In many places, retail has become big box stores and moved to strip shopping centers and malls. But there are still communities across the United States that have thriving small business districts where local entrepreneurs abound. We’ve identified 50 of the standouts where you’re still likely to find many local businesses to support. We’ve created a guide by state to make it easier to plan to visit.
The Park Street downtown district of this Bay Area city features a historic theater surrounded by shops for everything from antiques and toys to fashion and home furnishings. Like other cities that support small businesses, it also hosts special events to encourage shopping.
Located mainly on Burlingame Avenue, the nearly 500 businesses of Burlingame, California’s downtown district have formed a business improvement coalition. They host promotions and activities to showcase the city’s small shops, restaurants, and other small businesses.
Glendale is the fourth largest city in the Los Angeles area. Its downtown area features a number of independent shops mixed with other types of businesses along the Brand Boulevard corridor.
This small, beachside community is just over one square mile in size, but its downtown area and events like Fiesta Hermosa attract people from all over Southern California as well as tourists visiting the Los Angeles area.
[Image: hbdowntown.com ]
Huntington Beach features a downtown area with more than 12 miles of beach and over 250 different businesses including shopping, dining, and lodging. The business improvement district also hosts events like Miracle on Main Street throughout the Christmas holiday season.
[Image: T’s Toe Ring Gifts ]
Located about 20 minutes outside of downtown Los Angeles, this popular resort destination offers several different retail complexes including a harbor/pier area, a regional mall, and a mix of specialty shops and small businesses in Riviera Village on the city’s south end.
[Image: cityofsantacruz.com ]
There are over 100 one-of-a-kind shops mixed in with bigger names in this city’s downtown area. In addition to shopping, the city is also known for its music scene and a number of special events throughout the year including themed events like Santa’s Scavenger Hunt during the Christmas season.
The downtown business district of this historic town was named one of America’s most romantic main streets by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2011. That’s because the area features a quaint and historic atmosphere that includes small businesses like wedding boutiques, wine tasting rooms, and bed and breakfasts.
This town features nearly 4,000 businesses, many of which are located in its Greenwich Avenue downtown district. The Greenwich Chamber of Commerce also hosts events and other promotions to support the town’s business community.
[Image: Downtown Athens]
Downtown Athens features over 65 specialty retailers mixed with restaurants, art, and other types of businesses to complement the city’s unique culture and thriving music and entertainment scene.
Atlanta’s Midtown area is known for popular attractions like its Botanical Garden, Contemporary Art Center, and multiple theaters. But there’s also a vibrant shopping district with unique stores, galleries, and outdoor recreation.
This Southern destination is home to a historic downtown community with parks, tours, one of the country’s most well-known arts colleges, and a variety of independent shops for everything from unique gifts and fashion and art and antiques.
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The village of Bolingbrook includes nearly 600 businesses that are part of its local Chamber of Commerce. These range from big names to home-based businesses and include shops, restaurants, service providers, and more.
Downtown Evanston promotes all of the shops in its business district with events and programs like its gift card promotion. Shops in Evanston range from one-of-a-kind boutiques to national retailers.
This seaside community located along the North Shore of Massachusetts includes miles of coastline, diverse neighborhoods, and downtown area with plenty of choices for shopping.
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This suburb of Boston is a primarily residential community that also features a unique shopping district, seasonal farmers market, and art scene.
This town features seven different shopping areas. The oldest is Brookline Village, which includes mainly independent shops and restaurants. The most popular shopping area, Coolidge Corner, includes a mix of independent businesses and national chains.
[Image: natickcenter.org ]
Downtown Natick is a historic community that features mainly creative type small businesses like art galleries, craft boutiques, and dance studios.
This community, which is made up of 14 distinct villages, is home to Boston College and two other schools. The largest downtown area is located in the village of Newton Centre and includes mainly upscale shopping options.
Salem is known mainly for its spooky history, but the downtown area of this tourist town features a wide variety of shops, including but not limited to witch themed gift boutiques.
Located just outside of Washington DC, Bethesda is known as a thriving urban environment with plenty of options for shopping and dining. The city’s downtown area is home to more than 520 shops and plenty of events throughout the year.
[Image: wheatonmd.org ]
This downtown area is known for its clean and safe atmosphere, with shopping and other attractions like outdoor gardens, parks, and art associations.
The home of the University of Michigan features a vibrant downtown area with trendy shops, theaters, restaurants, and more. Visitors can find a variety of art, music, vintage items, and more at the city’s independently owned shops.
This upscale community is home to a downtown shopping district that includes not only a selection of unique retailers and dining options, but also special shopping events like its Holiday Market.
[Image: dearbornwestonline.com ]
The west side of Dearborn features a vibrant downtown district along its Michigan Avenue corridor. But the city also has shopping and unique restaurants and other independent businesses in East Dearborn and throughout the rest of the city.
