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Home / Articles / Arts / Urban Scout /  What San Diego's missing in the retail category
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Wednesday, Apr 04, 2012

What San Diego's missing in the retail category

A store that sells only socks, an authentic apothecary and a place to buy indie fabric

By Clea Hantman
urbanscout Gumball Poodle Socks

I’m a glass-half-full sort of girl. Most of the time. I talk in each column about a great place to find used books (Book Off) or cool glasses (Eyes on Fifth) or bathing suits (Pilar’s).

But this week I’m feeling low. I’ve been lamenting a few of the things that San Diego doesn’t have. I present you this list not to bitch, but rather to encourage the burgeoning entrepreneurs among you. Perhaps I will inspire new shops and new venues—and, while we’re at it, you may want to look for decent rents in Point Loma, along Adams Avenue, in Golden Hill and University Heights. I’d stay out of North Park central for now. Just sayin’.

A socks store. OK, maybe this sounds frivolous, and even out of place in a city that averages 70 degrees year round, except that socks are really very cool. And there are so many varieties—short and sweet, athletic, knee-highs, thin trouser socks, tube socks and more. Like a good piece of bold jewelry, socks can transform a plain outfit into something beyond; they can add quirky style. Portland has a socks store where I effortlessly dropped $100 in one afternoon. I bought a lot of socks.

The perfect T-shirt store. And don’t even try to tell me it’s American Apparel. That store has very few T-shirts left, and those they do have are obscured by all the shiny lurex disco pants. I want a store that carries T-shirts from different makers, of all kinds, skinny fit and boxy and boyish, and some with poly and some just 100-percent cotton and in every fricking color under the sun.

An indie fabric store. With home-ec arts on the rise, a fabric store that isn’t full of crappy poly and wrinkle-free blends and zebra and cheetah prints would be a real blessing. Rosie’s Calico Cupboard comes close, but it’s pretty granny-quilt-centric. I want a store with cute Japanese imports and Liberty prints, and designers like Aneela Hoey and Kellie Wulfson and Kaffe Fassett. And patterns for things like kids clothes and vintage-look dresses and purses and lingerie. I want to make my own lingerie.

An urban-farming store. We need a storefront that offers classes on fermenting and all the supplies; and chickens alongside plans for modern coops; and inexpensive, modular planting beds plus food seeds and seedlings. Everyone I know is getting in on the old-school sport. Maybe I don’t need a whole new store. Maybe City Farmers Nursery in City Heights just needs to expand.

An apothecary. Imagine a British-inspired store with a heavy wood counter and lots of scales and vials and beakers—but what’s for sale are indie perfumes (like my favorite, CB I Hate Perfume) and teeny makers of fancy make-up, the likes that are too small for Sephora to carry. And I’m not talking about expensive brands necessarily; sometimes the goods are as reasonably priced as the selection at Target, but they’re made on a smaller scale and with amazing ingredients. Throw in some homeopathic remedies and I’m a regular.

An indie local-designer store. There are great little clothing shops all over San Diego County, but is there one that focuses on small southern California brands? Is there? I just found out the source of my sick fashion obsession (Forever 21) is owned by an Evangelical Christian family that expects their high-level employees to be “saved.” In other words, I need a new obsession.

Now, one of the things I thought the central part of this city was missing was an independent shoe store. I craved a comfortable local shop that carried brands like Miss Mooz and Bed Stu. My prayers were answered a few months back with Normal Heights’ Elos Shoes (3404 Adams Ave.). They get new stock regularly and have a nice selection of bags (and men’s shoes), too.


This year has brought many new stores, among them The Homebrewer Resource Center, which opened last week at 2911 El Cajon Blvd. It has all the supplies for, and plans on holding classes on, everyone’s favorite craft project of the moment: beer.

SOL (whose name makes me think I’m out of luck, big time, but is supposed to be “Seasonal Organic Local”) in Liberty Station, is full of locally sourced foods, wine and beer, plus taps and a bistro.

And Villainous Lair, the nine-month-old comic-book store on Adams Avenue ( just one block west of Elos) has opened Villainous Lair Gaming (3342 Adams Ave.) across the street from Lestat’s Coffee Shop. Expect collectible card games and World of Darkness and Pathfinder games. You can sit down and play, as well as buy. 

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