Some of the best shopping is found at small, independent specialty stores – these destination spots are curated with care for something special, be it gifts, niche interests, or artisan products. By their very nature, stores like this can easily fly under the radar. Below are some of Pittsburgh’s best-kept shopping secrets.
For your basic Pittsburgh gift shop needs, WildCard is hands down your best source. You know the section of your favorite book store full of cards, adult coloring books, fun magnets, and other cute giftables? WildCard took that section and made it their entire store. This spot delivers on Pittsburgh-specific merchandise without falling into the gift shop trap of being basic or kitschy. WildCard achieves this by pulling designs from local artists and having a killer sense of curation. For a store that’s filled with every gift you can think of, the selection is uncluttered and tastefully organized – a rare gift in the world of small independent retail spots.
Journeys of Life
New Age stores are all the rage recently, in part because they run the gamut from incense to Tarot. Whether you’re gemstone enthusiast or consider yourself a straight-up witch, each store has something different to offer. Journeys of Life is on this list because with two floors and a great selection, it easily hits all of the aforementioned and more. Upon entering you’ll find your standard fare of candles and jewelry, but the store also has a second floor that is almost fully just books. Books about the moon, books about vampires, books about Wicca – any odd niche that piques your interest is represented here. This is not stuff you can find at regular bookshop.
Just a heads up – Journeys hits heavy on the metaphysical, so if that makes you uneasy, you may want to browse elsewhere. Along with related merchandise they have a calendar full of readers and workshops for people looking for that particular brand of guidance.
Journeys of Life|Shadyside
Board games have had a renaissance in recent years among young people. If you’re having the board game itch, Games Unlimited is the Pittsburgh spot that will scratch it. The staff here is friendly and knowledgeable about every game from RPGs and Euro-games to family games and the latest in kids board games. The store has sales of pre-owned games and a great demo library – for $5 you can rent a game, and if you return it on time that $5 will go toward store credit for your future purchases. Games Unlimited is Pittsburgh’s #1 source if you’re a hardcore gamer or just looking for something for family game night (remember- games are a great way to spend time with your family without needing to actually talk with them).
Games Unlimited|Squirrel Hill
The Copacetic Comics Company
Located up the stairs, perched above a record store and a coffee shop is the Copacetic Comics Company. Seemingly smaller than other comic spots in Pittsburgh, Copacetic is deeply entrenched in the world of comics and the world of Pittsburgh. Their knowledge and passion for comic books is thorough, from rare and traditional cartoons to modern and cutting edge graphic novels. Copacetic also houses other books, music, and films (which you can see in their online store), but digging a little further into their website unearths their genuine love and deep knowledge of the publishing industry. Their gallery displays old and rare comics finds, and they offer exhaustive resources of publishing houses and Pittsburgh authors. From small presses and zines to local and regional events, Copacetic is an essential find for Pittsburgh’s writers, readers, and comics aficionados.
The Copacetic Comics Company|Polish Hill
Kards Unlimited is one of the best novelty stores you will ever visit. If Lawrenceville’s WildCard is minimalist and well-curated, Shadyside’s Kards Unlimited is the opposite: it is jam packed with more gifts and gags than you could fathom. Sure, you have cards and coloring books. But you also have regular books. And t-shirts. And weird themed soaps. And socks. And a book on queer theory. And candles. And pins. The stimuli can be overwhelming at times, and once you are well into the store you’re not sure you’ll be able to leave – surely the best years of your life will be spent trying to lay eyes on everything in this store. From the high concept to the irreverent, you will find the gift you are looking for in here.
I am 100% the last person you want to ask about fashion, so I hesitated to put a clothing boutique on here. However, even within a very small space, Paititi delivers something far more eclectic than apparel. Owner Cessy Portuguez uses her retail space on Murray Ave. to showcase fair trade Peruvian wares and hand-crafted artisan products. Like many shops boasting Peruvian goods, Paititi’s inventory boasts colorful scarves and an array of alpaca items. Racks of vibrant clothing offer skirts, pants, and shirts and the surrounding shelves contain unique crafts, jewelry and gifts. The store is easy to miss but well worth a visit.
Attic Records is less of a hidden gem than it is an institution. They’ve been in Millvale for forty years (meaning they’ve withstood more floods than you can imagine) across the street from Yetter’s and a block away from P&G diner. With a giant selection of vinyls and CDs, they specialize in evaluating, buying, and trading collections. Because of their experience in trade, their store boasts one of the most expansive and eclectic selections you can find in the city.