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Shopping local: Where to start

March 31, 2009

Whether you’re cutting coupons, skipping the morning coffee run or making huge overhauls to the way you’re living, these days, everyone is doing their part to keep within a budget and to shop wherever make the most sense.

The great thing about Madison is that regardless of budgets, it’s still incredibly easy (and budget-friendly!) to shop locally and support our local economy. Take it from me — a girl who loves shopping — there’s an even greater satisfaction of walking into a local boutique, talking with the shop owner, receiving personalized customer service and walking out with the feeling you’ve not only crossed something off your shopping list, but also pumped a little metaphorical gas into Dane County’s tank.

But the fact is, around every corner is a tempting Target, catch-all department store or a new designer line at national clothing retailers, such as H&M, JCPenney or Payless. Simply put, it seems easier to head to the mall than to drive around and scout out local boutiques for those same deals.

Luckily for you, the title “style editor” requires that I spend hoards of time running around the greater Madison area to those local stores each month, and today, I plan to impart my knowledge onto you, blog reader!

Here’s a sampling of some of my go-to local boutiques for everyday (and not-so-everyday) necessities.

Looking for: Trendy, inexpensive pieces to amp up a wardrobe for the season
Would hit up:
Comparable local hot spot:
The Purple Goose
400 W. Verona Rd., Verona; (608) 845-2368 or
What started out as a children’s boutique has flourished into an affordable women’s shopping mecca! I swear, every time I step foot inside the Purple Goose, I end up walking out with something absolutely adorable, and right on trend. Owner Halley Jones has a well-edited mix of extremely stylish yet undoubtedly affordable goods that give me the same “fashion fix” I find at H&M. Plus, Halley’s friendly staff is right there to tell you honestly how you look — and when was the last time you found a fast friend at H&M? That’s what I thought …

Looking for: Quality-made basics
Would normally hit up:
The Gap
Comparable local hot spot:
Fair Indigo
Hilldale, Madison; (608) 661-7662 or online at
Gap may have a line of clothing that contributes to a worthy cause, but Fair Indigo is eco-chic at its finest. All the clothing and accessories are fair trade, meaning the workers making the goods are paid fair wages. Their offerings are a relaxed take on fashion-forward pieces that won’t break the bank. And, not only do they have a great selection of basic Tee’s, bright colored dresses and comfortable yet stylish ensembles, Fair Indigo has great accessories and gifts — like this sweet sequined heart journal I found for only $29 — a great graduation gift for that special student in your life!pinkheartnotebook1

Looking for: Designer inspired digs
Would normally hit up:
Comparable local hot spot:
Patricia Shoppe
137 W. Johnson St., Madison; (608) 256-1111
Originally started in Door County, Wis., Jessica O’Connor brought Patricia Shoppe to Madison — and thank goodness she did! She carries a great selection of cute clothing, unique accessories and like fellow downtown store UP (featured below), has a few shoes here and there. What I like most about Patricia Shoppe is the vintage-y atmosphere of the shop and Jessica’s great eye for affordable accessories. Whether I’m in need of a cute headband, a quirky necklace or a bohemian bag from a designer like Big Buddha (one of my favorites!), I know I’ll be able to find it at her right-off-State Street location.

Looking for: Young, trendy clothing
Would normally go to:
Forever 21 (which is at least an hour drive in any direction)
Comparable local hot spot:
619 State St., Madison; (608) 256-7777
Formerly known as UP Spatique, I would best decribe UP as bright and friendly. The atmosphere is fun to shop in (with a friendly staff to help you out), and the selection is young, hip and has good price points. One great thing I’ve noticed in particular is that UP is one of the few stores in Madison to carry a few shoe, boot and sandal lines. With those, as well as flirty dresses for a night out, accessories to jazz up an outfit, graphic Tee’s, as well as pieces for the hip professional, this is a great pick-me-up store to visit. Oh, and they’ve been known to carry swimsuits for the summer season!

Looking for: Makeup (and honestly, a store that doesn’t make your head spin!)
Would normally hit up:
Sephora or department store makeup counter
Comparable local hot spot:
Prep Cosmetics
553 State St., Madison; (608) 442-3366 or online at
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times — I love Prep Cosmetics. When I need something — anything, really — that involves makeup, skincare or a just a quality lipgloss, a trip to Prep is a sure bet. They offer free makeup applications, and the staff doesn’t work on commission, so you need not worry about someone trying to sell you something that isn’t absolutely amazing.

Looking for: More mainstream, fashion-forward designer goods   
Would normally go to:
Nieman Marcus (or another high-end department store)
Comparable local hot spot:
1925 Monroe St., Madison; (608) 255-4363 or online at
Marc Jacobs? Check. Nanette Lepore? Check. The oh-so-popular Tory Burch? Check and check. If there’s a quality designer or an up and coming trend, you bet Twigs has it. And if you’re looking to browse the selection before popping over, simply click to their Web site where you can view the entire selection from the comfort of your home (or in my case, from the comfort of my office cube on my lunch break).

Looking for: More offbeat, fashion-forward designer goods
Would normally go to:
Nordstrom (or another high-end department store)
Comparable local hot spot:
J. LaMore
2701 Monroe St., Madison; (608) 238-2119 or online at
What I love best about J.LaMore is that I’m instantly comfortable the second I enter the store. Owner Jennifer LaMore is truly a style inspiration — with the sweetest personality to boot. With a flick of her wrist and a few clothes off her racks, she can instantly make you feel fabulous in your own skin. When I’m in need of an easy outfit for a night out on the town, I’m shopping at J.LaMore. Plus, if you frequent their Web site (where the motto is: Where Friends Shop Together), you can become a J.LaMore “friend” and blog with Jennifer and all the store regulars. I’m totally in love with it!

Like what you’ve read here? I’ve got plenty more tips where these came from! I’ll try to get a few more suggestions (including the BEST places to buy clothes for your man) soon! The bottom line is: shop locally when you can, dear readers. As I said in my March 10th post, you’ll not only look good, but you’ll feel good that you’ve supported our community.

For another great local shopping resource, visit

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2009 7:13 pm

    This is truly a great article Mollie and your timing couldn’t be better. I’ve spoke with so many customers lately who are striving to support local businesses by shopping locally whenever possible. Loved the article.

  2. April 2, 2009 12:08 am

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  3. Mary Jo permalink
    April 2, 2009 3:35 pm

    I hope all the stores in Madison that you have referred people to are aware of your fabulous comparisons. I would be soooooo appreciative if someone did this for me,especially in this economy. Great idea. MJ

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