I first walked into this import store on 4th Avenue between J and K Streets in the Gaslamp Quarters area of downtown San Diego 5 years ago not expecting to buy anything. After all, import stuff are supposed to be expensive, right? Well… I’ve learned to temper my prejudgment on things since then.
This spacious store sells practically a bit of everything… and not all of it is foreign import. There are greeting cards and painting prints to the immediate left when you enter the place. They are more expensive than what you’d find at the local drug or grocery stores, but they are also more imaginative and of better paper quality. Anything from goofy cartoon cards to tasteful Van Gogh prints (the first item I ever bought from here is a 2′ by 3′ laminated print of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night on the Rhone‘ for only $15… It still hangs happily on my bedroom wall!). Deeper along the left side of the store is the bath and bedding sections with a wide selection of soap, bath towels, bed sheets and other accessories. Even wooden bedroom furniture. Most are handmade and very sturdy, the qualities which are reflected on the price tags. Let a woman loose in this part of the store and chances are good that you’ll never make it to that movie or restaurant reservation planned for afterward in time. So… if you come here with a date, take my advise and keep her looking to the right until you get to the food section at the back center!
The back of the store is my favorite area, actually. The left side is occupied by wicker, seagrass and other handmade baskets and containers of various degrees of sturdiness. Most are on the expensive side, but there are always at least some on sale (look for the red tag). Having outgrown my college student years along with the plastic dorm furniture, I am now rather enamored with tree-made stuff. They are plenty durable… and when not, are adorably (to my conscience) biodegradable.
The back center is the food section where you’ll find lots of import sweets and prepackaged foreign food. There are more variety of chocolates here than at supermarkets and the price is surprisingly competitive, too. During the holidays some of them can be had for a real steal; last year there was a basketful of quarter pound chunks of Ghirardelli chocolate for only $3 a slab. You can get away with a lot of things when you have a bunch of those handy while doing mischief! They also have varieties of exotic sauces and seasonings from various world cuisines, and even some prepackaged food. I’m not really keen on the brand selections there (expensive end stuff that aren’t necessarily the tastiest), but it is great to have be able to shop for authentic Emmenthaler cheese or Russian blini mix or the fabulous Thai sweet chilli sauce all in one place. And for the wine-connoisseurs among us, the back right of the store is devoted to a great variety of it…. though there is an issue of the roof not being entirely solid which allowing almost direct sunlight to fall on the liquor everyday. The backwall of the store is also lined with artsy coffee mugs, coffee and tea, and some really good rootbeers. They actually sell individual bottles as well as single ones!
The right side of the store is devoted to furniture and kitchen stuff. Not being a very enthusiastic cook I don’t really visit this area much, though I have bought a few good knifes and silverware from it. Those who enjoy perking up their kitchen with cute apparatus and aprons and other wares would love the place, though. They even have a few foreign cookbooks for sale. The middle part of the store changes over the year since it is really the place for the ‘promotional items’. There are always some pet-friendly stuff there for the dog- and cat- lovers among us, too.
Service here is usually very good though may be occasionally short-staffed. They rightly prioritize manning the cashiers, so if you need help on an item you’ll likely have to wait a bit. When the staff gets to you, though, they are really nice and eager to help. Even when the store is busy, it is rare to have to wait for more than 7 minutes to get through the check out line.
If you are in town and feel like window shopping peacefully, give World Market on Fourth Avenue at J Street a try. The world is practically your neighbor in there.
Cost Plus – World Market: 372 4th Avenue (between J & K St), San Diego, CA 92101. Tel. (619) 236-1737. Website: www.worldmarket.com