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Best Cleveland Shopping

AOL PICK from our Editors

Cleveland’s downtown has lost out as a shopping destination due to the development of suburban shopping malls. Tower City, The Arcade and Galleria at Erieview have struggled to keep store space rented, particularly since none of them have a large department store to draw people in. Regardless, they’re worth visiting for the architecture and to see what’s in the shops. Cleveland’s historic neighborhoods offer the most eclectic mix of creative, artsy and ethnic shops. Some of the best shops for browsing are actually at the museums.

Big Fun

Neighborhood: Coventry Village

Big Fun is huge fun. This packed-to-the-ceiling-with-stuff store is a trip through gag gifts, toys and novelty candy that span decades. It’s a visual blast that dares you to smile—like the life-sized Spiderman bedecked with a Pink Panther doll, Hawaii leis and a child’s flower-power purse. Or the Dr. Laura action figure that makes statements like “Now go do the right thing.” One of the coolest items is the old photo booth that makes those strips of four pictures. Ever since 1990, Big Fun has been a Coventry destination and was pronounced by Playboy magazine “one of the 20 coolest stores in America.” Parents, don’t worry. This is not that other kind of adult toy store, just a toy store that appeals to kids of all ages.

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Big Fun  

Glass Bubble Project

Neighborhood: Ohio City

To find this glassworks company, look for the building painted in a psychedelic motif. The entrance is in the alley to the back. Inside, artists recycle discarded windshield glass and rusted bits of metal into lamps. That’s not all. They blow glass into vases and bowls, and teach others how to do it. They’re quite happy if you stop by to watch them. Formal demonstrations are from 12-3PM on Saturday, but they’re happy to show you what they do any time but Sunday, when the Glass Bubble Project is closed. Yes, items are for sale, but you can make your own creation. A paperweight class is a couple hours. All you need to do is schedule one. One person can be a class.

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Glass Bubble Project  

Tower City Center

Neighborhood: Downtown

The shops at Tower City, a multi-floored complex, are pretty standard for any large city mall. Unique is The Only Cleveland Store. The eclectic selection taps into the city’s art and memorabilia, and has Cleveland T-shirts of every type. Along with the shopping, Tower City is Cleveland’s local transportation hub. From here you can walk through to The Q, the arena where The Cleveland Cavaliers play. Every RTA train comes here, which makes Tower City a place to begin or end a Cleveland exploration. One of best things about Tower City is that it hosts the 10-day Cleveland International Film Festival each March. The other is it shares a space with Terminal Tower, Cleveland’s historic skyscraper at Public Square.

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Tower City Center  

The Cleveland Auction Company

Neighborhood: Tremont

Step inside the gallery-style store of this auction company in Tremont for a visual feast of oddball to eccentric and hard-to-find, mostly one-of-a-kind vintage items. These are items, mostly from estate sales, that don’t quite fit into the art auction caliber but are too delicious to pass up. Browse for what catches your eye, like the deer antler candle holder, an ornate brooch or that vintage Issey Miyake dress. Whether you’re interested in folk art, fine art or finely crafted period furniture, this shop has it all.

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The Cleveland Auction Company  

Mac's Backs Paperbacks

Neighborhood: Coventry Village

Tap into Greater Cleveland’s literary scene and a cornerstone of Coventry at Mac’s Backs Paperbacks. There are three floors of new and used books, including many that are hard to find, and not all of which are actually paperbacks. Mac’s is a neighborhood fixture that’s been at this location for more than 20 years and is Cleveland’s premier place for book discussions, author readings and writing workshops in an intimate venue. Harvey Pekar, author of the autobiographic series of comic books, “American Splendor,” was a regular. Writers who give readings here come from across the United States, as well as the Cleveland area.

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Mac's Backs Paperbacks  
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