Ready your wallets: Two new vintage stores open on U Street

Why is it that all the new clothing stores arrive when I have voluntary taken on a life of poverty? Sigh. So goes the life of a SPY. Anyways, for all of you that have a bit of money to spend (this includes men AND women), two stores have joined the U Street vintage fray: Ginger Root Design and Dr. K’s vintage.

Ginger Root Design
1530 U Street NW

I will not talk too much about the story behind Ginger Root Design. ReadySetDC, Quarter life and the Washingtonian have written extensive articles on the shop, and Kristen Swenson, one of the owners, currently appears on the cover of Worn Magazine.  I know. It’s quite a hip little place. Observe:

Photo credits (clockwise from left): Worn Magazine, Washintonian, ReadysetDC, Washingtonian, my terrible camera

Beautiful. I have to add that the owners, Erin Derge and Kristen Swenson, are lovely, lovely people. Ginger Root Design is about taking old vintage clothing pieces and modernizing them for the hip DC set today. Kristen and Erin are usually found sewing in the shop. The collection is very edited, has an excellent taste level and is…wait for it… AFFORDABLE. My awesome oxfords (pictured) were under $30 and in a somewhat large, unnamed size that is usually hard to find. I had to restrain myself. And with inventory that changes regularly, you will too.

Dr. K’s vintage
1534 U Street NW

Dr. K’s opened this past week one door down from Ginger Root Design. It is an adorable and eclectic little place, filled to the brim with men’s and women’s shoes, clothes and accessories. Right now there may even be a bit more men’s clothes than women’s clothes, although Dr. K assured me more merchandise was coming in for the weekend.  Some pics:

These pictures do not have credits because they were taken from my terrible camera

Very cute, non? Their items are stylish and moderately priced (women’s sweater at $30-50), and I especially liked the extensive shoe collection. Dr. K himself reminded me of a salesperson at a Bazaar, opening random umbrellas and encouraging me to try things on. Although I do prefer to shop in the shadows (I am a blogger after all), I gave his enthusiasm a pass. The store is BRAND new. We all can relate.

All in all, I love that U Street Corridor is becoming a vintage design destination. Between Treasury, Junction, Nana, Ginger Root Design, Mr. K’s, Legendary Beast and all the vintage furniture stores, you really can spend a day shopping around.  Sure, the new stores increase competition, but this downside is outweighed by the fact DC really needs hip one-stop-shopping areas like this. Let’s get people to spend a day in Midcity, not just visit a store or two.

Mansion on O Street: the weirdest boutique hotel in DC

Beloved reader(s), meet Mansion on O Street. Located off of Dupont Circle, “the Mansion” looks deceptively ordinary from the street. It is a string of three townhouses painted traditional brick red. Two stone lions grace the entry way. You have probably passed it at one time or another and thought nothing of it.

Until you actually go inside….

Nothing creepy about a doll with pedophile glasses on

The interior of the mansion is cavernous and twisting, filled with secret doors, bizarrely themed rooms, and mounds upon mounds of…stuff. Like weird stuff. Piles of old dolls, books, Christmas decorations, Beatles slot machines and fancy church hats. One bedroom looks like a child’s log cabin, another looks like Imperial England, while still another has a giant orb crystal behind the bed’s headboard. It’s like Rocky Horror Picture Show mated with your grandma’s attic.

A rabbit in his Sunday best, a butterfly-man, and a bookshelf-door.

Oh, the bookshelves are also doors. The weird people who frequent the hotel will smile and tell you to go through these bookshelf doors despite them being really dark. Like  “SPY gets killed: the musical” dark.  Of the 32 hidden doors in the mansion, I found…one. Fine, I’m not Sherlock Holmes.

How do you experience the hotel? Well, there are four ways. If you enjoy being haunted you could shell out the $300+/night to actually stay there (pass).  You could go to dinner or  tea in one of the grand rooms, which looks like Alice and Wonderland. Although followed by a treasure hunt (upside), it is pretty pricey and has gotten mixed reviews (downside). You could go to Monday martini night and explore with a cocktail, which is appealing although it will be dark.

OR, you could pay $5 and just walk around. The rooms are open for viewing when guests aren’t there. Some empty rooms even had classical music playing. Not creepy AT ALL. So spend  $5 to take in the Mansion’s oddities.  Since all the tchochkies are for sale, you can even take home a souvenir.

Mansion on O Street
2020 O St NW
Washington, DC 20036-5912
(202) 496-2020
(and yes, the website is just weird stock images)

Rounding out U Street Fashion: Nana and Rue 14 Boutiques

Happy Thursday readers. So as I was  working on my “spy map” page yesterday, i.e. the only psuedo-useful part of this blog, I realized I left two of my favorite boutiques off the U Street Corridor list: Nana and Rue 14. I know, these stores are not new. Nana was even voted DC’s best boutique in the “Best of 2010″ awards. However, I NEED to finish this arbitrary list I made up. So go my neuroses. Humor me.

First, Nana. Now I have blogged about Daisy Bandera-Duplantier, one of Nana’s main jewelry designers (j’adore)  but never Nana itself. Nana’s lovely wares:

Yes, the style is a bit vintage and a bit whimsical, in a Parent Trap-meets-Anthropologie sort of way. All of Nana’s designers are environmentally conscious, which makes you feel good about your purchases, and the store maintains a rack of carefully edited vintage as well. The staff is also nice…VERY nice. They always remember me when I come in, which is good in theory but terrible in practice because, confession, although I often covet Nana’s wares, I rarely BUY them. Oh the guilt! It’s just that a $130 skirt is alot for a SPY in the public sector. Although, the striped dress (pictured) is only $99 and dangerously cute. They also stock lovely Hobo International accessories.

