Looking for unique New York shopping experiences
May 3, 2006 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Where are your favorite places to shop in New York City, specifically interesting, unique shops and fabric stores?

I will be in NYC for a conference in early June and I plan on blowing off a day for a shopping trip. I've been to New York before so I'm not looking to hit FAO Schwartz. Instead, I want to visit the coolest boutiques unique to New York. They can sell books, bags, fossils, robots, shoes, it doesn't matter. However, I am looking for personal recommendations. I've found plenty of guides, but they are either too overwhelming or lacking in detail. Sample sale suggestions are also welcome.

Also, I will be making a special trip to the Garment District for fabric shopping. Does anyone know about anything I shouldn't miss? Does anyone have a favorite fabric store? I'm always looking for good graphic prints, vinyl and sweater knit fabric.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Alison to Shopping (26 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Take the subway to Canal Street. Walk about 3 blocks south on Broadway to P&S Fabrics at 355 Broadway. (Don't judge them by their web site.) Shortly after you walk in the door, there's a staircase to your right. Go downstairs where they have an enormous range of tapestry and upholstery fabrics, as well as curtain fabric, canvas, upholstery, felt, naugahyde, you name it. Back upstairs they have cotton, wool, linen, and brocade, plus some taffeta and tulle and novelty fabric. Don't go on Friday afternoon or Saturday when they're closed!

They also have trims and notions and buttons and a decent selection of mid-range yarn and knitting supplies. I head for P&S first, followed by EuropaTex (a block north) whenever I need fabric, and the Garment District only if I can't find what I need at either of those two shops.
posted by hsoltz at 11:15 AM on May 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Check out Laila Rowe for accessories - the actual items look much better in person than on the website. There are a number of NYC locations, and although they have some stores in NJ and DC, it's not a national chain.

Also, try Pearl River Mart on Broadway and Broome - they have some stunning Chinese Brocade, as well as cute ready made clothing, furnishings and housewares.
posted by darsh at 11:20 AM on May 3, 2006

Pearl River is a couple of blocks north of P&S Fabrics recommended by hsoltz. Also check out suggestions from this thread
posted by darsh at 11:29 AM on May 3, 2006

Kam Man Food Co. has a huge, beautiful selection of "sushiware", kitchen ceramics, etc. (Again, don't judge them by their website)
posted by Brian James at 11:41 AM on May 3, 2006

Best answer: I recently discovered the wonderfully quirky Maxilla and Mandible on Columbus and 81st, just around the corner from the Natural History Museum. It was opened by a guy who was a flenser at the museum and is full of odd macabre and natural wonders. Skulls, fossils and other dead things.

There are blocks and blocks of fabric stores in the garment district, but I think many of them are only open on the weekdays.
posted by kimdog at 11:56 AM on May 3, 2006

Habu Textiles on W 29th St carries one-of-a-kind woven fabrics and amazing yarns from Japan (way better in person than they look on the website). Call ahead to make sure they're open. There's no sign at street level - look for the address (it's a drab nondescript building) and go up the elevator to a textile wonderland. Warning: not cheap, but definitely droolworthy.
posted by Quietgal at 12:11 PM on May 3, 2006

Best answer: The Evolution Store just might be one of the cooler shops on the planet. They sell fake skeletons of extinct animals, meteorites, sharks in jars, framed scorpions, insects, anatomical models, and all sorts of other stuff for your basic needs.
posted by Staggering Jack at 12:27 PM on May 3, 2006

A block or two from evolution is Kid Robot. It's a unique little store that sells rare, fun toys.

126 Spring Street
posted by splatta at 12:44 PM on May 3, 2006

Best answer: When I lived on the East Coast I used to look in Martha Stewart Living magazines-- in the back they have their list of suppliers and shops. There are scads of fun baking supply stores, etc., that I found in there. One place I liked for obscure metal things (jewelry findings, chains, etc.) was Metalliferous. I'd highly recommend looking through some MSLiving mags. They have great tips.
posted by orangemiles at 1:20 PM on May 3, 2006

Greenwich Letterpress (website not finished yet). Not fabric, but a small store that sells their own unique notecards and such. Kind of a retro-but-design-sensitive aesthetic. I got my dad a birthday card that doubles as a coaster.

They have keychains made out of shrinky-dinks with pictures of cuts of meat on them, too.
posted by lackutrol at 3:34 PM on May 3, 2006

Best answer: Also, there's a stretch of Greenwich Ave. near 7th Ave. that has some fun stores, like Flight 001 for travel gear and Mytzylplyk (I really can't remember how to spell it), that has design-y bath items, scarves, lights, notebooks, etc. And there's Moss in SoHo, which has sublime and ridiculous industrial design.

