Birch modern mercantile imwf3i

Image: Abby Ledoux

Birch Modern Mercantile

Don’t let its strip-mall location fool you: This shop, billed as a modern take on the general store, is anything but generic, offering everything from quaint Vermont ceramics to modern Marfa furniture. Floating white shelves set against white walls display trinkets, art, and locally made merchandise the way a lifestyle blogger might in her own home; other goods are laid out on wooden tables running down the center of the space like a chic buffet.

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Big Blue Whale

Image: Jenn Duncan

Big Blue Whale

Kids and grown-ups alike can while away an afternoon discovering this shop’s sprawling collection of hard-to-find, classic, and whimsical toys like Magic 8-balls, plush llamas, and unicorn masks. All the excitement might turn the little ones a bit bossy, though. “Y’all hurry up and get in line,” one recently instructed us.

Space Montrose

It’s almost impossible to leave this funky shop from husband-and-wife team Carlos and Leila Peraza empty-handed. Since 2010, its regularly rotating inventory has highlighted independent, largely under-the-radar makers and artisans, mostly from Houston and Texas. After a recent visit, we found ourselves yearning for David Bowie and Frida Kahlo hand puppets; Torchy’s Tacos coasters; votive candles featuring images of Beyoncé, Tupac, José Altuve, and the Golden Girls; a gold “Doritos” ring; an Astrodome T-shirt; and a pair of avocado earrings.

British Isles

This quaint specialty shop—making Houston’s anglophiles’ dreams come true since 1993—greets customers with a pram full of toy Corgis, an expansive array of delicate china, more tea than the rebels dumped in Boston Harbor in 1773, and the largest selection of British goodies in Texas. Be sure to come ’round before May 19 to get your Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tea towels.

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Image: Jenn Duncan

Murder by the Book

You’ll find over 25,000 tomes inside this, one of the nation’s oldest and largest mystery bookstores, from classic British lit to contemporary thrillers. A whole section is devoted to tales of local interest, including Kathryn Casey’s accounts of the Houston stiletto murder and the Texas Killing Fields; nestled nearby are Robert Graysmith's works on the Zodiac Killer. Coincidence? You tell us, Ted Cruz.

Cactus Music

Houston’s oldest independent music store is a veritable emporium for vinyl lovers, especially when it comes to rare, limited, or out-of-print issues. Peruse 97-cent LPs and stacks on stacks of new and used records sorted by genre, from Americana to Houston hip-hop. Vintage concert posters, CDs, and cassette tapes (“back by somewhat popular demand”) round out the offerings at this 43-year-old institution.

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Super-kawaii cosmetics can be found at Ichimaru Japanese Beauty

Image: Abby Ledoux

Ichimaru Japanese Beauty

A haven for unique and adorable cosmetics, including charcoal facemasks.

Japan House

A recent arrival and a wonderland full of popular plushies.

Moshi Moshi

A purveyor of “kawaii stuffs,” including squishies (highly squeezable toys) and Hello Kitty everything. 

Teacups & Tadpoles

This boutique is filled with charming treasures and the distinct warmth of a grandmother’s love—no wonder, since owner Kay Byrd, a grandmother herself, considers her business more of “a hobby close to her heart.” Charming children’s clothes, sweet stuffed animals, and old-fashioned toys make the shop a favorite for families looking to spoil their little ones while they still can.

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Image: Daniel Kramer

Wilde collection 2 ka6sul

Image: Daniel Kramer

The Wilde Collection

The Mini Cooper tricked out to look like a hearse parked outside is a harbinger of what’s inside: the stuff of Wednesday Addams’s dreams. You could lose an afternoon browsing Lawyer Douglas and Tyler Zottarelle’s sprawling, meticulously documented collection of specimens, oddities, and curios. Think of it as an obscure museum where all the exhibits are for sale: rhinoceros beetles encased in glass ($265.95), a yellow-bellied water snake preserved in a giant mason jar ($145), and a gigantic African bull elephant skull dating back a century, yours for $10,000 and the promise not to cross state lines.

Super Happy Incredible Toys

If you grew up in the ’80s or ’90s, entering this bungalow-turned-vintage toy shop will feel like stepping back in time. Well-priced collectibles and nostalgic favorites are lovingly sourced and sold here—think Star Wars, Barbie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Care Bears.

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