Main Street in downtown Charlotte Amalie is the original shopping district on the island and it has the most character. Newer additions are the mall at Crown Bay and the shops at the Yacht Haven Grande. On the east end, Red Hook offers offbeat shops in a low-pressure environment.
By far the most talked-about item for sale on St. Thomas is jewelry—from fine name brands to upscale knockoffs. In addition to jewelry you’ll find perfume, name-brand skin care products, sunglasses, handbags, liquor, and crystal. Tucked amid big-name retailers like A.H. Riise, Little Switzerland, and Cartier are unique boutiques that peddle wares ranging from Caribbean coffee to colorful Turkish imports. There is also a growing number of art galleries.
Shopping in Charlotte Amalie
The original St. Thomas shopping experience is found in downtown Charlotte Amalie, where old sugar warehouses and 18th- and 19th-century townhouses have been converted into a bustling shopping district. Cobblestone walks, old stone walls, and classic West Indian architecture add to the enjoyment of being downtown. Don’t miss Royal Dane Mall, Palm Passage, or Hibiscus Alley, narrow alleys that offer ambience in spades.
Main Street is the main artery of Charlotte Amalie’s shopping district. Stores open big double doors to the street, expelling tantalizing breezes of high-powered air-conditioning (not very energy-efficient, but it’s good for sales). Once a fixture of the shopping district, loudmouthed barkers have gone mute, thanks to a law banning them, but the most enterprising entrepreneurs still find ways to badger passersby.
More than the shopkeepers, however, it is your fellow shoppers who steal the show. Cruise ships disgorge visitors of all types and stripes on St. Thomas, and most find themselves here—strolling along a Main Street glutted with taxis and crammed with tourists. Some shoppers appear merely out for a stroll, others have a distinct sense of purpose. For a bargain-hunting shopper or expert haggler, Charlotte Amalie is a trove of opportunity. The best way to haggle is to simply suggest a lower price than what’s posted and begin negotiating. Haggling is most successful at the smaller, family-owned shops. At large name-brand stores, you may receive a small discount.
Most Main Street shops open by 9 a.m. and close between 4 and 5 p.m. These shops cater to tourists, and on days when no cruise ship is in town you’re likely to find most shuttered, especially on Sunday.
It is simply impossible to overlook the major retailers on Main Street. Diamonds International (340/774-1516), Little Switzerland (340/776-4110), Cartier (30 Main St., 284/774-1590), and Cardow Jewelers (340/776-1140) are the biggest names in jewelry. Dozens of other shops specialize in jewelry: Okidanokh Goldcraft (Palm Passage and Royal Dane Mall, 340/775-3060) features unique work by designer Abel Fabri, and H. Stern (32 and 8 Main St., 340/776-1146) features the light, airy designs of Brazil.
Boolchands (340/776-0302) and Royal Caribbean (340/776-4110) have a wide selection of cameras, other electronics, and watches.
Liquor and Perfume
Thanks to the island’s duty-free status, liquor prices on St. Thomas are about half those of the U.S. mainland. Airline rules limiting liquids in carry-on luggage have complicated life for travelers, but shops will pack your purchases in boxes suitable to be checked. (Alternatively, buy your liquor at Caribbean Host (340/776-4000) inside the departure gate at Cyril E. King Airport and carry it on.)
A.H. Riise (37 Main St., 340/776-2303), which was founded in 1838 as the island’s apothecary, is today the biggest name in downtown liquor, but it also sells perfume and a smattering of fine art prints. Dynasty Dazzlers (No. 1 Main St., 340/776-8935) also specializes in liquor and perfume.
For island crafts, visit Native Arts and Crafts (488 Tolbod Gade, 340/777-1153, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–4 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–2 p.m.), a cooperative for local artisans next to Vendor’s Plaza. Here you’ll find locally made lace, dolls, woodwork, decorative arts, and music.
Gallery St. Thomas (Palm Passage, 340/777-6363) features works by dozens of local and regional artists, ranging from contemporary pieces to traditional island scenery. The gallery sells paintings, wood sculpture, ceramics and glass, metal sculpture, and photography, as well as prints and reproductions.
The Jonna White Gallery (A.H. Riise Mall, 340/774-1201) sells colorful graphic prints.
The vibrant paintings and intricate etchings of artist David Hill are available from the David Hill Gallery (Royal Dane Mall, 340/714-4400). Lucinda O’Connell’s abstract watercolors, as well as her charming landscapes inspired by the islands, are featured at Cloud Nine Studio (No. 1 Norre Gade, 340/514-2432), near the St. Thomas synagogue. The artist-in-residence at the Ritz-Carlton, O’Connell also teaches watercolor classes for visitors.
Down Island Traders (Waterfront and 14A Norre Gade, 340/775-7019) stocks an appealing selection of Caribbean arts, crafts, spices, and more.
