I'm looking for a way to describe a small shop that sells single items to few customers, such as pieces of art, antiques, etc. Is there any umbrella term for this kind of business?

  • I'll note that there's nothing wrong or non-idiomatic with "small shop" or "little shop" or "tiny shop". (Though "boutique" does carry the implications of up-scale and artsy-fartsy, if that better suits your needs.)
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 25, 2016 at 12:36
  • Possibly carriage trade would be helpful, though not a direct answer. Aug 2, 2019 at 21:06

4 Answers 4


I'd suggest boutique

1.a. A small retail shop that specializes in gifts, fashionable clothes, accessories, or food, for example.

1.b. A small shop located within a large department store or supermarket.

2 A small business offering specialized products and services: an investment boutique; a health-care boutique.

  • 2
    Boutique sounds more like an expensive "specialised" - as your dictionary puts it - shop that would sell to an eccentric or hipster clientele. Aug 25, 2016 at 11:01

To me, a boutique is a shop that specializes selling women's fashions and accessories.

Instead, a shop that sells a little bit of everything; vintage clothes, ornaments, curiosities etc.
I would call a bric-à-brac

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Bric-à-brac or bric-a-brac (origin French), first used in the Victorian era, refers to lesser objets d'art forming collections of curios, such as elaborately decorated teacups and small vases, compositions of feathers or wax flowers under glass domes, decorated eggshells, porcelain figurines, painted miniatures or photographs in stand-up frames, and so on.

  • I would say that bric-à-brac would refer to a car-boot sale nowadays not so much the sort of bohemian art your quotation describes Aug 25, 2016 at 11:52
  • 1
    Boutique certainly does sound like a place to get clothes, at least in Czech Republic where I'm from. No idea how it sounds to native English speakers.
    – Teyras
    Aug 25, 2016 at 12:01
  • In the US "bric-à-brac" is used to refer to the objects on your fireplace mantel, and does not imply a shop of any kind.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 25, 2016 at 12:39
  • In Europe the term is well-known to describe ornaments and shops. en.parisinfo.com/discovering-paris/themed-guides/…
    – user193059
    Aug 25, 2016 at 12:44

I think emporium might cover it in a sort of ironic way.

  • How about kiosk.
    – user23614
    Aug 25, 2016 at 11:35
  • 1
    In the US "emporium" is typically used for a "junk shop".
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 25, 2016 at 12:38
  • @HotLicks Really! In the UK it would seem to describe a well-to-do shop that specialises in art and such things. Aug 25, 2016 at 16:25
  • @BladorthinTheGrey - The use of "emporium" in the sense of "junk shop" may have started when a lot of "general stores" (combo hardware/dry goods/furniture/groceries) in small towns adopted that title to sound fancy. Then, over the years, more specialized (and cleaner!) stores picked away at their trade, leaving them with only "resale" business. After that, the term spread to newer shops in a sense of irony.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 25, 2016 at 22:29

Curio: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curio otherwise known as objet d'art, knick-knacks or Bric-à-brac https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bric-à-brac . Depending on ones point of view about such things a junk-shop might also be another/better word.


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