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Secret Service

In these out-of-the-way shops where private dealers show you their cherished items by appointment only, shopping takes on a whole new dimension.

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JOANNE HENDRICKS COOKBOOKS
212-226-5731. Once, Greenwich Street was lined with houses that had tiny street-level shops; today Joanne Hendricks's is one of the very few still around. Her shoe-box-size antiquarian-book shop occupies the front of this 1815 townhouse; she and her family live upstairs. Though small, her shop offers sundry delights, one of which is Hendricks's zeal for so many of her titles: Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons, "Aunt Babette's" Cook Book, Cold Savoury Meals, John McPhee's Oranges. The range of her stock is broad enough to include such esoteric titles as Almanach Des Gourmands from 1803 to 1812 and early and author-signed volumes by such recognizable names as James Beard, Julia Child, and Elizabeth David.

AUDE BRONSON-HOWARD
212-688-3764. The charismatic Aude Bronson-Howard not only is a costume designer (her most recent film was Analyze This) but also makes lush scarves, shawls, and robes that wind up in such posh emporiums as Barneys, Bergdorf, and Takashimaya (samples only here). Her extraordinary fabrics are mostly Italian, which she combines in subtle and sophisticated ways. Fabulous cashmeres are edged in suede, silk-Georgettes encrusted with handmade silver beads, Scottish cashmeres lined in mink. A pile of pashmina throws in every conceivable shade holds center court, and racks filled with extravagant cut-velvet sarongs and robes, and knitted rabbit coats to die for, line the walls.

JON WALDO
212-777-4838. Anyone who partied in SoHo in the sixties knows the routine: Ring the doorbell, and the host or hostess throws down the key. Well, ring Jon Waldo's doorbell and a foam-wrapped key descends from a fifth-floor window. You enter a long, barely lit hall, climb the five floors, and land in Waldo's ceramics studio. He's into words and numbers, so his vases, platters, and lamps are boldly circled with numerals and letters -- or with oversize Pop Art-ish heads (another favorite motif). It's all a tad funky, but it's inviting, and though his bowls and such might be labeled homewares, they're as much art objects as they are utilitarian. Waldo meets with a customer, explores words or numbers that are meaningful, then translates them into personalized platters, vases, whatever. He also does some nifty dinner sets of mix-and-match images.

B&B INTERNATIONAL GALLERY
212-243-0840. Nuala and Anne Boylan manage a photo studio in the Starrett-Lehigh building, where the city's top photographers shoot. But the sisters also run a tres chic boutique in the bare-bones office next door. Nuala, a former fashion editor, has the triumvirate of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Elle on her résumé. Her sister Anne, no slouch, was research assistant to Nancy Kissinger. Among their ever-changing picks -- a mix of rare objects they've collected in their numerous travels to just about every part of the world -- are baskets from Bali, stingray frames, wispy necklaces set with semi-precious stones, goatskin boxes, mud-cloth pillows, and Colonial silver tankards.

TROUVAILLE FRANÇAISE
212-737-6015. Tucked away on the top floor of a Queen Anne townhouse is Muriel Clarke's tiny linen shop. It's a favorite with stylists from Martha Stewart Living and Country Living, who come here for elegant bed and table linens. Her 100 percent-linen sheets are thick (yet soft and supple) and embroidered with beautiful handwork, and she has a lovely collection of embroidered white-on-white bedspreads that can be used as banquet cloths. There's clothing too: French farmer shirts, Victorian cotton nightgowns, chemises, and sublime christening gowns.

FRANÇOISE NUNNALLÉ
212-246-4281. Antique French furniture, ornate silk drapes, and huge vases filled with flowers provide the appropriate setting for Françoise Nunnallé's exquisite collection of antique linens. Handmade laces and the finest embroidery embellish many of her pieces, which date from the eighteenth century to the thirties. But it's her newest additions -- pillows covered in early Fortuny fabrics -- that have Nunnallé rhapsodizing. And her treasures aren't limited to linens: She has early Sheffield silver candlesticks and early Worcester and Derby soup tureens.

MIXED-UP MOSAICS
212-630-0211. This exuberant pair have done arty glass mosaics for a hotel in the Bahamas, restaurants in New York (the Wrapp Factory and the Vinyl Diner), and posh stores (like Henri Bendel). Their showroom-cum-workroom is tucked away on the seventh floor of a loft building, and though the décor is anything but snappy, it's livened up by a riotous mix of flower pots, picture frames, and mirrors. But Allison Rott and Lesley Rattner's true love is creating personalized tabletops: Customers pick the colored glass and the design; Rott and Rattner break the glass into shards, arrange them in a cement mixture, and coat the finished top with a protective epoxy. The ladies do all the work themselves and have the cuts to prove it.

