It’s no secret that New York is one of the world’s great shopping capitals. But finding the place that sells just the thing you are looking for can turn a brief errand into a wild-goose chase. Here Corky Pollan answers the most intriguing shopping questions she’s received over the past year. Whether you’re in pursuit of the newest digital technology or the most stylish handcrafted boot, the object you desire may be hiding in plain sight.
The Sweet Hereafter
Q: I’m a raging chocoholic, and I’m visiting New York for the first time. What chocolate shops should I hit?
A: New York staff members recently did an informal chocolate tasting (yes, it’s called work). We tested the chocolates of seventeen master makers, trying their truffles, boxed assortments, and old-fashioned sweets. And we came up with some surprises.
Li-Lac (120 Christopher Street; 212-242-7374) was on everyone’s A-list for its unsophisticated old-time confections. We couldn’t stop gushing as we lit into the butter crunch, bark, turtles, and chocolate-covered orange and lemon peel. Li-Lac is not one of your elegant luxury chocolatiers; it’s a Village institution that has been turning out small batches of handmade sweets for more than 70 years.
La Maison Du Chocolat (1018 Madison Avenue, near 78th Street, 212-744-7117; also Bergdorf Goodman) has toothsome cognac truffles. But two other truffle entries made it a three-way tie: butter-cream dreams from Neuhaus (922 Madison Avenue, near 73rd Street, 212-861-2800; also Saks Fifth Avenue, Eli’s Manhattan, and ABC Carpet & Home) and plain but awesome gems from Payard Patisserie & Bistro (1032 Lexington Avenue, near 73rd Street, 212-717-5252; also Dean & DeLuca and Bergdorf Goodman).
And we couldn’t decide if we loved the delicate little bonbons from Richart Design Et Chocolat (7 East 55th Street; 212-371-9369) or Maison du Chocolat’s unadorned but amazing confections more, so we gave them both our vote for boxed assortments.
Q: My husband wants a digital camera for his upcoming birthday. I know nothing about digitals, and when I hear the word megapixel, I get a migraine. What stores have a good selection and salespeople who can give me sound advice?
A: It seems like every ten minutes or so, another manufacturer introduces yet another digital camera. Consumer Reports rated the Nikon Coolpix 900 and the Olympus D-340L excellent, but that was in 1998. The high-
performance Coolpix is now the 950; the Olympus is the D-340R. It’s an ever-changing and highly confusing field.
Lens & Repro (33 West 17th Street; 212-675-1900) can help even if you don’t know the difference between SmartMedia and CompactFlash memory cards or why you might want a camera with 2 million megapixels. Jeffrey Kay and his keen staff deal mostly with professional photographers, but they’re patient with the novice. Their selection of digital cameras isn’t huge, but each type has been staff-tested, and the store carries only those that are best in their class (determined by the pixel resolution and the price). Lens & Repro likes the Fuji MX-2700 – it’s about the size of a pack of cigarettes but delivers a great image – and the Nikon 950, which offers manual as well as automatic focus. Surprisingly, the prices at Lens & Repro are on a par with those at the megasize discount stores. Foto Care (132 West 21st Street; 212-741-2990) is another photographer-recommended shop that’s neophyte-friendly. It carries digitals for $25,000 that might be used for shooting a professional catalogue, as well as models for under $1,000. The pros here suggest the Leica for its superior resolution, and they like the Fuji MX-2900.
OR TRY: The city’s most neighborly camera store is Westside Camera (2400 Broadway, at 88th Street; 212-877-8760), where the staff is friendly and savvy and prices are very competitive.The most daunting aspect of shopping for a camera at J&R Music World (31 Park Row; 212-238-9000) is finding the right entrance in the warren of connecting shops. But once you are in, the staff is very helpful. And the newest, most cutting-edge cameras are likely to be at J&R first.Avoid weekends and don’t go at lunch hour are tips from savvy B&H shoppers (420 Ninth Avenue, near 33rd Street; 212-444-6670). And don’t expect a lot of coddling from the sales staff at this behemoth of an electronics store.
Q: I vowed I’d treat myself to a coat this year, but I don’t know what I want or where to look. Any suggestions?
A: Fashion insiders predict that the coat will be this season’s most covetable possession. And what a crop! Gucci and Prada have opted for laser-sharp tailoring in their ladylike funnel-neck, knee-length belted beauties. Dolce & Gabbana’s architecturally precise version comes in sunflower yellow, and Giorgio Armani does a take on the English-schoolboy look, down to the velvet collar. Radically different are Chanel, Donna Karan, Michael Kors,and Ralph Lauren, who have come up with unstructured floor-sweeping blanket coats with big shawl collars, while Moschino does seventies-redux maxi-coats, and Calvin Klein and Bottega Veneta have slouchy, bathrobey numbers. The fabrics are lush and the colors anything but black. White (or off-white), scarlet, and baby blue rule.
