Best of NJ: Retail

Super shopping and better bargains await at these top NJ retails establishments.

Alternative to NYC Designer Showrooms
Featuring well-known home-furnishings lines such as Hunter Douglas blinds, Karastan carpets, and Scalamandré fabrics, the New Jersey Decorating Exchange in River Edge is a one-stop high-end decorating resource for those averse to making the trek across the Hudson. Unlike most New York City designer showrooms, NJDX is open to the public, which means you can shop without an interior designer in tow. For the less-daring, NJDX offers design services to help you pull it all together (3 New Bridge Rd, 888-515-9671,

With three stories of mostly nineteenth-century English and French treasures, Ivory Bird is the crown jewel of Montclair’s antique scene. Need to accessorize? There is always an ample supply of Staffordshire dogs and other English porcelains, Chinese vases, glazed majolica, signed oils, and gilt-framed prints. The basement features less ornate and lower-priced items (555 Bloomfield Ave, 973-744-5225).
Robert Jay is a wood turner who sells his work at Robert Jay’s Unforgettables in Collingswood, but his two-room store also stocks an eclectic array of antiques and collectibles from watches to dishes to furniture. Don’t miss the used-book collection in the back room (792 Haddon Ave, 856-858-3200,

Baby Gear
Certified nurse-midwife (and mother of two) Shari Criso and her husband, Joe, opened the Birth Boutique in Denville eight years ago as an oasis for first-time mothers. Today it is the place to go to find pregnancy and newborn products and to take maternity classes. The store satisfies all baby needs, from nursing clothes, layettes, and high chairs to courses on childbirth preparation, breastfeeding, and toddler nutrition (28 Diamond Spring Rd, 877-627-8850,

Bloomin’ Ideas
Started as a roadside stand nearly 30 years ago, Reynolds Garden Shop in Manahawkin has grown into an essential resource for coastal residences on and around Long Beach Island. Peg and Mark Reynolds specialize in cottage plantings and innovative landscape lighting. Their business also includes a sprawling gift shop—perfect for a hostess favor before descending upon a friend’s beach house (201 East Bay Ave, 609-597-6099,

Cool T-Shirts
Progressing from street vending to online retail to a storefront in Hoboken, Solid Threads has become a seriously funny T-shirt company, with distribution through major retailers such as Urban Outfitters. Its product line includes shirts for men, women, and kids. Many items have a distinctly Jersey flair, with sayings such as, “New Jersey Charm School,” and “The House That Bruce Built” (365 First St, 201-484-0529,

Fabric Store
Started 75 years ago as Chain Decorators in Plainfield, the Heyman family’s fabric empire has expanded to include five stores, among them Fabricland in North Plainfield. Offering exceptional customer service, a knowledgeable staff, and a raft of classes, the store is designed to please the most demanding appliqué aficionado as well as the bolt-shy beginner. A class like “Ten Steps to Decorating the Perfect Room” will boost your confidence and perhaps kick-start that postponed design project (855 Rte 22, 908-755-4700,

Gift Shop/North
At CBL Fine Art in West Orange you’ll find handcrafted jewelry, handbags, Judaica, home accessories, and art. Whether you’re browsing or buying, the staff is friendly, as hands-on or hands-off as you wish. There is a lot to see in this ever-changing gallery of good taste (459 Pleasant Valley Way, 973-736-7776,

Gift Shop/South
For 35 years, Whale’s Tale has been a Cape May must, and not just for those who love the Shore. Whale’s Tale stocks handcrafted jewelry, specialty soaps, and kids’ toys. You’ll also find local gifts, like horseshoe crab-inspired items and books about Cape May and its surroundings. Unlike many a Shore store, Whale’s Tale is open year-round (312 Washington Mall, 609-884-4808,

High-End Consignment/North
If you like to work Dior, Armani, Cartier, and Fendi into your wardrobe, but this economy is not working for you, visit Duet in Livingston. This consignment shop is staffed by curators of high-end designer clothing, jewelry, and accessories, who ensure that the luxury items on resale are authentic—and ring up for far less than they would at Saks or Neiman Marcus (79 S Livingston Ave, 973-535-1133,

