While downtown Silver Spring has a growing number and variety of restaurants (and no, they aren’t all chains), the growth in retail stores has not kept pace. Particularly absent are the types of stores that appeal to 20/30-something males like myself. Women have certainly fared better with stores such as Ulta, Ann Taylor Loft and Marimekko, all of which occupy prime real estate along the Promenade. It would also seem that another women’s clothing store is opening up in the vacant space on the corner of Ellsworth and Georgia Avenue across from Marimekko, possibly a New York & Company. DSW does sell men’s shoes, but from the prevalence of women’s footwear available there, I suspect a majority of their business is not from male shoppers.
Sure, there’s a Men’s Warehouse, but how frequently does one need a new suit? What I’m talking about are a wider variety of stores to browse where there is a good chance of finding something worth buying. Hell, if they put in a Banana Republic, that would probably cover 80% of my wardrobe right there. I never think to go to go to downtown Silver Spring to shop, only to eat. Instead of retail stores, we have blocks and blocks of hair and nail places, which must do a thriving business since they keep opening up newer and nicer ones. Other inner suburbs like Bethesda and Clarendon have a much stronger retail mix than Silver Spring.
What we need are larger stores like Crate & Barrel along with some smaller independent shops that sell things like paper products, toys, etc. There were rumors in the past that Urban Outfitters and Bed Bath & Beyond were going to set up shop, but nothing ever came out of that.
There are a few stores that I do visit occasionally, some more than others:
Strosniders Hardware - Best. Hardware Store. Ever. The parking lot's a bitch, but when you're in there, they'll spend half an hour helping you to find a five cent screw.We've already had a discussion on this blog over what type of stores residents would like to see. Of course, this was in the context of City Place, which hasn't done a damn thing lately to shed the "Shitty Place" label. I made a rare foray into City Place a few weeks back after spying the "Steve & Barry's Grand Opening: Holiday Season" sign. This was after New Year's and the storefront was still covered with plywood. I guess the sign didn't specifically mention WHICH holiday season.
Silver Spring Books – It’s not as big as some other used bookstores (RIP Bonifant Books), but I can usually find some obscure title that piques my interest if I look hard enough. Also earns points for being the place of employment of a fictional character.
Borders – I don’t so much shop here as browse. That’s because unless I have a particularly good coupon or I need to obtain something immediately, I will generally end up paying significantly more for a book than I would on Amazon. This is the ultimate “time killer” place for me in downtown Silver Spring.
CD Gamexchange – I rarely go anymore, but when I used to work in downtown Silver Spring, it was a good place to walk to and waste time during my lunch break. There was a time where they had tons of old NES games for 50¢ to $1, but now they price them at $5 or more.
Alliance Comics – I buy comics very infrequently, but it’s still a fun place to look around. I also have to include this since I’ve been going there since I was 8, when it was Geppi’s Comic World.
Oh, and God forbid they put in a drugstore on the north side of Georgia Avenue.
A side note: I don't know what happened to it, but for awhile Silver Spring had an interesting shop on Fenton St. that specialized in the sales and service of electric razors. I had to go in once to get a replacement part on my razor and they gave it to me free of charge. It is rare these days that you can find a place with such a specific specialization where they know immediately what your issue is and how to fix it. I was also fascinated by all the antique electric razors they had for sale, as that's something you don't see very often. Not that I use an electric razor anymore, but I think it's a shame that the store is gone nonetheless.