The Best Shopping Streets & NeighborhoodsGrey Fox and Blue Finnish Raccoon Fur Coat exclusively from Marc Kaufman Furs in NYC
Here’s a rundown of New York’s most interesting shopping scenes, with highlights of each to give you a feel for the neighborhood. If location is not given, refer to the store’s full listing by category in “Shopping A to Z,” later this chapter.
Lower Manhattan & the Financial District
The mother of all discount department stores is Century 21, across the street from the World Trade Center site. New inventory flows in all the time, as do throngs of customers. A little farther north by City Hall is local electronics megamart J&R, with competitive prices on everything from cameras and computers to CDs and software. It’s wise to buy electronics here rather than at the “going-out-of-business” joints in Midtown.
Head to the East River via Fulton Street to visit the South Street Seaport (tel. 212/732-8257; Subway: 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, M, Z to Fulton St.). Familiar names such as Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Coach fill the cobblestone-paved, open-air mall. Cross South Street to visit Pier 17, one of the biggest indoor malls in Manhattan. But don’t let the word “mall” discourage you. While filled with largely nondescript shops and a forgettable food court, this retail-laden locale is worth the trip for the historic ambience and stunning harbor vistas. Be sure to hit the pier’s top outdoor deck for a one-of-a-kind Brooklyn Bridge view. For store directories, visit www.southstreetseaport.com and www.downtownny.com.
Meanwhile, the Financial District has become quite the little high-end haven in recent years. On Wall Street, check out big-name retailers like Tiffany & Co., True Religion Brand Jeans (tel. 212/791-5930), Thomas Pink (tel. 212/514-7683), and Tumi (tel. 212/742-8020), as well as Hermès (tel. 212/759-7585) on Broad Street.
And if you need a magazine, and maybe a rest, head to Borders at 100 Broadway (tel. 212/964-1988; www.borders.com), where you can check out Trinity Churchyard from the window of Dean & Deluca cafe inside.
Don’t expect to find the purchase of a lifetime on Chinatown’s crowded streets, but there’s always quality browsing. The fish and herbal markets along Canal, Mott, Mulberry, and Elizabeth streets are fun for their bustle and exotica. Dispersed among them (especially along Canal), you’ll find a mind-boggling collection of knockoff sunglasses, handbags, fragrances, and watches. It can be a fun browse, but don’t expect quality, or for the seller to make eye contact — and absolutely bargain before busting out your wallet! (Also, skip the bootleg CDs, videos, and software — these are stolen goods, and you will be disappointed with the product.) I’d steer clear of electronics altogether, but if you must buy, at least open the package before you buy to make sure you’re not buying a brick in a name-brand box.
Mott Street, between Pell Street and Chatham Square, has the most interesting of Chinatown’s off-Canal shopping, with antiques and Chinese herb shops sandwiched among the tiny storefronts selling stacks of Chinese dinnerware. Just around the corner, peek into Ting’s Gift Shop (18 Doyer St.; tel. 212/962-1081), one of the oldest operating businesses in Chinatown. Under a vintage pressed-tin ceiling, it sells good-quality Chinese toys, kits, and lanterns. Pearl River on Broadway, while technically in SoHo, also is a can’t-miss for Chinatown souvenir shopping.
The Lower East Side
The bargains aren’t what they used to be in the Historic Orchard Street Shopping District, which basically runs from Houston to Canal along Allen, Orchard, and Ludlow streets, spreading outward along both sides of Delancey Street. Prices on leather bags, shoes, luggage, linens, and fabrics on the bolt are still good; just be aware that the hard sell on Orchard Street can be hard to take. Still, the district is a nice place to discover a part of New York that’s disappearing. Come during the week, since many stores are Jewish-owned and close Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. Sunday tends to be a madhouse.
The artists and other trendsetters who have been turning this neighborhood into a bastion of hip have also added a cutting edge to its shopping scene in recent years. You’ll find a growing — and increasingly upscale — crop of alterna-shops south of Houston and north of Grand Street, between Allen and Clinton streets to the east and west, specializing in up-to-the-minute fashions and edgy club clothes, plus funky retro furnishings, Japanese toys, and other offbeat items. Before you browse, stop in at the Lower East Side Visitor Center, 70 Orchard St., between Broome and Grand streets (tel. 866/224-0206 or 212/226-9010; Subway: F to Delancey St.), for a shopping guide that includes vendors both old-world and new. Or you can preview the list (and score coupons) online at www.lowereastsideny.com.