OR TRY: Many of these super-pricey designer looks can be had for much, much less. At AgnÈS B., precisely tailored little funnel-neck coats in scarlet and white are $500, and Sisley has stone-gray bathrobe wraps for under $300.Department stores are also great places to get deals on coats, including top labels. Their inventories are huge, and coats go on sale long before cold weather sets in.
Q: I entertain a lot and hate worrying about flowers. Are there any florists that might come to my home and arrange flowers weekly or monthly?
A: Actually, there are many, but here are a few of my favorites. They’ll visit your apartment to check out the color scheme and the containers. Smallish vessels are usually picked up and filled in the studio; oversize ones are arranged in your home.
Antony Todd (212-367-7363), he of the intimidating client list, is not above putting together fabulous flowers for the ordinary mortal, at a price. Todd loves doing festive arrangements for parties, subtler and quieter ones on a weekly basis. He might do a bowl filled with water lilies in the foyer and use moss (not flowers) another time, and he likes coming up with confections that last more than a week. Though there’s no charge for an initial visit, his services do not come cheap – $500 a week, he tells me, is a good starting point.
Wolfgang Thom of Décor Floral (212-279-9066) does bold, inventive nosegays for the city’s beautiful people. There’s no initial fee, but the minimum for an arrangement is $75, plus $25 an hour for in-house arranging.ELAN (212-240-9033) has Michael Davis, who’s comfortable with any arrangement, from dramatic to simple, so he can create whatever look a client might want. There’s no charge for an initial visit; minimum for flowers is $45, plus delivery.
OR TRY: Zezé Calvo of Zezé (212-753-7767) works in many styles, but he’s known for his monochromatic creations. There’s no initial fee. His minimum is $65, plus delivery.Lesly Zamor, the owner-designer of Bloom (212-620-5666), creates tone-on-tone designs, seen in various haute magazines. The charge is $50 to $100 for a consultation, and the minimum order is $65.Sandra Bernhard, Cynthia Rowley, and William Wegman are on Prudence Designs’ (212-691-1356) client list. Grayson Handy is as much into containers as flowers; he’ll even supply a vintage McCoy vase or a hand-thrown pot when needed. The minimum arrangement is $45, $150 for something on a grander scale.
Shooting For the Hip
Q: My younger brother is visiting me in October. He’s so cool, and he’s always teasing me because I’m so Brooks. What hip men’s stores should we hit?
A: For starters, take him to Barneys New York, where there’s always a crop of young, up-and-coming designers as well as the big-league names. Neo-military is still the look of the moment, and Helmut Lang and Prada designs have lots of the requisite army details: sweaters with nylon patches, pants with seamed knees, motocross accents. Many of the boots are takes on combat footwear. Newly groovy on the men’s fashion scene are sweaters with color-block tipping, like the nifty designs of Roberto Collina and Giuliano Fujiwara.
OR TRY: If his credit card can take some major action, hit Gucci (10 West 57th Street; 212-826-2600), Gianni Versace (647 Fifth Avenue, near 51st Street; 212-317-0224), Moschino (803 Madison Avenue, near 67th Street; 212-639-9600), and Dolce & Gabbana (825 Madison Avenue, near 68th Street; 212-249-4100) to check out what these edgy designers are into.Head south for dorky-cool Hugh Grant-ish looks at Paul Smith (108 Fifth Avenue, at 16th Street; 212-627-9770). Smith is into military, too, but it’s very British-army, not American.In SoHo, pop into Helmut Lang’s (80 Greene Street; 212-925-7214) emporium.And it’s Nova USA (100 Stanton Street; 212-228-6844) for rather sexy, downtown-boy basics. Tony Melillo is responsible for the cut of these casual clothes. Here, color is the story: baby blues, army greens, violet.
Made For Walkin’
Q: Boots seem to be this season’s must-have. What looks are cool?
A: Anyone checking out boots this fall has some maddening choices. Should they be flats or killer stilettos, ankle- or knee-highs, leather or pony, red or tried-and-true black? Here are some of my picks: Ralph Lauren red felt knee-highs are as flat and svelte as a fencer’s. Also flat and red are Banana Republic leather Chrystie boots, while the Hogan red pony-skins have chunky rubber soles. On the stiletto front, I’d happily settle (if I could walk in them) for Jimmy Choo olivey-green tall boots, or Sigerson Morrison black leather beauties. Even ankle boots offer no simple solutions; there’s Miu Miu’s take on Gibson-girly lace-ups, Narciso Rodriguez’s revamped sixties nude leather etched in black, and Mark Schwartz’s camel-hair pony, which is so this moment.
Q: So many of my friends are into chess and other games. I wanted to give them chess sets or absorbing puzzles for Christmas. What stores carry good selections?
A: Chess is the champion of games, but you can find many ways to challenge adults.
