An Outsider's Guide to the Quad Cities

Here’s the first thing you should know: shopping the Shoals is unique and fun. You’re going to find some things here you won’t find anywhere else. The second thing you should know: The Shoals is made up of four different cities that have grown together. Each is different; each is unique. Don’t worry about where the city limits for each might be—that doesn’t matter in the least. But to save confusion, here’s a little description for the Shopper Who Isn’t From Here.

Florence is the largest city, on the north side of the river. It’s also the only city of the four in Lauderdale County. It’s home to the University of North Alabama, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Rosenbaum Home, Wilson Park, and the birthplace of W.C. Handy.

For shoppers, Florence offers great variety. Historic downtown has specialty shops, jewelers, and great clothing stores (including local celebrity Billy Reid’s home store, Jos. A. Bank, and a number of women’s boutiques.) Restaurants and coffee shops are strategically located so you won’t have to go too far or shop too hard without nourishment.

From downtown, head north on Wood Avenue to discover the Seven Points area of north Florence. Named because there were once seven roads that met at the central intersection, you might be a little confused to find that there are only six there today, but don’t let that distract you from the antique stores, jewelry designers, yoga studios and great restaurants in the area. From the intersection itself, go a few blocks north and discover the Seven Points Shopping Center, built in the 1960s but undergoing a renaissance of cool places to explore. Don’t overlook the shops on side streets in the area, including Frolic on north Pine Street and a pottery shop on north Wood called MC’s Hallelujah Hands. There’s a lot to explore in this area! Wood Avenue eventually crosses Cox Creek Parkway, and if you follow this thoroughfare to the east, you’ll find more traditional big box stores (Target, Sam’s Club, WalMart and Regency Square Mall) on your way back to Florence Boulevard. Head south on the Boulevard to Darby Drive, where the Shops of English Village—the Shoals area’s version of Rodeo Drive—offer beautiful things to eat, wear, and decorate with. There are galleries, home decor stores, a florist and women’s boutiques at this popular shopping destination.

The south side of the river is where you’ll find Sheffield, Muscle Shoals and Tuscumbia. This is Colbert County, and you might be tempted to try to keep up with exactly which city you are in, but don’t bother. Even natives get confused; the important thing is that there is shopping to be done!

The antiques lover will enjoy the area immediately south of O’Neal Bridge, at what natives call the “TVA intersection.” There is a cluster of antique and treasure stores in this area, with a little something for everyone. Continue south on Jackson Highway to Second Street and turn right to get to downtown Sheffield, once the largest of the three Colbert County cities. Sheffield is landlocked today and is undergoing a reawakening, but you’ll be able to appreciate the beautiful buildings and historic homes along the main street, Montgomery Avenue. (Be sure to drive north up Montgomery all the way to the river, where the stately homes and huge old oak trees remind you of an elegant bygone day.) Be sure to look for Lola’s Gifts and Flowers, on Montgomery Avenue downtown, and the historic Ritz Theatre, once a silent movie house that is now a performing arts center.

To find Tuscumbia from Sheffield, travel south on Montgomery Avenue across the railroad tracks and bear right on Jackson Highway and follow it around to this historic downtown. Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, the county seat of Colbert County, and this is the oldest of the four towns. Just past the court house, look for upscale dress shops, antiques stores, fabric shops and bookstores that offer contemporary style within historic, renovated walls. And food? There’s great food here, from milkshakes at The Palace Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop to an Italian meal at Frank’s Italian Restaurant or a cup of coffee at Cold Water Books. Grab a cup of that coffee and spend some time in Spring Park, revitalized due to the generosity of natives Harvey and Joyce Ann Robbins.

The newest city of the four, Muscle Shoals, is located to the west of Tuscumbia and Sheffield. Its main roads are Woodward Avenue and Wilson Dam Road, and chances are you entered the Shoals from one of these highways. Muscle Shoals is known for its music, and FAME Studios can be found at one of its major intersections, at Woodward Avenue and Avalon. Shopping in Muscle Shoals happens up and down Avalon, Woodward, Wilson Dam Road and Second Street, and whereas the other cities allow you to park your car and stroll from shop to shop, you’ll spend more time driving from shop to shop in Muscle Shoals. It’s worth it. Women especially love The Village Shoppe, and Table 18, at the Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Club, is a short drive away when you’re ready for lunch.

Muscle Shoals is where the Tennessee Valley Authority got its start, and the TVA Reservation is worth a drive through. If you’re able, try to cross Wilson Dam, which for years had the largest single-lift lock in the world and is still a hydro-electric plant. (Wilson Dam is no longer a major artery across the Tennessee River, so check traffic reports to make sure the dam is open before crossing.) Once you’ve crossed back into Lauderdale County, you’ll see the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa on the banks of the Tennessee River, overlooking the dam, and you’ve come full circle.

Shopping the Shoals is fun and full of surprises. Here’s what we hear, constantly: we have things here no one else has. So many people visit the Shoals, for business, golf, one of our festivals, or just to get away, and shop keepers are accustomed to dealing with the amazement from visitors who are charmed by our shopping areas and the beautiful finds. This is a creative and artistic place, and our shops and products reflect that; whether you love music, art, sculpture, pottery, clothing, or good food, you’re going to find something to talk about in the Shoals. Have fun—and plan to come back. There’s no way you’re going to find it all in one visit!

A NOTE: For even more detailed information about the major shopping areas in the Shoals—downtown Tuscumbia, English Village and Seven Points—look for the feature pages which follow.

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An Outsider's Guide to the Quad Cities

Here’s the first thing you should know: shopping the Shoals is unique and fun. You’re going to find some things here you won’t find anywhere else. The second thing you should know: The Shoals is made up of four different cities that have grown together. Each is different; each is unique.
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Discover Seven Points, Florence

Don’t get bogged down in the fact that there are only six roads that meet at the Seven Points intersection. There used to be seven, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re going to want to park the car and stroll a little—especially if you’re shopping for something unique.
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Discover Downtown Tuscumbia

Of the four cities that make up the Shoals—Tuscumbia, Sheffield, Florence and Muscle Shoals—Tuscumbia is the oldest. The city, which is the county seat for Colbert County, was organized in the 1820s, and some of the beautiful historic structures downtown and the beautiful old homes along Sixth Street reflect this history.
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Discover English Village

If you’re looking for an area with an array of unique, locally owned stores and boutiques look no farther than The Shops of English Village, located on Darby Drive off of Florence Boulevard. English Village has merchants who specialize in unique, upscale clothing, jewelry, art, home décor, and gourmet food. It’s a unique gathering of upscale shops, and it’s a place you’ll want to spend a lot of time!
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