People love to complain about superfashionable SoHo — it’s become too trendy, too tony, too “Mall of America.” True, J. Crew is one of many big names that supplanted many of the artists’ lofts that used to fill its historic buildings. But SoHo is still one of the best shopping ‘hoods in the city, and few are more fun to browse. The elegant cast-iron architecture, the cobblestone streets, and the distinct rich-artist vibe: SoHo has a look and feel unlike any other Manhattan neighborhood, which is why it’s a city-landmarked district.
SoHo’s shopping grid runs from Broadway west to Sixth Avenue, and Houston Street south to Canal Street. Broadway is the most commercial strip, with such recognizable names as Pottery Barn, Banana Republic, Sephora, and A/X Armani Exchange. H&M, the Swedish department store with cutting-edge fashions sold at low, low prices, has two stores that face one another on Broadway. Bloomingdale’s has a downtown branch on Broadway, while nearby, Prada‘s flagship store is worth visiting for its spacious, almost soothing design alone (by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaus). A definite highlight is the two-story Pearl River Chinese emporium, which offers everything from silk cheongsam (traditional Chinese high-necked dresses) to teaware.
The big names in avant-garde fashion have landed in SoHo, but you’ll also find one-of-a-kind boutiques — like the Hat Shop, 120 Thompson St., between Prince and Spring streets (tel. 212/219-1445), a full-service milliner for women that also features plenty of off-the-rack toppers — plus shoe stores galore and high-end home design and housewares boutiques.
If you’re still hungry for the ultramodern and artistic, stop by the Museum of Modern Art Design Store (81 Spring St; tel. 646/613-1367). The Midtown museum has an enormous shop in SoHo, and it offers the original’s same classic and contemporary artists’ designs, ranging from books to furniture from the museum’s collection. There also are several hot galleries along West Broadway and peppered throughout SoHo. So whether you’re looking to expand your art collection or just see the work of the Next Big Thing, be sure to come to SoHo with plenty of time to wander. You can find a full listing of shops and galleries (most are closed Mon) at www.artseensoho.com.
Not so long ago, Elizabeth Street was a quiet adjunct to Little Italy. Today it’s one of the hottest shopping strips in the neighborhood known as Nolita (North of Little Italy). Elizabeth and neighboring Mott and Mulberry streets are dotted with increasing numbers of shops between Houston Street and the Bowery. It’s an easy walk from the Broadway/Lafayette stop on the F, V line to the neighborhood, as it starts just east of Lafayette Street; you can also take the no. 6 train to Spring Street, or the N, R to Prince Street and walk east from there.
Nolita is the cousin of SoHo — making it cute, and not cheap. Its curb-to-curb boutiques are largely the province of shopkeepers specializing in high-quality fashion-forward products. More and more, it’s become a beacon of niche designs from around the world. Calypso (280 Mott St.; tel. 212/965-0990; www.calypso-celle.com) has evolved into a successful brand of boho-hippie-chic styles for women, children, and babies, with several stores in Nolita. Nearby you’ll find laid-back, military-inspired fashions at Unis (226 Elizabeth St.; tel. 212/431-5533), which are within reach of most wallets.
Nolita is also an accessories bonanza; stop in at Sigerson Morrison (28 Prince St.; tel. 212/219-3893) for chic, colorful women’s shoes and handbags, or Push (240 Mulberry St.; tel. 212/965-9699) for eye-catching, funky jewelry. You’ll find more standouts in the listings in “Shopping A to Z,” later in this chapter, but just cruising the blocks will do the trick.
The East Village
The East Village personifies bohemian hip, though many New Yorkers would argue the area, with its shiny new condos, is gradually being engulfed by gentrification. The easiest subway access is the no. 6 train to Astor Place, which is just a couple blocks east of the prime hunting grounds.
