Although Strategist writers and editors are highly skilled online shoppers (we’ve managed to track down an umbrella spotted on Succession and find the best gifts for everyone from priests to Deadheads), we also love shopping IRL. There’s just no substitute for the expertise of a shopkeeper, the thrill of an unexpected find at a new boutique, or browsing the sales rack at a pricey department store. Right now, of course, attempts to stop the spread of coronavirus have shuttered shops across the country, including the small brick-and-mortar businesses we love. While that may be disappointing for us, it’s devastating for these boutique shops. That’s why we’re dedicating this edition of Stuff We Buy Ourselves to our favorite local stores (in NYC and beyond), highlighting all the best items you can still buy online. Supporting them through this crisis is a small but significant way that we can all help out (and get some cool new ceramics, candles, and tie-dye gear in the process).
Dominique Pariso, writer
I absolutely love Big Bud Press: Its jumpsuits come in a rainbow of colors and go up to a size 6XL. Despite closing its Los Angeles store, it made a commitment not to lay off any employees or cut salaries, so there’s never been a better time to splurge on one of its pieces. If that wasn’t admirable enough, it’s also currently collecting donations to repurpose its production space to make face masks.
The one thing I’ve been dreaming about as I eat yet another bowl of cannellini beans is a Bernie’s burger — chased with a Martini and a grasshopper sundae. It’s asking people to donate to its employee fund or buy gift cards, but there’s also the option to buy some cool merch. It’s selling hoodies and hats, including a bucket hat, but I’m a fan of this hand-dyed polo. My plan is to get a large and wear it as groovy sloungewear.
Lauren Ro, writer
Norman & Jules, a boutique toy store in Park Slope, is our go-to source for kids’ birthday presents. Everything is on the pricier side, but that’s because the store is stocked with high-quality, responsibly made products from around the world. We especially like all the adorable wooden toys, like this rotary phone from Japanese company kiko+ and gg* that I wouldn’t mind having as a decorative item. I can imagine giving it to a toddler and explaining that before Zoom, we had telephones.
Before we had Augie, my husband and I would drop by Film Forum whenever we could, often multiple times a week. The curation was excellent, and the space, even after renovation, felt so classically New York. (And the popcorn really is the best.) It reminded me of my repertory-cinema-going days in college, where my now-husband and I spent a lot of time together when we were first dating. Having a baby made movie nights severely limited, and now it looks like we won’t be getting to any theater anytime soon. I’m considering getting a membership so I can support a New York institution during this downtime — and to have an incentive to make sure we make time for movie dates when this is all over.
Jessica Silvester, contributing editor
I’m sure I’m not going to be the only Strategist team member to bring up Greenlight Bookstore here. [Editors’ note: She’s right. You’ll see.] It hosts the best events. You’re crammed in like sardines but no one cares because you’re having such intimate conversations while also looking out the big windows onto the leafy Fort Greene streets. One of my favorite essayists, Dinah Lenney, was scheduled for one for her upcoming book called Coffee. It’s part of Bloomsbury’s beautifully designed Object Lessons series — a collection dedicated to “the hidden lives of ordinary things.” Dinah is able to capture those hidden lives better than anyone I know — and I’m not just saying that because she taught me in the Bennington MFA program and I cried like a toddler when I had to leave her. The writer Phillip Lopate describes Lenney’s prose as “caffeinated, zany yet serene and habit-forming.” That sounds like exactly the kind of drug we need to get us through a quarantine.
For a full decade before I had a kid, Babesta has been my favorite store for kids. The owner Jenn Cattaui has such an eye for the edgy-yet-super-high-quality. (The stuff is pricey, but anything I’ve ever bought there — gifts for friends’ babies, a high chair for my son — have lasted endlessly.) Now that I have a new little boy on the way, I’m going to invest in these sea lion swim shorts (with SPF 50) for whenever I want to show him off this summer.
