Off the Beaten Path: Hyattsville

Quick! Where can you get toilet paper with humorous quotes from President Bush printed all over it, yarn made out of milk or bamboo and books on how to set up a princess tea party? Stumped? Hyattsville is the answer. Who knew that the quiet community just across the Maryland line had such an interesting shopping experience? And it's only going to get better as developers continue working on Arts District Hyattsville, a work-live community in the heart of the city where store owners can live above their retail space. The project will also include a row of more shops, as well as art galleries.

For now the real anchor in the Hyattsville retail community is Franklin's, where you'll find the Bushisms toilet paper. The general store is actually attached to a popular restaurant by the same name on Baltimore Avenue, which cuts right through the heart of Hyattsville. A lot of stores like to say they have a wide mix of items, but Franklin's general store truly means it. At first you think you're walking into a crazy stuffed animal kingdom because of all the creatures displayed in the front windows of the store. But then you realize you're in a cool toy store with floor-to-ceiling shelves of games, puzzles, dolls and wacky little knick-knacks that make interesting noises. But as you make your way to the back, you'll find adult gag gifts, a large wine and beer section, at least six shelves of hot sauces and a large corner section of Crabtree & Evelyn soaps and lotions. Some of my favorite items included the obsessive compulsive action figure that comes with a moist toilette and surgical mask for $8.99, the Sigmund Freud watermelon lollipops for $1.99 and the nice-smelling hemp seed body and hand lotion for $11.99.

Walk across the street and you'll stumble upon A Tangled Skein, a yarn store that opened a little more than a year ago. I never thought you could stock a whole store with yarn but A Tangled Skein has shelves and shelves of different colors, textures and sizes from high-end to affordable. They even have yarns made from corn, soy, bamboo and milk. Store owners say A Tangled Skein has turned into a gathering spot for the local knitting community, which gathers there every Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon to knit and share tips. The store also offers three-hour knitting classes for $30.

Just a few blocks down Baltimore Avenue past a car wash and second-hand store, you'll find yourself in the heart of Arts District Hyattsville, where developers have already completed several work-live units. The guinea pig of the project was Book Nook Bookstore, a small shop opened by a former librarian earlier this year who lives upstairs with her husband and baby. The bookstore features a large children's section where books are organized by interest, such as princesses, pirates, trains and pop-up books. The rest of the store is made up of biographies, bestsellers, fiction, cookbooks and home decorating books. The owner has tried to appeal to the interests of the neighborhood by stocking vegan cookbooks and decorating books for small apartments and houses. One of the first books to sell out was "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World," a cookbook on making desserts without animal products.

What are some other good shops in Hyattsville? Where do you like to shop off the beaten path? Post a comment below.

And while I'm on a roll of asking questions, have you ever shopped at Bloom, the new grocery store chain that has opened stores in our area? It touts itself as a "different kind of grocery store." Are you a fan? Why or why not? Send your Bloom experiences -- good and bad -- to shoptoit@washingtonpost.com.

By Tania Anderson |  April 3, 2008; 3:00 AM ET Off the Beaten Path
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The City of Hyattsville has much to offer. Check out our Wiki at http://hyattsville.wetpaint.com One of the first "Community" Wiki's in the world!

Posted by: Jim Groves | April 3, 2008 5:00 PM

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