When you’re looking for one-of-a-kind finds, head to downtown Athens. Within this compact, walkable space, you will discover more than 60 specialty retailers. The historic buildings house a mix of long-time local independent retailers and a few national brands.
One of the city’s entrepreneurial success stories is Red Dress Boutique, a fast-growing online retailer (the owners got an investment following an appearance on “Shark Tank”) with a storefront location on College Avenue. The store stocks moderately priced and on-trend dresses, tops and accessories. Other popular shops at this price point include Cheeky Peach, Dress-Up and Pitaya. Meanwhile, Epiphany puts a twist on affordable fashions with a mission of donating its profits to local and international charities. You’ll find a mix of fashion and accessories at The Indigo Child, and a selection of dorm and apartment decor at sister store, The Indigo Home. Heery’s Clothes Closet has outfitted generations of students and alumnae with higher-end classics and designer lines including Tibi, Rachel Zoe and Tom Ford.
Few shops beat Onward Reserve, an Athens-based retailer with a hunting lodge-meets-business-casual feel. The shop carries brands such as Barbour, Southern Proper, Shinola and High Cotton. Find a similar vibe at Empire South.
As you might expect in a college town with a strong music and arts scene, vintage and consignment shops abound. Check out Dynamite, Agora Vintage and Atomic for great deals on authentic looks that have cycled back into style. Many of these shops also carry newer, retro-inspired pieces. One of the most interesting boutiques is Community, which sells creations by local designers — including “up-cycled” pieces crafted from revamped vintage wear. The Jackson Street shop also has a great selection of gift items, cards and posters.
Several shops offer custom jewelry and other original pieces. Check out the work of in-house designers at Aurum Studios, which also carries pottery and other items from local artisans. Tena’s Fine Diamonds & Jewelry offers a design-your-own engagement ring service as well as a variety of high-end watches for men and women.
Fans of all music genres head to Wuxtry Records. The store was one of the first to carry records by fledgling artists of the pivotal 1980s and 1990s Athens music scene. Its sister store, Bizarro-Wuxtry Comics, is a hive of comics and collectibles. Low Yo Yo Stuff Records carries a mix of vinyl and CDs as well as music-related books and posters.
Die-hard Georgia fans find plenty to cheer for at stores such as The Red Zone and The Clubhouse. In addition to acres of logo-emblazoned gear for game days, you can find everything from supplies for your pets to accessories for tailgating. For a different feel, check out the retro-inspired wear at Tailgate, which includes a mix of sports and Athens-themed clothing.
Salons and Spas
Historic buildings in downtown Athens house more than restaurants and retail. Republic Salon is in a loft-like setting on the top floor of the Frigidaire Building. Pageboy Salon perches in a similar airy space, above Walker’s Coffee and Pub, with a view of the College Avenue plaza. The Spa at Graduate Athens occupies part of a former iron foundry.
This article originally appeared in the spring 2019 Visitors Guide