Village Chess Shop (230 Thompson Street; 212-475-9580) should be of interest to anyone with even a passing interest in chess. George and Julia Frohlinde’s 27-year-old establishment is dusty, smoky, and as much a chess club as a store (players can pick up a game for $1 an hour). Half the shop is lined with tables where numerous heads are intently bent over chessboards – all rather appealingly old-world. A hundred or so chess pieces jam the outside windows; hundreds more fill glass cabinets and tables inside. It’s a mind-numbing collection of historical figures (Napoléon, the Crusaders), literary giants (Shakespeare and Lord Byron), and kids’ favorites (dinosaurs, Alice in Wonderland, the Simpsons).The Compleat Strategist (11 East 33rd Street; 212-685-3880) is for dedicated gamers. This 25-year-old company has a game for every battle ever fought. There’s Conquest of Gaul, Napoleon at Bay, Gettysburg, Lodz 1914, Campaign to Stalingrad, the Sinai Crisis. Some of these games of strategy can go on for 100 hours with more than 400 pieces in play. But don’t be put off. The owners also carry what they call beer-and-pretzel games (ones that even novices can play in less than an hour).
OR TRY: Chess Forum (219 Thompson Street; 212-475-2369) has attempted to clone Village Chess, with hundreds of figural sets in every imaginable material and every price range.”Uptown they’re into trendy, like Taboo and Guesstures,” says Joel Schneider of Game Show (1240 Lexington Avenue, near 84th Street, 212-472-8011; and 474 Sixth Avenue, near 12th Street, 212-633-6328). “Downtown, it’s games of strategy, Quarto and Quoridor.” Schneider and his partner, Ed Martinedes, carry these along with the city’s largest selection of jigsaw puzzles.
Q: I want to surprise my fiancée with a traditional pearl necklace. Where can I shop so I don’t get ripped off?
A: One can get very long-winded when talking about saltwater pearls. Unlike diamonds, pearls have no international grading system, but Devin Macnow (executive director of the Cultured Pearl Information Center) tells me there are five factors that affect the value. The most important thing is luster: You should be able to see your reflection in each pearl, and it shouldn’t be white or chalky. Next in importance is surface: Since pearls are naturally made, there will be some slight imperfections, but you should look for pearls that don’t have bumps, cracks, chips, or spots (especially near the drill hole). The rounder the shape, the more valuable the pearl. Color is a personal preference, but the pearls you buy should complement your fiancée’s complexion (if she’s fair, you should go for whitish pearls with a hint of rose; if she’s dark, creamier tones). Size is the final factor (the larger the pearls, the more expensive the necklace): Most pearls sold today are between 6 and 1/2 and 7 and 1/2 millimeters, but whatever the size, all the pearls in a necklace should be carefully matched.
If you buy from a small shop, be sure to get an independent certified appraisal in writing with a complete description of the pearls (you might try the International Gemmological Institute; 212-753-7100). Expect to pay about $1,000 to $1,500 for a good-quality saltwater-pearl necklace; a cheaper option is to buy freshwater pearls. Unlike with saltwater oysters, which produce a single pearl (with luck), tissue-grafting techniques are used on freshwater mollusks so they can produce 20, 30, or more pearls at a time, which costs significantly less.
Mikimoto (730 Fifth Avenue, near 57th Street; 212-664-1800) is the first name that comes to mind. When Kokichi Mikimoto introduced the cultured pearl in 1893, he changed the pearl market forever, and in his namesake store you’ll see why. A sixteen-inch necklace of five-millimeter pearls is around $1,500; an eighteen-inch one of nine-millimeter pearls is around $17,500, while a necklace of the shop’s very finest would range from $2,590 to $99,000.
OR TRY: Other jewelry stores to check out would be Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, H. Stern, and Fortunoff. Though you may be paying extra for their prestigious names, you can relax about quality. Surprisingly, the city’s major department stores are a less costly alternative. Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue all carry Japanese saltwater pearls, often at prices 20 percent cheaper than many of the jewelry stores.
All Shook Up
Q: I’ve been eager to invest in a vintage martini shaker for celebrating the millennium in style. Do you know any shops that sell them?
A: Ever since Stephen Visakay’s book Vintage Bar Ware appeared in 1997, Art Deco-ish shakers, jiggers, and the rest have become hot, with prices to match. Once a flea-market staple, shakers from the twenties and thirties are now almost impossible to find. Here are a couple of stores, though, that are likely to have a selection on hand.
