10/29/2010Captain Fitch's Mercantile
Throngs of chattering tourists, families with children grasping outstretched fingers, a smattering of local school groups on field trip; all an exemplification of The Old Town State Historic Park. Yet, step through the heavy wooden doors of Captain Fitch's Mercantile and all distinguishing factors fade. The air is thick with an intoxicating aroma of sassafras teas, the softly lit room casting delicate shadows across a substantial collection of books as contemplative patrons peruse the glass encased showcases of historical replicas. A quiet respite from the clamor of the parks everyday activities. Visiting Captain Fitch's Mercantile is a welcome rest from the outside world, yet it inexplicably feels as if you have stepped away from all your present concerns towards the embrace of a romanticized past. Employees in long flowing dresses and vintage prints guide patrons to their item of choice, attire looking as if they were shop-keepers in some dusty historical volume. An extensive collection of period tea service sets line the walls throughout the store along with a variety of teas from around the globe. There seems to be no end to the collection of items from the past, authentic replicas, vintage sheriff's badges, and rows upon rows of paper dolls. Yet, what will most certainly wet your bibliophilic palate is a vast collection of historical and educational books for children and adults, and the largest collection of ghost stories in San Diego.Pam Catania, one of the the owners of this family business, seems to personify a historical volume herself. She will enjoy describing to you how she named the store after a popular San Diego merchant, Captain Fitch, who owned several mercantile stores in Old Town for many years during the mid to late 1800's. Pam says that she has access to copies of Captain Fitches manifests and actually carries many of the same items that his mercantile stocked back in the 1800's. She explains that Captain Fitch's stores carried a wide variety of titles and he was in fact the first merchant to bring non-secular books to San Diego. Pam is a self proclaimed "bookaholic" and she regularly holds book signings at her store with a focus on children's authors. She takes great care to stock an assortment of books for the young reader as well as the old, and she literally carries ghost stories set in every single state in the United States. Her attentiveness to detail, love of local history, and passion about books is certainly represented in the products that Pam carries in her store. So in the end, whatever your need, whether it be a book on ghosts or a good sassafras tea, Captain Fitch's Mercantile is a store that will certainly satisfy your every historical desire.
When you walk into Miranda's Courtyard in Old Town, you can almost guess that the store, like Old Town itself has a history. Miranda's Courtyard, a family owned business specializing in home and garden merchandise, was actually renovated and designed by the owners Don and Susie Cash, with the help of their daughter, Monica Putland, and her husband Randy. Don and Susie purchased the spot back in1992, and it took them four years to renovate and reclaim the house that stood there. The building that used to occupy the spot at the corner of Congress and Twigg Street was an adobe house built in the 1940's by a stone mason. The Cash family requested that the San Diego assessor rate the house at zero, and once this was approved Susie began planning a design for the structure. Based off of Susie's design, Don and Randy both worked tirelessly on the reconstruction of the house in which they replaced the walls, roof, deck, and added over 3000 bricks. The house was not just a reconstruction but also a reformation project as an old redwood fence that the family salvaged from their house was used as a wall behind the counter. The kitchen counter and cash register counter were also built using part of the reprocessed floor. Don and Randy also replaced some parts of the old floor with tiles in several of the rooms and refurbished the remaining areas. Finally, with the San Diego Planning Commission and Old Town Planning Commission's approval, Miranda's Courtyard was born and opened her doors to the public in 1996. After four years of hard work, the shop is now one of the most unique and eye catching spots in Old Town. High adobe walls enclose the structure; its outer edifice completely enveloped in striking purple Bougainvillea, a flowering vine native to South America, Peru, and Argentina. Once you step inside you are immediately welcomed to an expansive courtyard which features a large water fountain. Walk along the outer corners of the house, and you encounter the old rooms; the walls tastefully renovated in rustic cedar. Each room is now completely filled with Mexican art, pottery, pots, wind chimes, and the feature item that sets Miranda's apart from the rest of the stores in Old Town; their wide variety of clay and ceramic suns. There are literally hundreds of designs to choose from. Monica manages and stocks the store, and like it's sister store El Centro Artesano also located in Old Town, each room in the house features merchandise that represents a different theme and locale. So whether you would like to purchase a great ceramic sun, pottery, or wind chimes, or would just like to check out a beautifully renovated house, Miranda's Courtyard is a must see stop on your shopping excursion.
AMAZING! In a brief review I cannot describe how truly wonderful Seaport Oil and Vinegars is. The store is simple yet elegant and immediately “wows” you upon walking in. The staff members are incredibly kind, knowledgeable and helpful with any questions, especially concerning gift pack options and shipping! The oils and vinegars…. Delicious! Aromatic, diverse, tantalizing flavors and colors inspired from around the world, all in one modestly sized store. It’s an unbelievable variety yet in no way is it overwhelming. They encourage you to try samples of whatever you might be interested in, and suggest which oils/vinegars mix well together. I tried at least 15 different oils/vinegars on my visit- my only negative/sad emotion concerning this place is that I wanted them all so badly! I left without buying anything (as I was biking and couldn’t transport them home), but called the next morning to have 9 different oils/vinegars shipped to my home back in Texas. I LOVE this place and will be calling on them for unique gifts (and to spoil myself on occasion)! *I have now tried/used all of the oils I bought. The white truffle oil is amazing, the best truffle oil I’ve found to date. The blackberry is delicious on grilled veggies and the citrus oils are amazing on fish. Enjoy!!! If they have gift certificates (I think they do) this is a great idea for "foodies" on your christmas list