I should note that I don't buy much from these places but enjoy browsing them.
posted by lackutrol at 3:43 PM on May 3, 2006

Astro Gallery on 34th & Madison has a huge selection of gemstones, unique and arty jewelry, fossils, and assorted bizarre items. Two levels -- huge store. Last time I was there, they had a coffee table whose top was made of one giant polished slab of fossil-filled rock.
posted by ROTFL at 3:44 PM on May 3, 2006

Oh, and if you're going to Astro Gallery or will be in the area, there's a bookstore on the corner of 35th & Madison that sells only antique / used / rare travel books. Forget the name of it, sorry. But it's worth a visit if you have any interest in the topic.
posted by ROTFL at 3:49 PM on May 3, 2006

For unique shopping, I strongly recommend Brooklyn.

Either 5th Avenue in the Prospect Park area (take the F or R train to the 9th street stop) or the shops around the Bedford Avenue 'L' Train stop in the Williamsburg Brooklyn area.

Both of these areas have a large selection of very unique local businesses, not part of any chain, that you will not find anywhere else.

Have Fun!
posted by extrabox at 5:01 PM on May 3, 2006

Perhaps out of your way, and not unique in a global sense, is Takashimaya's only US store. The corporate website doesn't seem to have an English-language page for the NY store, but here's a link with a bit of basic info. Wander throughout the beautiful building; the objects, packaging, and displays can boggle the most blasé gaijin shopper.
posted by rob511 at 5:11 PM on May 3, 2006

Flight 001 is a cool store on Greenwich Ave (which is full of cute and unique little boutiques) that sells funky and useful stuff for traveling. (I bought an awesome combination flask/cig case there.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:24 PM on May 3, 2006

Aw crap. Lackutrol beat me to it. Well, consider it a second.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:29 PM on May 3, 2006

Odin is a great menswear shop. Great. Tremendous.
posted by zpousman at 5:47 PM on May 3, 2006

Also, there are millions of fabric stores - each with a dizzying array - in the Garment District between 7th and 8th aves in the upper 40s.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:06 PM on May 3, 2006

ABC Carpet. last time I was there they had a full vintage Bedouin tent set up. It is a block or so up Broadway from Union Sq
posted by flummox at 6:20 PM on May 3, 2006

I second the mentions of Maxilla and Mandible, Kid Robot, Pearl River Mart, Flight 001, and Mxyplyzyk (125 Greenwich Ave).

I would also add: Obscura Antiques & Oddities on 263 East 10th Street for antiques, Kim's on St. Mark's (they organize their DVDs by director and have every film under the sun), Marchand de Legumes (252 Elizabeth St., ultra-stylish euro-pop accessories), and Toy Tokyo (121 Second Ave.) for more figurine action.

If you're into gourmet food, stop by the Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven (350 Hudson St.) for a real-life Willy Wonka chocolate factory experience, or Zabar's (80th & Broadway) for a dizzying array of smoked salmon, olives, candy from around the world, coffee, sauces and chutneys and marinades, cheeses, and more.

And while neither the MOMA stores aren't boutiques, they're always worth a visit. There's one in the MOMA, one across the street from the MOMA that deals more in housewares, and one in Soho that's got a little of everything.
posted by kathryn at 8:00 PM on May 3, 2006

If you find yourself in Park Slope (as per extrabox's suggestion), stop by Brooklyn Superhero Supply. It's utterly unique, and great for gifts.
posted by milquetoast at 12:22 AM on May 4, 2006

One more vote and confirmation for Mxyplyzyk, which has been my favorite store in Manhattan for nearly a decade. That whole neighborhood has great shopping, including Flight 001 as mentioned earlier.
posted by werty at 7:22 AM on May 4, 2006

Best answer: I also liked Fish's Eddy and the stores around that neighborhood.
posted by orangemiles at 9:38 AM on May 4, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the suggestions. The conference will be in Brooklyn so I will be separating this into two separate shopping trips. I'm going to try to hit every store in this thread that I haven't been to before and I'll leave feedback after my visit.

Thanks again!
posted by Alison at 12:46 PM on May 4, 2006

Response by poster: I managed to get to every shop mentioned in this thread that I hadn't been to before (sorry Zabar's). The one exception was Brooklyn Superhero Supply which was closed when I got there. I did look longingly through the window for a while.

I went to P&S fabrics twice. The selection was better in the Garment District, but P&S had two things I was looking for at a great price.

The best answers went to my favorites.
posted by Alison at 9:42 AM on June 15, 2006

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