Frederick of Maryland

With two stores and more than 50,000 square feet of space, Frederick's Great Stuff by Paul has become a nationally known home decor source.
With two stores and more than 50,000 square feet of space, Frederick's Great Stuff by Paul has become a nationally known home decor source. (Photos By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Forget Rodeo Drive, Paris, Tysons Corner and those other tired shopping meccas -- there's a serious chain-free shop op just a few miles up Interstate 270: Frederick.

On a recent scouting weekend, I was astonished to find an impressive selection of shops unique to the town -- from shoe and outdoor to antiques and home decor. Sure, you'll find plenty of "Fredneck" T-shirts on the main strip, but overall the small-town shopping is stellar. Plus, the Downtown Frederick Partnership caters to shoppers with monthly events.

I went on the advice of a friend, Traci, who has lived in downtown Frederick for a few years. "It's a really artsy and musical town," she said. "I would have never known it until I moved here." In warm months, there are often parades and such festivals as Mayfest and the Baker Park summer concert series.

Info: Tourism Council of Frederick County, 800-999-3613, http://www.fredericktourism.org/ ; Downtown Frederick Partnership, 301-698-8118, http://www.downtownfrederick.org/ .

-- Melanie D.G. Kaplan

Most of the shops are concentrated in the historic downtown area along Market and Patrick streets, easy to cover in a quick weekend. Here are a few standouts, as well as eating, sleeping and other diversions:

· Always wanted to brew your own but don't have a spare bathtub? The Flying Barrel (103 S. Carroll St., 301-663-4491, http://www.flyingbarrel.com/) gives a taste of home brewing. Get advice on the fly from the staff, or for on-site experience, try the Brew on Premise seminar offered Thursdays through Saturdays for $75. That includes ingredients, bottles and hand-holding for brewing two cases of beer.

· For bold and beautiful limited-edition Adidas and Nike sneakers that you won't find on the feet of every other kid on the block, stop in Social Study (201 N. Market St., 301-695-5671, http://www.socialstudysneakers.com/).

· You may not be mad for vintage, but it's worth a trip to Venus on the Half Shell (151 N. Market St., 301-662-6213) just to see all the other-era clothes and the owner's teasing price tags. "This will be sure to perk up his night," is scrawled on the tag of a vintage cheerleading skirt. Rah-rah-rah-voom!

· Frederick is all about the dogs. Many shops are pooch-friendly (check for a paw sticker on the door), and Two Paws Up! (15 S. Carroll St., 301-668-7704, http://www.2pawsup.biz/) is one of the best pet stores my beagle has visited. Its selection covers bones and bling, beds and baths.

· Looking for stick-on sideburns or a Last Supper lunchbox? CineGraphic Studios (117 N. Market St., 301-228-3620, http://www.cinegraphicstudios.com/) is your place. You can also find Uncle Oinker's Gummy Bacon, a book entirely about Peeps, and a retro photo booth where you can get a strip of pictures for $3.

· Serious decor buyers from across the country have cottoned to Great Stuff by Paul (two locations: 10 N. Carroll St., 301-631-0004; 257 E. Sixth St., 301-631-5340; http://www.greatstuffbypaul.com/), known for quirky, global and always-changing inventory. These vast repositories (52,000 square feet in the two stores) remind me of the old J. Peterman catalogue -- everything has an exotic story. Paul Berkowitz and his buyers hunt down and import thousands of antiques, such as chopstick holders from China, dough bowls from Holland and champagne racks from France.

· What's shopping for art without a free glass of Chablis in your hand? The first Saturday of every month brings the Downtown Frederick Partnership's Gallery Walk (on and around Patrick and Market streets, including Everedy Square and Shab Row, 301-698-8118, http://www.downtownfrederick.org/), when dozens of shops and galleries stay open until 9 p.m.

· If you prefer spookier strolls, follow a costumed guide through city streets and spooky alleys on the 90-minute Candlelight Ghost Tour, held each Saturday from June to November. Tours start at 8:15 p.m. in front of Brewer's Alley Restaurant (124 N. Market St., 301-668-8922, http://www.marylandghosttours.com/) and cost $8 for adults and $4 for children 6 to 12.

BEYOND THE SHOPS

· Shoppers have to eat -- and drink. They can do both well in Frederick. Start out the weekend with Friday happy hour at Isabella's Taverna & Tapas Bar (44 N. Market St., 301-698-8922, http://www.isabellas-tavern.com/), where from 4 to 6:30 p.m. you can get free hors d'oeuvres and half-price sangrias and margaritas at the bar. Locals point to the Tasting Room (101 N. Market St., 240-379-7772, http://www.tastetr.com/) as the town's best restaurant. The menu includes broiled crab cakes, foie gras, lobster chowder and oyster gratin, with entrees from $21 to $38. Reserve early. Closed Sundays. That Cuban Place (TCP) Cafe (300 N. Market St., 301-760-7776) opened last fall, and the colorful family-owned Cuban joint still has a little polishing to do, but for a quick and yummy meal, you can't beat the price (empanada with drink is less than $3). TCP also has Cuban bread, pastries, plantains, rice-and- beans plates and sweet, strong Cuban coffee. Cafe Anglais (238 N. Market St, 301-698-1223) serves English fish and chips, bangers and mash, tea and scones and shepherd's pie. A proper afternoon tea runs $15.95 (call for reservations).

· If you're staying over, you won't find many lodging options in the historic downtown. But there's Hill House Bed & Breakfast (12 W. Third St., 301-682-4111, http://www.itlink.com/hillhouse), an 1870s Victorian with four guest rooms decorated in different antique motifs. Sit-down breakfast, off-street parking and WiFi are included. The only downside: The owners don't take plastic for payment. Rates from $105 to $150. Hollerstown Hill Bed & Breakfast (4 Clarke Pl., 301-228-3630, http://www.hollerstownhill.com/) is a few blocks from downtown, just past the historic campus of the Maryland School for the Deaf. There are four guest rooms, all with TVs and private baths. The owners have collections of dolls and salt-and-pepper shakers displayed throughout the first floor, plus a pool table. Rates from $115 to $125.

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