The citizens of Takoma Park are known for their devotion to their city and to their small downtown strip of free-spirited businesses. Many shops have been around for decades, helping to furnish the town’s Victorians and bungalows with global treasures and vintage finds.
But a fresh breeze is rattling more than wind chimes around the area known as the Takoma Park Historic District, which straddles Maryland and a sliver of the Northwest Washington neighborhood called Takoma. The community known for its social activism and nuclear-free zone status is getting a flavor boost. A building boom is bringing new apartments and more retail and restaurants, as well as more customers.
Leading the way is Trohv, an inviting and stylish 8,000-square-foot home furnishings emporium that opened three years ago. It has worked hard to fit in with the small-town feel of this community. In addition to its industrial-vibe furniture, smartphone stands and beer glasses, it sells locally sourced products such as black walnut planks from a felled tree brought in by a local resident.
At Republic, the new Jeff Black restaurant whose name celebrates the area’s moniker “The People’s Republic of Takoma Park,” the reclaimed wood and vintage pieces embrace the quirky neighborhood style. In fact, Molly Allen of restaurant design firm Atreus Works, who helped Black and Takoma Park native chef Danny Wells create the space, says many of the furnishings were locally sourced: The metal lamp shades over the bar were beaded by Cheryl Moody, a designer at S&A Beads; a Moroccan ceiling fixture comes from the Covered Market; vanity hand mirrors are from PollySue’s Vintage; and the orange and green German beer garden tables were unearthed at Trohv. “I was really surprised at what I could find here,” Allen says. “We wanted the restaurant to feel like Takoma Park. The shops around me had so many great things. The people are great, and the neighborhood is fun and comfortable.”
So hop on the Metro and consider an outing to the exotic Republic of Takoma Park. You’ll discover some fascinating products in some surprising shops.
NOW AND THEN (6927 Laurel Ave., Takoma Park) When you enter, you feel like you’re in the official neighborhood gift shop. If any store captures the vibe of the city, it’s this one. Open the door and you’ll hear sylvan music playing and stumble upon a stack of Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks. Manager Elizabeth Brinkama says the place has been around since 1983. You’ll find paintings by local artists and baby gifts made nearby. If you develop a real crush on this town, you’ll want to pick up a tile that’s locally handmade at Sligo Creek Tile, such as the “Takoma Park U.S.A.” model.
TROHV (232 Carroll St. NW) You’ll want to spend some time wandering around, checking out all the hanging tags that wittily describe the wide-ranging assortment of home and gift items you’ll find here. There are repurposed industrial racks and tables, modern upholstery and a collection of artful objects that have been discovered by owner Ben Homola. It’s both cutting-edge and homey and has an emphasis on environmentally conscious design. The original Trohv opened in Baltimore in 2006; when this former Acme grocery became available a few years ago, Homola grabbed it. He says, “We knew this area was on the cusp of growth, and we wanted to be part of the catalyst for change.”
Magic Carpet (6925 Laurel Ave., Takoma Park) Carpets? Not so much. But for decades, shoppers young and old have found magical treasures by poking through this tiny mini-department-store crammed with curiosities from Turkey, Norway, India, Germany and Poland.
S&A Beads (6929 Laurel Ave., Takoma Park) Yes, this is a remarkable bead shop, but there is much more: beaded pillows, wall hangings and jewel boxes. “There has always been a lot of interest in yoga, spirituality and healthy eating in this town,” says Larry Silverman, owner of the shop that opened in 1987. You’ll find house-purifying sage and juniper smudging sticks ($10) alongside African trade beads and silver charms. Favorite find: Magic Eggs ($3), which are opalescent glass eggs that reflect light and glow from your body heat when you pick them up.
The Covered Market (7000-D Carroll Ave., Takoma Park) The jewel-toned mosaic globe lamps from Turkey will lure you in, but you might leave with a tribal kilim rug (starting at $60) or a ceramic house number ($8) decorated with traditional Turkish designs.
PollySue’s Vintage (6915 Laurel Ave. Takoma Park) Strapless taffeta ballgowns and beaded sweaters are the main attraction of PollySue’s, a beautifully organized and arranged shop. But it is also worth checking out a small selection of changing vintage home treasures, which might include a glamorous vanity table, 1950s lamps or old suitcases or trunks you can turn into unique coffee tables.
Republic (6939 Laurel Ave., Takoma Park) is the hot seat in town. Stop by for a Localist cocktail (gin and honey) or some Virginia oysters. Mark’s Kitchen (7006 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park) is a longtime local hangout with lots of tempting Asian and vegan choices. It’s the place to catch up on the local gossip.
Food Truck Fridays: Rotating area food trucks set up shop from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays at two parking lots: Trohv, 232 Carroll Ave. NW and at the municipal parking lot adjacent to TPSS Co-op, 201 Ethan Allen Ave., Takoma Park.
The Takoma Park Farmers Market is held year-round Sundays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Laurel Avenue in downtown Takoma Park.
Take Metro’s Red Line to the Takoma stop.