Shopping in Downtown Manchester
A bevy of shops, all within an easy walk
Statement: A Shop Estella Boutique. Photo by Lisa Brown
You might be surprised by what downtown Manchester is fast becoming, and that is a sophisticated urban downtown. Sure, there’s plenty of room for good shops to come in, but what is already here is real and grounded. Most shops are locally owned and have been for generations, and that is something that can’t be measured.
If you haven’t visited Finesse Pastries, then you don’t know what you’re missing, and as clichéd as that is, in this case it is true. When was the last time you had caramel cashew cheesecake? How about a coffee cognac dacquoise, layered with a mousse and topped with a coffee meringue? Case closed. Owner Chelsey Erickson is an awarding-winning chef, known for her artistic and technical pastry skills. This French café is art that should be under glass at the Louvre.
Who needs James Taylor? Get your butt into Runner’s Alley and you’ve got a friend. This is the only place to shop for serious running shoes; whether you are a beginner or a marathoner, the road to running begins here. The staff are all runners; experienced in feet of all sizes and runners of all levels. It is all about fit, and if it takes a couple of hours and 20 different pairs of shoes, then it’s not a problem here.
When the Manchester Monarchs need their Calder Cup shined up for all their fans to see and enjoy, guess who gets the honors? Family-owned for 45 years, Harris Trophy has been providing southern New Hampshire with awards and recognition products since 1969. Look for personalized iPhone cases, plaques, Paul Revere bowls, clocks and anything else that tells someone they are valuable. Still have your child’s first pair of shoes? Get them bronzed here.
Statement: A Shop Estella Boutique is a lifesaver for sophisticated urban women who want to look great in a minute’s notice. The beauty of this fabulous boutique is that you will discover clever clothes with texture and embellishments in a variety of sizes. This winter look for fun Native American-inspired tops, leggings and wedge booties from Fly London. Look for interesting handbags, scarves and chunky jewelry. An outfit from here makes a “statement.”
There is something mystical about a good chocolate and Dancing Lion is where you’ll find it. But there’s more. Chocolate here is crafted and handled like a delicate piece of art. The bars are actually hand-painted by a local artist. The drinking chocolate is not like a hot chocolate, but rather a silky elixir of luxury. This small shop is also a surprise. Chocolate cooking classes are held here as are thematic dinner parties. The Valentine’s Day seven-course dinner (all must have chocolate as an ingredient) is a sell-out.
Don’t you just love walking into someone’s home and falling in love with its charm and warmth? That is what With Heart & Hand is all about. Here is a blend of primitive, Shaker, country and repurposed. Look for wall swag, old shabby chic windows, greeting cards, uplifting wall art, petite twinkling lights, wreaths of dried flowers, baskets, one-of-a-kind table lamps, candles, potpourri and more. This two-story home décor boutique is as warm as a bowl of your grandmother’s chowder.
Benton Shoe Company. Find it yourself. Keep it to yourself. Do not send anyone here. You only have to visit once to realize this is more than a shoe store, way more, and it is your loss if you spread the word. Time your visit wisely (get in the minute the door is unlocked) and plan on staying a while. You’ll find shoes you’ve never seen before for ridiculous prices. The casual, fun clothing — skirts, dresses, pants, hand-knit sweaters, scarves and more — from labels (they cannot be advertised because such low prices) abound. The shop is a little bigger than a closet; you have to maneuver carefully. Keep it to yourself, will ya?
If your other half insists on wearing his old suit from Jordan Marsh with the wide lapels, you’ve got trouble hanging in that closet. George’s Apparel is the place to go when a suit is needed for life events from funerals to weddings to interviews. You’ll find a wide selection of snappy menswear at very affordable prices. There’s more. George’s offers free alterations for as long as you own the suit.
Skip the plane ticket. If you want Italy, visit Angela’s Pasta & Cheese Shop. Walk into this iconic Manchester shop and leave with an Italian accent. The key here is to taste a variety of cheeses and find one or two you never knew existed. Then you pick up a couple of pre-made dinners to-go, some side pastas from the bar or some fresh-made pastas and sauces, and you are good to go. Specialty foods, wines and gifts abound. This neighborhood shop could be in Boston’s North End; it is a local gathering place.
Who are you? Who? Who? Now that you have a tune worm stuck in your head, answer the question. This is what Studio 550 Art Center is all about. It’s a place that offers all kinds of art to experience as a novice. You’ll find pottery (coil and throw), stained glass, weaving, painting in all mediums and even international dance classes. No experience preferred. Date nights are extremely popular and a great way to spend a warm, creative winter evening.