Secondly Rue 14. Rue 14 is a nice complement to Nana. Some pictures: 

So while in Nana you will be confronted with small designers you may not know, Rue 14 mixes those small outfits with mainstays like Free People and Penguin. Their collection is contemporary and casual; a mix of stylish basics and more bold designs. The owners wanted to make an affordable NYC boutique for DC, and that’s what you get. It’s 50-50 split between women’s and men’s fashions, and the prices are comparable to Nana (perhaps slightly cheaper).

So basically, you go to Nana for vintage-inspired, Rue 14 for contemporary-casual and Point Chaud for a nutella-banana-crepe snack. Oh, and Midcity Caffe for an iced coffee, they are EXCELLENT. Nana and Rue 14 are at 16th & U St, and 14th & S St respectively. Spy Map in the works!

Legendary Beast and a love of vintage

I have a soft spot in my heart for costume jewelry. I really do. Bold necklaces, clip on earrings, statement pieces that people like Rita Hayworth could wear the living hell out of, like this:

Sigh. If only I looked like that. Because you see, although I love costume jewelry, I rarely wear it. I know, I should carpe my style or whatnot, but it’s just that my head is SO small and spherical. I’m serious. It’s literally like a PERFECT sphere. A tennis ball. So when you put a massive necklace on the neck of a tennis ball, it looks ridiculous.

(Oh, and for those of you that say “no SPY, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s had a small head and wore that massive necklace.” Look. The smallness of the head was balanced by the height of the hair and we all know I’m not going to beehive it and go to Cosi. It’s not halloween)

However, at Legendary Beast on U Street I felt at ease trying on ridiculous things. Part of it was the $8.50 bin, which was front, center and easily accessible. Part of it was the massive amount of inventory, which reminded me of my mom’s/ grandmother’s jewelry box times 5000, like this:

And part of it, a large part of it in fact, was the owner. Anne Fox, who owns Legendary Beast, was previously the longstanding owner of Meeps, the Adams Morgan vintage stronghold before she moved on to jewelry. Fox has a wonderfully dry wit, knows her vintage pieces inside and out, and leaves you to browse as you please. It’s overall very relaxing, as the hunt should be.

Legendary Beast is only open from 12-5 on the weekends, including Friday, so such limited hours should attract hipsters. It’s mostly pre-WWII pieces, with a lot of inventory coming from the rust belt days of Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, places near and dear to my heart. For the mens you have cufflinks and apartment odds and ends, many of which are spiritual in nature. However, in all honesty, this is place for the womens. And it is a wonderful place indeed. Visit.

Legendary Beast, 1520 U St NW 2nd FLOOR, DC 20009, 202-797-1234

Lithics by Treasury and other (anti-cupcake) updates

SO. I was browsing around Treasury the other day and loved this little ring I saw. After talking to the Treasury folks, I found out the ring was part of Lithics, Treasury’s own new line of rings made from vintage casts, shown here:

Lithics by Treasury (I was eyeing the third one)

Treasury rescued the little ring molds. They were set to be melted down for scrap metal when Treasury took them. Yes. Scrap metal. Could you imagine? Anyways, this is the best shopping situation possible. You buy something pretty (ring) and in doing so are saving something that would have been wasted. Win-win. Its recycling in its easiest form. Which is, at its heart, what vintage is anyways. They run between $85-110, which isn’t cheap, but would be way marked up elsewhere (looking at you NYC). Buy them.

OH. Update #2. Sources tell me “Best of DC” has a best cupcake category. Now, I am not telling you to ban it (as maybe all the losers will get disheartened and start baking other things), but if you just “forgot to vote” or “accidentally commented that the cupcake market is saturated” I wouldn’t be upset.  Throwing it out there.

The Hunt for Vintage, without the Hunt

Dress from Junction Vintage

As you will gather from this blog, I am often lazy. There are some days when I wake up, want to go thrift shopping in my mind, go out to the store, get immediately overwhelmed by the amount of digging, the idea of trying on a million things, the hipsterness (or homelessness, depending how thrift you go) of surrounding people, my desire to eat a croissant aaand… I give up. Just like that, I walk in and walk out.  I know, I’m a blogger and should be more carpe diem. But meh, I work a 9 to 5 and weekends are precious, precious things

ANYWAYS, Junction and Treasury Vintage have solved my problem. For a lazy person wanting to score that awesome item and only look through a manageable number of edited racks, they are small, beautiful, and reasonably priced (think vintage, not thrift). Both stores have clothes, jewelry, handbags, and a rack or two of menswear, so you can drag some sad male companion along with you. Here are some photos….



Junction is classic retro vintage while Treasury is a bit all over the map, stocking clothes, jewelry and, per their website, curios. Yeah. I don’t know what a curio is, but I kind of want one. Reminds me of an antique children’s toy or a 1930s circus souvenir. After buying your curio, you can stop by café Saint Ex, have a muffin of the day, shop around, go home, take a nap, and (assuming your curio doesn’t come to life and kill you in your sleep), go out for the evening. Perfect afternoon.

Junction: 1510 U St NW, WASHINGTON DC,  20009 (202) 483-0261, website:

Treasury: 1843 14th St. NW, second floor (go up the stairs!), WASHINGTON DC 20009, (202) 506-6908, website:

(images from the Junction and Treasury websites, and  my camera)