“This neighborhood actually reminds me of parts of Paris or London,” says Terry Bell, co-owner of Salon Ilo (1637 Wisconsin Ave. NW), whose uptown clientele has brought customers to Book Hill for 32 years. “We’re pretty much all independent stores. The architecture is lovely and we have nice, wide brick sidewalks.”
Twenty years ago, this block was home to the French Market, a beloved purveyor of brie and baguettes, whose closing is still mourned by locals. The area maintains a Gallic flavor with the popular Patisserie Poupon cafe (1645 Wisconsin Ave. NW) and the French Apartment home shop (1671 Wisconsin Ave. NW) for bergere chairs and modern Parisian accessories. The French Market European outdoor fair is a popular annual event.
Customers tend to stroll at a less frantic pace here to peruse small stores where proprietors and their dogs welcome you as if you were being invited into their living rooms. “People love to pop in and out of the shops, and they really get to know the owners,” says Marston Luce, whose Marston Luce Antiques (1651 Wisconsin Ave. NW) has been selling French and American painted furniture, folk art and garden ornaments for decades.
His immediate neighbors include another longtime purveyor, David Bell Antiques (1655 Wisconsin Ave. NW), which displays a mix of the latest in chic. Bell just shipped an Italian modern bronze dining table to Gwyneth Paltrow. Downstairs, Carling Nichols (1655 Wisconsin Ave. NW) is a trove of Chinese design, from lacquered chests to 18th-century wine vessels.
The buildings on this part of Wisconsin Avenue were built in the late 19th century as private homes, according to Jerry A. McCoy, a special collections librarian at the Georgetown Neighborhood Library. In the 1940s, residents started converting them to bicycle shops, law offices and grocery stores. “The businesses in this area have always felt a great sense of pride,” McCoy says.
In the past several years, new retailers have opened, such as Comer & Co. (1659 Wisconsin Ave. NW), which sells European antiques and mid-century treasures. Dandelion Patch (1663 Wisconsin Ave. NW) creates custom invitations and does letterpress printing. Matt Camron Rugs & Tapestries (1651 Wisconsin Ave. NW), a source for high-end antique rugs from Iran, Turkey and Morocco, as well as contemporary flatweave designs, opened last October.
You can shop for fashion at Sherman Pickey (1647 Wisconsin Ave. NW), the well-edited preppie chic shop; Sassanova (1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW) for shoes and accessories; and Urban Chic (1626 Wisconsin Ave. NW) for a mix of designers such as Trina Turk and Rebecca Taylor, plus bridesmaids frocks by Shoshanna.