That said, if it’s funky, sassy, and possibly illegal, it’s probably for sale on St. Marks Place, which is the alternative name for 8th Street between Third Avenue and Avenue A. This strip is a permanent street market with countless T-shirt and tattoo parlors and boho jewelry stands. The height of the action is between Second and Third avenues, where used-record collectors can have a field day. If you’re in search of the harder-edge East Village and feel like a walk, head east toward the lettered streets that comprise “Alphabet City” (home turf of the musical “Rent”).
For chi chi stuff, walk on East 9th Street, between Second Avenue and Avenue A, to find an increasingly smart collection of boutiques, clothing and otherwise. Designers like Jill Anderson (331 E. 9th St.; tel. 212/253-1747) and Huminska (315 E. 9th St.; tel. 212/677-3458) stand out for their excellent quality and original fashions for women.
Lafayette Street from SoHo to NoHo
Lafayette Street has a retail character all its own, distinct from the rest of SoHo. It has grown into something of an Antiques Row, especially strong in furniture. Prices are high, but so is quality. The stretch to stroll is between 8th Street to the north and Spring Street to the south. Take the no. 6 train to Astor Place and work your way south, or get off at Spring Street and walk north, or take the F or V to Broadway-Lafayette and you’ll be in the heart of the action. Highlights include Gallery 440, (440 Lafayette St.; tel. 212/979-5800), for vintage 20th-century lighting and furniture pieces from American, French, and Italian designers.
Also stop by Other Music at 15 E. 4th St. (tel. 212/477-8150) to browse their amazing selection of new and used CDs and vinyl records. Let the knowledgeable staff help you find the right new band or album to get you in the local NYC-music mood.
The West Village is great for browsing and gift shopping. Specialty bookstores and record stores, antiques and craft shops, and gourmet food markets dominate. On 8th Street — NYU territory between Broadway and Sixth Avenue — you can find trendy footwear and affordable fashions.
But the biggest shopping boom of late has happened on Bleecker Street west of Sixth Avenue. Between Carmine Street and Seventh Avenue, foodies will delight in the strip of boutique food shops, including Amy’s Bread, Wild Edibles, and Murray’s Cheese. In between are record stores, guitar shops, and a sprinkling of artsy boutiques. On Christopher Street, you’ll find such wonders as Aedes De Venutas, a gorgeous little boutique selling fabulous perfumes and scented candles that are difficult to find in the States, and the Porcelain Room, 13 Christopher St. (tel. 212/367-8206), which is located below street level and offers amazing antique and contemporary porcelains that have to be seen to be believed.
Follow Christopher Street westward, where Bleecker becomes boutique alley, and one jewel box of a shop follows another. Among them: Intermix, Olive & Bette, Ralph Lauren, Lulu Guinness, and Marc Jacobs.
Those who really love to browse should also wander west of Seventh Avenue and along Hudson Street, where charming shops such as House of Cards and Curiosities, 23 Eighth Ave., between Jane and 12th streets (tel. 212/675-6178), the Village’s own funky take on an old-fashioned five-and-ten, are tucked among the brownstones.
Almost overnight it seems, far west Chelsea has been transformed into the Chelsea Art District, where more than 200 galleries have sprouted up in a once-moribund enclave of repair shops and warehouses. The district unofficially stretches between 14th to 29th streets and the West Side Highway and Seventh Avenue, but the high-density area lies between 20th and 26th streets, between Tenth and Eleventh avenues.
The Meatpacking District has also zoomed from quaint to hot (and some say over) in no time, with such big-name designers as Stella McCartney (429 W. 14th St.; tel. 212/255-1556), Christian Louboutin (59 Horatio St.; tel. 212/255-1910), and Alexander McQueen (417 W. 14th St.; tel. 212/645-1797) in residence. Jeffrey New York, an offshoot of the Atlanta department store, has pricey designer clothes, an amazing shoe collection, and the friendliest staff in New York.
Union Square/The Flatiron District
The hottest shopping/eating/hanging-out neighborhood in the city may be Union Square. The long-forlorn south side of the square is now a mega-shopping zone with Whole Foods, Filene’s Basement, and DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse). Just to the right is a Virgin Megastore. On the north side, Barnes & Noble is situated in a beautifully restored 1880 cast-iron building. Of course, the beating heart of Union Square is the 4-days-a-week Greenmarket, the biggest farmers’ market in the city.
