It’s that time of year – gridlock, holiday lights (up since mid-October), clanging of Salvation Army bells, coat drives and of course, shopping! And to help with the holiday shopping (which you should have plenty of time for since you won’t be seeing any Broadway shows just now), I have compiled a new installment of the Greater Gotham Shopping Series.
This time we’re properly downtown – exploring Soho (bounded roughly by Canal, West Houston, Elizabeth and 6th Avenue). The neighboring areas of Tribeca, Nolita, Noho and The Village proper can wait for another day. So can all the “usual suspects” found in shopping guides to this area – you can find your way to Pottery Barn, Banana Republic, Sephora, Armani Exchange and H&M without my help. There are sites galore – such as Streets of Soho – dying to help you find places like this (even though you can find them anywhere).
So, what are the lesser know, more unique places to shop in Soho?
- If you have a long list of stockings to stuff, no clue what to get and a budget that doesn’t, at first glance, inspire imaginative gift giving ideas – hie thee to Pearl River Mart , on Broadway near Grand. What is it, you ask? Only an emporium of stunning variety and shelves full of things you know that you need as soon as you see them. Stunning pajamas and slinky, embroidered dresses, birdcages, unusual candy (the shapes and wrapping of which will delight any small fry on your list), stationery you won’t find elsewhere, paper lamps in the traditional shapes or in the shapes of your gift recipients favorite animal, dishes, herbal remedies, window shades, fantastic tote bags and sushi sets. Did I mention the waterfall in the middle of the store. Holiday shopping at Pearl River Mart means you can be generous and thrifty at the same time.
- Slightly (or greatly) racier stocking stuffers are yours for the asking at Babeland, the bright, shiny fun adult toy store near Mercer and Grand. Well stocked shelves, knowledgeable staff who can interpret a “WTF” face from the other side of the room and explain the function of that item without a qualm, snicker or blush (nothing more annoying than salespeople embarrassed by their products (or worse, overly interested in your personal plans for it). Women will likely find this a much more entertaining shopping experience than men (or at least, most men) but then they have their fair share of adult toy stores so I don’t feel bad for them.
- Too busy shopping to get to the museums? Don’t feel bad. Combine culture and commerce at the MoMA Design store on Spring Street near Crosby. Not your usual museum shop with overpriced books and the usual postcards. No, this is the ultimately home for form meets function. In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit to mostly going here for inspiration with an occasional purchase. Not that the stuff isn’t lovely and grab-worthy. It is, indeed. But I can’t always bring myself to spend that kind of money on placemats. Still, if you have a design diva on your gift list, someone whose jewelry veers toward the unusual or quirky or someone who’s home needs a punch of color – it worth checking out for that person’s special holiday gift.
- Do you aspire to be Auntie Mame? Well, holiday time is a key time to make your mark. I don’t know about you but even as an ‘honorary’ aunt, at some point I lose track of how many nieces and nephews I must sort out for the holidays. Girl Props on Prince and Broadway can’t help with the nephews (well, not 3 out of 4 of them, anyway) but the nieces will thrill to the kitschy, neon colored plastic bangles and baubles, the ropes of unnaturally colored “pearls” and rhinestone barrettes.
Of course there are many, many stores in Soho to catch the eye (and the wallet) but you don’t want miss these as you dash about hoping to find everything in good time. It’s even better to shop in Soho when the holidays (and crowds) are not upon us.