RTR PACKAGING
212-620-0011. Its customer list reads like a roster of top designers, and RTR is where stylists go when they're in need of creative packaging for photo shoots. Once, you could only sneak into the showroom on sample-sale days, but now you can waltz in year-round. The décor is nonexistent but the stock is great: There are always 30 to 50 wrapping-paper prints (from classic Santa to New York taxi to leopard); two dozen different shapes of bags; countless boxes; and every color, width, and kind of ribbon (including wired). RTR will handle special orders (say, if you need 100 personalized party bags) and sells humongous 833-foot rolls to the rich and famous who, come Christmas, have zillions of packages to wrap.

DAVID SEGAL VIOLINS
212-769-4559. David Segal makes and sells violins from a warren of little rooms, surrounded by hundreds of the honey-toned instruments that hang overhead. His file cabinets are filled not with papers but with tails, resins, and strings. Segal studied the cello for a number of years, but when he realized he was no Yo Yo Ma, he joined his father in the violin-making business. After a four-year apprenticeship with Italy's primo string-instrument-maker, Segal came back to New York and eventually set up his shop. Though he's sold Strads and Guarneris, he also sells his own well-made violins.

TERRAFIRMA
212-645-7600. Ellen Evans designs, throws, and paints her handmade pottery on a high floor of a downtown office building. Upscale shops display her earthy stoneware plates, bowls, and platters, but those that don't quite pass muster with the stores' eagle-eye buyers are your gain. She sells these from her studio. Most have minor flaws or are seconds or sample runs that never made it into production. Grapes, ivy, or leaves curl around the edges of bowls; plates come in animal-skin patterns; and there's lots here that can be mixed-and-matched to create swank sets of dinnerware.

KELTER MALCÉ ANTIQUES
212-989-6760 Dealers often feel like they live above the store, says Jolie Kelter. "We've done them one better: We live in the store." Everything in Kelter and Michael Malcé's four-story Village brownstone is for sale, from the beds they sleep on to the glasses they drink from. The couple owned an antiques shop on Bleecker Street for 21 years. They closed it eight years ago and moved their lively collection of Americana to their house. A fantastic collection of Amish and patchwork quilts and early Pendelton blankets spill out of second-floor cupboards, and everywhere you look are old trade signs, rugs, baskets, and pottery.

ROSENTHAL WINE MERCHANT
212-249-6650. The street is so quiet, the sign so discreet -- could this be a wine store? Once inside, you're just as puzzled. There are no racks filled with bottles; in fact, there's nothing but brick walls, a desk, and manager Will Helburn to greet you. But then again, this is no ordinary wine store. The racks are downstairs, but even here there are no endless aisles and no dozens of Chardonnays. The selection seems downright meager. But each of the wines has been personally chosen by Neal Rosenthal, who travels to France and Italy seeking out small producers whose product pleases him. You'll find wines that are not on everyone's list here, along with that rare combination -- personal attention and the advice of an expert.

ILENE CHAZANOF
212-254-5564. Right now, Ilene Chazanof is out of her mind for vintage aluminum trays and is hot for coaster sets. Chazanof has managed to transform an ordinary office space into a lively flea market of collectibles (with often cheaper-than-flea-market prices), and despite the seeming chaos, she can quickly find anything. Ask her for an American hollow-ware pitcher, a post-World War II American studio-design pin, an early Venini vase, a Chase tray, or a twenties evening purse, and she'll lead you right to it.

CHISTA
212-924-0394. Not too long ago, artists Daphna Dor and Alon Langotsky designed and sold candle holders at street fairs for extra cash. They're still making holders, but now they're selling them from two loft-size floors in a downtown warehouse, along with a covetable crop of furniture, homewares, and lamps. It's an intriguing mix. The upper floor is a veritable museum of tribal arts, filled with carved door posts, a 300-year-old coffin, drum tables, Sumatran doors, musical instruments, benches, and artifacts of every kind. On the lower floor are Dor and Langotsky's own designs: armoires, tables, chairs, and benches. Here too are Langotsky's cool lamps and lanterns, Dor's "fish-bone" purses, assorted frames and baskets, and, yes, candle holders.

ROGER GROSS, LTD.
212-759-2892. Don't come to Roger Gross if you're looking for any old signed Donizetti photo, but if you're looking for, say, a signed manuscript with Donizetti's notes for an opera, you're in the right place. Gross deals in rare and esoteric musical autographs and works with such institutions as the Morgan library and the Berlin Philharmonic. An antiques-store owner, Gross turned a hobby into another business, and he runs this one from a midtown co-op. The dramatic interior (lush fabrics, red accents, and Oriental rugs) is a proper setting for his incredible collection of signed photos, librettos (a 1900 first edition of Tosca), books (biographies of conductors in German), and assorted memorabilia that fill endless bookcases. Gross buys only what he's interested in, and opera is a passion. But he has photos and letters (and sometimes wills and bills) signed by well-known and obscure conductors, instrumentalists, and composers.


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