On Broadway, just a few blocks north of Union Square, is the amazing shopping emporium ABC Carpet & Home, where the loft-size floors hold brilliantly decadent displays of furniture, housewares, linens (thread counts off the charts), and tchotchkes of all sizes and shapes.
Upscale retailers who have rediscovered the architectural majesty of lower Fifth Avenue include Banana Republic, Victoria’s Secret, and Kenneth Cole. You won’t find much that’s new along here, but it’s a pleasing stretch nonetheless.
When 23rd Street was the epitome of New York uptown fashion more than 100 years ago, the major department stores stretched along Sixth Avenue for about a mile from 14th Street up. These elegant stores stood in huge cast iron buildings that were long ago abandoned and left to rust. Over the past several years, however, the area has become the city’s discount shopping center, with superstores and off-pricers filling up the renovated spaces: Filene’s Basement, TJ Maxx, and Bed Bath & Beyond are all at 620 Sixth Ave., with Old Navy next door.
Herald Square & The Garment District
Herald Square — where 34th Street, Sixth Avenue, and Broadway converge — is dominated by Macy’s, the self-proclaimed “biggest department store in the world.” At Sixth Avenue and 33rd Street is the Manhattan Mall (tel. 212/465-0500; www.manhattanmallny.com), home to affordable national standards like LensCrafters and RadioShack.
A long block over on Seventh Avenue, not much goes on in the grimy, heavily industrial Garment District. This is, however, where you’ll find that quintessential New York experience, the sample sale (the box titled “Additional Sources for Serious Shoppers,” above, points you to upcoming sample sales around the city).
NYC Fur Market
On 29th St. between 7th and 8th ave the NYC Fur Market Thrives. There are many fur stores to choose from, with all kinds of furs and fur accessories. This is wholesale, but they allow retail customers to shop and receive wholesale pricing. If You see The Largest Fur Store in NYC Marc Kaufman Furs / Fur Warehouse, you know you are in the right spot. kaufmanfurs.com
Times Square & The Theater District
You won’t find much in the heart of Times Square to entice the serious shopper, because you can find most of the goods at superstores and malls back home. Among the best is the dazzling Toys “R” Us flagship on Broadway and 44th Street, which even has its own full-scale indoor Ferris wheel.
West 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues is the city’s famous Diamond District.
You’ll also notice a wealth of electronics stores throughout the neighborhood, many suspiciously trumpeting GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sales. These guys have been going out of business since the Stone Age. That’s the bait-and-switch; pretty soon you’ve spent too much money for not enough MP3 player. If you want to check out what they have to offer, go in knowing the going price on that PDA or digital camera you’re interested in. You can make a good deal if you know exactly what the market is, but these guys will be happy to suck you dry given half a chance. It’s better to head downtown to J&R for real bargains — with legit warranties.
Don’t leave the neighborhood just yet. Stop by the Drama Book Shop at 250 W. 40th St. to browse hard-to-find plays in print. They head up Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen (Ninth Ave. to Tenth Ave., btw. 42nd and 57th sts.), home to a wealth of little shops and charming restaurants. One of the more interesting is Scent Elate (313 W. 48th St., btw. Eighth and Ninth aves.; tel. 212/258-3043). Scent Elate stocks scented candles, handmade soaps, specialty incenses, essential oils, an array of products produced by local artists, and the legendary Lampe Berger perfume lamps (one of the few places to find them in the city) all in a bright, cozy little shop. One of the things that places this trove above the scores of other scent emporiums in the city is that the owner, who is almost always on hand, actually selects and tries each product and lends his gregarious manner to helping customers find the scent that’s just right. Prices are reasonable, and this little gem (set farther back from the sidewalk than the surrounding storefronts) should not be missed.
The only thing yummier than the scents at Scent Elate are the cookies at Ruby et Violette (457 W. 50th St., between Ninth and Tenth aves.; tel. 212/582-6720). Stop in and gorge on some of the over 55 utterly divine chocolate-chunk flavors.