Deco Deluxe (993 Lexington Avenue, near 72nd Street; 212-472-7222), Sandi Berman’s classy store filled with the unexpected, like Art Deco mirrored vanities, silvery armoires, and wood-and-nickel stand-up bars, has a fab collection of vintage bar accessories from the glory days of the martini. Shakers come in all the most collectible shapes – zeppelins, milk cans, penguins, bells – and Berman has vermouth pourers, silver-plated jiggers of every description, and dozens of swizzle sticks. Less kitschy is a handsome Norman Bel Geddes Manhattan set that includes a shaker, a tray, and glasses. Prices can now top $4,000. Mood Indigo (181 Prince Street; 212-254-1176) is a mecca for the chic with a taste for retro, especially housewares from the thirties, forties, and fifties. Diane Petipas’s tidy shop is best known for its Fiestaware and its seemingly endless supply of campy salt and pepper shakers, but four years ago, Petipas got carried away and bought 500 vintage cocktail shakers. About half are glass, the kind with recipes for martinis and Manhattans printed right on the side (great for the memory-impaired); others are the highly prized red and cobalt-blue shakers with chrome tops.Depression Modern (150 Sullivan Street; 212-982-5699) is an ever-changing emporium of modernism, dependent upon what owner Michael Smith brings back from his buying forays around the country. But vintage barware is one of Smith’s staples: Chrome-topped glass shakers, jiggers, and cocktail and martini glasses are always around.
Q: I’ve just bought an apartment that has a tiny garden in back. Is there a store in Manhattan that sells bulbs, shrubs, plants, and tools?
A: You are not the only urban gardener. City dwellers who want to get a little dirt under their nails can find what they need both up- and downtown.
Dimitri Nurseries (1992 Second Avenue, near 102nd Street; 212-876-3996) has the look, smell, and feel of a country store but doesn’t require a trip out of the city. Dimitri Gatanas’s grandfather started the business in the early sixties, and the nursery now occupies 15,000 square feet of land with three greenhouses. Owners of posh townhouses on 64th Street as well as renters in the Village are lured uptown by Dimitri’s vast selection of greenery – and his reasonable prices. There’s a concentration of trees and shrubs that survive on our mean streets, like the ginkgo and the Bradford pear. Dimitri has hundreds of bulbs and perennials for planting this fall, seeds and seedlings galore in the spring.
Chelsea Garden Store (207 Ninth Avenue, near 22nd Street; 212-741-6052) and Chelsea Garden Center (321 Bowery; 212-777-4500) are the city’s other full-service nurseries. The Ninth Avenue location is now devoted to indoor gardening; the company’s new Bowery space is the place for tools, soil, seeds, bulbs, fertilizer, shrubs, and anything else a garden or gardener might need. The staff, an enthusiastic bunch, wax poetic over adorable yellow-pear-tomato seedlings they carried last June, their beautiful Spear & Jackson spades, darling new clippers, and marvelous Ames short-handled tools so perfect for tiny backyards.
OR TRY: SoHo’s Grass Roots Garden (131 Spring Street; 212-226-2662) is a tropical Eden, a jungle of unusual plants – but also tools and seeds. Smith & Hawken (394 West Broadway; 212-925-0687) tools are legendary, and in the company’s SoHo outpost you’ll find all the essentials hidden among the clogs, Japanese farmer’s pants, and topiaries.
Q: I’d like to give my granddaughter a bicycle for her 4th birthday. What kind should I get for her, and where should I go to buy a kid’s bike?
A: Cycling pros tell me that you should avoid toy stores and opt instead for a neighborhood bike shop. And don’t plan on surprising your granddaughter; take her along to make sure the bike is the right size and fit. Here are a few things to check for: a sturdy frame and steel ball bearings (identified by their adjustable nuts), padding on the tube bar and the handlebar stem, air tires, heavy-gauge-steel training wheels, and (for safety) that it’s been assembled by a mechanic. Your granddaughter will probably need a sixteen-inch-wheeler, and you should buy a one-speed, foot-brake standard model. Avoid mountain bikes or any others with hand brakes (little ones don’t have the strength). You want to be able to raise the seat height and change the slant of the handlebars as the child grows. Expect to pay between $85 and $149.
Here’s a list of reliable neighborhood stores that always have a good selection of kids’ bikes in stock, and the brand names they carry:
Bicycle Renaissance (430 Columbus Avenue, near 81st Street; 212-724-2350): Trek, Zephyr, and Specialized in twenty-inch-wheelers.
Toga Bike Shop (110 West End Avenue, at 64th Street; 212-799-9625): Fisher, GT, Specialized, and Ross.
Metro Bicycle (1311 Lexington Avenue, at 88th Street; 212-427-4450): Ross, Cignal, Raleigh, Trek, Dyno, Fisher, and Specialized.
Larry & Jeff’s Bicycles Plus (1400 Third Avenue, near 79th Street, 212-794-2929; and 1690 Second Avenue, near 87th Street, 212-722-2201): Ross, Raleigh, Schwinn.
Sid’s Bike Shop (235 East 34th Street; 212-213-8360): Schwinn, GT, and Dyno.
14th Street Bicycles (332 East 14th Street; 212-228-4344): Ross, Cignal, GT, Raleigh, and Trek.
Bicycle Habitat (244 Lafayette Street; 212-431-3315): Trek and Specialized.
Frank’s Bicycle Shop (553 Grand Street; 212-533-6332): Schwinn, Raleigh, and Ross.
Gotham Bikes (112 West Broadway; 212-732-2453): Cignal, Schwinn, Dyno, and GT.
