Bargain shopping on Harwin can be a bit of a chore. With so many clothing, cellphone, car stereo, gift shops, and jewelry / accessories stores to choose from along the ever-evolving two-and-a-half mile fast fashion strip, getting everything on your list can often involve dealing with traffic, stressful U-turns and pull-outs, and occasional parking hassles. Like the old classic rock song says, there are “signs, signs, everywhere a sign,” and on Harwin, a good number of those signs even direct you to shops where you can get signs made.
And once you’ve followed those signs to your destination, you are presented by a new set of kaleidoscopic options: the inventory itself.
“People can get very overwhelmed by going in the larger stores if they’re not used to it,” says Cameron Yoesel, who describes herself as an avid Harwin shopper of many years. “It’s an assault on the senses for sure. So much to see. Fluorescent lighting. I’ve taken friends before and they are like, ‘Just tell me what to get, I don’t know.’”
One way to cope with the sensory shopping overload the entire 2.5-mile the Harwin strip offers is to start out with a sampler-sized portion. Like, for example, the Harwin Central Mart, where bargain-hunters find top-notch examples of almost everything Harwin has to offer, plus an upstairs restaurant, on two stories of flea market-like stalls under one very large roof.
“It’s a great one-stop shop and you don’t have to get in and out of the car — you can typically find what you want in HCM,” says Yoesel. For Yoesel, that list includes fun earrings and scarves, but jewelry most of all. “I make jewelry so I shop at the bead and jewelry supply store called Bead and Bead,” she says. They have real stone beads such as turquoise [and] great prices,” she says. “They also sell supplies such as jewelry needle nose pliers, clamps and such.”
“May’s Beads is not in Harwin Central Mart but it’s another favorite,” she continues. “I don’t know where else in town I’d buy jewelry making supplies if these stores weren’t here. I know of no other resource besides the Gem and Jewelry Show that comes to NRG maybe two times a year.”
Yoesel points out that many of the stalls in Harwin Central Mart are satellite locations of larger mothership stores elsewhere on the street. One such is Southwest Trading, one of many such trading companies on Harwin. “That is my favorite store out there. They have all of the current trends at all times. I’ve seen boutiques come and shop there and jack up the prices for resale.”
Some tips before you go. It’s best to bring cash, and don’t be afraid to haggle. If you are shopping in the late afternoon, it is best to travel the street in an easterly direction, i.e. from Beltway 8 towards the Southwest Freeway. That way, the sun won’t be in your eyes. (If you end up driving in to the setting sun, you will have many opportunities to purchase a pair of cheap sunglasses.) Harwin Central Mart is very near Beltway 8, offering a quick in-and-out experience for shoppers in a time crunch.
While Harwin itself has a limited number of restaurants ranging from Middle Eastern to Mexican to Indian, the shopping strip’s eastern border is in the Hillcroft area / Gandhi District, with its wealth of Indian, Pakistani, Afghan, and Persian restaurants, just to name a few of cuisines on offer in Houston’s most diverse eatery zone.
Harwin Central Mart
Hours: Mon: 10AM-6:30PM