More than a century after the first market opened in Scottsdale, this Arizona city’s Old West roots remain remarkably intact. (That blacksmith shop on Brown Avenue? In operation since 1909). But take a walk—or a drive or trolley ride—beyond downtown’s historic core and you’ll find manicured retail oases sporting luxury labels galore. Here, a shopper’s guide to the best of both worlds.
A WALK BACK IN TIME
Downtown is divided into several pedestrian-friendly blocks east and west of Scottsdale Road between Camelback Road and Second Street. Your walking history tour begins at the Hotel Valley Ho, where photos of Scottsdale’s 1950s heyday hang on a lobby wall. Fuel up on espresso and strawberry waffles at the hotel’s Café ZuZu, then head to Valerianne, a boutique with nightgowns trimmed in hand-crocheted lace, long-thread Egyptian-cotton pillowcases and more. A few doors down, the famed Poisoned Pen Bookstore offers your favorite mystery titles; another block east, Fashion by Robert Black sells great vintage clothing.
Back on Main Street, Shades of the West is stuffed with kitschy souvenirs, but you can also find authentic blacksmithed hardware from Mexico and modestly priced cowboy hats. Get some boots to go with that hat at Saba’s Western Store, an 85-year-old outfitter with apparel from all the trusted cowboy brands. For lunch, order a classic New York-style pizza at Grimaldi’s.
BEYOND THE CANAL
Adjacent to the packed downtown sidewalks and a block from the Arizona Canal, the collection of storefronts known as SouthBridge houses some of the best boutiques and restaurants in the city. Treat yourself to a passion-fruit-and-cream filled doughnut from the café at the HerbBox, which also stocks a selection of Arizona wines and artisanal picnic supplies in its accompanying market. Then cross the street to peruse the kid-tastic offerings of Garage, which takes children’s clothing and goodies to new, tongue-in-cheek heights with biker-inspired T-shirts and denim, creative candy and tons of hip toys, lunch boxes and accessories that will entertain parents as much as the kids.
Another door down, step into the ethereal attire of Joy Li, a clothing boutique of mostly imported activewear handpicked by Li, a former designer for Guess and Liz Claiborne. The custom cowboy boots on display at J. Gilbert Footwear are a sight to behold, with their colorful detailed cutouts and exotic materials (sanded python, lizard and kangaroo), but beware of their price tags (easily a grand). Consider instead the shop’s more reasonably priced selection of casual designer footwear, which includes Kork-Ease sandals and platform espadrilles. And don’t leave the block without having a farm-to-table meal at FnB (for “food and beverage”), a national-award-winning restaurant that serves seasonally fresh dishes, like fennel, ramps and roast chicken with spaetzle and lilies.
Bid farewell to the quaint storefronts of downtown, and cross the canal via the gleaming metal Paolo Soleri Bridge. After you pass the not-quite-complete Waterfront retail development, follow the sidewalk to Fashion Square. At 2 million square feet, it’s Scottsdale’s largest mall, and it’s one of the most profitable in the nation. Designer labels dominate the storefronts—Jimmy Choo, Carolina Herrera, Prada—but the center also retains a subtle regional flair: Note the Arizona-specific styles at Nordstrom, whose buyers work with regional designers.
THE OUTER LIMITS
Skip the resort-like shopping enclaves that fringe downtown, and check out Scottsdale’s more unusual outliers instead. Just a few miles south of downtown, you can explore a mind-blowing collection of antiques, art and curios at the low-slung warehouse complex containing the Antique Trove and the Antique Centre. The Trove specializes in well-kept furniture, from retro 1960s to Victorian intricate, and has a garden filled with pottery, statuettes straight from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and witty Western nostalgia (crusty chaps, anyone?). Next door, Joan Miró originals adorn the Antique Centre’s entrance; other points of intrigue are a booth filled with stuffed animal heads, signed scripts written for 1980s television shows, and Madame Tussaud’s life-size wax depiction of The Last Supper.
The historical theme continues at My Sister’s Closet and its sibling store for men, Well Suited. Here secondhand goods draw young fashionistas, executives looking for Chanel suits and society ladies in search of couture gowns for the next charity ball. The store’s layout can be a little overwhelming, but the knowledgeable staff will guide you to the Gucci sunglasses you’ve been coveting or those Prada sandals you passed over at Fashion Square. And parents, take note: All the children’s clothes sourced from the best-dressed kids in the nation—look improbably new.
Last stop: Scottsdale Quarter, whose pedestrian walkways wend past big-name retailers (Calvin Klein Performance, West Elm, Apple) and a handful of charming lesser-known shops. Check out the finely engineered strollers and organic layettes at Giggle, a boutique for infants, then venture into a kaleidoscope of candy at IT’Sugar. When real hunger strikes, try the Asian-inspired, über-healthy organic fare at True Food, one of the new restaurants of nutrition guru Andrew Weil. Or plunk yourself down in a palm-shaded courtyard to enjoy a cup of mango tart yogurt mixed with bits of cheesecake from Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt while you watch the fountain splash—quintessential respite for the weary Scottsdale shopper.
Café ZuZu: 6850 E. Main St.; 1.480.421.7997
Valerianne: 7033 E. First Ave.; valerianne.com
Poisoned Pen Bookstore: 4014 N. Goldwater Blvd.; poisonedpen.com
Fashion by Robert Black: 7144 E. First Ave.; fashionbyrobertblack.com
Shades of the West: 7247 E. Main St.; shadesofthewest.com
Saba’s Western Store: 3965 N. Brown Ave.; 1.480.947.7664; sabas.com
Grimaldi’s: 4000 N. Scottsdale Rd.
HerbBox: 7134 E. Stetson Dr.; theherbbox.com
Garage: 7144 E. Stetson Dr.; garageboutique.com
Joy Li: 7144 E. Stetson Dr.; joyli.net
J. Gilbert Footwear: 7134 E. Stetson Dr.; jgilbertfootwear.com
FnB: 7133 E. Stetson Dr.; 1.480.425.9463
Antique Trove: 2020 N. Scottsdale Rd.; antiquetrove.com
Antique Centre: 2012 N. Scottsdale Rd.; arizonaantiquecentre.com
My Sister’s Closet/Well Suited: 6208 N. Scottsdale Rd.; mysisterscloset.com
Scottsdale Quarter: 15279 N. Scottsdale Rd.; scottsdalequarter.com
Giggle: 1.480.922.4928; giggle.com
IT’Sugar: 1.480.443.0342; itsugar.com
True Food: 1.480.265.4500; truefoodkitchen.com
Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt: 1.480.219.6880