When visitors think of shopping in Kansas City, Missouri, they often focus on the Plaza district. Sure, it's home to nearly 100 shops, many of which are expensive chains such as Burberry, Coach, and kate spade (who grew up in KC). But you didn't come all the way here to shop at chains you could find anywhere, did you? For a one-of-a-kind Kansas City shopping experience, consider trying some of the unique local stores listed below.
Baldwin Men's Shop (jeans)
4573 W 119th St., Leawood, Kansas. (913) 312-2382. http://www.baldwindenim.com
Baldwin Jeans is a relatively new clothing company created by a young Kansas City phenom named Matt Baldwin. Talk about rocketing to success. These high-end jeans, dubbed the best in the world by GQ magazine, are now sold in posh stores from New York to Tokyo. Made from the finest American and Japanese denim, the jeans can easily set you back $200, but apparently they last. Ask George Clooney. He recently ordered several pairs. Located in a suburb of Kansas City, Mo., the shop is about a 25-minute drive from the Plaza. Note that standard style (451 W 47th St.; 913-685-4464), a clothing shop located in the Plaza and owned by Matt's wife Emily, has started stocking these coveted jeans.
Birdies (lingerie & swimwear)
116 W 18th St., Kansas City, Mo.
Quirky. A 10 on the hipness scale. That about describes Birdies, Danielle Meester and artist Peregrine Honig's lingerie and swimwear boutique in the Crossroads. It’s pricey, but the selections are gorgeous and all different body types are accommodated. The owners make this a stylish experience, with antiques, handpainted wallpaper, and a beautifully crafted fitting room. The top seller is "Mary Green boy shorts," lovely silk panties that go for $25. Peregrine was the first runner up in the inaugural season of Bravo's reality show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. (The shop is located two blocks from the Kauffman Center of Performing Arts.)
2501 Southwest Boulevard, Kansas City, Mo.
Founded in 1989 by John McDonald, Boulevard Brewery has become the largest specialty brewery in the Midwest. You can find the beers, (including Pale Ale and amusingly named seasonal beers) all over town, including Kauffman Stadium. The brewery offers public tours and its onsite gift shop sells Boulevard T-shirts, hats, bottle openers, Pale Ale Mustard, and many other items. If you're driving home, you may want to make room for a case of Kansas City brew.
Brookside Toy & Science (toys)
330 W 63rd St., Kansas City, Mo.
Open close to 50 years, this toy store stands out from the pack. Although it's brimming with the usual dolls, games, crafts, and Hello Kitty merchandise, keep walking to the back of the store, which focuses on science. There you'll find taxidermic oddities; skeletons; framed, luminous butterflies; classified rocks, and an alligator head. This is the place for science kits and microscopes, too. An overall great selection in every genre of toy.
Christopher Elbow Chocolates
819 McGee St., Kansas City, Mo.
This artisanal chocolate shop has gained national acclaim, with write-ups in Oprah and InStyle magazine and coverage by the Food Network. Local guy Christopher Elbow started his own shop several years ago after working as a pastry chef at American restaurant. His individually handcrafted chocolates, made with such arcane ingredients as Vietnamese cinnamon and French lavender, look like mini works of abstract art. Among the 20 or so flavors is Bananas Foster, made with bananas and caramel flambéed with rum. He recently opened a branch in San Francisco.
409 W Gregory St., Kansas City, Mo. (816) 444-1933.
You want delicious, plump cookies? Look no further than the Classic Cookie, a bakery that doubles as a 30-seat breakfast/lunch spot. Among the cookie flavors are Oatmeal Scotchies (so good!), Ginger, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip. A small tin of 13 cookies is $22.95; the large tin (26 cookies) costs $36.95.
Hadley (women's clothing)
122 W 18th St., Kansas City, Mo. (816) 842-0228
Just next door to Birdies is this boutique owned by Hadley Johnson. An acclaimed international designer, Ms. Johnson studied and recently won "Designer of the Year" at Parsons Paris. Browse her uber-hipster collection, as well as other locally crafted objects such as limited edition T-shirts by Peregrine Honig and jewelry by Erica Voetsch. Note that Hadley was formerly called Spool. Open Weds. through Sat.
Hammerpress (paper goods)
110 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.
This unusual shop uses 100-year-old presses with handset type to print utterly lovely greeting cards that have a retro flair and vintage-style graphics. The cards run $4 to $5 and trust me, you won't want to send 'em, you'll want to frame 'em. Hammerpress also purveys stationery, posters, business cards, and edgy wedding invitations. The store is so original you'd swear you were in Greenwich Village. Try not to miss this one. Located in the Crossroads District.
Reading Reptile (children's books)
328 W 63rd St., Kansas City, Mo.
The Reptile is one of the best independent children's bookstores in the country. It's a feast for the eyes, with homemade papier mache characters displayed among the books. The space perfectly oozes creativity. The owners offer craft activities and storybook hours. They also sell cupcakes in a corner of the store dubbed Le Petit Rouge bakery. The clerks are highly knowledgeable. If you're looking for places that typify Kansas City charm, this is a good place to start.
6223 Brookside Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.
Danny O'Neill is a wunderkind who started roasting coffee in his KC basement in 1993 and ended up the city's biggest coffee manufacturer. He's also the ultimate coffee aficionado, having forged business partnerships with small growers in Bolivia, Costa Rice, and even Rwanda and Ethiopia. If you want to take back a bit of Kansas City, you'll find Roasterie coffee in many local supermarkets here. Of course there are countless blends for sale in the three metro-area coffeeshops, including flavored varieties such as French Caramel Cream. The new Roasterie plant (at 1204 W 27th St., KC, Mo.), at the far hinterlands of the Crossroads area, offers facility tours as well as a coffee shop with a tasting bar. There's also a Leawood, Kansas location at 4511 W 119th St.
Stuff (fine art and crafts)
316 W 63rd St., Kansas City, Mo. (816) 361-8222.
Owned by sisters Sloane and Casey Simmons, Stuff is a load of fun. Located in vibrant Brookside, a sweet family neighborhood south of the Plaza, it's considered Kansas City's preeminent homemade arts and crafts shop. Among the collectible and decorative items are magnets, jewelry, paintings, clothing, vases, and all kinds of tchotchkes. There's much to browse and chuckle over. Afterwards, you might want to pop into the Reading Reptile and Brookside Toy & Science, which are located on the same block. If all this shopping makes you thirsty, cap it off with a beverage at the nearby Roasterie Cafe.