts store I can always count on for moderately-priced, nice jewelry.

Don't miss the hand made ice cream in Summer Delights. The guy who owns it is well known, especially among the under-10 set, and comes up with all sorts of nifty and wacky flavors. You can never go wrong with almost any of them.

Of course, further down the road is the Takoma Park Co-Op which has similar, yet much cheaper-than-Whole-Foods organic and local foods. None of my dairy travels further than New York State!

Takoma Park is a great neighborhood-- a brew pub and upscale restraunt for us parents when we can get away for th evening, and maybe a wine store with an excellent selection would make it almost complete.

Posted by: DJ Monet | November 8, 2007 7:53 PM

What's the best intersection to start from when you haven't been to old town TP? I've driven through and never see it. would like to mapquest it before I go next time.

Posted by: amw | November 8, 2007 11:11 PM

Takoma Park is the best! Polly Sue's is a great vintage store. The owner, Susan, picks out fantastic pieces and the prices are much, much more reasonable than the more popular vintage stores in DC. Be sure to check it out (and eat at Mark's Kitchen and the Middle East Market while you're at it).

Posted by: TKPK | November 8, 2007 11:31 PM

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