The original St. Thomas shopping experience is found in downtown Charlotte Amalie, where old sugar warehouses and 18th- and 19th-century town houses 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, loud-mouthed 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.
Shops on Main Street
It is simply impossible to overlook the major retailers on Main Street. Diamonds International (340/774-1510), Little Switzerland (340/776-2016), Jewels (340/777-4222), and Cardow Jewelers (340/776-1140) are the biggest names in jewelry. A.H. Riise (340/776-2303) sells liquor and perfume, as well as a smattering of fine art prints and books. Boolchands (340/776-0302) and Royal Caribbean (340/776-4110) have a wide selection of cameras and other electronics. Dozens more shops specialize in jewelry.
There are also shops with more unique goods. 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.), right next to Vendor’s Plaza, is a cooperative for local artisans. Here you’ll find locally made lace,
dolls, woodwork, decorative arts, and music/p>
Down Island Traders (Waterfront and 14A Norre Gade, 340/775-7019) stocks an intriguing selection of Caribbean arts, crafts, spices, and more. Mr. Tablecloth, Inc. (6 Main St., 340/774-4343) sells linen, sheets, placemats, lace, and embroidered accessories.
There are more and more shops selling clothes. Cariloha (Grand Galleria) is a youthful boutique with men’s and women’s clothes, jewelry, sunglasses, and handbags. At Bakery Square, a clutch of shops a block north of Main Street, Sugar specializes in trendy, island-style goods including Betsy Johnson dresses, unique and excellent brand-name beachwear, kids’ clothes, bags, and lingerie. This is a small shop that packs a big punch.
Also at Bakery Square, Foot is a high-end shoe boutique specializing in women’s dress and professional shoes for sizes 8 to 13. For surf- and beachwear and accessories, go to Caribbean Surf Company (Royal Dane Mall, 340/776-4540).
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition