Off the Beaten Path: Tenleytown

Every month I write about an area of the Washington region that's good for shopping but a little off the beaten track. So you won't see me writing about Georgetown or Old Town or any kind of mall here. Instead I've found places like Kensington, where you can buy furniture and home decorations from all over the world. Or Del Ray in Alexandria where you'll find art by locals. And there is Takoma Park where you can find vintage clothing and holistic medicine for dogs. These are areas where you go to stroll, armed with a cup of coffee and a lot of time. It's my favorite kind of shopping.

Recently I went to Tenleytown up Wisconsin Avenue and strolled two blocks where Wisconsin cuts River Road and Brandywine. Here you shop with a purpose. You go here to get your artwork framed or to buy that electric guitar you've been coveting since high school or to get tonight's dinner. You won't find cute little gift shops or places to buy clothes and furniture, but Tenleytown is still worthy of a visit.

The area has its share of large chains, which I tend to stay away from when shopping off the beaten path. But the neighborhood has attracted some stores like Whole Foods, where I surprisingly found better prices on certain items that I buy at Giant, the Container Store -- which is having its annual shelving sale -- and Ace Hardware, which has small, easier-to-navigate stores than its bigger competitors. The area is also home to a Hudson Trail Outfitters, where you'll find gear to hike up mountains or paddle through rapids.

You'll also find Middle C, which not only has electric guitars but acoustic ones as well, along with lots of other instruments to buy or to rent to own. You can also get lots of sheet music, CDs and DVDs, as well as a music lesson or two. The business, which claims to be D.C.'s only full-service music store, offers lessons in guitar, piano, violin, clarinet, flute, recorder, saxophone, harmonica, bass and percussion. Even if you're pining to be on "American Idol" one day, you can take a singing lesson to avoid a Simon rant.

The area is also home to Fantom Comics, a 3-year-old store that sells comic books, graphic novels and manga, which are Japanese comics. The store, which gets a new shipment every Wednesday, invites all who read comics and even those who don't in a fun setting.

If it's your home that needs some help, Tenleytown also offers several frame shops, including Wonder Graphics Framing, Allen Custom Frame and Picasso Gallery. You can check out Chesapeake Kitchen Design, which has a 1,500-square-foot showroom, as well as Universal Floors, which has been installing and refinishing wood floors since 1953.

So have you been to any of these stores or used any of their services? Where do you go to shop off the beaten path? Post a comment below.

By Tania Anderson |  September 11, 2008; 3:00 AM ET Off the Beaten Path
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Fantom Comics is definitely the best place in the area to get comics and graphic novels. Plus the staff will always have a cool new book that you should check out that you never heard of before. Definitely got back into comics after having a conversation with a guy (who I found out later was the owner) a couple of years ago. He said, "Try this and that." I loved them both and was hooked.

Posted by: Dominic Lee | September 11, 2008 2:05 PM

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