Less than 10 miles from Washington, Bethesda, Md., is often perceived as only a well-heeled suburb of the capital. But with around 60,000 residents and a vibrant downtown that spans several blocks, it’s a worthwhile destination in and of itself. Though many stores lining the streets are recognizable chains, the lesser-known retailers here make this mini-metropolis an unexpected shopping gem. These not-so-familiar boutiques sell a variety of goods from wines to clothes and are mostly owned by local entrepreneurs.
High-quality Turkish cotton is the star at this narrow, gray-hued bed and bath store owned by an Istanbul native, Ferzan Jaeger. Though extra-soft sheets and duvets in earthy tones and simple patterns are part of the selection, the real finds are the traditional Turkish towels called peshtemals. Though these towels look and feel like lightweight throws or shawls, they are actually highly absorbent and fast-drying. Ms. Jaeger also carries peshtemal women’s robes which can do double duty as chic bathing suit cover-ups.
Prices from $8. 7123 Bethesda Lane, 301-656-2302, sabunhome.com
Cork & Fork
The proprietor Anna Landragin, a former winemaker from Champagne, France, carries more than 500 labels from small producers around the world. She also has close relationships with the winemakers themselves and regales customers with her deep knowledge of their craft. Her selections always change, so oenophiles are in for a surprise whenever they stop in; there might be a riesling from Tasmania one week and Patagonian red wines the next.
Prices from $12. 7110 Bethesda Lane, 301-841-7204, corkandfork.co
This trendsetting boutique, part of a mini-chain with three other locations throughout the South, is the go-to shop for a well-edited collection of clothing from both popular brands like Citizens of Humanity and Joie as well as smaller labels like the contemporary Lavender Brown.
Prices from $20.72. 32 Woodmont Avenue, 301-656-1111, shopluna.com
Extra-virgin olive oil from California is the draw of this boutique and tasting room owned by Mary and Bart de Rosa, a husband and wife team from Clarksville, Md., about a half-hour from Bethesda. The highlight of a visit is trying the more than dozen different oils, many of which are organic. Single varietals, made with one kind of olive, include the robust koroneiki, originally from Greece, and the more delicate mission from California itself. Unusual flavored oils are must-samples. Who would have thought tandoori, blood orange and jalapeño olive oils could be so tasty?
Prices from $7. 7249 Woodmont Avenue, 301-652-7006, secolarievoo.com
Started by Tara and Ben Wegdam of Middleburg, Va., who are married, this accessory chain of more than two dozen stores mostly in the D.C. area has a following for affordable and fashionable bags, jewelry, scarves and leather goods for men and women.
Prices from $2. 7126 Bethesda Lane, 301-652-0048