Betsy Ross made a statement with original fabric designs. Her spirit lives on a few doors down from her now historical house, in a little shop where women declare their independence from Prada and Vuitton.

Viv Pickle is a bright, youthful place. Pickle art graces its apple-red walls. Christmas ornaments hang year-round from its ceiling pipes. This nook near Penn's Landing has done so well since it opened two years ago that last September its sister store was born in Greenwich Village in New York City. Shopping at Viv Pickle is interactive. You design your own handbag: customers select the fabric, lining, handle and shape; you can even ask for an extra pocket or a zipper if you so choose. You then leave the pickle elves to their work. In four to six weeks, your custom-made handbag is ready for pick-up or delivery. If you can't make it to the store, you can give Viv a call or send her an email.

Viv Pickle's prices are surprisingly reasonable. Handbags range from $25-$65 without accessories. A wallet or a purse costs between $7-15. The finished product is well worth the money: built to last and entirely unique.

How did the name Viv Pickle -- which adorns pickle jars, paintings and handbags all over the store -- come into being? The "Chief Pickle," Susan Murphy, was promoted to Vice President at her previous job. Her co-workers insisted on calling her "Vivacious Pickle" instead of her given nomicker. Now her corporate nickname stands for individuality. Shopping here is about creating a product that screams your name in the face of upscale brands. Betsy would be proud.


All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.