The outlets spotlight national chains and well-known designers—think Michael Kors. Yet the beach is also the place where you can still find plenty of independently owned boutiques.
Consider Under the Banyan Tree in Fenwick Island, a companion store to Body Double Swimwear. Owner Nancy Ruppert, who’s owned the swimsuit shop for 25 years, had lots of happy customers when it came to well-fitted bathing apparel. But they often lamented the lack of other clothing. So in 2010 Ruppert opened Under the Banyan Tree, which offers fashionable clothing and accessories for both men and women. Ruppert, who has more than 30 years of retail experience, looked for lines you can’t find in the outlets, such as Yoga Jeans, Mad Gringo and Biondo of Beverly Hills. The shop is open seven days a week, all year long. 1100 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 581-0070
In Rehoboth, C.L.A.D. may be new to the retail scene but the owner is a seasoned pro. Alyssa Titus also owns Azura at 139 Rehoboth Ave. There is no overlap in product, Titus maintains. Azura is “young, fun, hip and trendy,” she says. C.L.A.D.—which stands for “current, love and desire”—is all that but with a sophisticated city chic flair. For instance, the shop offers items from style-makers like Free People, Nally & Millie and Green Dragon. And unlike Azura, C.L.A.D. goes beyond clothing. Nab a candle, a set of martini glasses and a great pair of earrings. Titus has done particularly well selling statement signs. The most popular: Be Bold. 70 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3515, shopclad.com
In case you missed the news, Blooming Boutique has been sowing seeds up and down the coast. Owner Michiko Seto in January moved her Rehoboth location to space next to her old one, doubling its size. A move in Lewes tripled the space of that location. And she also has boutiques in Bethany Beach and Milford. The Jersey native, who started the chain reaction with handbags back in 2006, now offers shoes, clothing and jewelry, including bead-charm bracelets from the major bead-makers. 216B Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-3300; 107 Second St., Lewes, 644-4052; 98 Garfield Parkway, Bethany Beach, 541-4119, bloomingboutique.com
Not all the boutiques are clothing-centric. The Bee-Hive, which in February opened in Fenwick Island, carries products from local vendors, such as Bethany Blues’ sauces, as well as seafood spices, honey, jellies and artwork. The shop also sells a kit that lets you cast your footprint in the sand—and take it home. 300 Coastal Hwy., Unit 12, Fenwick Island, 537-1787