Um, okay, here's a question: The three best women's clothing stores in Memphis -- picked by you, gentle readers -- are Macy's, Victoria's Secret, and Ann Taylor?
Well, we have to admit we're a little surprised. It's not that Macy's or Victoria's Secret or Ann Taylor are bad choices. Heaven knows, we've bought quite a few little items at each of those stores (emphasis on the "little" for Vicki Sees). But you, dear reader, are so creative and wonderful. We just wonder if, perhaps, you are a bit uninspired.
Take the Best Gift Shop category. Target and Kirkland's and Pier 1 are all nice stores and, yes, we shop them as well, but we hardly think you can call Target a "gift shop." A gift mega-mart, maybe, but not a gift shop.
We know how it is. Some stores -- no matter how great -- have that best-kept secret vibe. They're not top-of-mind. Maybe they're tucked away in some hidden corner of Memphis. Maybe they rely on word-of-mouth advertising. So if you want to get out of the mall, here's our list of some hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems.
The National Ornamental Metal Museum
374 Metal Museum Dr.
NOMM is falling-down-the-rabbit-hole hard to find. But like any Wonderland, it's worth it. The grounds are beautiful, and the gift shop has great handmade metal objets d'art, including jewelry, coffee scoops, night lights, drawer handles, and, at this time of year, ornaments and driedls. It's all made by metalsmiths and artisans, and yet it's very affordable, especially for a one-of-a-kind gift.
Celery: Ladies Upscale Resale
728 Brookhaven Circle
Celery is the Memphis equivalent of Miami consignment. Opened by Leslie Acker Robinson, the store offers buyers lots of designer clothes and gently worn merchandise. Celery takes the work out of second-hand buying, making sure that consignments are both in season and in good condition. Just think of it this way: Instead of only a few buyers, Celery has many buyers (consigners), meaning you'll almost always find something you love.
416 Perkins Extended
Sloane was all about little suits and jackets before the look really hit. Now owner Brenda Buckman Green says they're flying through jackets, especially in velvet. These trendsetters are located on Perkins Extended, but they're a little off the beaten path of Oak Court Mall and the two Laurelwood shopping centers. Their look is professional but striking, and women who want to dress for work without losing their individuality should definitely make a trip.
574 S. Highland
For Celery's Robinson, the Goodwill is one of her shopping secrets. "You can always find baby furniture and car seats," she says. "They may not be current, but it you need them for spare cars, maybe Grandma and Grandpa, you can get them for anywhere from $3.99 to $6.99. You just have to clean them. And they clean easily."
A Flyer staff favorite -- lunchtime fieldtrip, anyone? -- Jun Lee is the ultimate in extremely affordable costume jewelry, purses, scarves, and even fake hair. Due to the sickly looking yellow panels covering the windows, it fails to impress from the outside. On the inside, however, it's a style junkie's dream (if you can see through the herds of women mulling over the merchandise).
Diane's Art, Gift & Home
1581 Overton Park
If you need a gift for someone with discriminating taste, try Diane's on Overton Park. It's eclectic and fun, artsy and sophisticated. Find animals made out of car hoods, herringboned wood jewelry, and tons of surprises. You won't be sorry.
Williams Sonoma Marketplace
Williams Sonoma Marketplace is maybe the worst-kept secret on the list, but we just couldn't exclude it. In fact, Robinson says it's at the top her list. They carry cookware and tableware that have that clean Williams Sonoma look but at less than the Williams Sonoma price. "You can buy gifts for people there and they'll think you got it from the real store," says Robinson. "I even like their CDs. It's terrible, but true."
"I think it gets overlooked," says Sloane's Green. "Every time I mention it, people say, 'What's that?'" This tiny Laurelwood store carries exclusive beauty and skin-care products designed to make you look and feel fabulous. "It has a lot of men's stuff that my husband uses, and it's the only place I can get it," says Green.
South Front Antiques
374 S. Front
When asked about Memphis' best-kept secrets, Diane Laurenzi immediately thought of Front Street Antiques. When she was opening Diane's, she bought several old doors that she used to make fixtures for the store. She also bought a Mission-style desk for the shop.
"They have all these found architectural pieces: doorknobs, shutters, doors. I got my fireplace mantel from there," she says. "They have three levels. The upstairs has windows and shutters; the middle floor has a lot of tin pieces, and they have furniture too. If you are into found pieces, it's really a treat."