If you’ve still got room for a meal, you’re in luck: You’re a stone’s throw from Restaurant Row (46th St. btw. Eighth and Ninth aves.), where you’re sure to be sated, if a bit overwhelmed, by a city block of cuisines from over 11 countries. You might even stop for drinks and a show in one of the many cabaret bars. Find out more at www.restaurantrownyc.com.
Fifth Avenue & 57th Street
The heart of Manhattan retail ranges up Fifth Avenue to 57th Street and across. Tiffany & Co., which has long reigned supreme, sits a stone’s throw from NIKETOWN, the NBA Store, and the huge Louis Vuitton flagship at the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue. In addition, a good number of mainstream retailers, such as Banana Republic, have flagships along Fifth, shifting the breadth of higher-end shopping to Madison Avenue north of 59th Street. You will find a number of big-name, big-ticket designers radiating from the crossroads, including Versace, Chanel, Dior, and Cartier. You’ll also find big-name jewelers here, as well as grand old department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, and Saks Fifth Avenue — all Fifth Avenue mainstays that must at least be browsed, even if your budget won’t allow for more than longing glances at the goods.
Mall with a View — The Shops at Columbus Circle mall, in the Time Warner Center, features not only some of the biggest (and most expensive) names in retail, but it also offers shopping with a view of Central Park. Situated just off the southwest corner of Central Park, the mall is 2 city blocks long and four stories high. But for shoppers who set their sights on such retailers as Williams Sonoma Home, A/X Armani Exchange, Coach, Hugo Boss, Eileen Fisher, Thomas Pink, Borders, and the massive 59,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market, does the picturesque view really matter? For more information and a complete list of stores, check the mall’s website at www.shopsatcolumbus.com, or call tel. 212/823-6300.
Madison Avenue from 57th to 79th streets boasts the most expensive retail real estate in the world. Bring lots of plastic. This ultradeluxe strip — particularly in the high 60s — is home to the most luxurious designer boutiques, with Barneys New York as the anchor.
Don’t be intimidated by the glamour of this shopper’s mile or any of the celebrities you’re likely to bump into. There are affordable treasures to be had, such as the Ginger Flower room spray at Chinese luxury boutique Shanghai Tang (600 Madison Ave.; tel. 212/888-0111) or a pair of crystal cufflinks at the international Lalique boutique at 609 Madison Ave. (tel. 212/355-6550).
Upper West Side
The Upper West Side’s best shopping street is Columbus Avenue. Small shops catering to the neighborhood’s white-collar mix of young hipsters and families line both sides of the pleasant avenue from 66th Street to about 86th Street. Highlights include Maxilla & Mandible — the “world’s first and only osteological store” — for museum-quality natural-science-based gifts and Harry’s Shoes, but you won’t lack for good browsing along here. The Shops at Columbus Circle also offers a world of upscale choices for shopping.
Boutiques also dot Amsterdam Avenue, but main-drag Broadway is most notable for its terrific gourmet edibles at Zabar’s and Fairway markets.
Shopping One-Two-Five Street — It’s official: 125th Street is more vibrant than ever — a true shopping thoroughfare, especially on the blocks between St. Nicholas Avenue and Fifth Avenue. Big chains, such as Old Navy, the Children’s Store, H&M, the Body Shop, Starbucks, and Modell’s, have recently set up franchises on 125th.
Not everyone is happy with this retail gentrification, believing that Harlem might be losing its identity. But sprinkled among the big names are plenty of stores that represent that unique Harlem character. Hip-hop boutiques are mainstays on the street, including Jimmy Jazz, 239 W. 125th St., near Frederick Douglass Boulevard (tel. 212/663-2827), and Jersey Man Cap USA, 112 W. 125th St., between Lenox and Fifth avenues (tel. 212/222-7942), where you can get anything from a Kangol cap to Girbaud Femme. Since 1979, the Harlem Record Shack, at 274 W. 125th St. (tel. 212/866-1600), between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Boulevard, has been selling jazz, gospel, R&B, doo-wop, and hip-hop, the music usually carrying well out into the already loud street. At West African importer African Paradise, 27 W. 125th St., at Lenox Avenue (tel. 212/410-5294), you’ll find all the supplies you’ll need for ancestral worship.