West Michigan’s largest city prides itself on the unique businesses featured in its downtown area, located along the picturesque Grand River. Visitors can find everything from art galleries to one-of-a-kind fashion boutiques to independent bookstores.
Visitors to this suburb of Detroit can enjoy many of the benefits of a larger city but with the charm and appeal of a smaller town. The city has more than 2,400 registered businesses, many of which are located along the Woodward Avenue downtown district that also hosts events and promotions for its small business shops.
This town, located along the Piscataqua River, is a central hub of one of New England’s favorite shopping and tourist areas. The downtown area features classic brick buildings from the early 1800’s that house a variety of unique shops and other destinations.
The small businesses in this historic town vary from small diners and restaurants to unique gift shops and home retailers. The city also features other tourist attractions such as parks and historic landmarks.
Montclair features a number of destinations throughout the city, including the Walnut Street area where visitors can enjoy attractions such as jazz clubs and art galleries, and the South End shopping district, which features small shops and three neighborhood parks.
The Village of Ridgewood is small in size, but it is home to a historic district full of mom-and-pop shops as well as popular nationwide brands.
Downtown Millburn features a diverse blend of shops, theaters, and other attractions. Overall, there are about 500 commercial properties that make up the sophisticated downtown district.
The commercial center of Morristown is full of shoppers and patrons on a daily basis, helping the host of independent merchants and other businesses succeed in the historic city.
The City of Summit and its community and business organization take pride in the downtown community, which features diverse shopping destinations, dining options, and special events.
The business district in this historic city consists of 18 blocks of small business shops and other businesses. The city supports its business by hosting contests, events, and other promotions to make shopping and visiting even more attractive for both residents and tourists.
[Image: Bronxville Chamber of Commerce]
The village of Bronxville is located in the town of Eastchester, just 16 miles from Midtown Manhattan. The downtown area features upscale shopping and special events throughout the entire year.
[Image: Village of Mamaroneck]
This primarily residential community on Long Island Sound is split in two by the Mamaroneck River. It features a small business district that is home to independent shops and restaurants and also hosts special fairs and events to bring visitors and residents out to the downtown area.
[Image: New York Times]
The village of Mineola is located mainly in the Town of North Hempstead. It has a central railroad station, which makes traveling to and from New York City easy, so visitors can take advantage of the smaller businesses located in Mineola.
[Image: Wall Street Journal]
Located in Westchester County, the Village of Mt. Kisco consists of just 3.25 square miles and fewer than 10,000 residents. But the small town is also home to unique small businesses that make it a popular destination.
New Hyde Park
This village is another small town that is relatively close to Manhattan. About 75% of the land is made up of residences, but the village also has an active Chamber of Commerce that supports its small businesses and economy.
Nyack’s Main Street business district is located about 25 miles north of New York City. It includes historic landmarks, antique shops, cafes, and other independent businesses.
Even though Cleveland is one of the larger cities on the list, and features big city attractions like sports stadiums, museums and the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, it also contains more independent and quirky shops than you’ll find in many major U.S. cities. East 4th Street is home to excellent restaurants, including Lola Bistro, the restaurant of Iron Chef Michael Symon.
Located along the southern shore of Lake Erie outside of Cleveland, the city of Westlake features a few different shopping areas including Crocker Park, home to unique shops, brick walkways, and year-round special events.
Downtown Ambler is a social, cultural, and business center that serves the city of Ambler and many of its surrounding communities. The businesses in this district consist of a historic theater, gift shops, restaurants, and more.
This eastern Pennsylvania city known for its rich colonial and industrial history, along with its shopping centers and the small businesses making up its quaint downtown area.
This borough is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania about 27 miles north of Philadelphia. The small town is known for its quaint downtown area, which is home to independent shops, art galleries, antiques, and more.
Pittsburgh is the second largest city in Pennsylvania, and while much of its shopping consists of well-known brands, there are also plenty of small retailers and shops located throughout the city’s downtown district.
Radnor Township is made up of eight separate communities, including Wayne and its popular downtown historic district, anchored by the Wayne train station, a cinema, and plenty of independent shops and other attractions.
This downtown district is known for its historical landmarks and architecture, but also features a wide variety of shopping and restaurants, mixing upscale brands with independent local retailers.
“Keep Austin Weird” is this city’s slogan to promote all of its small businesses, including many located in its downtown district. Music, arts, and gift shops are mixed in with the city’s famous restaurants and entertainment venues.
Wonderful post, hope many those who planning to start afresh, can get the proper ideas as where the small businesses is flourishing. As does it takes some time to get established in a market, but once the establishment done then there is nothing to look back.
It’s about time that we have a post like this. After all, having a business is not only about setting schedules and deadlines and fulfilling them. It should also contain some fun in between.
Wow! Nice list you got here. While skimming the article, I was expecting to see Minnesota’s Mall of America or Albertville. I’ve been there before and both are really awesome. And I really enjoyed shopping on both places.