If you had to sum up State Street to someone, how would you? It seems like a simple question – I mean, it’s just a bunch of stores and restaurants, right? Wrong. Anyone who’s experienced State knows it’s got its own personality, its own mantra.
So, after a rainy afternoon of browsing, admiring (and sometimes wincing), I found these five stores that I think deserve some recognition. Each brings something enchanting to State Street, so check out their unique identities below!
Affordable. Natural. Cultural.
Located right before Gilman Street intersects with State Street, you can tell from one glance that Art Gecko isn’t your typical boutique. “We have a modern bohemian vibe. The things you find here are not the same as what everyone else has – it’s not completely mainstream,” said store manager Alisa Eland-Smithburg, when I asked her why the store was unique. And I think she hit the nail on the head. The products they sell are all imported, each with its own story. By informing customers of these back-stories, the store shows a true investment in their featured artists. From jewelry to textiles to home décor, Art Gecko is a great place to find affordable, one-of-a-kind pieces for your apartment or jewelry box. Oh, and did I mention they’re affordable?
Earthbound Trading Co.
Eclectic. Hippie-chic. Colorful
New to the State Street area, Earthbound Trading Co. is one of three located in Wisconsin. From the moment I walked in, I mentally described it as “Urban Outfitters meets World Market.” Which, in my opinion, is a pretty interesting combination. The employees assured me the store is definitely aimed at college kids. Everything is inexpensive, and the assortment of products is huge. Want sunglasses? Check. A frame? Poster? Picture? Check. How about a hookah waterpipe? Yep, check. But what really sets them apart is their mission to giving back. Everything in the store is fair trade, and their employees are motivated to do well in sales with an incentive of volunteer opportunities for good causes. Now that’s pretty cool.
Unique. Enjoyable. Experience-focused.
I’m not sure there is a better name for Amy Moore’s wide collection of gifts than Little Luxuries. Everything in her bright and welcoming store is something you didn’t know you needed. As an added bonus, thanks to a refined style of architecture and lighting, just being in the store makes you happy. Amy told me, “We’re unique because of the aesthetics of our space. It helps with the general experience of the customer, something we focus on.” Even though the store’s main customers are affluent women between 35 and 55, I think it needs some more attention from us UW students. Next time you need to buy a gift, skip the gift card and head into Little Luxuries (and if anyone’s feeling generous, I think the little macaron trinket boxes are adorable!).
Historical. Quality. Tradition.
I don’t know if this has crossed anyone else’s mind, but I’ve walked by the Sacred Feather dozens of times and always wondered how a store could just sell hats. Well, it’s definitely lucrative, considering the Sacred Feather has been in business for 38 years now. After talking to store manager Dustin Dunlavy, I learned Sacred Feather is only the third business to be housed in this beautiful and historic last operating Victorian house on State Street. Of course you can find hats of all kinds – top hats, sun hats, cowboy hats – but you can also buy custom, hand crafted, high-quality leather belts. Dustin assured me that the clientele definitely consists of older men returning to get a new belt after twenty years of wear, but that college kids are a large part of it as well. “Halloween eve is our biggest night.”
Crafty. Vibrant. Whimsical.
Laura Komai and her sister Sachi compose their “artsy” boutique from 100 local, independent artists, their own creations and whatever they find fits the inspiration for the store. So what is that inspiration? “We want to facilitate creativity. Our main emphasis is to make people go home and want to create things,” Laura told me as we chatted about what sets Anthology apart from other gift stores. The venue’s main attraction is definitely the button maker. “When we opened the store we bought it to make buttons to sell. But, we had so much fun [creating buttons] we thought that customers might have fun making their own.” If you aren’t into buttons though, don’t worry. Posters, cards, T-shirts and even a craft table to create your own projects comprise the small store. My personal favorite? A Wisco t-shirt with the saying “wise, witty and wild.” They know me too well!
Click through the gallery below to see more views of these interesting shops!