There's a line in an older, rather obscure Ramones song entitled "Somebody Like Me" wherein Joey Ramone sings that if you want to find him, he's "out on the street," or "at the concert," and finally, "at the boutique."
If those lyrics finished with "at Target" (even in 1983, where the reference would have been to a store chain being held at bay in the Midwest by the likes of Bradlee's over here) it wouldn't have been nearly as cool, for the Godfather of Punk knew (as well as the tune's writer, Dee Dee Ramone) that hanging out a boutique was a lot cooler than a big box store.
Now, before you think this writer is some alt-minded, anti-Retail crusader, he's not, but rather, varied. Shopping is an experience where those indulging in it are after many bottom lines. In no particular order, they are: value, price, style, customer service. For all the room they have, the so-called "big-box stores" can't
always fit service and style into their floor plans. They do have those giant packs of paper towels, though.
Luckily, our area contains a solid lineup of boutiques, - as in "small stores that sell unique merchandise with personal service." Ironically, boutiques are making a comeback - there are no less than three new ones in Verona and Cedar Grove. These old-school is the new-school businesses are ironically now on the cutting edge of shopping cool, and for good reason. Figure out why by stopping and shopping at one of boutiques below.
1) Trend (636 Bloomfield Avenue, Verona, 973-571-0888) - Specializing in stylish knick-knackery and accessories for home and mostly women, Trend is really two stores in one, and it's fun: the fixtures and counters are loaded with interesting and exclusive items that anyone (guys, read as: "she") will love.
2) Vintage Alley (730 Bloomfield Avenue, Verona, 973-857-3222) - Somewhat shy owner Colleen Connell lets her classic store stock speak for itself - and it says volumes about how cool retro clothing and decor are. It's really the best of the best; the stock of yesteryear's women's apparel, luggage (this writer STILL needs to pick up that yellow American Tourister number), and much more is cherry-picked by the owner herself. It's cut-above retro stuff.
Vintage Alley regularly hosts events. On Sunday, February 27 from 4-8 p.m. the store will be having a "Donated Gallery Show and Art Supply Drive." Hosted by Verona area artists, the event is striving to raise money for the purchase of artwork for third and fourth graders at the University Heights Charter School, in Newark. Various art supplies are being accepted as donations as well, including pencils, paint brushes, and clay.
3) Paradise Boutique - this new entry on the scene in Cedar Grove (348 Pompton Avenue, 973-433-0550) is actually so new, that their grand opening banner is still up. The women's dresses and accessories inside, however, seem timeless, definitely semi-formal to formal wear. To these decidedly non-expert eyes, the creations seem to be quirky and novel twists on the traditional, in not only shape, but color palette. It would be best if you'd stop by, but the store has a great Facebook page, where the photos probably get the point across better than this writing: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Paradise-Boutique/320282649676
It's "paradise" by the Bradford light - Paradise Boutique!
4) Denim and Daisies Children's Boutique - yes! Another boutique with the actual word "boutique" in the name, and/or description! The Patch powers that be are going to love it.
Open for about a month-and-a-half in the visual perspective-challenging Flat Iron building (that's at 744 Bloomfield Avenue, call them at 973-433-7174 if you don't believe it) D&D (not as in the nerdy '80s board game) has been attracting moms and their little daughters with their exclusive selections (they have boys and girls' stuff for babies, too). Their windows and store are filled with colorful, downright cheery creations that have a certain writer's 7-year old daughter rather psyched for shopping run. All right, it's this writer, and he and his wallet are ready ... and you should be, too - spring clothes are arriving daily.
5) Rocktec (973-239-6369; address is creatively ensconced in text below) - okay, this one may be a stretch, but not so much. The venerable, long-time running Verona music store (we can forgive that Montclair era) has moved again, and it may be their best digs yet. 776 Bloomfield Avenue (hey, look at that: it's just a little up the hill from Denim and Daisies, and near that piano shop) is spacious, modern, and features a back room of great guitars, drums, and more.
Employee (and that also means "instrument teacher") Bruce Tyler is a blues musician, but he is singing anything but about Roctec 3 or 4.0: "It's great! The space is nice - especially the teaching rooms. There are more of them, and there's just more space." Will Rocktec's latest space be their final frontier? Check it out.
The store has a great vibe - the unique layout of music school in the front, store in the back is somewhat like Joe Negri's shop on Mister Rogers . Then again, this writer truly had the feeling of being in a music shop in the Village or something, while playing Kiss riffs on some of the guitars.
Big Box Detox
Readers, the above are just five of the boutique-type stores in Verona and Cedar Grove. Get off those beaten shopping paths, and ... wait: most of these places are amenable to foot traffic. Why not ditch the S.U.V.s and (gasp) hybrid cars, and stroll into these little shops with big hearts? You can end up with a new look, and new sound!