Are you already strategizing the best way to beat the crowds in department stores while holiday shopping this year? The good news is, you don’t have to.
When most people think of shopping in Manhattan, visions of Bloomingdale’s iconic black and white checkerboard floor or Macy’s historic wooden escalators come to mind. And while historic institutions like flagship department stores are a vital part of the cutting-edge retail experience that makes Gotham a shopping mecca, they’re massive size makes them cities unto themselves. Think about it, the shoe department at Saks Fifth Avenue is so big that in 2007 the U.S. Postal Service granted it its own zip code.
If you really want to give a gift that captures the essence of what makes New York special, take a trip into the neighborhoods. There you’ll find scores of small independently owned shops, each one as unique as a piece of artwork. On that subject, when you’re in Manhattan, you’re never more than a five-minute walk to a world-class cultural institution with a world-class gift shop. Consider putting one of those on your gift-shopping crawl. You’ll get a gift and support the arts at the same time. Who doesn’t love multitasking?
Here’s a list of our favorites in Manhattan by neighborhood.
The West Village
15 Christopher Street (between Waverly Place and Sixth Avenue)
Proud producers and purveyors of “paper goodness and lust-worthy gifts,” Greenwich Letterpress is a woman-owned business founded by sisters and third-generation printers Amy Salvini Swanson and Beth Salvini. Specialists in custom letterpress invitations and stationery, the West Village shop carries a unique stock of greeting cards, letter sets, notebooks, and other sundry gift items.
The East Village
6 East Second Street (between Second Avenue and the Bowery)
Looking for a gift that’s been seen on the pages of Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Bon Appétit? Stop by John Derian Company in the East Village. Decoupage is handmade in Derian’s New York studio by a small staff of artisans. In addition to John’s creations, the shop has an ever-changing assortment of imports, linens, stationery, plate-ware, lighting and original artwork.
26 Mott Street
Step into New York City history at the oldest operating store in New York’s Chinatown. Originally founded as a general store that sold products ranging from dried fish to canned goods, today Wing on Wo & Co specializes in fine porcelain ware and cultural goods that reinterprets Asian tradition through an American lens with an array of accessories and table top items.
75 Ninth Avenue
Got a foodie on your holiday gift list? With a wide assortment of specialty foods and distinctive gift items, Chelsea Market Baskets is the perfect place to get everything from a major holiday gift basket to a last-minute hostess gift.
230 Mulberry Street (between Prince and Spring Street)
Inspired by the innocence of childhood, Little Moony carries its own brand of clothing for infants, toddlers, and tots by designer Thuy Diep and handmade by her mother. These original togs are always special, never boring, and made to last. While you’re there, take a trip in the back to the “speakeasy book shop” tucked away in a quiet corner.
445 Park Avenue (between 56th and 57th Streets)
A destination for quality antique and estate jewelry, silver, glassware, enamel and other interesting and unusual pieces for over 40 years. Collections include “pre-loved” items by Tiffany, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Buccellati, David Webb, Chanel, and Bulgari.
While you’re in the neighborhood, consider stopping by the Museum of Modern Art Gift Shop and Design Store (11 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Aves) or the Transit Museum Gallery and Store (Grand Central Terminal).
353 West 47th (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues)
Located a few blocks away from the bright lights of Broadway, this delightfully outrageous gift shop was founded by a trio of former musical theater pros. Stop in for the perfect item that says “classy and kitsch,” and then get lost in New York’s best selection of greeting cards.
445 West 49th Street (between Ninth and Tenth Avenues)
You’ll feel like you stumbled into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s attic in this out-of-the-way throwback haberdashery. With its impeccably curated collection of ties, bow ties, cummerbunds, handkerchiefs, scarves, tie bars, cufflinks, collar bars, watch straps, money clips, and suspenders, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to buy your first pair of sock garters.
Upper East Side
220 East 78th Street (between Third and Second Avenues)
If you have someone in recovery in your life, there’s no better way to show your love, support, and encouragement than an AA or NA medallion. Perfect for shopping for sponsors, sponsees, friends, families, and loved ones, this shop carries a wide variety of inspirational items at all levels of bling.
While you’re in the neighborhood, consider stopping by the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift Shop (11 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Aves), the Cooper Hewitt Museum Gift Shop (Fifth Avenue at 91st Street), or the gift shop at The Museum of the City of New York (1220 Fifth Ave at 103).
Upper West Side
488 Amsterdam Ave (between West 83rd and 84th Street)
A whimsical selection of stylish, thoughtfully selected gifts, including home décor, jewelry, accessories, stationery, and toys–many of which are locally made or designed; constructed from recycled, sustainable materials; or handcrafted by fair trade cooperatives from around the world.
While you’re in the neighborhood, if you have a music lover on your holiday list, stop by the gift shop at the Metropolitan Opera (in Lincoln Center), or delight a little dinosaur lover with something from the American Museum of Natural History gift shop (200 Central Park West at 81st Street).