Katy Schneider, senior editor
Judi Rosen is famous for her insanely butt-flattering jeans, which she sold out of a shop in the Lower East Side in the early aughts to celebrities like Britney Spears, Naomi Campbell, and Mariah Carey. She closed in 2008 and reopened in 2018. Her current store, in Nolita, sells the jeans that made her so popular, and so much more. It’s the kind of place where you never know what you’ll find: miniature ceramic peanuts, beautiful speckled ceramic bowls, and really, really good tie-dye T-shirts (which, incidentally, are what I’ve had my eye on).
Sincerely Tommy is a small and beautiful café/shop on Tompkins Avenue in Bed-Stuy. I live nine minutes away on foot, and before we all got shut inside, I went every single weekend. Half my wardrobe is from there, and every time I wear something of theirs (this half-zip turtleneck or this cool wrinkly top) I get a slew of compliments, because everything it sells is special and mostly one-of-a-kind. I’ve been coveting these (currently on sale) fur-and-leather mules for months, but especially now, when they seem like one of the few things that could rescue my depressing in-house look.
I have a lot of favorite bookstores in the city, but now that I’ve lived in the Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy area for the last couple of years, I’ve been spending a whole lot of time at Greenlight Bookstore. It’s such a good bookstore. It’s well stocked, with a deeply knowledgeable and helpful (but never overbearing) staff. It’s, roomy but still cozy. And it allows dogs to wander around inside. My book club is moving to Zoom, and I’m ordering our next read — Things in Jars — from Greenlight.
Jenna Milliner-Waddell, junior writer
When stocking up for quarantine I misjudged what really is essential. Luckily, my local liquor store, Bed-Vyne, is still doing delivery and pickup, and I think this bottle of tequila will be great to have for at-home happy hours.
I never thought I’d say this, but Netflix might get old, and I think this gold-foil, 1,000-piece puzzle from Brooklyn’s Peace & Riot will be interesting enough to hold my attention.
Note: Jenna’s Frank Lloyd Wright puzzle is currently sold out, but this attractive Dusen Dusen puzzle is still available.
Hilary Reid, writer
Three Lives & Company is my favorite bookstore in the city. Not only is it a warm and lovely shop, it was a wonderful place to work my first summer in New York. It’s held down the same spot in the West Village since 1978, and while it’s closed its doors for the time being, it’s still taking orders over the phone (it doesn’t have an online store, so just give ‘em a call). I’m planning on ordering Patrick DeWitt’s French Exit because I want something that will make me laugh and Machines in the Head by Anna Kavan for some surreal short stories; and preordering the new Dimes cookbook, Emotional Eating, because I’m running out of ideas for spicing up the beans in my pantry.
Note: In case you’re intimidated by the idea of ordering over the phone, we’ve included links to Hilary’s picks at Indiebound to order from your local bookstore. But you should just pick up the phone. It might be nice to talk to someone for the first time in days.
Nikki Chasin’s store on Ludlow Street is small and packed with Chasin’s own cheery designs — like lime-green pants and top sets and tie-dyed turtlenecks — along with vintage pieces, homewares, and jewelry. Since closing up for the pandemic, she’s been offering 20 percent off everything online (she also sells through her Instagram Stories, so check there for more stock). I’ve long had my eye on this squiggly color-blocked set, which seems worthy of a chic Palm Beach grandmother, and would now be an ideal thing to wear while working from home.
I would also be happy to own this kumquat-colored top.
I came across the café/shop Sounds only a few weeks ago, but I’m set on becoming a regular there once things get back to normal. It carries many things that I love: lemon pastries, medicinally scented natural oils, flowers that you can buy individually and make into your own arrangements, and teas with absurd names like “free energy” and “mental clarity.” I’m going to order a birthday gift for my best friend there (this vase is not the exact thing, but similar — don’t want to spoil the surprise), some tea for myself, and maybe re-up my supply of Everyday Oil.
Liza Corsillo, writer
This is the time of year when I start to yearn for new jeans. So even though it’s hard to imagine anyone but my fiancé, my dog, and our pet bird seeing me anytime soon, I am pretty excited about this pair of white jeans with blue contrast stitching from the Los Angeles shop Rudy Jude, which makes everything with natural dyes.
