SVA Style's: Shopping Spotlight
Only In New York: Eight Unique Stores
February 6, 2018
by Angela Riechers
Tired of seeing the same stores here as you’d find in your hometown (the Gap, Michaels, Barnes & Noble: I’m looking at you) selling a predictable selection of things? SVA Style magazine put together a list of offbeat places that (a) only stock a single item or category of merchandise, and (b) exist ONLY in New York City. Such places give the city part of its charming urbane eccentricity because for the most part, they are run by individuals whose life’s work is to go narrow and very deep into a single subject. The stores, some of which are family businesses spanning three generations, reflect their owners’ personalities as well as their passion—even obsession—for their wares and provide an encyclopedic experience for shoppers.
Abracadabra (19 West 21st Street)
Ever wonder where to buy a two-person horse costume? Dying to dress up as a dreidel this Halloween? Not sure where to find a Bat Kigarumi Funsie, a zip-front eece onesie with attached batwing sleeves and furry ear hood? Wonder no more—Abracadabra has you covered. This cavernous Chelsea store can be overwhelming for its sheer variety of costumes in options from the elegant to the profane, alongside a fantastic range of makeup and applicators, and special FX helpfully categorized into gore, tattoos, prosthetics and teeth.
Casey Rubber Stamps (322 East 11th Street)
The outsized personality of the genial owner, J.C. Casey, fills the few square inches of unoccupied space surrounding more than 1500 rubber stamp designs, ranging from flamingos to deep-sea divers to disarticulated skeletons to celestial symbols to the old Life magazine logo. Casey’s also carries over 30 colors of ink pads, regular and waterproof, to print on just about any surface.
Just Bulbs (222 East 58th Street)
When you need a special light bulb, don’t you want to get it from a place whose website proudly notes that "Most of our staff have over 20 years’ experience in light bulbs"? Just Bulbs has a sweet backstory: during the World War II era, a peddler named Abraham Brooks replaced missing lights in the Empire State Building one at a time, and did well enough to start his own wholesale light-bulb business once the war ended. The store stocks about 36,000 different kinds of bulbs, for American and British sockets.
Tender Buttons (143 East 62nd Street
This is one of the only shops in the U.S. devoted exclusively to the sale of this one item. Seemingly all the buttons in the world, carefully organized by color and type, line the walls in neatly stacked cardboard boxes reaching almost to the ceiling, and framed collections of rare and antique buttons occupy the space above. There are 400 styles of brass replacement buttons for your favorite blue blazer, buttons shaped like penguins, fruit and owes, along with French copper-rimmed glass buttons from the 1950s reverse-painted with scenes of childhood and 18th-century buttons featuring delicately detailed vignettes in carved ivory.
Mokuba (137 West 38th Street)
The showroom for world-renowned Japanese ribbon company Mokuba dazzles a visitor with 50,000 types of ribbons and trims in lace, double-sided stretch grosgrains, organza, leather and lush satin, to name just a few. This small tidy shop on a grimy block in the Garment District stocks miles of ribbons, all made in Japan.
Canel Plastic Center (345 Canal Street)
Over the last 50 years, Canal Plastics has supplied the city's art students, designers, artists, filmmakers, photographers, architectural firms and sign makers with any and everything made of plastic. They carry acrylic sheets, rods and tubes, shapes (cubes, spheres, cabochons, and more) and decorative films. Sheets of acrylic in colors ranging from opaque black to green fluorescent, black with gold glitter, two-way mirror, and radiant iridescent, and your choice of frosted/ glossy/matte finish are available in sizes up to 48" x 96" as well as custom orders.
Ricky's (Multiple Locations)
Ricky’s urgent, staccato New Yorkese slogan “Looking Good, Feeling Good” sets exactly the right tone for this beauty product wonderland. For over 25 years Ricky’s has been the city’s go-to place for hair care and beauty supplies, concentrating all the best stuff from your local drugstore minus the depressing antacids and cough drops. Ricky’s also carries fun clothing and accessories such as tights, temporary tattoos, wigs and double-stick tape to avoid those embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions.
Joanne Hendricks Cookbooks (488 Greenwich Street)
This 1820s row house devoted to one of the greatest collections of rare and antiquarian cookbooks in the world is worth a visit. The space is peaceful and quiet if you like to browse solo but owner Joanne Hendricks is always happy to jump up and get involved, pulling out other volumes she thinks you’d like.