In the shop-and-ship era of Amazon, when convenience — not the cool factor — is king, a handful of pint-size stores are offering up one-of-a-kind selections, personal services, and gallery-like experiences you just can’t get online. These retailers are setting out to bring the thrill of the hunt back to brick-and-mortar shopping.
The perfect leather jacket is an elusive thing: If the length is right, the shoulders are too tight; if the shoulders are right, the sleeves are too short. But a trip to this Lower East Side shop-stashed-behind-another-shop (an outpost of the London rock ‘n’ roll jeweler the Great Frog), where biker jackets come made-to-measure and Iggy Pop and Johnny Thunders tees line the walls, will take months of fitting room failures out of the shopping equation. Sit down with Chuck Guarino (look for the tall guy with the Richard Hell hair) or his wife/partner Elisa Maldonado (a Joan Jett doppelgänger) to pick your leather (pony hair to kangaroo), lining (over thirty to choose from), and hardware (silver, antiqued, brass, or black) — and a custom, hand-cut jacket arrives in two to four weeks. Can’t wait that long? Check out the couple’s off-the-rack lines: Spade Label (starting at $595) and Terminal Collection (starting at $395).
72 Orchard Street, Manhattan, thecast.com, 212-228-2020
Green Fingers Market
For years, plant artist Satoshi Kawamoto has created installations for cool-kid retailers like Freemans Sporting Club and Madewell. The front of his New York store Green Fingers Market (the only stateside outpost of his Japanese plant-shop empire) looks like a Tim Burton–esque urban garden, with dozens of tiny succulents arranged to mimic a sprawling lawn, and climbing ivy interlaced with imported giftables. And hidden behind the register is the first (maybe only) vintage clothing speakeasy in the city. Operated by two notable vendors, Foremost and Strongarm C&S Co., the treasure trove features an awesomely oddball mix of classic American workwear (rows of Coach bags, racks of worn-in denim jackets, stacks of Levi’s) and Eighties street gear (Run-D.M.C. Adidas sweatshirts, logo tees). Think of the hodgepodge array as urban garden wear.
5 Rivington Street, Manhattan, greenfingers.jp, 646-964-4420
Ten Thousand Things
When founders David Rees and Ron Anderson shuttered their Tribeca store last July after nearly three decades, they planned to focus solely on designing their jewelry collection. To the relief of their cult following, the retail respite didn’t take: In November, the duo took over a space on Ludlow that’s a sixth the size of their last store. Expect them to change up the interior — currently lined in sheets of plywood, with bespoke jewelry cases cut from century-old wood beams — drastically and often, with a concise edit of new hits (tiny hoop earrings, the “stirrup holder” necklace) next to long-time favorites (clustered stone earrings, tons of opals). They’ll also host a rotating roster of fellow designers, starting with Ariana Boussard-Reifel and Matthew Swope.
153 Ludlow Street, Manhattan, tenthousandthingsnyc.com, 212-352-1333
This tucked-away destination on E. 11th Street deals in the handpicked and the unique — and is the size of a walk-in closet. Robin Weiss, an alum of the much-loved Brooklyn boutique Butter, keeps Welcome Shoppe packed to bursting with a combination of international labels (Faliero Sarti scarves from Italy, hand-embroidered tops and tunics by Pero in India, workwear-inspired designs by Kapital from Japan) and little-known stateside designers (Alice Waese jewelry and perfect basics by CP Shades). She acquires pieces in single or small-batch buys — meaning there’s little chance of running into an outfit double on the street. Don’t miss the wall of home goods (embroidered blankets by Khadi and Co.) and baby gifts (Indego Africa stuffed animals) in back.
36 East 11th Street, Manhattan, welcomeshoppe.com, 917-548-3224
More from the Voice’s spring fashion issue: