Born and bred in Fort Worth, I've witnessed the city's shopping scene evolve to include a bountiful collection of one-of-a-kind boutiques, shops and galleries over recent years-and the list of locally-owned options keeps growing. Even more, the decades-old storefronts I remember first visiting as a child-from historic boot shops to western wear stores-continue to draw crowds for their emphasis on customer service, and fashionable finds that exude timeless style. Get a head start on holiday shopping, or some much-needed retail therapy, at these Fort Worth stores and boutiques that feature unique gifts, handmade goods, and items to outfit locals and non-locals alike head-to-toe in Fort Worth fashion. Nearby dining and imbibing venues are worth a lengthy pit stop, too.
1. The Best Hat Store
When I walk into this popular Fort Worth Stockyards hat shop, my boots thump along the wooden floor and my eyes are drawn to the neatly arranged rows of cowboy hats hanging from the walls. There are two hat seasons in Fort Worth: felt hat season and straw hat season, and The Best Hat Store has both covered. The expansive shop, piled with tidily stacked, cardboard hatboxes and crisp, new hats ready for custom-shaping, maintains a year-round inventory of more than 4,000 hats. While I love the velvety feel and warmth of felt hats in the winter, sold here in high quality beaver, rabbit or even mink fur, I adore the sleek geometric patterns found on the delicately woven straw hats, which provides cool, breathable coverage from the blazing Texas sun.
A hot spot for true cowboys and city folk alike, along with country music singers and professional rodeo competitors who stop for souvenirs while in town, the store offers custom-shaping, a process involving steam and sculpting by hand. I find myself almost hypnotized when watching the procedure. One of the store's talented staff will gently form your hat to the perfect fit by holding it over hot steam then molding it to size and desired shape. Cleaning and hat repair is also offered, as well as hat "tune-ups," which refresh a hat's original shape. The store is located just steps from Los Vaqueros Stockyards, a longtime Fort Worth restaurant that serves a lengthy menu of Tex-Mex favorites, and Billy Bob's Texas, the world's largest honky tonk and dance hall, where I frequently visit with friends for live music by both local and national acts.
Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
2739 N. Main St., 817-625-6650
2. W Durable Goods
I love W Durable Goods because every product is hand-stitched and handmade using high-quality leather, canvas and vintage fabrics. The attention to quality is evident upon arrival. Leather goods, fine travel gear and gifts are precisely placed on display tables in the dimly-lit, dark wood-floored store, where I can see the production process via a glass window in the back. Owned by husband-and-wife duo Daniel and Stephanie Wright, both Fort Worth natives, W Durable Goods uses 100% vegetable-tanned English bridle leather for everything from belts and wallets to travel clutches and iPad cases, each crafted to stand the test of time. I use my navy blue WDG canvas zipper bag (which is personalized with my initials stamped on a smooth patch of stitched-on leather) daily to carry essentials to the gym and to work, and it still looks as new as the day I bought it at a Fort Worth street festival, years before the brand opened its retail outlet. I remember talking to Daniel about the bag's versatility: it could go from a convenient storage pouch for lip gloss and hand sanitizer to a chic clutch for a dinner out in an instant. Named as a finalist for the 2014 Martha Stewart American Made Awards in the design category, the brand recently outgrew its original location near the Stockyards and moved to a roomy new location in Fort Worth's Cultural District, close to countless restaurants, bars, museums and live music venues.
Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (tentative)
901 Foch St., 925-272-8465
3. Leddy's Ranch at Sundance Square
I often walk by Leddy's Ranch, located in Fort Worth's see-and-be-seen Sundance Square dining and shopping district, just to see what's new behind the store's street-side glass window displays. The well stocked corner store, which sells chic Western clothing, turquoise jewelry, home accessories and gifts, is worth the trip alone for the elaborate and ever-changing merchandising both inside and out. I love to admire the neatly dressed and accessorized mannequins, who stand amid colorful props and décor, such as leather saddles with intricate designs, floral arrangements and shimmery ornaments during the holiday season. Large panels with striking prints serve as beautiful backdrops.
Inside, tables with neatly folded shirts and ties are dispersed among clothing racks, glass jewelry cases and gift displays. I've found trendy, lace-embellished dresses for myself, as well as beaded bracelets that make great gifts. Make plans to spend the day in Sundance Square, where dining and entertainment options abound.
Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday: 12-5 p.m.
410 Houston St., 817-336-0800
4. Fincher's White Front Western Store
The smell of new leather hits my nose upon stepping inside this historic Fort Worth Stockyards Western wear store, which has been in business for more than a century. I see aisle upon aisle of cowboy boots in every color and I feel absolutely giddy. There are styles galore to choose from and because the friendly staff is happy to walk patrons through the boot selection process to determine ideal fit and fashion, it's almost as if I have my own personal shopper. Materials range from cowhide leather to exotic skins like snake, ostrich and alligator, and designs vary from traditional riding boots to newer styles with elaborate stitch work and colorful detail. I also love the shop's selection of colorfully patterned Western shirts and tooled-leather accessories, including ornately designed belts and wallets. Located in a two-story white building with a signature rusted metal-horse perched high above the entrance, the family-owned operation has a strong focus on service, meaning no customer will leave with a pair of poorly fitting boots. Fincher's also features a small bar in the back of the store for those of us, myself included, who wish to wear in their new boots with a cold beer.
Monday-Thursday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday: 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Saturday: 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday: 1-5 p.m.
115 E. Exchange Ave., (817) 624-7302
5. Earth Bones
One of my favorite Fort Worth shops for gift giving (and small splurges on myself), Earth Bones is both quirky and cool thanks to its festive inventory of harebrained gag gifts, comical t-shirts and plenty of items (think magnets, coffee mugs, playing cards and notebooks) that poke fun at pop culture. I always visit for clever greeting cards, but patrons will find stylish shoes, handmade jewelry and multi-hued scarves. On a recent visit, I found a children's book for a friend's child, as well as sequined slippers for my grandma. I always check out the sale rack for trendy tops, too, and almost never leave without a new tank or shirt. Also located in the heart of Sundance Square, Earth Bones is close to all-you-can-eat ribs at Riscky's Barbecue, where I like to sit and sip margaritas from a frosty schooner on the patio, and dozens of craft beers on tap at Flying Saucer, named one of the best bars in America by GQ magazine.
Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday: 12-6 p.m.
308 Main St., 817-332-2662
Fort Worth flourishes with unique shopping venues, especially those with authentic Western influence. Shoppers are sure to find something to treasure long after their shopping trip is done, and end up with Fort Worth memories to cherish.
Shop 'til you drop in Fort Worth.