R & A Cycles (105 Fifth Avenue, at Park Place, Brooklyn; 718-636-5242): Trek, Royce Union, and Schwinn.
Larry’s Cycle Shop (1854 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-377-3600): Giant, Ross, Raleigh, and Schwinn.
Q: I’m really into birding, but the binoculars I’ve been using are just not sharp enough. Where should I go for a new pair, and what brand should I buy?
A: Norman Stotz of the New York City Audubon Society says that you should choose binoculars that are “comfortable on the eye and in the hand.” Since comfort will be different for everyone, it’s important to try them out rather than to buy from a catalogue or over the Internet. Stotz prefers 8x/40 or 10x/40 binoculars and claims you shouldn’t go for more than ten-times magnification for birding; beyond twelve-times, the magnification amplifies the slightest shaking in your hand.
Clairmont-Nichols Opticians (1016 First Avenue, near 56th Street; 212-758-2346), where David Letterman goes for his binoculars, would be tops on my list. A family-run business that’s been around since 1885 and known for its specs, Clairmont also carries a superior assortment of high-quality optical instruments by all the coveted names – Zeiss, Leica, Swarovski, Steiner, and Nikon. The four resident opticians are experts, yet they’re patient and soft-sell and will encourage you to take numerous binoculars out on the sidewalk to give them a try.
Spectra Audio Research (903 Madison Avenue, near 73rd Street; 212-744-2255) is another customer-friendly source. Though it’s known for state-of-the-art surveillance equipment and night-vision devices, owner Michael Goodrich (who’s something of a binoculars expert) always has high-quality birding glasses on hand. He considers the Swarovski one of the best around for clear, bright viewing of the finest bird feathering. But Goodrich also likes the Bausch & Lomb 8x/40 and an Olympus 10x/50.
OR TRY: The binoculars at Paragon Sports are sports-related, with boating and trekking prime. Willoughby’s Konica Imaging Center (138 West 32nd Street; 212-564-1600) has a well-organized binoculars department. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, you might find it at B&H for the lowest price (though all the stores mentioned above discount binoculars).
CITY OF ANGLERS
Q: I’ve developed a passion for fly-fishing and wonder if there are actually stores in Manhattan where I can pick up the necessary garb and gear.
A: Even in midtown, miles from any stream, you can find everything from bamboo poles to high-end graphites and passionate fishermen to buy them from.
Urban Angler (118 East 25th Street; 212-979-7600) is nestled on the third floor of a midtown office building, yet it’s equipped with all the rods, reels, and flies you’d need. Owners Steve and Jon Fisher (a father-and-son team) are vastly knowledgeable and patient even with fishing dummies. They stock mainly high-end equipment and only the products that they’ve tested: rods by G. Loomis, Sage, and Winston; reels by Abel, Tibor, and Ross; and lines by all the top names. And they carry anything you might need for the sport of the moment, saltwater angling. Hundreds of flies are neatly lined up in wooden cases; cabinets hold the larger and more colorful saltwater ones. There are vests, jackets, gear bags, and Gore-Tex stocking-foot waders too.
Capital Fishing Tackle Company (218 West 23rd Street; 212-929-6132) demonstrate their rods on 23rd Street. So if you see someone fly-casting on the sidewalk, don’t do a double-take. This 100-year-old company (30 years at its present location) not only stocks both inexpensive rods like the Pflueger composite graphite and Thomas & Thomas high-end graphites but it even has bamboo beauties for the purist. There are reels for the beginner and the pro and, of course, a full range of lines, flies, waders, and gear bags.
OR TRY: The great-granddaddy of American fly-fishing, Orvis (355 Madison Avenue, at 45th Street; 212-697-3133) was founded by Charles F. Orvis in 1856, and the Manchester, Vermont-based company has been producing the most technologically advanced fly-fishing gear every since.The selection isn’t huge, but Paragon Sports (867 Broadway, at 18th Street; 212-255-8036) carries all the fly-fishing essentials (rods, reels, and lines).An oddity on the fly-fishing scene is Frank McNamara’s Diamonds & Fly’s (595 Fifth Avenue, at 48th Street, fourth floor; 212-888-4677). It’s a quiet sanctum offering a strange amalgam of jewelry and fly-fishing gear.
Q: I’ve recently had to dismantle my mother’s apartment, and I discovered a cache of beautiful old lamps. The bases are in good shape, but the shades are all tattered. Where can I go for new ones that will look like the originals?
A: A good lamp shop will not only replace a shade, and make a frame and shade from scratch, but it will change the way you see shades forever.
Unique Lamp Shades (247 East 77th Street; 212-472-1140) is home to Perry Megown, a whiz at creating shades in every shape and style, from simple to outrageous. Everything in his cozy nook is custom-made, hand-sewn in a teeny workroom behind the shop by Megown and his “ladies.” Even the frames are hand-built by a Brooklyn frame-maker. Megown can make shades in any fabric, or out of pleated paper, string, mica, goatskin, whatever.
