AOL PICK from our Editors
The New York City shopping scene is a garden of earthly consumerist delights. Anything can be bought or sold here. You just have to know where to look. Nearly every national chain is anchored somewhere in the five boroughs (and in many cases in multiple locations), but even better are the independent and boutique shops, the chainlettes, the hard-to-classify shops that you can only find in New York City. Sure, Midtown is crammed with big boxy departments stores—Macy’s is on W. 34th St. and Bloomingdale’s is on the corner of E. 59th Street and Lexington Avenue—but also take a stroll down a Lower East Side or East Village side street and you may discover something you’d never find back home.
Neighborhood: West Village
This Cessna-sized shop in the West Village is a reminder of a glorious time when air travel was cool, when the airline attendants dressed fashionable, when a passenger could sip a martini on the flight, when it was stylish to fly. Flight 001 lets you pretend that era never went away: selling designer baggage, sleek (TSA-approved) containers for beauty products, guidebooks, portable pillows, and tiny travel gadgetry. It has everything and anything to make you feel prepared and keep you occupied before your trip, during the flight, and even after you land.
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Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Want to bring back a shag rug from the ‘70s or a low-rise coffee table from the ‘50s? Perhaps a set of vintage polk-a-dot plates? Head out to the ever-popular Brooklyn Flea. With 150 venders selling everything from antiques to secondhand clothing to pop culture paraphernalia like records and posters, this is New York’s biggest flea market. It all began in 1998 when a local blogger decided the borough needed a version of the popular outdoor Chelsea Market in Manhattan. The market happens every Saturday in the leafy brownstone-laden neighborhood, Fort Greene.
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Owned by Jen Mankins, who got her start as a buyer for Barneys, this Brooklyn men’s and women’s clothing shop is one of the city’s must-sees for shoppers. The newest Bird (there are two older Birds in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Park Slope and Cobble Hill) is innovative on multiple levels: it was designed by Ole Sondresen and is the first LEED-certified retail store in New York City, which means it’s green all the way. The space, which often doubles as an art gallery, sells great items by fashion designers, including Alexander Wang, Band of Outsiders, Isabel Marant, Thakoon, and Sabatino. This is one bird worth chirping about.
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Neighborhood: West Village
Okay, so you can buy books online any time of day. And you can buy books at a chain bookstore in your local shopping mall. But somehow buying that same book in this legendary West Village bookshop just feels right. Open since 1968, the shop is named for a Gertrude Stein book. Creaky hardwood floors, old oak bookshelves and an extremely well-read staff who know their Hemingways from their Huxleys make this one of the best places to buy a book in New York. A Three Lives & Co. t-shirt or cloth book bag are great souvenirs.
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It’s all for the posh pooch here. A dog isn’t a real New York City dog unless it has some serious stuff. And it can all be found here. The cashmere sweaters aren’t cheap, but one would sure look cute on Fido. Upscale clothes for canines aren’t the only thing this cool SoHo shop peddles. There are also ergonomically designed feeding bowls, dog tags, comfy beds, colorful leashes, collars, and a huge selection of carrying bags (some of which are perfect for concealing the bow-wow from the watchful eyes of airlines attendants and waiters).
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Neighborhood: East Village
Follow the tranquil, shop-lined block of Ninth Street in the East Village, and end up in a whimsical store that will bring out the kid in you. Or the kid in your kid. Dinosaur Hill specializes in children’s toys here that even adults can appreciate. This toy store isn’t the place to get the latest high-tech gadget. Instead, Dinosaur Hill traffics in the simple and the wonderful: wooden blocks with letters in different alphabets, brightly colored rattles, onesies scrawled with peace signs or the name of your favorite New York neighborhood, child-size retro chairs, and funky hand puppets.
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Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Take a nicely designed space, mix in a well-edited collection of clothes from small designers, gift ideas for men and women, and general knickknacks, then add a dash of celebrity flair, and you’ve got Blue Tree. This small shop is an injection of cool to the stodgy Upper East Side. The owner, actress Phoebe Cates, selects the items personally from some of her favorite under-the-radar designers. Which means there’s an eclectic mix of objects in here, but if you’re looking for that one-of-a-kind…thing, this is the place to start.
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Neighborhood: East Village
An antique store for the freak in you (or in your family). This diminutive gem of an East Village shop is crammed with, well, oddities. You may never have known you wanted an antique wooden leg or a taxidermied squirrel standing on two legs until you lay your eyes (or hands) on it here. But if a pair of 19th-century prostheses aren’t your style, there are plenty of other gawkable keepsakes: creepy ventriloquist dummies, Free-Mason-themed lamps, ancient dentures, or child-size polio braces.
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Neighborhood: Flatiron District
Named for the original name of John F. Kennedy International Airport, this handsome second-floor Flatiron District bookstore opened up in 2008 and has quickly become a favorite of the city’s literati. Why? Because owner (and former United Nations press officer) David Del Vecchio, designed the store for the traveler in mind. All books—guidebooks, travelogues, memoirs, and novels—are categorized by country. So, you’re going to, say, Vietnam, and want to read a novel by a Vietnamese writer? Such a thing might be impossible to find in the fiction section of a normal bookstore, but at Idlewild, one need only browse by country. There are also over-sized maps and globes for sale.
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Home utensils might not be on your list of stuff to pick up in New York. But did we mention this SoHo store sells awesomely designed home utensils? Oh, you might not think you need a designer toothbrush or an oddly shaped tea kettle until you see one here. This shop, the U.S. flagship store for the Italian design firm, also sells objects such as vases or coffee pots designed by famous designers and -- architects such as Toyo Ito, Zaha Hadid, Greg Lynn, and Jean Nouvel. You know you’ve always wanted Philippe Starck’s three-legged citrus squeezer.
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