Neighborhood Watch: Marblehead


If the Central Perk of Marblehead hangouts is Java Sun (35 Atlantic Ave., 781-631-7788,, with its yellow paint and red couches, nearby Atomic Café (14 School St., 781-631-6464, is the edgy Brooklyn coffeehouse of Gossip Girl. At the former, flavored beans and coconut-chocolate cupcakes keep the regulars happy; at the latter, hipster coffee klatchers linger over maximum-strength joe and bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches.


Window displays including such oddities as a full-size gold suit of armor welcome shoppers to a world of eccentric finds at Piari Luna (33 Atlantic Ave., 781-631-0651). The catchall home store feels like an upscale Anthropologie, with vintage chandeliers and milled French soaps, but call ahead: A recent visit revealed a sign reading “Perfect beach day—couldn’t resist!” on the locked door. Up the road, long-standing décor boutique C’est La Vie (24 Atlantic Ave., 781-639-2468) deals in John Derian alphabet plates, countrified melamine place settings, and soft tees designed by local artists.


At the new Bobbles & Lace (92 Washington St., 781-631-0190), silvery mini shifts and jewel-toned maxi dresses by designers like Collective Concepts go for under $100, while plastic and wooden accessories hover around 20 bucks. Another newcomer, French + Italian (129 Washington St., 781-639-5129,, steers away from the North Shore’s pervasive preppy look and toward a cleaner, European aesthetic with Roberto Collina knitwear, Le Mont St. Michel blouses, and, coming this fall, exclusive “simple with a twist” Anne Willi dresses. Somewhere in between is She (86 Washington St., 781-639-9800), a shabby-chic stalwart stocking eco-friendly organic pants and tops by Trinity and Rebe, as well as handbags by Marblehead’s own Helen E. Riegle.


Gouda-flavored popcorn, spicy artichoke dip, fresh blueberry tea bread…and it’s all free! Well, sort of. At Shubie’s (16 Atlantic Ave., 781-631-0149,, snacking on samples is encouraged. Lunchers can grab and go, or enjoy gourmet bites at the newly debuted “food bar.”


At the hot-pink Babe (7 Pleasant St., 781-639-4900), tweens—and a few small-boned adults—dig the selection of clothing, which includes comfy lounge pants by Hard Tail and Free People, plus stickers and games. Next door, Mud Puddle Toys (One Pleasant St., 781-631-0814, entices tots with sandcastle sets and classic kid-friendly books.


The recently overhauled interior of La Belle Femme (8 Spring St., 781-631-9806, gives the staff ample room to execute sharp haircuts, ultrasonic facials, and hot and cold stone “perfect legs” treatments. The two-floor spa is loaded with premier products by Frédéric Fekkai and Rescue Beauty Lounge. And Jambu (38 Atlantic Ave., 781-639-9600, offers a tightly edited collection of affordable jewelry that’s both conservative (Jamie Joseph gem pendants) and funky (Me & Ro silver bangles).

-Photos by Katharine Navins.