High-End Consignment/South
Raks Thrift Avenue in Haddonfield is always well-stocked with gently used, high-end clothes from the closets of the area’s well-heeled residents. Don’t skip the cases of sparkling jewelry or the phalanxes of purses behind the counter; that’s where you’ll find items from Tiffany, Lagos, David Yurman, Louis Vuitton, and Burberry. High-End also carries an extensive stock of vintage fur coats (43 Kings Highway East, 856-429-6777,

Home Furnishings/North
Well-known furniture and accessory lines and design services have been the hallmark of Bograd’s Fine Furniture in Riverdale for three generations. The cavernous showroom’s bountiful inventory will equally please those who favor the traditional flourishes of Old Europe, the clean lines of Stickley, a modern aesthetic, or a confluent blend of all (81 Hamburg Tpk, 888-428-7953,

Family-owned Greenbaum Interiors presents fine furniture made the old-fashioned way, by hand. Greenbaum craftsmen upholster goods and create wood furnishings and decorative accessories. Along with design services and custom products, the mothership mega-showroom in Paterson and the farmhouse-style design center in Morristown feature more than 2,000 vendors (101 Washington St, Paterson, 973-279-3000; 1105 Mount Kemble Ave, Rte 202, Morristown, 973-425-5500,

Home Furnishings/Central
Though located in a former schoolhouse, Gasior’s Furniture & Accessories in Belle Mead is anything but elementary. With a host of sophisticated collections from manufacturers such as Maitland-Smith, Lexington, and Sarreid Ltd., Gasior’s 10,000-square-foot showroom offers an in-depth lesson in fine design (2152 Rte 206, 908-874-8383,

Home Furnishings/South
Wanderlust is slightly off Cape May’s beaten track, but it’s worth the detour. The bright-yellow shop is chock full of all you never knew you needed for your Shore-inspired home—hammocks, fine linens, lots of beachy furniture. Be sure to ogle the display of kitschy mermaid home accessories (609 Jefferson St, 609-884-0488).

The Slow Food movement should bestow honorary membership on Chef Central, a 15,000-square-foot superstore in Paramus. Not that you can’t grab a gizmo and zip through checkout. But if you are the type who doesn’t know how many zesters or colanders you own, you will not grab and go. You will mosey down every groaning aisle, stand on tiptoe, or crouch on the floor to check out all 22 types of graters and zesters, all 29 types of colanders, and all 15 brands of pots and pans (Paramus Towne Square, 240 Rte 17 N, 201-576-0100).

Musical Instruments
Guy A. Scognamiglio and his sons, Jerry and Tom, launched the Music Den in 1984, and the store has been a North Jersey mainstay ever since. Music Den offers private lessons, and sells, rents, and repairs pianos, guitars, and other musical instruments and equipment out of its Ledgewood and Kinnelon stores and Wharton warehouse (461 Rte 10 E, Ledgewood, 973-927-5800; 25 Kinnelon Rd, Kinnelon, 973-838-5444,

Rock Star Jewelry (at roadie prices)
Need that perfect necklace or bangle to complete your outfit, but don’t want to blow big bucks? Six Clothing in Haddonfield, known regionally for its range of premium denims, also carries an impressive stock of accessories, many handcrafted and many from local artists, all brandishing a slightly punk edge. Ask to see the belt-buckles, too—sometimes the best jewelry isn’t jewelry at all (6 Mechanic St, 856-216-0666,

Sole features high-style shoes and boots imported from Italy. You’ll find shoes for men, women, and children, all by notable designers (such as Gianfranco Ferre and Roberto Cavalli). Equally impressive are the panoply of handbags. Girls will love the bejeweled ballerina flats (available in creamy leather), the pastel-hued flats, and the sandals (107 Prospect St, Westfield, 908-654-7800; 80 South St, Morristown, 973-451-0500).

Brand aficionados, take note: Sassy of Margate has ’em all: Prada, D&G, and Cole Haan, to name a few. The shoes come in every style, from sky-high stiletto to floppy beach flat. Sassy also stocks belts and purses to match, of course. Love Uggs? If they don’t have exactly what you want, they’ll order you just about any color or type (8003 Ventnor Ave, 609-823-4969,

Jersey girls (and boys) have made the light, sweet, and powdery Jersey Girl Soap the best-seller at Little Egg Harbor Soap Company. The vegan soap is made using only food-grade ingredients, such as coconut and palm oils, which give the soap its natural hardness and signature frothy lather. Tip: Keep your bar well-drained and it will last twice as long (232 S Shore Rd, South Shore Plaza, 877-627-5239,

