Where to Buy Artisanal Toothpicks, Toothbrushes and More Precious Goods

Seattle is awash in painfully precious products— why are they so appealing?
Brangien Davis  |   April 2014   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
e smith mercantile stores around seattle to buy artisanal products seattle mag

These birch wood toothpicks, $7.50, are soaked in 20-year-old Scotch from a 200-year-old distillery

Consider the toothpick: A sliver of wood used to liberate stubborn foodstuffs from between one’s teeth. It’s been pretty much the same design since Neanderthal times, but the current Northwest mania for all things artisanal has raised this common object to lofty status. The so-called “worthy and fulsome” toothpicks produced by Toronto company Daneson, for example, are packed by the baker’s dozen in a darling sepia-toned glass vial with a cork stopper ($7.50). Discerning food dislodgers can choose between such flavors as Salted Birch, Lemon with Herbs and Single Malt No. 16, the last of which is created by soaking the picks in barrel-aged Islay Scotch from a 200-year-old distillery, then kiln drying them for a flavor that is “unhurried.” Depending on your tolerance for such straight-outta-Portlandia antics these toothpicks and their elaborate backstory will either cause you to think, “How cool!” or to use them to gouge out your own eyes.

bamboo toothbrushes

waxed canvas aprons

For better or worse, I often find myself on the “how cool” end of the spectrum. I’ll admit to a certain thrill when in February, Daneson released a new Bourbon flavored pick ($9–$12), though I roll my eyes even as I fork over my debit card at Pioneer Square’s E. Smith Mercantile(esmithmercantile.com), one of several new Seattle shops that traffic in such appealing if overly precious cargo. See also: Glasswing (glasswingshop.com) on Capitol Hill, where among the chic dresses, on-trend terrariums and expensive vintage agricultural work clothes you can find dubious (but nice!) necessities by NYC-based Izola, maker of “whimsical objects inspired by old world utilitarian ideals.” Perhaps I’ve seen too many Wes Anderson movies, but Izola’s “year’s supply” of four bamboo toothbrushes ($13) marked “Jan-Feb-Mar,” “Apr-May-June,” and so on, actually seems like a cute idea, as does Sideshow Press’s set of six letterpress wood veneer postcards ($18), urging you to “dream your great tomorrow.” If your great tomorrow involves acquiring an adorably retro and hugely clunky extension cord ($70, by Conway Electric), ride your squeaky old Schwinn bike to Hammer & Awl (hammerandawl.com) in Madrona, a shop that also carries those excessively rugged yet undeniably sexy waxed canvas aprons by local outfit Hardmill ($235). Who knows how long this longing for Luddite goods will last, but at the moment the city offers plenty of ways to escape our high-tech reality and hunker down—perhaps inside a single pole canvas tent (by Scout Seattle, $982 at Glasswing)—and chew on the unhurried pleasures of a bourbon-soaked toothpick.

retro extension cord

wooden postcards

Still can’t get enough of the artisanal preciousness? Check out this video from the Pioneer Square Pantry.