Before my fiancé and I left town last week to isolate ourselves in the woods, we stopped by Greenlight Bookstore’s Flatbush location to pick up some fiction. We bought Sally Rooney’s Normal People because neither of us has read it and an Agatha Christie for me because I love Poirot.
Tuesday Bassen makes clothing in sizes up to 6X from dead-stock fabric in Los Angeles. She is also a fantastic illustrator whom I find incredibly inspiring. I picked up a pair of socks that say “women’s sports” on them at her Echo Park store a while back and to this day they are one of my favorite items of clothing.
Louis Cheslaw, writer
As more than a few of my colleagues have mentioned, Greenlight is still fulfilling online orders. Disney War is an insider chronicle of the “back-stabbing, narcissism, and greed” during two decades of life at the Walt Disney Company? Sign me up.
Note: Disney War is currently on back order, but you can buy the e-book version from Greenlight here.
I’ve waited too long to read my first Anne Tyler. I know they say not to judge a book by it’s cover, but is it okay if you want to read it just because of its name?
Edwin Muir had the strange fortune of being at the center of some of the most traumatic and momentous events of the early 20th century. It feels like the right time to read about living through a historic moment.
Note: An Autobiography is currently on back order, but you can buy the e-book version from Greenlight here.
I was about to finally take a trip to the famed Red Hook vintage store Wooden Sleepers just as the city shut down. For months, I’d spotted it’s name among the marginalia of magazines I read, podcasts I listen to, and the Instagram accounts of men whose taste I admire, and I was so excited to get to play around in its collection of expertly curated dead stock and vintage Brooks Brothers, Woolrich, Carhartt, and more.
Chloe Anello, junior writer
Once you try the raspberry granola from Raspberry Fields Farm — a Hudson Valley–based company — you’ll never be able to eat another brand again. My family always has at least one bag in our house.
Bank Square is a deeply sentimental place to me — I’ve been going there every week for years — so to show my support in a tough time like this, I’m buying its organic, fair-trade, and truly delicious coffee for my machine at home.
I’ve been admiring Beacon Candle Company for quite some time, and in particular, its carved rose candle. I think it might even make a really beautiful gift for someone in the future.
Rio Viera-Newton, writer
Bi-Rite is a little store in Greenpoint that specializes in pop-inspired, 20th-century furniture. I oooh and aaah at just about everything when I’m in there. All of its pieces are so vibrant and special. A lot of its furniture is on the pricier side, but you can find a few relatively affordable gems, like these amazing bookends.
The Break is a wonderfully curated vintage store that sells incredible clothing, shoes, jewelry, and home goods. I’ve bought some of my most prized possessions there: my ornate, dainty blue wineglasses; my brown corduroy blazer; and my pair of white cowboy boots. Also, everyone who works there is so kind, helpful, and funny.
I’m always talking about this place because it truly is so special to me. Oo35mm is a tiny gem of a shop tucked away on Canal and Mott, jam packed with all kinds of K-beauty wonders. If you love beauty it’s a must. It has endless sheet masks, is up to date on all the latest skin-care innovations from Seoul, and most importantly, has kind and thoughtful staff members who are always willing to help you find products that work for your skin type. It’s offering gift cards as well as online orders, so please show this store some love!
Maxine Builder, managing editor
Vine Wine in Williamsburg specializes in natural wines — a category that it breaks down into certified organic and certified biodynamic — and each bottle comes with hilarious-yet-informative handwritten tasting notes that makes browsing the shelves a fun and approachable experience. Plus, sometimes, if you’re lucky, the shop smells like freshly baked granola. And though I’m not sure the next time I’ll be able to be smacked in the face by the scent of cinnamon, I do still have the luxury of reading those handwritten notes and buying bottles online. Vine Wine is offering pickup only, so you’ve got to be in the neighborhood to buy, but I’m certainly going to be supporting as much as I can, starting with this bottle of Kermit Lynch–imported Beaujolais.
