Non-Cyber Shopping

Palo Alto’s indie retail scene

In the heart of downtown Palo Alto, a couple of indie retailers sell their goods the old-school way: with a cash register and a smile. Gift-wrapping is even free.

Bell’s Books on Emerson Street, in the heart of Silicon Valley, still sells the printed page successfully (and has since the 1930s). That’s because nothing beats the feeling of discovery. Rare, used, and new books are stacked on two levels, joined by signed first editions from authors Kurt Vonnegut and T.C. Boyle.


Coffee shops are a dime a dozen in Palo Alto. That’s why a haven for tea lovers, Tea Time, is so welcome. Stop in for a traditional high tea menu, including a children’s version. Then, shop the shelves for teapots from China, Japan, and England.


Letter Perfect is one of those greeting card stores where you are not going to simply pop in, pick a card, and pay. Oh, no. A half-hour later, you may find yourself still there, flipping through cards and browsing the incredible selection of wrapping papers and other items, like journals, and pens, that will certainly make great stocking stuffers.


An emporium of all things essential for a sea or land adventure, Palo Alto Sport Shop & Toy World stocks Legos and Air Swimmers (remote control flying fish) as well as baseball, skateboard, and football equipment. The true find, though, is on the second floor: The regular and competitive swimwear selection may be the best in the Bay Area. The shop has been open since 1930.



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