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SAINT MAARTIN GUAVABERRY EMPORIUM
Look for the trio of gingerbread-trim-crowned roofs atop an 18th-century cedar town house on Philipsburg's main shopping street. Once the home of the town governor, it's now a shop run by a pair of colorful local ladies, Claudine Ruan and Deita Mullen. The star attraction is the island's best-known tipple, guavaberry liqueur, made from a tart berry. (Cop a taste before you buy, or knock back a guavaberry colada.) They also sell plenty of other booze, including various rums from elsewhere in the Caribbean, Old Sint Maarten mango liqueur and homemade lime liquor. Barbecue and hot sauces, honey, perfume, logo clothing and some handicrafts round out the selection.
Are you a fan of shiny rocks and metal? Philipsburg is chock-full, and this family-owned downtown veteran (established 1990) near Captain Hodge Wharf is one of the best, with unique pieces handmade at the on-premises workshop. The specialty is diamonds—loose and in settings, classic and colored-but the impressively wide-ranging selection includes emeralds, sapphires, rubies, pearls, tanzanite, you name it. There's a good selection of watches too. Items range in price from less than $100 to as much as the cost of a small car. The shop is happy to tackle customized commissions.
ST. GERAN GALLERY
Dany Ramsami and his artist wife, Patricia, came to Sint Maarten from Paris in 2005, looking for an island paradise to rival Dany's native Mauritius. They set up shop in this 1,300-square-foot downtown Philipsburg gallery, named after a famous 18th-century ship. It's close to the boardwalk and near L'Escargot restaurant (see Eat). These days they handle more than 50 local and international artists, with an inventory of some 200 original works at any given time (including Patricia's own unique clay-on-canvas pieces). Other interesting items you can find here include designer jewelry and handicrafts made from gold plate and enamel stones.
42 Frontstreet, Philipsburg
West Indies Mall, Marigot
13 other locations
Something of an island retail classic, this mostly Dutch-side chain goes back to the 1970s, when Reiner and Lydia Heere's yacht broke up off Antigua and they started a shop tarted up with flotsam from their wreck. Today it's a mini empire with more than a dozen locations, including the airport and various hotels. It stocks a lot of the stuff you may be looking for, including cute (as opposed to cheesy) T-shirts, beachwear, jewelry (colorful clay beads and sterling silver with mother-of-pearl), the Netherlands' traditional Delft Blue ceramics, sundry sauces and spices and handcrafted tchotchkes. This is also the spot for beach reads and toiletries.