Oriental Lampshade Company (223 West 79th Street, 212-873-0812; and 816 Lexington Avenue, near 62nd Street, 212-832-8190). Ron Murakami will work with a customer to design the correct shade for the lamp, the room, and the height of the table on which it will sit. As with custom-made shirts, everything is done by hand, from hand-cutting the paper patterns to hand-binding the frames to hand-stitching the fabric. Less pricey are Murakami’s ready-mades, and he stocks a huge assortment in just about every color, size, shape, and style.
OR TRY: The shelves at Just Shades (21 Spring Street; 212-966-2757) are piled high with more than 3,000 mostly white and ecru lampshades of every size, but about 60 percent of the business is custom.A homemaker’s Eden, Gracious Home (1220 Third Avenue, at 70th Street, 212-517-6300; and 1992 Broadway, at 67th Street, 212-231-7800) is rife with lampshades in every shape (from oval to bouillotte), every style (box pleat to country pleat), and every fabric (muslin to needlepoint).
Q: I want to redo my bedroom, and I love the look of the upholstered headboards in the Hollywood movies of the forties and fifties. Is anyone doing them today?
A: It seems voguish designers love them, too. Though you’ll see padded and upholstered headboards in the shelter magazines, you won’t find them in many stores, so it’s best to have yours custom-made.
Richard’s Interior Design (1390 Lexington Avenue, near 92nd Street; 212-831-9000) has been upholstering the sofas and chairs of fussy East Side matrons for close to 30 years. Richard Harary and his staff turn out a half-dozen upholstered headboards a week, so he always has samples on hand for you to see. He can make them curved or straight; with a single or double roll or none at the top; quilted or unquilted; shirred or plain. And he stocks a grand selection of imported and domestic fabrics. Beckenstein Fabric & Interiors (4 West 20th Street; 212-366-5142), where you’ll find pros who can upholster just about anything, is owned by the same family as Beckenstein, an Orchard Street institution that’s been around for 88 years. Their headboards are layered with foam, then stuffed with down (and a tad of synthetic fiber so they won’t sag and droop), then covered with a fabric, one of a huge assortment from all the top mills. Beckenstein also makes duvet-ish covers that can be slipped over any old headboard to instantly dress up a less-than-pristine-looking bed. Martin Albert Interiors (9 East 19th Street; 212-673-8000) makes headboards in any style. You can bring in a photo of a bed you like and the staff will replicate it, or you can choose a look from photos of the beds they’ve done.
JUST SAY NEIGH
Q: I’m eager to begin horseback riding again, but I’m having difficulty finding a store that carries traditional English riding wear. The shops I used to love all seem to have closed. Do you know of any that are still around?
A: You’re right – finding riding garb in the city is dicey. Until recently, there were more than a handful of shops devoted to the sport. Most have closed, but there are some bright spots.
Miller Harness Co. (117 East 24th Street; 212-673-1400) has been around since 1883, and the good news is that it’s as exhaustively stocked as ever, with ratcatcher shirts, breeches, classic show coats, and dressage frocks. Mostly, the store carries its own line of clothing, but there are English-made hunt coats and a sprinkling of European brands. The store’s inventory of footwear is equally complete; there’s every kind of boot, from mucker to field to dress – even Vogel custom beauties.
OR TRY: Long before the fashion aristocracy latched on to its silk scarves and Kelly bags, Hermès (11 East 57th Street; 212-751-3181) was devoted to the horse and rider. Hermès has not forgotten its roots and still does hunt coats, breeches, and shirts classically cut from the finest materials, and custom-made boots.The name is Polo Sport Ralph Lauren (379 West Broadway; 212-625-1660), so in his new SoHo digs you’ll find classic riding essentials.Clothier Winston Tailors (11 East 44th Street, fifth floor; 212-687-0850) makes custom riding apparel for men and women, even the pink coat (that’s actually red) for riding to the hounds.Bootmaker to the U.S. Olympic team, E. Vogel (19 Howard Street; 212-925-2460) has been turning out fabulous riding boots since 1879. The boots are prized for their perfect fit and impeccable style. Vogel makes dress – as well as field, hunt, dressage, and polo – boots from imported calfskin (supple; full grain; and the most popular), baby calf (known as the cashmere of the boot industry), and domestic leather (most durable; ideal for schooling but not great for show).
Q: I’ve just moved into a great apartment with smallish rooms, and it’s dark. I want to use mirrors to add light and give the illusion of space, but I hate mirrored walls. I’ve spotted some mirrors with fabulous frames in the shelter magazines, but I don’t know who sells them. Any suggestions?
A: Mirrors are back in the good graces of today’s top interior designers, who might prop one magnificently framed against a wall or arrange a group of smallish ones in the foyer. Socialite Slim Keith once said that all you have to do is fill a wall with lots of mirrors – it’s a lot cheaper than buying a Renoir. The bad news is that some now cost almost as much as that Renoir. Whether you’re looking for antiques, reproductions, or modern, there are a number of options, from pricey antiques to antique or new frames custom-made into mirrors to brand-new ones.
