Off the Beaten Path: Downtown Silver Spring

I'm not the biggest fan of chain stores. Yes, Target does serve a critical purpose in my life, but in terms of shopping for fun, I run from stores like Target. So it was a pleasant surprise when on a recent shopping trip to Silver Spring's City Place, I discovered a few secrets among the downtown area's plethora of chains.

Tucked between stores like Pier 1 Imports and Borders Books are shops like Living Ruff, a large pet supply store with enough charm to attract non-pet owners. You'll also stumble upon Marimekko, which sells the Finnish company's fabric but also some of its clothes and bags. Keep walking up the street and you'll find Adega Wine Cellars and Cafe, a small eatery that also has a wine section filled with all kinds of reds and whites. I was also charmed by Strosniders Hardware, a quaint hardware store worlds away from Home Depot and Lowe's.

Living Ruff opened last August on Georgia Avenue, just months before the economy entered a recession. But that hasn't stopped people from buying the store's high-end pet supplies, says its co-owner Jessica Simon. You'll find everything from $12 chew toys to $40 bags of raw meat. Simon says many people shop the store for gifts for pet-owning friends, and a large percentage load up on their supply of high-end dog or cat food.

Around the corner is Marimekko's concept store at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Ellsworth Drive. It features a few racks of the company's clothes and bags, as well as its fabric, which starts at $40 a yard. You can also take sewing and knitting classes for all experience levels or rent a sewing machine for $7 an hour. The store also has sales going on like 70 to 40 percent off some clothing and 40 percent off bedding.

When you walk through Adega's doors and head to the right, you'll be in the café but if you veer to the left, you'll be smack dab in a small wine shop. It all looks expensive but I found several bottles for under $15. Plus the joint has eat-in specials on its food and wine on Monday nights and Saturdays and Sundays.

Two other stores worth a trip are Metamorphosis, a women's clothing and accessory store on Wayne Avenue, and Pyramid Atlantic Community Arts Store, an Ellsworth Drive shop that sells local artists' work. And you must take a spin through Strosniders. It packs a wide range of inventory from kitchen gear to tools in a small space.

Where do you like to shop in Silver Spring? Are there any other stores that are off the beaten path? What are some of your hidden gems in the Washington area?

By Tania Anderson |  February 26, 2009; 12:00 AM ET General Interest , Off the Beaten Path
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

City Place is a shopping mall in downtown Silver Spring. NONE of the stores you mentioned are in City Place.

Posted by: subwayguy | February 26, 2009 9:40 AM

Subwayguy, I thought it was pretty clear that the stores weren't in City Place, but that while she was in the area on a trip to City Place, she found these stores. After all, she gives the street locations of each store. Breathe, my friend.

Posted by: jbs280 | February 26, 2009 10:38 AM

I'm not a fan of City Place. I've lived in SS for 6 years now, and have been in that place 3 times. Wish we could demolish it and build something else.

Adega is outstanding! Try the eggplant fries and Cabernet burger. Do not miss their lava cake.

Strosniders is the best hardware store around. They have everything you could ever need in your house. While you'll pay just a little more, the service is incredible. They carry everything: lawn, plumbing, lighting, paint that a typical h/w store does, but they also carry a bunch of home care needs. Their motto should be-- "if you need it, we got it".

Posted by: jonedavis2004 | February 26, 2009 1:26 PM

Other gems in downtown Silver Spring:

Dale Music on Georgia Avenue. They have a truly amazing collection of sheet music, and I believe they do repairs of instruments and a range of other activities.

Plaza Art Supplies. Yes, a chain, but this one is my favorite. The staff is nice and helpful, I go in describing roughly what I want to do and they help me to find the right products and never look down on me as a crafter rather than an artist.

Snyder's Grocery on Georgia Ave. This is a nice old fashioned grocery store with a great bakery and outstanding deli items. Wonderful place.

Posted by: TerryMcT | February 26, 2009 3:47 PM

Mandalay Cafe is one of our favorite places to eat - Burmese food, not expensive, and just fun. It was in College Park, but moved to Bonifant Street in Silver Spring a few years ago.

Posted by: goodwater1 | February 26, 2009 4:33 PM

jbs280: I doubt she'd venture out to Silver Spring for a trip to City Place and just happen to find the other stores ... more likely she'd venture out for the other stores and steer clear of City Place.

Posted by: pinkandyellow | February 26, 2009 5:30 PM

Actually I was drawn to Silver Spring to check out City Place because friends had mentioned it to me. But I also investigated what else was around that area before I ventured out. I found a website that had a listing for stores in Silver Spring that you won't find anywhere else:

Posted by: ShopToIt | February 27, 2009 4:32 PM

What on EARTH drew you to City Place? I grew up in the area and remember distinctly when the mall opened. Great movie theater (before the Majestic opened across the street) and arcade; perfect for the 11 year old that I was. Frankly it's gone downhill since then. So what on EARTH (I ask you again) drew you to City Place? I've actually literally had nightmares about it, and I'm still bitter that my neighbors wouldn't let the Mall of America people build an awesomely great place to hang out there (complete with ice rink). Just wondering if there's some new gem in there that I'm missing. And, in answering your question, Eggspectation (small chain) has great brunch and honestly, the best piped in Muzak in any restaurant I've visited!

Posted by: sqweakie | February 28, 2009 12:32 AM

Aren't they building an ice rink now, where the turf used to be?

Posted by: subwayguy | March 2, 2009 8:38 AM

Yes, as part of the new Veterans' Plaza.

Posted by: kajr | March 3, 2009 9:23 AM

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