50 Years of ‘Best of Boston’: Shopping

In honor of this year's 50th anniversary of Best of Boston, we’re taking a monthly look back. Up next: Boston's best places to shop.

From the trendiest clothing boutiques to the city’s most elegant jewelry stores—not to mention the top spots to rent the latest blockbuster on VHS (ha!)—Best of Boston has been there for it all. Revisit some notable moments with this scroll down memory lane.

Best Newsstand

Reading International. “Many specialty books, many languages, much fun.”

Photo via Getty Images

Best Smoke Shop

Today, there’s a cannabis dispensary on practically every corner in Boston. But back in the day, smoke shops focused on something quite different. In 1978, the tobacconist of choice was Brookline News, where “lovers of Lady Nicotine will lose their breath over Michael Wilner’s selection of English, Scandinavian, and Algerian pipes, his cigars (Royal Jamaica, H. Upmann, Te-Amo), and his tobacco from all over the world.” Wilner’s advantage over the other “snuffmen” around? His discounted prices.

Best Clothing Store, Trendy

Alan Bilzerian. “Hard to believe they came from Worcester.”

The Copley Place mall. / GBH Archives via Instagram

Best Mall

Apparently, the Copley Place mall wasn’t much different 38 years ago than it is today. “Don’t let the first floor scare you,” our testers wrote. “You can find good buys on the second level.” Today, that translates to Banana Republic and J.Jill up top; Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga down below.

Best Maternity Clothing, Rental

Today, when we want to borrow a dress we’ll never, ever wear again, we simply log on to Rent the Runway’s website. But back in the ’80s, we had From Here to Maternity on Mass. Ave. in Porter Square, where expectant moms could “step out in style in one of two dozen formal dresses—about $50 for three days worth of revelry.” Sounds like a party to us.

Best Shoes, New Store

Before the Montreal-based chain Aldo became one of the most ubiquitous mall shoe stores around, it made its U.S. debut right here on Newbury Street in 1993—and this magazine took note, bestowing a Best of Boston award upon it the very next year. “From pumps for women to rugged boots for men, there is something for every foot,” the editors gushed, “but there’s only one pair per size in most styles, so get there often.”

Photo via Getty Images

Best Video Store

Remember the days when video stores ruled the Earth? We certainly do—especially Hollywood Express in Porter Square. “Searching for an obscure miniseries by Brit playwright Dennis Potter? Or is Japanimation more your taste?” the editors wrote. “You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for those unrated, non-blockbuster, hard-to-find videos.”

Best Swimsuits

More than three years after it shuttered, we’re still reeling from the loss of Lord & Taylor’s Boylston Street store. Among the reasons we were sad to see it go? Its unrivaled collection of swimwear. “While everyone was gushing over its flashier neighbors—the new Barneys, the renovated Saks—underdog Lord & Taylor quietly cornered the city’s bikini market,” we noted in the 2008 Best of Boston issue.

Best Jewelry, Estate

“Don’t let the buzzer-rigged vestibule deter you from exploring the wonders inside this 73-year-old trove. Brodney Antiques & Jewelry offers an array of glittering engagement rings and wedding bands, of course, but we’re also big fans of the small men’s section, which showcases smart pocket watches and reverse crystal cuff links.”

Photo courtesy of Simon Properties/Burlington Mall

Best Shopping Complex, North

“Who says mall are dead? Once a ho-hum suburban shopping center, the overhauled megaplex Burlington Mall now stands out not only for its selection of upscale shops but also its destination-worthy dining and drinking spots. Toasting a new home purchase? A brick-and-mortar Joss & Main store, from local online home-goods purveyor Wayfair, is slated to move in this summer.”

First published in the print edition of the March 2024 issue with the headline, “BOB 50: Shopping.”


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