Bernard & S. Dean Levy (24 East 84th Street; 212-628-7088) is where serious collectors of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century American furniture go; though their collection of looking glasses is not vast, there are always a dozen or more splendid examples that might include a large gilded-walnut Chippendale circa 1760 or a Queen Anne with a pierce-shell insert. Mostly, these mirrors are in the $22,000-to-$50,000 range, but there are a few wonderful Chippendales for under $5,000.
Kentshire Galleries (37 East 12th Street; 212-673-6644) has seven antiques-filled floors, and in among the breathtaking, mostly English furniture, you’ll see some awesome mirrors. A few date back to the late seventeenth century, others are from the mid-nineteenth, and the broad range of styles includes William & Mary, Regency, Adams, George II, and George III. Prices here can soar to $600,000 for a pair of carved chinoiserie mirrors, but there are ones a tad cheaper, like a simple Adam-style border mirror.
OR TRY: Mirrors of serious pedigree that once graced the walls of grand English homes now grace the walls of Philip Colleck (830 Broadway, near 12th Street; 212-505-2500). Here, too, the price range is broad, starting at about $5,000 for a Regency from 1820 and going up to $125,000 for a Queen Anne circa 1700.Best known for Victorian silver and antique china, James II Galleries (11 East 57th Street, fourth floor; 212-355-7040) has recently added a heady collection of small-scale mirrors. Some are octagonal, some hold candles to reflect the light, some have vases, and some are bedecked with trees, birds, or flowers. ABC Carpet & Home (888 Broadway, at 19th Street; 212-473-3000) has mostly antiques that are French and Italian. The reproductions, too, are pretty traditional – gold leaf and ornate. Eli Wilner & Company (1525 York Avenue, near 80th Street; 212-744-6521) has single-handedly changed people’s perception of frames – from things that set off works of art to treasured artworks in themselves. Wilner has pretty much cornered the market in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American frames by all the important framers, like Stanford White, Prendergast, Murphy, and Whistler. He’s now doing line-by-line replicas of his antique frames, none of which come cheap.New York’s top designers often turn to A.P.F. Master Framemakers (172 East 75th Street; 212-988-1090): The company is known for its museum-quality reproduction frames, which they’ll morph into mirrors. J. Pocker & Son (135 East 63rd Street; 212-838-5488) is another favorite on the interior-design circuit, and the clever hands here can turn most of the shop’s hundreds of custom frame moldings into mirrors.Cast stone, leather, and old ceiling tin are some of the unusual materials that frame many of the mirrors at Uproar Home (121 Greene Street; 212-614-8580).If your apartment cries out for something sleek and today, consider Quinto Sol (937 Madison Avenue, near 74th Street; 212-734-5653). Its tempting array of homewares is mostly made and designed in Mexico, but forget folk-artsy; think modern and the sterling-silver jewelry designs of Pineda and Castillo of the forties.
Q: I’ve been ordering vintage records over the Internet, but half the time they don’t have the ones I want or it takes months to get them. I’m kind of out of the loop on stores in New York that sell old vinyl. Any suggestions?
A: There must be at least a hundred or so dusty, bare-bones little nooks in out-of-the-way neighborhoods whose racks are crammed with classical, jazz, rock, hip-hop, punk. You name it – there’s a store that specializes in it. Organization may be flawed, and they may be manned by a staff that doesn’t know what’s there or knows too much and talks endlessly.
Academy Records & Cds (12 West 18th Street; 212-242-3000) has a huge inventory of used, out-of-print, and rare classical LPs that sets it apart from most other vintage-record shops. Early music, opera, soloists, and twentieth-century pieces are the major draw, but Academy is no slouch when it comes
to rare jazz, pop, rock, and imports.
Gryphon Record Shop (233 West 72nd Street; 212-874-1588) is another of the few classical outposts. But ask manager Raymond Donnell, and he’ll tell you he’s strong in everything. And indeed, the range is broad, from rare and out-of-print operatic LPs to hard-to-find conductors such as Fricsay and Kubelík, to original-cast Broadway shows, to movie soundtracks, to Peggy Lee and Bobby Short. The staff is knowledgeable and quick to find exactly what you’re looking for, no matter how arcane.