The rich smell of chocolate draws shoppers into The Belgian Chocolate Factory (A.H. Riise Mall, 340/777-5247), which sells boxes of high-end imported chocolate, as well as hot chocolate, coffee, cookbooks, and other foodrelated items.
Mr. Tablecloth, Inc. (6 Main St., 340/774-4343) is an institution that stocks a dazzling array of tablecloths, placemats, lace, and embroidered accessories, plus nightgowns, baby clothes, and lovely lace parasols, ideal for the St. Thomas sun.
There are more and more shops selling clothes. Cariloha (Grand Galleria, 340/774-5506) has a collection of clothing manufactured from bamboo. Look like you just came back from vacation with clothes from Fresh Produce (A.H. Riise Mall, 340/774-0807), a store stocking tropical-toned sundresses, tops, bathing attire, and accessories. Get shorts, tops, sunglasses, and hats to pull off a surfer look at Billabong (5120 Dronnigens Gade, 340/774-4010, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat.).
Zora of St. Thomas (5040 Norre Gade, 340/774-2559) has been making custom leather sandals for men and women since 1962. Devoted followers swear by the unbeatable comfort of sandals designed especially for your feet. Zora, located across from F.D.R. Park, also sells handmade canvas bags, locally blown glass, and jewelry.
Located at the eastern end of downtown, next to Emancipation Gardens, is an open-air tourist market called Vendor’s Plaza. This is where to come for cheap goods: colorful sarongs, St. Thomas T-shirts, jewelry, and handbags. You can also usually find people offering to plait your hair into dreadlock-like braids. The plaza is “open” on days when a cruise ship is in port but deserted on other days.
Shopping in Crown Bay
Located alongside the Crown Bay cruise ship dock, Crown Bay Center (161 Sub Base, 340/774-2132) is an enclosed mall, with many of the same retailers you will find downtown and at Havensight. There are also small kiosks selling T-shirts and other souvenirs. If Crown Bay is your port of entry, or if it’s raining or otherwise unpleasant outside, this is a good place to shop.
Shopping in Yacht Haven
Lying between downtown and Havensight, Yacht Haven Grande (9100 Port of Sale, 340/774-5030) is a marina and outdoor mall, with restaurants, boutiques, and condos. Catering to well-heeled visitors off of visiting mega-yachts, Yacht Haven has the island’s most upscale shopping. Shops here are generally open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily.
Retailers include Coach, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, bebe, and Bulgaria. At How About Your Pet you can purchase all manner of toys, clothing, and cutesy accessories for your dog, and Kool Kidz sells children’s clothing, including a wide selection of tutus. Bella Vera (340/774-0374) is a small boutique specializing in name-brand women’s clothing from cocktail dresses to jeans.
Shopping in Havensight
Havensight is the outdoor shopping mall next to the West Indian Company cruise ship dock, the main cruise ship dock on St. Thomas. Havensight has a well-worn but comfortable ambience and many of the same retailers as Main Street. Shops here are generally open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Sunday, but some close without notice if there’s no cruise ship at the dock, especially on Sundays. Dockside Books (Building 6, 340/774-4837) is the island’s best bookstore, with a fine collection of new releases, reference, and local authors.
Shopping in Red Hook and the East End
Red Hook’s American Yacht Harbor offers an alternative to jewelry and perfume stores. Stylish island-style apparel and a wide selection of Crocs, Teva, and other brands of warm-weather footwear are in stock at Keep Left (340/775-9964). For silver jewelry and lightweight linen clothing, stop at Elizabeth Jane’s (340/779-1595). Pirates of Red Hook (340/775-5595) has a fun selection of pirate and nautical-themed gifts as well as exclusive jewelry manufactured from authentic artifacts off historic shipwrecks. For incense, wall hangings, and the island’s most extensive selection of bongs, make your way to Rhiannons (340/779-1877). Surfers and skateboarders can buy equipment (plus clothing to look the part) at Evolution Surf and Skate (340/715-0012), home of the “Red Hook Low Life” T-shirts that are all the rage.
Shopping in Tillet Gardens
Located in Estate Tutu and surrounded by colorful murals, Tillett Gardens (Anna’s Retreat, 340/779-1929) is an arts community named for its founder, silkscreen artist Jim Tillett. Tillett founded the arts center on an old Danish farm in the 1960s. Today, the surrounding area has evolved into a busy shopping district, but Tillett Gardens is still a quiet oasis. It is home to a half dozen artists’ studios and galleries, including Ridvan Studio (340/776-0901), a working clay studio specializing in raku wall sculptures, and FStop (340/626-0666), a photography studio featuring the work of former Virgin Islands Daily News photographer Steve Rockstein, whose contemporary compositions feature scenes from New York and the Virgin Islands. Look for Tillet Gardens opposite Four Winds shopping plaza, near Tutu Mall.
Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Virgin Islands.