Six Quirky Shops to Buy a Keepsake

Hunt for unique souvenirs like a wig in Las Vegas or a pencil in New York City

Granville Island Broom Company, photo by Matt Mendelsohn Photography

One of the best ways to commemorate a trip is with a wonderful souvenir. These boutiques forego tchotchkes emblazoned with the name of the cities they hail from and instead offer unique keepsakes.

Duke of Uke, London

Most Londoners know about this specialty store devoted to ukuleles (though it sells banjos and other string instruments, too). There are new and vintage ukuleles for those who are really keen on learning how to play—and associates are knowledgeable enough to help you pick between tenor ukes and a u-bass. But colourful novelty ukuleles make for fun souvenirs.

Cactus Store, Los Angeles

At this succulent-obsessed Echo Park boutique, every cactus on offer (from US$26 to US$1,600) is hand-chosen by the owners who drive to far-flung farms at the border of Mexico and California if it means they’ll find a unique acquisition. The store focuses on cacti that show off both the age and the harsh climate of its provenance. And, since nature is your supplier, most of these are not available anywhere else and likely won’t be again.

CW Pencil Enterprise, New York

Owner Caroline Weaver’s Lower East Side shop is a treasure trove of well-made writing instruments sourced from national and international companies that have been making pencils for decades. Round-barrel Bugles (25 cents each) from Musgrave, an American brand from the early 1900s, are perfect for daily use, but the antique Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 (about US$75) is a collectible.

CW Pencil Enterprise

CW Pencil Enterprise

Granville Island Broom Company, Vancouver

See how a broom is made using traditional techniques from the 1800s before picking up your own at Granville Island Broom Company. Take note of the surprising variety: there are straightforward flat sweepers as well as design-driven creations featuring sculpted manzanita branch handles, which could set you back as much as $249.

Schein & Schein, San Francisco

The motto here is “no bad maps,” meaning owners Jimmie and Marti Schein are fans of just about every map—from geophysical and oceanography maps to foldable charts. A 1846 Mitchells folding map of Texas, Oregon and California can fetch up to US$15,000, while maps of cities from the 19th century are a budget-friendly US$10.

Serge’s Wigs, Las Vegas

No city worships wigs quite like Vegas does, and Serge’s Wigs is ground zero. The shop sells both natural and synthetic hair in a variety of colours and styles, and you can find hair modelled after today’s trends or after Céline Dion’s. Bonus: staff can cut the hairpiece to your specifications.

Read more from our 2016 Shopping Guide

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