Though some may lament gentrification and the chain-ification of New York’s retailers, there’s no doubt that independent businesses are still thriving in the Big Apple.
From rare books to specialty tea and handcrafted jewelry made in Brooklyn, New York City’s many shops sell just about everything under the sun. Whether you’re in need of a little retail therapy or want to pick up a one-of-a-kind souvenir, this list will inspire you to pull out your credit card.
Bibliophiles have plenty of great places to shop in New York, but no doubt the king of all the city’s bookstores is the Strand. This Union Square institution has been run by the same family since 1927 and famously has 18 miles of books. From rare leather-bound editions to the latest best sellers, you’ll find whatever you’re looking for here. Elsewhere in the city, there are shops dedicated to art books, rare editions, cookbooks, and children’s books. Don’t miss museum gift shops, which usually have an excellently curated selection.
Model Water Tower Kit
Forget about model airplanes. For a truly New York souvenir, pick up one of the model water tower kits by Boundless Brooklyn, which pay homage to the city’s humble yet ubiquitous water towers. Made from 100% recycled materials, each kit comes with step-by-step instructions. They’re sold at dozens of stores around the city, including the museum shops at the New Museum and the Museum of the City of New York as well as independent boutiques like Word bookshop in Greenpoint.
A favorite of interior designers and anyone with a penchant for vintage, John Derian has been selling handmade decoupage plates, platters, bowls, and other tabletop items since 1989. He has shops in the East Village and Greenwich Village that sell his original creations as well as two shops that sell curated furniture, rugs, and art.
It should come as no surprise that New Yorkers have style in spades. Shop where the cool kids shop and go vintage at the city’s secondhand and vintage stores. Some of the best can be found in Brooklyn. Try Beacon’s Closet, which gets swarmed with hipsters on the weekends or Amarcord, which specializes in high-end designers like Gucci, Prada, Missoni, and Pucci. We love 10 ft. Single by Stella Dallas, which has a massive selection of vintage clothes from the recent past and a huge selection of midcentury cocktail dresses, coats, and clothes for men.
Embrace the “Made in Brooklyn” ethos at one of Williamsburg’s many jewelry shops. Catbird is especially known for its thin, stackable rings, but also makes engagement rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets using ethically sourced diamonds, opals, and other gems. In addition to pieces by its in-house studio, it stocks items by other local designers, too. Mociun is known for design-forward, offbeat jewelry made with diamonds and precious stones.
Locally Made Crafts
For one-of-a-kind creations by local artisans and designers, there’s no better place to shop than Artists & Fleas. Launched in Williamsburg, the multi-merchant marketplace now has three New York locations in Williamsburg, Chelsea Market, and SoHo. You can find everything from clutches printed with cheeky phrases to custom clocks made from old hardcover books.
For vintage vinyl, locals head to Rough Trade’s massive outpost in Williamsburg. This London-based store sells LPs, CDs, and books in a space outfitted with recycled shipping containers. It also hosts concerts, signings, and other events. Check the website for the full schedule.
At the massive semi-enclosed Malcolm Shabazz Market in Harlem, you can find clothes, jewelry, woven baskets, oils, and decorative objects from Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya, and other African countries all together under one roof. It was inspired by the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque, where Malcolm X preached during the 1950s and ‘60s.
Though now you can find its perfumes all over the country, the D.S. & Durga brand started in a Bushwick apartment. Made by a husband-and-wife team, each fragrance is meant to evoke a specific time and place, whether it be the cosmic desert town of Marfa or the heat and spice of Bombay. Get it at the namesake shop in Bed-Stuy or at Barneys New York and other retailers around the city. For those interested in creating their own scent, The Fragrance Shop has a range of customizable oils and perfumes.
This little jewel box of a shop in Greenpoint is as much a pleasure to visit for its design as for its specialty teas. Bellocq sources matcha and rare teas from the Himalayas, as well as more standard black, green, white, and herbal teas from India, China, and Japan. Packaged in beautiful yellow canisters, the teas make excellent gifts.