Hard-core shoppers are always looking for the next great gift shop. If you’re searching for the perfect gift or want to decorate your home with something unique, three stores in the South Bay are musts to shop: Magpie Fine Things and A Summer Place, both in Manhattan Beach, and Mulberry Cottage in Torrance.
Magpie Fine Things
Magpie (magpiefinethings.com) will grab you the minute you stroll by its large display window, a couple of blocks from the Manhattan Beach Pier. This elegant, peaceful, shop is filled with timeless, not trendy, gifts that satisfy a variety of price ranges. See if you notice the pleasant smell of spices in the air, because you’ll remember it later. Eclectic doorbells and chimes, artwork, glass accent pieces for the home, lamps, jewelry, kitchenware, this 15-year-old independent offers it all, often supplied by artists and craftsman from around the world. The personable staff is knowledgeable about the merchandise and can fill you in on its origin. Around the holidays, this store sells out. It’s a great place to find a gift for everyone on your list. And if it becomes a place you shop often, your lucky recipients will always recognize the simple wrapping, accented by a wide ribbon and a gold Magpie sticker. Each wrapped package magically carries that wonderful spicy scent from the store. Become a regular customer on Magpie’s mailing list and they’ll wish you a happy birthday by mail with a discount offer.
A Summer Place
Just down the street from Magpie at the corner of Highland Ave. and 14th Street and in sight of the Pacific Ocean, A Summer Place is exactly as it sounds. Enter the stores’ two rooms and wall-to wall, beach-inspired home furnishings and accessories will overwhelm you. Strands of seashells, bags of seashells, mermaids, lamps and glassware in cool ocean greens and blues are packed into nooks and crannies. You can go heavy on the nautical theme with boats and miniature lighthouses, or easy on the summer shell, shabby-chic look. A Summer Place, in business since 1989, is often used by local interior decorators to enhance the beachy look of clients’ homes. At Christmas, you’ll find oodles of beach and shell-themed ornaments and wreaths. Year round, there is a great sale selection tucked in a nook in the middle of the shop.
An unassuming strip mall in Torrance provides no clue to the magic inside Mulberry Cottage (www.mulberrycottage.net), which is regularly voted in local polls as one of the best gift shops in all of Los Angeles. When you step in the door, don’t be thrown off by the old-country feel. Follow the wonderful candle and cooking smells through the store and find unique kitchen accessories, a huge collection of Vera Bradley bags, gifts and greeting cards, specialty foods, cookbooks and home décor. Mulberry Cottage is best known for its seasonal merchandise and elaborate displays. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Fourth of July and Easter, Mulberry Cottage has it all when it comes to spicing up your decorations for the holidays. Visitors (even husbands and kids) line up outside the store to see the Christmas displays throughout November and December. Multiple rooms are decked out with hundreds of Christmas and Hannukah items, each room themed by mood and style of decoration. You’ll want to allow plenty of time to shop here, because you can walk through all of the displays twice and still not catch everything there is to ooh and aah about. Get on the Mulberry e-mail list and you’ll receive monthly discounts and news about upcoming events and new products. You can even take a tour of the store online to get a sense of what it’s like.
Depending on your shopping mood or who is on your gift list, each of these stores has a distinct personality. Magpie is elegant and upscale, A Summer Place is beach casual, and Mulberry Cottage is cute and homey. Mix it up and you’ll have a great collection of gifts to choose from.