I left our office in a bit of a rush a couple weeks ago, and though I grabbed five emergency preparedness kits for testing, I forgot my beloved East Fork mug, and it’s now in pandemic purgatory. However, the kind folks from East Fork reached out to me last week and offered to send a new mug, a preview of their new summer colors. My new mug is in Malibu, a delightful, calming robin’s egg blue that makes my mornings more pleasant. There’s also Tangerine. Right now, you can preorder the mug in either of the new seasonal colors (which is rare because they usually sell out within hours of hitting the shelves). The caveat: Because of COVID-19, it is fully unclear when East Fork will be back to manufacturing and shipping. If you can handle the delay, you’ll have the mug waiting for you on the other side of this pandemic — and you’ll be supporting an excellent, thoughtful company in the process.
Peter Martin, senior editor
Kids are tough when there’s not a worldwide pandemic, but they’re especially tough right now, when we’re all cooped up at home and childcare is a fond and still-expensive memory. No matter how stressful these past two weeks have been, though, one guaranteed moment of joy each day (along with the unsolicited running hugs and realizing it’s almost nap time) is getting our daughter dressed in the morning. She just looks so cute, especially when she’s in an outfit we haven’t seen her in before, and especially when that outfit is an adorably stylish pick from The Getalong — a Nashville-based collective of women-owned brands that our friend co-founded early last year. As someone who has to remind himself to be budget-conscious before going into Carters, I can’t shop there as often as I want to, but I’m always grateful for an excuse. Scout Baby (one of the fourteen vendors at the Getalong) finds clothes that are softer and much more stylish than anything I’ve ever owned. And they’re responsibly made, which is not something I can say about the $8 jeans we’ve found for her at big-box stores.
When the tornadoes hit Tennessee in early March, the guys behind this brand were handing out blankets to anyone in Nashville who needed them.
Another Getalong favorite that’s a little more interesting than the stripes we’ve all gotten too comfortable with.
Camilla Cho, senior vice-president of e-commerce
Morningtide is a great little store in Albany, California that stocks a wonderfully thoughtful and curated selection of goods that I’ve often turned to for gifts and local ceramics. It also carries some great stuff for kids, sustainable living goods, women’s jewelry, and a curated secondhand slow-fashion section called Morningtide Loop. These are a few of my favorite things from the store right now. It sells gift cards too.
Casey Lewis, senior editor
Mekelburg’s is one of my favorite bars in Brooklyn, but it’s so much more than a bar. It’s also a specialty store with an unparalleled beer selection, interesting snacks, excellent chocolate bars, and the best babka I’ve had (which can be shipped anywhere).
Upstate Stock has top-notch candles, excellent lattes, really nice gloves and hoodies, and other comfy miscellany, but what I always come back for are its greeting cards. It’s so hard to find a good greeting card (it shouldn’t be!) — but this place never fails.
Nearly all of my jewelry is from In God We Trust — especially its semi-annual sample sales — but it have a constantly evolving selection of clothing you can’t seem to find anywhere else (and, also, a solid stock of Levi’s). I have several of its custom necklaces, and I always want more.
Tembe Denton-Hurst, writer
I’ve become newly obsessed with plant parenthood now that I’m home full-time, and have been eyeing planters from Yowie, a Philadelphia-based home and life shop that sells a curated selection of wares by different independent artists and friends of the brand. I’m still deep in the apartment decorating process and looking for something that will mesh with whatever design aesthetic I decide to go with, so I’m gravitating toward this teeny unglazed terra-cotta pot by D. Frunzi Ceramics.
Keeping in line with the home décor theme, I’m also sourcing art for my apartment. It was really important for me to center black artists and art in my home and Blk Mkt Vintage has been an incredible resource to do that. Its stock tends to rotate quickly (it’s very popular) but right now I have my eye on this vintage NAACP poster that recently went on sale. The colors are good, and the NAACP as an organization has such a rich history. I also interned for the NAACP’s legislative branch in high school, so I feel connected to the piece.
