Monday, January 14, 2013

Favorites Over 50: Shopping in New York City

Last Thursday was unseasonably warm--in the mid-40s--for New York City. Not exactly flip-flip weather (although I saw a young woman flip-flopping down Broadway), but a great day for walking and people watching. A friend and I spent the day catching up on each other's news over lunch and wandering the city streets. We poked our heads into shops with impressive winter sales as well as dropped by a few of our favorite shopping haunts. I thought about writing a post on my favorite city shopping destinations, but quickly realized how difficult it would be to come up with a short list. So...I've put together a list that gives a "taste" of what I love about shopping in Manhattan. Click "Read More" below to continue.

I'm a museum nerd (probably because I'm a visual learner) and rarely plan a trip to the city that doesn't include checking out an exhibition I've read about. While I love cultural enrichment, my girlfriends say I love the museum gift shops even more (It's not true!). I do admit that I like to check out museum gift shops and one of the city's best is the gift shop at the Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle (see photo at top of post and below).

Like the museum itself, the gift shop displays beautifully designed and crafted pieces by artisans from around the world. There are jewelry collections, scarves, leather totes and home decor accessories. While I don't recommend skipping the museum itself, you can visit the gift shop without buying a ticket to the museum.

Also, I highly recommend the museum's restaurant, Roberts, overlooking Columbus Circle and Broadway. I like to sit by the window for lunch or for appetizers and a glass of wine before going to a movie.

If you are craving more shopping, the Time-Warner Center is across the street from the museum. It houses Eileen Fisher, Coach, Sephora, C. Wonder, Cole Haan and so much more.

No doubt, there are hundreds of shops and spas selling beauty lotions and potions in Manhattan. But my favorite is Soapology in Greenwich Village. My choice is heavily influenced by the fact that I'm a downtown girl from way back--from my teenage years buying Indian import bedspreads and strobe candles (remember them?) on Bleecker Street to being a young professional, wife and mother living in Soho (before it became a shopping mall!). I also love Soapology because it's a local company specializing in natural/organic products. I like to support local artisans, especially those creating anything natural.

Soapology has a warm and friendly atmosphere with creamy walls and shelving. The young shop attendants are very helpful and easy-going. The product line includes nicely-priced soaps, scrubs, lotions and soy candles and much more. You can choose a product with the fragrance already in it or design your own combination of scents.

If you stop by, a shop attendants will ask if it's your first visit. Say "yes" and she will treat your hands to a 3-step skin treatment with a cleanser, walnut scrub and hand lotion. Your hands will feel ultra-buttery afterwards.

If I've been running around the city and need to take a break, I'll pop into Tea and Sympathy afterwards, which is steps away from Soapology. Tea and Sympathy is a tiny restaurant run by Brits and serving authentic British fare. In the middle of the afternoon, there's nothing quite like cream tea (a pot of tea, scones, jam and clotted cream). Afterwards, you might like to stroll across the street to Mxyplyzyk, a shop filled with modern designs, many with a humorous twist.


Heading east, Greenwich Avenue turns into 8th Street after it crosses 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas). If you keep walking, you'll end up in the East Village, which is Vintage shopping heaven. I love shopping Vintage for four reasons:
  1. The low prices allow me to experiment with fashion without spending lots of money.
  2. I can buy designer clothing that would be out of reach otherwise.
  3. The clothing styles are often unique--styles you won't find in the department stores.
  4.  I love being environmentally correct, reusing clothes rather than always buying new.
That said, I wouldn't know where to begin to tell you about all of the shops in the East Village. Instead, I'll mention Second Time Around, a consignment shop near Gramercy Park (in the East 20s). The shop's website describes it as "upscale resale" because it features vintage designer clothing and accessories. You'll find Prada, Jimmy Choo, St. John, Chanel and on and on. Here's an opportunity to grab that Prada handbag that was out of reach at Bergdorf's a few years ago.


Somewhere on my long list of reasons why I love New York City is the fact that you can find things from all over the world. Several times I've had to laugh when I've found something in New York that I brought home from a foreign country. While I'm super glad whenever I can buy a garment made in America, I also appreciate the opportunity to individualize an outfit with an import or two. So... a visit to Second Time Around is usually followed by a stop at Les Nanas, a French boutique located across the street.

I love browsing the racks of Paris imports while listening to French music in the background. For such a little shop, there's a surprising amount of clothing, all with a strong continental flare. The designs are a little pricey; most dresses run about $285. However, on Thursday, the entire store was marked down 50% and some things were 70% off.


ABC Carpet and Home is a small, speciality department store--another type of New York City shopping experience I appreciate. By and large, I favor boutiques with small individualized collections as opposed to the huge department stores with floors and floors of clothing brands. However, sometimes, especially when I'm looking for a gift and have no idea what to buy, I like to shop at a small, specialty department store, like ABC Carpet, for inspiration. These stores have more inventory than a boutique, but aren't as overwhelming as a big department store.

ABC Carpet's main floor is styled like a bizarre with an eclectic collection of home goods, jewelry, knick-knacks and apparel. It's an adventure just walking around, discovering hidden treasures in its many little nooks.

Clothing by designer Gary Graham is tucked off to the side. The collection consists largely of ultra-comfortable separates in earth tones--great for layering. There is also a collection of reasonably-priced sleepwear as well as cotton separates to mix and match.

So... that's my "taste" of New York City shopping. If you have a second, leave a comment with your favorite shopping destinations in Manhattan. I'd love to check them out. Meanwhile, I leave you with this chair imprinted with Audrey's image. I spotted it in a store window on Thursday. As much as I like shopping, I love just walking the streets, window shopping and taking in the city's ambience.