OR TRY: Roger Roberge of Mooncurser Records (229 City Island Avenue, City Island, Bronx; 718-885-0302) just stocks whatever he’s collected over the past 25 years: rare classical labels, operatic recordings, Presley and the Beach Boys, Latin, rock, reggae, country, jazz, movie soundtracks, and much, much more.At Bleecker Bob’s Golden Oldies Record Shop (118 West 3rd Street; 212-475-9677) you’ll find just about every rock record ever pressed – well, almost.It’s small, narrow, and cramped, but Rockit Scientist (43 Carmine Street; 212-242-0066) is the place to hit for rock. John Kioussis stocks a carefully edited selection from the sixties and seventies that’s heavy on progressive, psychedelic, folk, and obscure.Jazz expert Fred Cohen owns and runs the Jazz Record Center (236 West 26th Street, eighth floor; 212-675-4480), and he covers the whole field, instrumental and vocal, obscure and common. You’ll likely find those platters you’ve been looking for all your life at Strider Records (22 Jones Street; 212-675-3040). There’s rare and early Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, and Carl Perkins, early Motown and Phil Spector, and tons of others – as long as it’s on vinyl.Dance-music headquarters for two decades, Vinylmania (60 Carmine Street; 212-924-7223) is often a D.J.’s first stop. They come for acid and abstract jazz, house, and hip-hop, not least of all because Vinylmania gets everything first.Frankie, Sarah, Judy, and Bing are all at Footlight Records (113 East 12th Street; 212-533-1572) in one form or another. Footlight’s selection of rare and out-of-print original-cast recordings, old movie soundtracks, big bands, and vocalists of the forties is legendary.
Raising The Bar
Q: I’m fed up with the singles scene at the gyms and waiting in line for treadmills and StairMasters. Where should I go and what do I need to set up a home gym?
A: Few of us can spend tens of thousands of dollars on Versa Climbers or cable crossovers. But that’s okay – the experts suggest that the only equipment you should buy for your home gym should relate to what you enjoy doing (jogging, get a treadmill; biking, a stationary bike; aerobics, a StairMaster). Avoid investing in the latest fads. The pros also stress that you should get the very best you can afford – forget those ads for $59.99 exercise bikes and $297.99 treadmills. The cheaper versions rarely have proper cushioning, the treads are often narrower, and the belts are inferior, so this stuff tends to wear out sooner, rattle, and need frequent repairs; it can even cause injuries.
Gym Source (40 East 52nd Street; 212-688-4222) has a client list that reads like the Post’s “Page Six.” And the city’s major corporations, health clubs, co-ops, hotels, and universities are all on it, too. To find out why there’s such a fuss, I walked the loft-size store with Rich Barretta, personal trainer to assorted celebrities and owner of Duomo on East 26th Street. Barretta bought 75 percent of the equipment for his gym here. The reasons? The store’s huge in-stock inventory (it has dozens of treadmills and exercise bikes to choose from, no six-week wait for delivery), the quality of the equipment (all the top-rated names), and the professional installation and customer service (repairs are handled speedily; exchanges are no problem). And Barretta likes the fact that Gym Source carries both a top brand’s commercial line and its more modestly priced one. I spotted all the Consumer Digest Best Buys, along with pricier stuff from Tectrix, Cybex, Schwinn, and Landice, and cutting-edge spin bikes, elliptical machines, and interactive fitness environments.
Omnifitness (380 Madison Avenue, near 47th Street; 212-953-6767) has a tiny Madison Avenue outpost, but it is the largest distributor of fitness equipment in the Northeast. Life Fitness and StairMaster are the big names here, and you’ll find everything from stationary bikes to StairMaster FreeClimbers, to cross trainers, to home gyms, all neatly lined up like soldiers at attention.
Q: My college-age son is into magic, and I want to surprise him with some sophisticated magic tricks. I’m having trouble locating a store that sells magic for adults, not kids.
A: Manhattan’s magic masters tell me, surprisingly, that many of their customers are professionals, often doctors and dentists who master tricks as a quick way to calm frightened young patients or to increase dexterity.
Tannen’s Magic Company (24 West 25h Street; 212-929-4500) might be your first stop; it’s where Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, and Donald Sutherland come when they’re in the market for some tricks. It’s the world’s largest magic emporium, and professionals like David Copperfield and Siegfried & Roy are among its customers. Behind the unassuming sales counter (where someone is invariably demonstrating some bit of abracadabra) is a huge warehouse of tricks, organized by vendor. Disappearing coins, floating roses, shrinking dice are all here, plus at least 8,300 more.Tannen’s is the largest, but Flosso-Hornmann Magic Company (45 West 34th Street, sixth floor; 212-279-6079) is the world’s oldest magic shop. It’s dusty and cluttered and probably looks much the same as it did when Houdini owned it in 1919. Jack, the son of the original Flosso, now runs the business, and he’s a professional magician whose knowledge of magic is encyclopedic. He’ll demonstrate any trick in his large stock, but to discover the secret of how it works, you’ll have to buy it.
OR TRY: Grotesque figures, a mind-boggling mix of costumes, and zillions of masks are what you’d expect to find at Abracadabra (19 West 21st Street; 212-627-5194), but it has a fine selection of magic tricks.Costumes and magic team up at Halloween Adventure (104 Fourth Avenue, near 11th Street; 212-673-4546), which boasts a counter filled with tricks and a magician to demonstrate.A science-cum-magic store, Unique Science (410 Columbus Avenue, near 79th Street; 212-712-1899) combines all of magician Steve Ronson’s loves.