can buy almost anything in New York - that's no surprise.
But what always fascinates me is the specialty stores. It
takes a city this size to support a store that sells nothing but
buttons, for instance.
Here are some of
my favorite specialty stores.
Candy Store, on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side, has
a huge variety of old-fashioned candy as well as some good
chocolate. You can buy some of my favorite English candy
New York Cake supplies,
on West 22nd Street near Sixth Avenue. I don't really bake, but
I love this store. It makes me want to bake! They
sell everything from muffin pans to sugar flowers.
M&J Trimming, on Sixth
Avenue (Avenue of the Americas), around 38th Street. This store
sells a huge variety of ribbons, bindings, buttons, beading,
buckles, appliques, bridal headpieces and more. A few
years ago part of their building collapsed (it was old), but
they managed to stay open and expand. It's not cheap, but
they sell great stuff.
Salvaged building materials. I love the
Depot and Schmuck Brothers (yes, that's really their name),
located across the street from each other at 125th Street and
3rd Avenue. If Schmuck Brothers is closed, ask in the Demolition
Depot. An amazing variety of stuff rescued from demolished
buildings - Schmuck Brothers has lots of fireplace mantels and a
floor full of just doors. Look in the garden out back of
the Demolition Depot too, for old wrought-iron gates, etc.
Stained glass lampshades. There's a
store at the corner of the Bowery and Delancy (I think) that has
dozens, maybe hundreds of stained glass lampshades. Their
prices are good, and they're very helpful and knowledgeable.
Say hello to the friendly cat with the stumpy tail if he's still
around. That whole area of the Bowery is the lighting
district - store after store of lamps and chandeliers, at good
|Where I shop
I don't shop in
Bloomingdale's. Sorry. The mirrors give me a headache. I
don't shop in Macy's much, either - it's just too big and
crowded. Though I occasionally hit the sales, and in the spring
I sometimes venture in to see the Macy's flower show. And I
really don't shop in the famous designer stores or high-end
retail stores (except for the occasional gift).
Window-shopping is another story!
I shop in...
They own the trademark "New York's best kept secret," and it's
for a reason. I got
addicted to the store when I worked at the World Trade Center (See
"Memories.") It's just around the corner, on
Cortlandt Street, with
an entrance on Fulton. And even now I make trips down there to
buy clothes, housewares, all kinds of things at great prices.
Crafts Fairs. Lincoln
Center does big (and expensive) ones two or three times a year,
just in time for big holidays. There's
another recurring one nearby, on Columbus Avenue and 81st
Street, behind the Museum of Natural History. Not only are
these fairs a great place to shop - it's also a lot of fun to
wander around and chat with the vendors. They are people
doing something creative, and most of them love what they're
Green markets. The famous one is Union
Square, of course, but there are many others. My favorite
is at the school between 66th and 67th, First Avenue and York.
(Right now the area is undergoing major refurbishing, so it's a
bit of a mess, but the vendors are still there.) That
one's a "Greenflea" market, which means they sell a lot of
jewelry, etc. inside the school. There's another good one
on Columbus Avenue, at about 77th Street, every Sunday. And of course,
there's the famous 6th Avenue flea (not green) market, which
recently moved from the antiques district (6th Avenue and 26th
Street) to Hell's Kitchen, near the Port Authority bus depot.
Paint is one of the greatest art supply stores in the world. It
sells everything, and has recently expanded, opening nearby
stores for crafts, frames and home decor. There are still
a number of hi-fi and electronics stores on Canal Street, though
not as many as there used to be.
Canal Hi-Fi sells
professional equipment, and the mostly Asian-owned stores
scattered up and down the street have some good bargains if you
know exactly what you're looking for. (Make sure you have
guarantees, etc., clearly understood, and be wary of buying
things like batteries - some are fine, but some are knock-offs
with a very short shelf life. I know!)
Lower East Side.
I used to shop on the Lower East Side years ago, for fabric,
back when I used to sew my own clothes. But I, like every
one else, stopped doing that, and many of the fabric stores have
closed. You can still buy designer clothes there at good
prices, though. (Keep in mind that the area is
predominantly Jewish - don't expect to find stores open on
Saturday. Sunday's the day to shop there.) These days, of
course, the neighborhood is newly fashionable, so you'll see
more young people and bars than clothing stores.
Resale/thrift shops and church rummage
sales. I mentioned these to someone who was losing
weight and concerned about investing in "transitional" clothes.
(Unlike me, she didn't have closets and boxes of clothes in
various sizes, from various weight gains and losses!) She
looked aghast. "You mean, clothes someone else has worn?
No, I don't think so." Well, each to his/her own, but I
disagree. I have found some amazing bargains in these
places. I once bought two brand new (labels still on them)
Eileen Fisher silk t-shirts for $5 each in a thrift shop.
Then there was the pair of Italian suede boots in my exact
size and color - rust - for $10. Again, brand new - not a
mark on the sole. The teal suit - jacket and skirt in
different sizes (my exact different sizes) in the twice-yearly
rummage sales at
Xavier church in Greenwich Village. Oh yes, and the Italian
red wool coat (heavenly soft), from a more expensive resale
store - all of $50.
OK, so you pay for cleaning anything you buy.
If you buy from a rummage sale or thrift shop, you pay for the
cleaning. If you buy from a resale store, they've already
had it cleaned, and you pay more for the garment.
Nevertheless, the bargains are amazing.
Window shopping. New
York is the greatest place to go window-shopping. Fifth Avenue,
of course, is what everybody knows, and while Rockefeller
Center, etc., are fun, Fifth Avenue is no match for Madison
Avenue when it comes to window-shopping.
Sooner or later every October, I
take a walk up Madison Avenue after work. There's
something about the cool, crisp air, the clear , bright light of
October, and all those new Fall fashions. I pretend I'm
young and thin, and could actually afford some of the stuff I'm
looking at. In the 60's, I walk past all the fabulous
crystal stores - Baccarat, Steuben, Lalique; in the 70's - lots
and lots of designer clothing showrooms, and in the 80's some
fancy resale stores where I can actually afford to shop.
In the 70s, there's a restaurant
called Sant' Ambroeus - good italian cakes and pastries, and the
best gelato in town. They closed that branch for a while,
but they've re-opened.
And around 69th, there's a store
called Zitomer's. (It also has a branch on 57th Street.) Technically, it's probably considered a
drugstore, but mostly what it sells is makeup and accessories. I
bought one of their hair clips - couldn't believe I paid that
much for a hair clip - and everyone complements me every time I
wear it. This time of year (October), Zitomer's is full of
Halloween stuff - and not your standard costumes!
OK, everybody knows there are no bargains to be found in places like this, right?
Encore is one of the oldest and best-known resale clothing shops (84th Street and Madison Ave.)