On your shopping tour, you might get hungry — and there is no shortage of places to eat. Skip the usual fast-food options and have a cup of coffee, some fine pie, and even a martini; don’t miss Wimp’s Southern-Style Bakery, 29 W. 125th St., between Fifth and Lenox avenues (tel. 212/410-2296). For a cultural diversion, stop in at the Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 W. 125th St., between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Boulevard (tel. 212/864-4500), which also features an interesting gift shop.
The Outer Boroughs
Brooklyn is a shopping destination in its own right, and some of the best and most interesting things can be found in Park Slope, Williamsburg, Fort Greene, Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights and other neighborhoods. See the box “Take the L Train” for more on Williamsburg.
Park Slope is officially great shopping territory, lined with lots of adorable and diverse independently owned retailers selling unique wares, mostly along Fifth and Seventh avenues (both starting from Flatbush Ave. all the way down to about 15th St.). There’s also the centrally located Atlantic Terminal Mall, should you need to visit Brooklyn’s super-busy Target. Or just use the mall as a marker from which to wander down Atlantic Avenue toward Smith Street in Cobble Hill to browse the abundant antiques shops.
Closer to Manhattan you’ll find the very scenic, cobblestoned DUMBO (that’s Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), with high-end stores in spacious shops, including Jacques Torres Chocolate.
If you’re up for a trek, it’s worth it to find authentic, imported fine Italian delicacies up north in the “real Little Italy” section of the Bronx, home of the Arthur Avenue Retail Market.
Take the L Train — For New Yorkers, the L subway is the primary crosstown/cross-river link to the gritty, hipster (or is it over?) enclave that is Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Years ago, the cool kids getting priced out their East Village apartments migrated via the L to what was then a much more affordable neighborhood, filled with a mix of dilapidated lofts, dive bars, and sidewalk junk sales. You’ll still find all of that in Williamsburg, but now it’s intermingled with indie fashion designers, pricey (but great) second-hand stores, and miscellaneous boutiques, clubs, and restaurants — almost all of which feel like tomorrow’s next-big-thing. Here are some shopping highlights, all reachable via the L train’s first stop in Williamsburg: Bedford Avenue.
Beacon’s Closet, 88 N. 11th St (btw Berry St. and Wythe Ave.; tel. 718/486-0816; www.beaconscloset.com). This converted warehouse is not only Brooklyn’s best vintage clothing, it also just may be New York City’s as well. You can find men’s and a huge selection of women’s clothing here, along with hats, coats, jewelry, belt buckles, and novelties. A smaller Beacon’s is also in Park Slope at 92 Fifth Ave. (tel. 718/230-1630).
Brooklyn Industries, 162 Bedford Ave (at N. 8th St; tel. 718/486-6464; www.brooklynindustries.com). There are various outlets of this quality clothing and sturdy shoulder-bag designer brand in Brooklyn, and a few in Manhattan (in case you needed proof of its coolness). Here’s the place for high-quality hoodies, jackets, T-shirts, dresses, and other wardrobe items sold in hip stores with sexy staffers. The label stands out for being authentically local, using unique fabric patterns, embroidered details, and silkscreen graphics.
Earwax, 218 Bedford Ave (at N. 5th St.; tel. 718/486-3771). If you like to peruse your music in an intimate, eclectic setting, come to Earwax. They also have an impressive collection of new and used CDs, and vinyl for the DJs among you.
Mini Mini Market, 218 Bedford Ave (near N. 6th St.; tel. 718/302-9337; www.miniminimarket.com). The stock is geared for women, especially the inexpensive antique jewelry. The store also features beauty products, hats, bags, and throwback toys. Go around the corner to 160 N. 6th St. to check out their new Shoe Market shop (tel. 718/388-8495).
Noisette, 54 N. 6th St (near Kent St.; tel. 718/388-5188; www.noisettenyc.com). Very feminine and tres français in style, but increasingly less-Brooklyn in price. It’s considered one of the borough’s finest shops.Marc Kaufman (left) with legendary NY Jets quarterback “Broadway Joe” Namat
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