Philadelphia  is home to Antique Row, Fabric Row, and Jewelers’ Row, offering endless selections and a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. And like most things in Philly, each row has its own long and unique history.
The tree-lined stretch of Pine Street concentrated between 9th and Broad Streets is a treasure trove of antiques stores and boutiques known as Antique Row. The oldest continuously operating antiques district in the entire country has continually evolved. While there are at least 15 antiques stores to choose from today, the area is now also home to a wide variety of furniture, home accessories, jewelry, stained glass, clothing, and collectibles representing a diverse mix of the old and the new.
Just steps from one another on Pine Street, shops range from Kohn and Kohn (1112 Pine St., 215/923-0432, www.kohnandkohnantiques.com ), specializing in antique furniture, glass, and collectibles, to Twist (1134 Pine St., 215/925-1242, www.twisthome.com ), filled with vibrant, colorful, ultra-modern housewares and luxurious 600-thread-count linens. Many shops offer both antique and modern items, like Halloween (1329 Pine St., 215/732-7711), an impressive jewelry shop packed tight with vintage and estate pieces, and unique modern and handcrafted gems.
Antique Row is part of the Washington Square West shopping area, with plenty of additional stores along the streets to the north, especially 13th Street — home to everything from books, records, and cosmetics to gay-themed specialty stores.
At the turn of the 20th century, scores of Jewish immigrants settled in the southern outskirts of Center City — now South Philadelphia. The many skilled tailors and seamstresses among them were often forced to take jobs in sweatshops creating fine clothes for the upper class. Many sold goods in pushcarts on several blocks of South 4th Street between South and Catherine Streets; some eventually opened their own shops, and the area became known as Fabric Row. What remains is a vibrant and eclectic (if a bit run-down on the outside) community of fabric shops, along with a sprinkling of clothing and shoe boutiques, a gourmet market, and a café.
While most of the stores appear the same on the outside, locals have their favorites. Those who like to create clothing or home wares love Kincus Fabrics (754 S. 4th St., 215/923-8836), with its vast selection of cotton, spandex, Lycra, rayon, silk, draperies, and faux fur. Marmelstein’s (760 S. 4th St., 215/925-9862) offers the most comprehensive selection of decorative trimmings and drapery hardware in the country. And the basement of Maxie’s Daughter (724 S. 4th St., 215/829-2226) offers a veritable fabric history of Philadelphia, with vintage textiles that haven’t seen the light of day for the better half of a century.
If you don’t work with fabric already, the fabulous finds just may inspire you to sew your own curtains or reupholster that old, comfy chair.
Satisfy all your bling needs on Jewelers’ Row — the oldest and the second-largest (after New York) diamond district in the country. Concentrated on a brick-paved stretch of Sansom Street between 7th and 8th Streets and continuing along 8th Street between Chestnut and Walnut Streets, Jewelers’ Row is home to more than 300 jewelry specialists, retailers, wholesalers, craftsmen, and traders. A staggering variety of diamonds, precious and semiprecious stones, platinum, pearls, watches, and more can be found. And while the sky is the limit on prices, with so much competition in such a small area, discounts are often available.
There are plenty of big-name chain retailers like Robbins Diamonds (801 Walnut St., 215/925-1877) and Steven Singer Jewelers (739 Walnut St., 215/627-3242), sharing the intersection of 8th and Walnut Streets, along with plenty of smaller stores, like the I. Gansky & Co. (718 Sansom St., 215/922-0505), a wholesaler that opened in 1851.
The row was established as a center for jewelers in the years 1860–1880, but its historical significance dates back even earlier. Originally named Carstairs Row for builder and architect Thomas Carstairs, the row was home to 22 look-alike dwellings built 1799–1820. The first row homes in the country, they provided affordable housing and initiated a widespread housing trend that remains prevalent throughout downtown Philadelphia  today.