Spring Fever Shopping in Portsmouth

Portsmouth says good riddance to winter

The crisp, colorful “open” flags are waving along the streets of downtown Portsmouth; change is under way. Weary winter retailers have thrown away their shovels and declared spring finally here. Wear white shoes. Put on your khakis. Winter is over. If you don’t believe me, ask my cat, Whoopie — she no longer sees her shadow. Hitch a ride into spring with a visit to Summer Sessions Surf Shop, where you’ll find the boards all lined up, the wet suits on display and summer “fun” wear just waiting to put a smile on your face. This funky shop is one of two (the main shop is at the beach in Rye) that surfers have come to rely on. Look for bathing suits, flip-flops, sunglasses, sweats and anything necessary to get out there and catch a wave. Summer surf camp and private lesson sign-ups are already under way. Hang ten.

Club Boutique & City Shoes are two stores in one with a congenial vibe that will make you feel like a long-lost friend. The boutique features casual and “very dressy,” and lots of accessories to fit your personality. Select a colorful tunic from the Clara Sunwoo (classic slimming) line, add a pair of leggings and you’re out past your bedtime. Downstairs is where you’ll find an entirely elegant space for young ladies from Boston to Bangor who wouldn’t go anywhere else for a one-of-a-kind prom dress. Evening wear and mother-of-the-bride dresses are also in large supply. The staff is gracious and helpful.

If Taylor Swift were in Portsmouth, you might find her at City Shoes. This is a shop that takes shoes to a whole new level. Look for Fly London, Vivanz (wide heels in case some handsome stranger knocks you off your feet) and Sacha London, which is really showing a sexy line this summer. If you like the styles from the ‘20s to the ‘40s, you will absolutely adore the line of Remix shoes, well known for their distinctive vintage style and quality.

Pretty Little Things is where to go when you get a text that says, “Meet me in an hour at the airport.” The infinity dresses are amazing; they come in jeweled tones and two different lengths, which can be tied in more than 50 ways to create a different look. This is a must-have dress for the summer. Pair it with a Bohol metallic temporary tattoo and you’ve got it going on. You’ll also love the selection of lacy, white dresses and tops for hot summer nights. The Birkin-inspired handbags (you mean they’re not real?) are one of the hottest attractions in the store.

Is game night something you and your family share and look forward to? Well, Diversions is about to crank things up a few notches. This is a game store, featuring games that can’t even be pronounced. If you think Monopoly is hard, you haven’t seen anything. There is a whole underworld of people who play extremely challenging games and this place percolates, especially on weekends when people gather downstairs along long tables to play games for hours. Look for RPG (role-playing games), hobby board games, puzzles and more.   

No need to learn a foreign language and no passport needed to discover the world around you under one roof at Ten Thousand Villages. Shopping here is like taking an around-the-world cruise — so many countries are represented by artisans that are respected and properly compensated for their craft. Look for wall art, pottery, scarves, upcycled items, coiled paper cards, miniature animals and figurines, lamps, jewelry, handbags, birdcages (from candy wrappers), carved pieces of art and so much more.

Maybe it’s the elegant chandelier in the middle of the store or the light that flows through the window on interspersed racks laced with beautiful clothes; whatever it is, Sara Sullivan is one sophisticated store. Look for Diane Von Furstenberg (this summer’s chain link wrap is very flattering), Trina Turk (sandals are ridiculous), Lilla P and Michael Stars, who somehow makes a T-shirt that is like a second skin and addictive.

Hazel Boutique’s funky jewelry
photo by lisa brown

Apsara is a one-of-a-kind boutique with a little education thrown in. The owners, Sally Chan and Thomas Mind, have traveled the world and bring to Portsmouth treasures and beauty. Together they have designed their own line (Apsara) of clothing, from fabric to finished product with an eye for fashion, comfort and sustainability. Along with clothing, you’ll find Tibetan rugs downstairs and other treasures in locked cases that come with a story. Be sure to ask about the collection of amulets, which have deep stories of symbolism.

When you work hard to have your own look, you want to find clothing that you can’t find anywhere else and Hazel Boutique fits the bill. This boutique could be found on the streets of Paris and features some wonderful designers with an eye for artful dressing. The clothing is lush, well-made and comfortable, casual and easy to dress up with a scarf or accessory. Don’t be shy, ask for help, and let the staff show you how the designers add little embellishments to make grand statements.

Portsmouth is rich with art galleries and local artists, and to miss a peek into one is to miss an experience. Stop in to Nahcotta and take in the “enormous tiny art” on display. The name says it all — it’s all tiny art, and it is dreamy. But that is just half of the melon; the other half of the gallery rotates with fascinating works by amazing artists and some gift items. This month’s exhibit features the works of Derrick Breidenthal, Michael Dandley (local) and CW Roelle. Great light, great space. Chill. 

Categories: Features