Toy Store/North
Looking for sturdy and safe toys? Art classes for kids? Children’s book signings? Playroom decorations? Sparkhouse Kids, which opened last summer in South Orange, satisfies all the usual happy-kid needs. Each high-quality item is carefully selected, and the colorful shop feels more like a fun kindergarten classroom than a Fisher-Price warehouse (15 Scotland Rd, 973-821-5227,

Toy Store/Central
In its new Princeton location, Jazams Toy Store is wowing tykes of all ages with a discerning selection of toys and games from around the world. Under a sea of colorful mobiles, visitors to Jazams can find more than 10,000 different items. From whoopee cushions to rocking horses to 18,000-piece puzzles, the breadth of the inventory is nearly mind-boggling. Jazams also carries thousands of children’s book titles (Palmer Sq, 15 Hulfish St, 609-924-8697,

Toy Store/South
Happy Hippo Toys in Haddonfield stocks the latest games, Lego sets, and Barbie dolls, as well as an array of kites and games that can please adults as well as children (human ring toss anyone?). Do make the acquaintance of the characters on the rack of hand puppets (201 Kings Hwy, East, 856-429-2308).

Wine Boutique/North
After a career as an investment banker, Sharon Sevrens invested in her passion for wine through study, consulting, and teaching, and then by opening Amanti Vino, a gem of a store in Montclair. Sevrens handpicks every wine, favoring artisanal producers over familiar names, and displays them in an unusually beckoning layout. The selection is more than ample, the staff is helpful and knowledgeable, the website is easy to use. Amanti Vino also holds wine classes and partners with Montclair BYOs to host wine-pairing dinners (30 Church St, 973-509-9463,

Wine Boutique/Central
Like baseball cards, the tags at Cool Vines in Princeton and Westfield tell you a lot about how a player performs. Here the players are wines, and the color-coded tags fill you in on body, acidity/minerality, grape type, and overall style. It’s part of the Cool Vines strategy of concentrating on wines that are good values, then leading shoppers by the hand to make learning about wine fun and easy (344 Nassau St, Princeton, 609-924-0039; 23 Elm St, Westfield, 908-232-5050).

Wine Boutique/South
Greg Moore, long-time sommelier and manager of Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia, was ahead of the curve when he opened his first Moore Brothers wine shop in Pennsauken in 1996. He set the store temperature at 56 degrees and placed a rack of zippered fleeces at the front door so customers could shop in comfort. This wasn’t shtick but good stewardship—heat damages wines. Moore Brothers also makes sure the wine is kept at cellar temperatures from the winery to the stores. Now with a store in Delaware and another in Manhattan, Moore Brothers is a force in artisanal wine retailing and education. Even more fun than zipping up a fleece and being led from section to section by a passionate sales-person is drinking a no-name wine that slays the Goliaths at a fraction of the price (7200 N Park Dr, 856-317-1177,

Yarn Store
Stix-n-Stitches opened in Montclair in 2005, just in time for the current knitting boom. The atmosphere is comfy, the free advice plentiful, and the supply of yarn—from acrylic to cashmere and angora—impressive. They also offer needles and accessories galore, plus numerous classes for beginning and advanced knitters (214 Glenridge Ave, 973-744-3535,

Click on any of the following for more Best of Jersey articles:

Best of NJ: Food and Drink

Best of NJ: People

Best of NJ: Places

Best of NJ: Recreation

Click on the links below to read more detailed profiles of fellow Jerseyans who have exceeded expectations, acted heroically, realized their ambitions and accomplished feats worthy of our reverence and esteem; as well as some hidden treasure destination spots more than worth a day trip to visit:

The Phenom: 16-year-old tennis phenom Kristie Ahn, from Upper Saddle River, is poised to take the world of professional tennis by storm.

Heroes of the Hudson: When Flight 1549 hit the water, New Jersey’s well-trained ferryboat captains prevented tragedy.

These Buds Are For You: Cherry Blossoms aboun in Branch Brook Park in Essex County.

Sister of Invention: Georgetown University sophomore Catherine Cook created a yearbook for the digital generation.

Heavy Medalists: NJ’s Olympic and Paralymic stars are winners in every way.

On the Fly: Ken Lockwood Gorge offers rustic trout fishing not too far off the beaten path.

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