Cape May’s boutique store trend

Last year, if you’d asked me to describe the type of shops we have in Cape May, I would’ve said they’re largely geared toward our summer visitors: t-shirt shops, souvenir shops with “Cape May” emblazoned on knick-knacks, the quintessential surf shops.

But last summer, the 500 block of the Washington Street Mall welcomed Galvanic, a shop specializing in men’s clothing, accessories, and unique home decor. We haven’t had a dedicated men’s clothing store in years, not since Barry’s closed (where Fralinger’s is now). Galvanic took over the space previously occupied by Gifts Galore and gave it a complete renovation. They gutted down to studs and painted the exterior a bold, charcoal gray.

Some people objected to the new look, but I was pleasantly surprised the first time I walked in. The inside is gorgeous: rough-hewn wood walls, sparse decor, handcrafted furniture. The store isn’t geared specifically to tourists, and it’s not geared specifically to locals. It’s just a great store, with interesting merchandise sourced from around the world. I ended up back there for my holiday shopping, infinitely preferable to trekking to the Hamilton Mall in May’s Landing.


Left to right: Red Oak Trading, Galvanic, Sea Bags

Since Galvanic came onto the scene, two more stores have opened on the mall that point in a similar direction: Red Oak Trading, sister to Good Scents, took over Wave One’s space on the 300 block this spring. Like its big sis, the store is eclectic, offering a curated selection of women’s clothing, accessories, home decor, and a scattering of books. A large number of products are made in the USA, and the shopkeeper can tell you about every one of them. Sea Bags just opened down Liberty Way, carrying nautical-themed totes made in Maine of recycled sail cloth. Ours is their third retail location, after Portland and Seaport, Maine. I walked past their window for a week before I broke down and bought their octopus tote.

These new faces follow a trend that has been emerging over the past few years: boutique shops with sophisticated, upscale merchandise. They join the ranks alongside existing stores including Across the Way, Pink, West End Gallery, Miss Demeanor, White, and Splash.

Do these newcomers foreshadow the type of shops we’re likely to see in Cape May going forward? Time will tell. But I can say, definitively, that I’ll be doing the bulk of my holiday shopping in Cape May this year.

What do you think of these new stores? What type of shops do you want to see in Cape May?