This holiday season, it’s never been more essential to support the small businesses that splash color on the urban canvas and keep our blocks vibrant. Here are some of our favorite indie merchants in Manhattan and Brooklyn to procure the perfect presents right from home.
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East Village, West Village, Park Slope
More than just card shops, Grace Kang’s delightful bunch of gift boutiques (there’s also a Hudson Valley location, in Cold Spring) have always given New Yorkers an enveloping sense of warmth and whimsy in every possible respect. Whether you’re spreading love with fragranced things, picture books, tea towels, baby clothes, it’s a perfect place to start a cart for everyone on your list.
The cerebral downtown toy shop, known for its array of handcrafted, high-quality playthings sourced from around the world, has uploaded its cast of marionettes and roundhouse-loads of whittled-wood trains just in time for Santa’s sleigh-side pickups (though, per Brooklyn’s own Dr. Anthony Fauci, the man in red has “innate immunity” to COVID). Virtually peruse timeless analog treasures, books, and crafts, along with games and curated stocking stuffers for all ages.
Goods For the Study
Nolita, Greenwich Village
Just because you work remotely doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dress your best. The two-location stationer, part of the McNally Jackson family (whose mainstay bookseller is also online-shoppable), has a handsome array of options for outfitting any home office with the utmost class, from luxe leather folios to hundred-dollar writing implements that put even Uncle Leo’s coveted astronaut pen to shame.
The sassypants ceramics-maker, dishing it out to New Yorkers since 1986, is peddling its latest variety of artfully-kitschy kitchenwares, like borough-themed plates, glasses by modernist painter Charley Harper, and the “interventionware” collecton. While the mix-and-match vintage section is in-store only (it remains open), the online shop does have a limited end-of-season sale with items up to 50% off, if double-walled Old Fashioned glasses emblazoned with James Madison are your cup of sauce.
Lower East Side
Avant-garde gift givers run, not walk, to this trendsetting Orchard Street design shop, which also retails contemporary furniture a block over on Allen. And while nothing beats the IRL experience of scanning high-fashion objects in its glassy, gallery-like space, the online storefront lets you shop by mood — the spectrum ranges from “productive” to “anxious” to “on the sauce” (or as one could say, a “1-to-2020 scale”).
Union Square, Upper West Side
The 12th and Broadway institution, along with its Columbus Ave. counterpart, are back open with abbreviated hours, but you can also shop most of those 18 miles of books online—not to mention New York’s trendiest tote bags. That selection includes both new titles, along with an assortment from the store’s legendary rare-and-collectible offerings. Did we mention the virtual events?
The Evolution Store
Whether you’re in a crunch for jackalope mounts or a meteorites, New York’s go-to parlor of anthropologic delights (which feels like Olde Good Things combined inventory with P.T. Barnum’s Manhattan Mini Storage unit in the Museum of Natural History gift shop) has all the weird gifts for an even weirder year. We’ll pass on the pickled rat specimen, but we know a few homes those good-looking globes and prints would look great in.
The retail offshoot of its eponymous Chelsea Market eatery, BLACKBARN Shop spotlights a well-built assortment of eco-friendly goods to awaken any home’s style and conscience. You’ll find decor, tablewares, and linens, along with miscellanea for kids and pets. Expect plenty of fragranced items—and a reasonable bunch of kitchen gadgets too practical to collect dust.
Upper West Side
Like the motto says, New York is Zabar’s—Zabar’s is New York. The third-generation Upper West Side tradition will ship anything from dry goods gift baskets to the $119 “Lot o’Latke” box (replete with the obligatory homemade apple sauce), with local delivery available anywhere in Manhattan.
Books of Wonder
Upper West Side, Chelsea
Why shop Big Book for little people? The beloved children’s bookseller, a New York tradition celebrating its 40th year in business, offers a full online experience with new inventory, artwork, and its prized used/rare heirlooms, along with all sorts of other gift ideas. Both brick-and-mortar are open for business, too.
Three customers at a time can currently shop the cozy Christopher Street storefront of this 1895-founded coffee and tea importer, with its glass jars of rare coffees and teas and creaking plank floors that probably predate the 1918 pandemic—but you’ll find all the goods for purchase on their site. Pretty savvy for a 125-year-old.
SoHo, Upper West Side
For the plant parents in your life, the family-owned boutique (which also makes a mean turmeric latte at its in-store coffee bar) even offers virtual consultations for all your holiday floral ambitions. Arrangements by occasion, along with everything from terrariums to succulents to scented candles, are just an “Add to Cart” away.
