BY NINA WILLDORF
ATTENTION, CONSUMERS: IF you're not shopping right now, you're missing out. Just take a look around -
there's serious financial damage to be done. With Copley Square's new Christian Dior store, a freshly
stocked H&M downtown, and indie boutiques popping up faster than the salesclerk can ask, "Cash or credit?",
Boston's become a true shoppers' paradise.
Several months ago, a girlfriend with a credit-card trigger finger came up from New York for a weekend
visit. I asked her what she wanted to do. "Shop," she said with a duh inflection. "Boston's the bomb for
It's a little embarrassing that it took an outsider to open my eyes, but once she flipped up her thumb on
the scene, it was the beginning of the end for me. From creative boutiques to tasteful chain stores,
easy-access strip malls to neighborhood commercial centers, Boston shoppers have their hands full.
The ease and quality of its shopping make Boston dangerously dense territory for spending. Each neighborhood
has its own flavor. If I'm in the mood for some Serious Shopping, I head for a hedonistic Saturday at
Downtown Crossing. I'll brace myself for dizzying crowds and get ready to duke it out over marked-down
duvet covers, but that's a small price to pay for the promised 50 percent-off this and additional 15
percent-off that at the area's megastores. Spanking new discount chains like the ultra-hip H&M and the
not-as-hip TJ Maxx have recently settled in. And Boston's famed Filene's Basement, the Gap Outlet, shoe-hog
haven DSW Shoe Warehouse, and the momma of all Macy's sit in a crowded one-block radius fit for maximum
Then there's Newbury Street. Whether it's a perfectly weathered pair of jeans or a tastefully distressed
dresser, the notable commercial strip in Boston's Back Bay serves a variety of shopping whims for those
with ample cash. Work your way from the snazzy Arlington Street intersection to edgier Mass Ave, and you'll
find yourself not just poor but limping, weighted down by lots of bags. The street has it all: iconic
boutiques like Calypso, Agnes B., Kate Spade, and Face; up-market chain stores like Banana Republic and
Urban Outfitters; and the city's very own fashion claim to fame, Louis Boston.
The student ghetto of Allston/Brighton doesn't just serve up fat slices and cheap beer. It's also a great
place to buy cheap housewares and clothes. For the frantic furnisher in desperate need of a dresser, desk,
nightstand, and set of shelves (i.e., the student and immediate post-college furniture set), a quick trip
to the Harvard Avenue strip satisfies. There lies a series of stores worthy of poor, desperate newcomers'
fantasies. You'll find old, selectively tolerable furniture, and more often than not, underneath that stinky
couch is a set of chairs for cheaper than you can imagine.
Once upon a time, across the river in Harvard Square, shops catered to students who went to school in
Boston but were embarrassed to specify which one. Back in the day, beatniks could roll from dingy coffee
shop to inspiringly dark used-book shop, and they had many to choose from. Now, trendy teens roll from
sanitized Abercrombie & Fitch to hipper-than-thou Diesel, though a few solid bookstores remain, like
WordsWorth and the Harvard Coop.
When Harvard and rising property values displaced the Square's old-school stores, many moved down Mass Ave
to Somerville's Davis Square. Avoid the natives who can't stop lamenting the neighborhood's recent
transformation (gentrification, people: it happens everywhere). If it's CDs or books you're looking for,
Davis can deliver, from dreamy Disc Diggers to used-book emporium MacIntyre & Moore. And to perfect that
bohemian image, tuck a copy of Jonathan Franzen's of-the-moment tome under your arm just so, slap on a
pair of used jeans from local vintage store Black and Blues, and voilą! Your ensemble is complete.
Nina Willdorf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.