Shopping in Salem

Finding ways to savor Salem's retail

Dear Salem: I am so sorry. I mistook you for the Mall at Rockingham Park, big-box stores along North and South Broadway and home to the extended Sununu family. I sincerely apologize. While I would never turn down a chat with the former White House Chief of Staff, there are plenty of other reasons to visit Salem.
Begin your Salem journey at Maddie’s breakfast and lunch restaurant, 250 North Broadway. You’ll find more welcomes here than at a church during pledge week. The staff is friendly, the coffee’s hot and the portions are generous. The cinnamon roll French toast ($7.95) — cinnamon rolls sliced in half, dipped in French toast batter, grilled and topped with powdered sugar and served with fruit — is ridiculous. The restaurant offers free coffee when there’s a wait and features a “sit down counter” with half a dozen stools for people who don’t want a table.

Sometimes it’s the name that draws me and “It’s All About Moi!,” 294 N. Broadway, doesn’t disappoint. You’ll find a sassy collection of fashion jewelry and accessories along with scarves, hats, evening bags, pashminas, hair bling and more to the delight of all ages (you can buy a princess crown here). Look for the stunning new line of handbags by Luvali out of Canada; very well-made faux leather bags that come with a “slipcover,” which is a reversible fabric cover (great prints and colors) that allows for three different looks. These are conversational pieces and affordable at prices beginning at $59.

Who You Callin’ Cupcake?, 154 Main Street, is where you’ll find cupcakes on attitude with a whole lot of culinary creativity going on (the shop is Harley-inspired). The “Chubby Hubby Cupcake,” a rich butter cake filled with chocolate-covered pretzels and a peanut butter mousse, layered in buttercream and peanut butter frosting topped with a chocolate-drizzled pretzel is, IMHO, cause for divorce! The “Black Russian,” a rich chocolate cake made with real kahlua and vodka, covered in cream cheese frosting, might leave you looking for a designated driver. Pick up a half-dozen cupcakes and maybe even your 14-year-old will love you.

Say “Yes to the Flowers!” When it comes to understanding fashion, look no further than your local floral designer. They are the ones that “must” get it right when it comes to pleasing savvy and sophisticated brides. Bert Ford at Ford Flower Company, 83 South Broadway, has been in the hot seat for decades. This year expect the “rustic chic” look, which weaves linen, burlap and vintage lace into bridal bouquets rich with herbs and berries. This two-story shop features stunningly made “permanent botanicals” (one must never say artificial flowers) for home décor as well as unique and fun finds such as birdhouses made with recycled yardsticks and garden faucets. Weathered tin and anything made out of mattress ticking is trending now.

By the Olde Garden Gate Antique and Vintage Goods, 19 North Broadway, is a must-stop. Like an olive in a martini, I could marinate in here for hours. This shop defines shabby chic with honest-to-goodness-real-quality items that would never, ever come from a garage sale. Look for creative “re-purposed” items that give a home personality. The palate of creams and whites is soothing and lends order that is not always found in antique shops. Look for authentic old windows, suitcases, Royal typewriters, hatboxes and mini stuffed heart-shaped pillows made from vintage fabrics and mink fur.

No passport needed to go to Tuscan Market, 67 Main Street (Exit 2 off I-93), the new upscale Italian market everyone in Salem is talking about. Say goodbye to Boston’s North End, you’ll find it all here; imported hard and creamy cheeses, fresh handmade pastas, cured meats, sauces made on premises, breads, Italian desserts (tiramisu) and an overwhelming wine selection. The café features generous sandwiches, gourmet pizza and offers about 13 different flavors of gelato. Magnifico!
A shopping trip anywhere is not complete without checking out consignment stores and Salem has them. BloomingDeals, 391 S. Broadway, offers a lot of vintage clothing, beaded dresses, shoes and an eclectic mix of accessories. Lulu’s Closet, 341 S. Broadway, offers a cozy sitting area surrounded by selective labels (Talbots, Ann Klein) in apparel, handbags (red leather Coach $69) and more.