Aug 262011
SoDo could use more bike racks. Meanwhile, lock your bike to a street sign and appreciate the ease of navigating a bike through the construction zone.

I went to shake CP’s hand. We looked at each other. Opening her arms wide, she smiled and said, “Give me a hug.”

“Oh, good, that’s how I felt too!” I responded. We hugged goodbye. Thus ended Bikespedition #2—with a hug from a new friend I’d just met thanks to my bicycle.

How do I credit this to my bike? Well, okay, for starters it was a bikespedition.

But really, it’s because after I thought we’d finished exploring the treasures along Second Avenue and I’d unlocked my bike preparing to head home, I happened to glance south on Bernard and spotted a sign I’d never seen before. An irresistible sign: “Neat Old Stuff.”

Had I been in my car I couldn’t have seen the sign because cars can never park at a corner, whereas I had hitched my bike to a sign pole right at the corner of Second and Bernard. Nor would I have been so quick to change my departure plans and make one more stop.

I know myself as a driver: I’m efficiency-minded and goal-oriented. Once I’m in the car and moving I tend to stay in motion. Stopping is a chore, a hassle, and I don’t like hassles.

SoDo business owners we talked to want to see bike racks installed on 2nd Ave. Until then, you can lock to the railing in front of Lolo Boutique.

A series of errands run in the car? A series of chores. The same series of errands on my bike? A pleasant bike ride with stops along the way.

A sudden decision to check out one more shop on a little side street? Looking for a parking spot is a chore. Looking for another parking spot right after pulling out of one, especially when I’d have to deal with one-way streets? A chore I wouldn’t bother to undertake—in my car. Yet so easy on my bike I didn’t hesitate for a second—just locked it up again to another pole and popped in.

Backing up a bit: Just across the street and down the block from the Spokane Public MarketSun People Dry Goods, and Market Place Wine Bar—the delightful beginning to Bikespedition #2—you’ll find a stretch of boutiques well worth the lingering.

Red chair and red table. Outside Ronan's Door, Spokane, WA
A red furniture ensemble invited us into Ronan's Door at the corner of Second and Bernard.

Ronan’s Door: Brand-new—only opened its doors the week before we stopped by—the shop offers an eclectic mix of antique and upscale furnishings and home décor. Co-owner Martha Cunningham told us the other owner, Wendy Jones-Ross, was off on a buying trip that will stock the shop even more, but there’s already plenty to look at.

SerendipityOwner Jodi Hoffman told us she welcomes bikes into her shop, which offers up cute clothes for you, intriguing décor for home and garden, and greeting cards (I’m always glad to find places to find non-mainstream cards).

We found plenty of cute and comfortable clothing here and had a great time talking bikes and fashion.

Skirts at Serendipity Boutique: Great for biking!

(The shop is for sale, by the way, if you’re interested in running a great shop in a great location.)

Eclectic Gifts: Accessible through a door inside Serendipity that makes the two shops feel like one, this shop holds all the ingredients for you to make gift baskets or they can design and deliver themed baskets for you with names like Tuscany Dinner, Wild Huckleberry Morning, and Pamper Her.

Treat: If you’re looking for cosmetic tattoos you’ll find them here. We didn’t stop; I’ve never wanted to commit quite that much to a particular make-up look since fads are subject to change and I tend to avoid needles unless I’m donating blood, getting a flu shot, or knitting.

Metal wine bottle holders. Eclectic Gifts, Spokane, WA
Eclectic Gifts offers wine, bottle holders, and lots of other goods for the goody basket.

Lolo Boutique: Seriously cute outfits with more bikeable wear, jewelry, shoes, and home and garden items. You’ll want to linger in the tiny courtyard that opens out from the shop and they have lots of great looks in their clothing selection.

Finders Keepers: Well-known must-stop for jewelry, especially if you simply have to find the perfect color of accessories to go with that prom gown or special outfit. The jewelry displays here boggle the mind in their color assortment and sparkle and they always have some kind of sale running. The array of Inlander Best-Of awards on the walls provides evidence of their enduring appeal.

aNeMonE Paper Flowers: We didn’t stop this time around; they’re dealing with a change to their operations as they close their River Park Square location and consolidate everything at this store. Just know that these are beautiful handmade flowers and you’ll want some!

Vintage Hill CellarsWe got a gracious welcome and wonderful education in wine from Paul and Mark George, whose son Cody is one of the founders of the winery.

Sure is handy having all the jewelry sorted by color. Pink and blue finds at Finders Keepers.

We learned the difference between filtered and unfiltered wine (an Old World approach that leaves in more wineskin bits, unlike the clarity that Ernst and Julio Gallo foisted on an unsuspecting America).

Another takeaway—the secret of food/wine pairings. It’s in the seasonings, really, so if you focus on those you can forget red wine/red meat and white wine/fish-chicken and choose wines that go with dominant spices, an approach that works for vegans or vegetarians as well as for omnivores.

I’m heading back for one of their palate training sessions that can help you and your dining partner learn where your wine preferences converge or diverge so you can agree on something to drink together (or decide that you should buy wine by the glass for separate choices).

The seasoned tasting biscuits at Vintage Hill help you understand how different wines bring out the effects of different spices.

Neat Old StuffThat final stop? Behind a locked door and a sign that asks you to ring the bell (just do it!) a wonderland awaits. Lamps glow behind and beside frills and lace, bibelots and whatnots.

Much to my amazement the shop has been at its current location for four years and I’d never once noticed the sign. It’s on a tiny stretch of Bernard between Second and Third and Bernard isn’t a through street in that part of town.

Economic development/transportation policy note: Connectivity and a dense street grid really matter to retail visibility. If I don’t know you’re there I can’t stop and spend. Drivers tend to focus on through routes, not side streets, and thus miss all the good stuff.

The fairyland of vintage wonder behind the locked door on a quiet side street that takes you into Neat Old Stuff, 222 S. Bernard.

Back to Neat Old Stuff—

Turns out owner CP Phare rides a vintage bike to work three days a week; her son and web developer also commute by bike. Riding a bike creates instant connection in a way that ordinary driving simply can’t, and my discovery of a killer pair of silver stilettos deepened the bond.

We discussed everything from her “endless supply of vintage underwear” with real bone stays that draws in burlesque and theater customers and the custom upholstery and furniture restoration services she runs from the shop to the utter adoration my 17-year-old daughter would feel for the abundance of princess-pink items in the shop. Hence that parting hug.

These killer heels now reside in the closet of yours truly awaiting a special event. Neat Old Stuff, you'll see me again soon!

After all that shopping and nibbling, we didn’t even make it to Taste Cafe, Vino, Saunders Cheese, Dutch Bros. Coffee, or the Rocket Bakery on Howard, let alone get a massage at 2nd Avenue Healing Arts, go climbing at Wild Walls, play tag at Laser Quest, or take in a play at Interplayers.

And that isn’t an exhaustive list of the businesses in the neighborhood.

SoDo, you’re so divine. I’ll be back.

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