Shop ‘til you drop at boutiques, antiques and specialty shops alongside big box stores
by Christine Smith
“What in the world is THAT?”
My sister’s eyes were as wide as saucers as she stared out of the car window in disbelief.
Her reaction brought a satisfied smile to my face. We’d barely reached the city limits of Joplin and already my worldly sibling from the Windy City was impressed.
I’d picked Karen up this morning from the Tulsa Airport. After hopping on I-44, we chatted continuously, passing mile after mile of expansive grassy pastures when—BAM!—there it was.
A stately French chateau surrounded by sprawling, well-manicured gardens.
She couldn’t have been more surprised had she seen a giant jack-in-the-box spring forth from the pastoral southwest Missouri terrain.
“That’s Sandstone Gardens,” I told her. “And you can shop there.”
I couldn’t wait to show her that shopping in Joplin was more than just stocking up on basic goods at the big-box stores that are visible from I-44.
Shopping at Joplin’s local stores offers an authentic and surprisingly sophisticated experience for anyone, even those who have access to the best stores in the world, like my sister.
I couldn’t wait to prove it to her.
Our shopping adventure began here. On the outdoor patio, we wandered past tiered lion’s head fountains, classical statues, and decorative cast-stone garden benches, and imagined that we were the ladies of Downton Abbey getting ready to enjoy a spot of afternoon tea in the garden.
Venturing inside the 50,000-square-foot showroom, the sweet scent of honeysuckle potpourri greeted us, beckoning us down a long, narrow hallway lined with candles and richly-scented lotions, and leading us to the grand, two-story atrium where dramatic silk floral arrangements and stately home décor pieces vied for our attention.
After shopping for a while, I knew I needed to get some sustenance in her to fuel up for the next store, so I led her to the Bistro.
This cozy restaurant is conveniently located in a corner of Sandstone Gardens. My sister ordered a great-looking salad and I ordered the Reuben sandwich (the best in town!) We each ordered cake for dessert: moist German chocolate for her, and tart lemon-berry for me.
Bellies full, we were ready to do some clothes shopping. In addition to being a savvy shopper, Karen also studied fashion design, so she has a keen eye when it comes to clothing and accessories.
I knew exactly where to take her: the chic boutiques on Joplin’s historic Main Street.
I went straight for her Achilles heel (sorry for the pun) by taking her to Sophie, the “candy store for shoe addicts.” I gave her some space as she paid reverence to the offering of footwear presented before her: rhinestone-studded cowboy boots, flirty ankle boots, daring stilettos, comfortable wedges, playful flats – you name it.
While she tried on pair after pair, I browsed through the rest of the store and was suddenly faced with a dilemma: Did I dare show my sister Sophie’s wide selection of fashion jewelry and scarves, as well the boutique clothing section? If so, we might never leave. If not, she’d miss out on some unique finds.
I chose to be a good sister (or enabler—however you look at it) and led her to roam freely.
Once I was able to corral her, we crossed Main Street and stopped at Upstairs Boutique. Because it’s a designated Brighton Heart Store, Upstairs Boutique carries an expanded selection of the brand’s items, from jewelry to luggage, so it was the ideal place for Karen to look for a new charm to add to her Brighton bracelet.
Our next stop was Blue Moon Market, “a modern boutique with a vintage soul.”
Cleverly-placed vintage door frames and signs on the exposed brick walls create a whimsical backdrop for the merchandise here. On the floor, trendy necklaces and bracelets hang like ornaments from home décor pieces that are displayed on vintage dressers and tables—which you can buy, too!
“How fun is this place?” Karen asked as we worked our way to the boutique clothing section. By that point, even my hands were filled with wonderful treasures, like a smooth leather wrap bracelet and an antiqued metal sign sporting a sassy saying that I know my friend will love.
Next door at the equally playful Six Eleven Boutique, Karen immediately noticed the brightly-colored umbrellas dangling from the antique copper ceiling and said, “You’ve got some pretty funky stores here in Joplin.”
In her world, that’s a colossal compliment. As a seeker of cutting-edge clothing and accessories, my sister had just put her stamp of approval on Joplin as a shopping destination.
That was huge.
As I tried on a flirty, ruffled tunic dress from Lazy Noiz I could hear her talking excitedly with the salesperson, but the only word I could make out was “Oprah.” When I came out of the dressing room, I walked over to the display where she was slathering some lotion on her hands.
Blue Moon Market
“These are on Oprah’s list,” Karen said, excitedly pointing to the bottles of Farmhouse Fresh products in front of us. “This is the only place in Joplin that carries them.”
It was fun watching how quickly my sister became an ambassador of the Joplin boutique scene. I couldn’t wait to show her more, like the Pink Door Boutique (with its great selection of hats and scarves), and Mystique Boutique (where I always find unique casual dresses).
Next stop, a treat for the palate.
We drove just a few blocks to Candy House Gourmet. Inside, the air was infused with the scent of sweet cocoa, causing us to practically drool as we painstakingly looked through the selection of handmade chocolates. Karen finally chose a chocolate toffee while I savored a decadent sea salt caramel.
I told Karen that we’d have to come back to Candy House Gourmet to take a tour of the factory when we had more time. Then, we’d be able to watch the candy-making process in action (and try some samples!).
Driving back to my house, Karen asked if there were places in Joplin that sold healthy food (we strive for a balanced diet, and the more healthy food we can eat, the more chocolate we can savor). I assured her that there several.
If she was craving a bite of what’s in season, we’d check out the local fruits, vegetables, honey, and other edibles at the Joplin Farmers Market and the Webb City Farmers Market, or at the Marketplace at Joplin Greenhouse, where there’s a nice selection of organic items, too.
On our next shopping outing, we’ll explore Joplin’s vintage shops and flea markets for more uncommon finds. I know Karen will swoon over the chic, repurposed items sold at Simply Vintage (like an orange-painted distressed vintage phonograph cabinet), and she’ll certainly get a kick out of the primitives at Country Pickins Antique Mall (like a lampshade crafted from an old stovetop toaster).
Candy House Gourmet
For a hefty dose of thriftiness and quirkiness, we can scour through rows of booths at traditional flea markets like Fancy Flamingo Flea Market and Rangeline Antique Mall. Items I’ve found in the past at these places include superhero collectibles, milk glass pieces and a peculiar bust of Elvis Presley (which I just can’t get out of my mind).
Of course, if Karen wants to shop at more familiar stores, we can stop at Northpark Mall, where there are more than 100 retailers, including Macy’s, Sears, J.C. Penney, and T.J. Maxx, or at other national chains located near the mall, like Pier One Imports, Kohl’s, and Target (with a fresh grocery section and a Starbucks inside).
But right now, I’m going to get some rest.
Because I know that my early-bird sister will wake me at dawn tomorrow, anxious to discover more local treasures.
And that makes me feel so proud of my little city and the people who have chosen to open up their businesses here. Because of their originality, character, and friendliness, our local stores impress even the savviest of shoppers.
I can attest to that.