The cozy little shop, hatched in Midtown by author Otto Penzler in 1979, holds claim to being the country’s oldest mystery fiction specialist bookshop — and you can sleuth all its titles for curbside or in-store pickup, six days a week. With 226 pages of soft and hardcovers, along with rare “Sherlockiana” (a thing that exists), the Shopify catalog is practically a novel in itself.
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Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store
Going strong since the early aughts (as in it’s almost old enough to drive), the proudly female-owned shop has always been a go-to for 5th Avenue shopping of a different color, and you better believe 2020 wasn’t slowing them down. Beyond a seemingly bottomless stock of cheeky and tchotchke—think sassy mugs, AOC prayer candles, and a unicorn-forward kid’s section—they’re offering 30-minute private shopping appointments through the holidays, virtually and in-store.
Astoria + Greenpoint
Like a smaller, hipper Harrod’s, the Astoria-born staple, which opened clothing and stationery spinoffs neighboring its original Broadway location before sprouting a second spot in Greenpoint last year, might well qualify as a disassembled, hyper-curated lifestyle department store. You’ll find the full inventory online, from letterpress cards to crafty COVID essentials to all the things to yank the young out from everyone’s hearts.
Front General Store
If your general needs necessitate items like Hasami porcelain plates, socially-conscious glassware, and new old stock Osh Kosh B’gosh bib overalls still clasping their original 70-year-old tags, consider this ruggedly cosmopolitan mercantile your one-stop shop. Browse racks on racks of new and Ralph Lauren-y vintage pieces for your home and person — even if it’s not in person heading out from the Brooklyn Flea when it still went down under the Manhattan Bridge archway.
Retailing its own line of branded, New York-made provisions from knit winter wears to woodsy apothecary items, Upstate Stock draws the tight cultural distance between Brooklyn and the Catskills even closer. While two of its three retail locations closed permanently during the pandemic, the Berry Street flagship, across from McCarren Park, remains open and strong like a lumberjack’s flannel. The online shop, like the brick-and-mortar, mingles proprietary items with just as many products from like-minded makers, from terrazzo travel mugs to rare pantry goods like palo santo bitters.
Fredericks & Mae
Continuing their work to provide a platform for emerging designers, the online store for the partnership of Jolie Mae Signorile and Gabriel Fredericks Cohen (whose own pieces are sold by the likes of Food 52, Urban Outfitters, and the Cooper Hewitt design shop) represents objects from the rotating cast of in-residence talent showcased at their Dean Street gallery. Current featured offerings include Lucy Pelletier ceramics, paper flowers by Ramona Sadiq, and Joseph Algieri’s cacti-like foam fountain lamps, featured at Fernando Mastrangelo’s breakout In Good Company in 2017.
Bitter & Esters
Its doors remain closed for the moment, but the city’s only home brew shop offers online shopping for shipping or curbside pickup, whether you’re new to the beer world or shopping for a serious hop head. Beyond kettles, tanks, and top-shelf ingredients, they retail exclusive beer recipes from Brooklyn’s best breweries, like Other Half, Transmitter, Interboro, and Sixpoint.
Burson & Reynolds
We haven’t spotted their vintage Citroen van (which is often parked in the general vicinity of the Five Leaves Brunch District) handling any deliveries, but the husband-and-wife-run boutique is holding an ecommerce-only course until further notice — the Manhattan Ave. storefront remains closed. Head to their site for a tasteful assemblage of items for the home, body, and soul, with pickups available by appointment.
Books Are Magic
Although it’s been months since an author talk packed the cozy exposed-brick space, the popular neighborhood bookseller will pack your online order for safe, curbside pickup — they’re also open for socially-distant, in-store browsing seven days a week. Last holiday season, the shop raised over $8,000 for the Brooklyn Book Bodega, which seeks to bump the borough’s number of 100+ book-homes for households with kids aged 0-18.
One could say it has a certain ring to it. The jeweler and lifestyle boutique, which has been on Bedford Ave. since underground concerts were still going down in the McCarren Park pool, has over the years garnered a loyal following of tastemakers — not to mention a handful of Vogue shout-outs. Aside from all the gift possibilities, their site even has a “Guides & Musings” sections to help with everything from inspiration to finding the perfect fit.
The bright, wellness-forward design shop on 7th Avenue, which in the “before times” boasted a quirky coffee bar slinging adaptogenic lattes in pinch pot mugs, just rebooted its virtual and (as of 12/1) physical shop with a renewed focus on alternative lifestyle wares that are non-toxic in every possible respect—though we’ll miss noshing vegan orange-cardamom coffee cake on the back deck after a long walk through Prospect Park.