Karen Iorio Adelson, senior writer
I live a two-minute walk from the Tribeca Maman, a mini-chain in NYC (with locations in Montreal and Toronto too) known for casual French fare and Oprah-approved nutty chocolate chip cookies. It’s a great spot for brunch — I love the quiche and breakfast sandwiches — but the cookies are what I’m missing most during quarantine. They have a soft and gooey inside and a just-crisp-enough exterior — not quite as intimidating in size as Levain cookies but just as rich and delicious. I’ll buy one for an afternoon pick-me-up or buy a box to bring to a dinner party. Deliveries are currently on hold due to coronavirus but you can preorder now to have something to look forward to when things are back to normal.
Since running outside (at a safe distance from others) is still allowed, that part of my workout routine hasn’t been interrupted. However, before this all went down I was going to Physique 57 classes twice a week for some strength training to balance out all my running. I never thought I’d miss the feeling of my thighs burning during a long series of barre exercises, but now that I can’t go to class I’m craving the intense workouts. Its subscription service features videos filmed in-studio that are nearly as good as the real thing.
Anthony Rotunno, senior editor
Over the past few weeks, in addition to discussing all of the practical products one might buy to make a word turned upside-down feel a little more right-side-up, we at Strategist have also chatted about the less practical things we own that simply bring us joy — an emotion that, these days, often seems in short supply. Pandemic or not, I have always been a firm believer in buying objects that, regardless of their actual purpose, first and foremost make me smile when I look at them, whether that’s stone fruit, “museum-quality” paper napkins, or a color-changing mushroom night light. My go-to place to shop for these sorts of things is at one of John Derian’s stores in Manhattan. Derian’s curation is impeccable — his art for arranging has inspired my own home’s décor — and prices can run the gamut, but a lot of the stuff is as affordable as it is exceptional, like these melamine (a.k.a. plastic) plates that make even a weeknight salad feel special. Browsing the website doesn’t hold a candle to poking around the brick-and-mortars, but I’ve been doing it a lot more now that my favorite Saturday afternoon activity has been put on hiatus.
When I don’t feel like leaving Brooklyn to browse John Derian, I get my beautiful-things fix at Catbird’s Williamsburg store. While the company may be better known for its personal jewelry, its co-creative directors (one of whom, Leigh Plessner, is also a Strategist contributor) have built up a selection of décor and other items that may be smaller than Derian’s, but rivals his inventory in terms of sheer delight. While Catbird has currently paused all of its operations — including shipping — the business is still taking orders that it says will ship “as soon as New York State lifts its restrictions.” Among my most favorite products are its house line of candles, which come in several scents and seem to last longer than their pricier competitors. (This is not a scientific fact, but from personal experience, my Catbird candles seem to burn slower than like-size ones from Diptyque.) I’ve been burning Summer in Italy on and off since getting it in December, though that “on” time has definitely increased lately for obvious reasons.
Kayla Levy, intern
While I’m grateful to currently live within walking distance of several indie bookstores, I have an abiding fondness for the Bay Area bookstores of my childhood — chief among them Copperfield’s Books, a community-based Northern California bookstore café, where I once sat for hours as I completed all of my college applications. In addition to all the hallmarks of a local bookstore — literary-themed tchotchkes, displays of local authors’ work, and a well-utilized community bulletin board — Copperfield’s has kombucha on tap and comfortable chairs to sit in while you peruse titles. Last time I was home I purchased My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a self-quarantine appropriate title by the “exceptional” (her own word) Ottessa Moshfegh. Plus, since we’re all buying online now, the same $3 shipping charge applies whether you’re sending a title to Brooklyn or somewhere in the Bay Area.
As Strategist newsletter editor Mia Leimkuhler pointed out, the world of knitting can be intimidating, but String Thing Studio — a black- and woman-owned yarn store in Park Slope — is anything but. When I first stopped by to pick up knitting supplies for my restless hands I was greeted with expert support. And options. The store boasts an array of colorful skeins (a word I learned there), from $5 balls of cotton string to over $50 balls of cashmere and wool. Also it doubles as a community space, offering everything from classes to open knit nights (some of which continue as virtual events for the time being). You can get into knitting during isolation, and treat yourself to a String Thing Studio Gift Card to buy some extra supplies afterward.
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