Whatever your heart desires
By Gabriella Gershenson
New York has something for every shopper. The question in New York City isn't "Do they have it?" but "Where can I get it?" As long as you have the cash to buy it and the savvy to locate it, you can have whatever it is your heart desires.
Looking for the latest trends? Check out neighborhoods like Soho, Nolita, Tribeca and the Lower East Side, which still have enough one-of-a-kind boutiques to assure you some cutting edge originality. Want glamour? Stick to Madison Avenue north of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue in the 50s, where it seems that only sultans and sheiks can afford to shop. Dying for diamonds? 47th Street off between Fifth and Sixth avenues is known as the Diamond District. While the streets aren't exactly paved with the shimmering stones, it's as close as you will get without traveling to a South African diamond mine. For a truly authentic clothing experience, visit the wholesale shops in the 30s between Fifth and Eighth avenues, where skeins of fabric, buttons, hand bags are hawked in the Garment District.
Authentic New York — Bergdorf Goodman, known to natives simply as "Bergdorf's," is one of those swishy midtown department stores that can still intimidate on the 20th visit. Come here for the people watching as well as for the impossibly gorgeous, impossibly pricey inventory. Chances are the polished ladies who casually pluck luxury goods like they're oranges on a fruit stand are not just rich, but royalty. 754 Fifth Ave.; 212-753-7300; bergdorfgoodman.com .
Less stuffy than Bergdorf's is Barney's New York, its luxurious but more accessible counterpart located just a few blocks north. While brimming with equally seductive jewels, accessories, designer goods and cosmetics, Barney's is geared toward a younger, more casual shopper — albeit with money to burn. 660 Madison Ave. (at 61st Street); 212-826-8900; www.barneys.com .
Inauthentic New York — Have you ever wondered how the mere mortals riding the subway can afford those ubiquitous Louis Vuitton totes? Look no further than Canal Street. The downtown thoroughfare, bordering such neighborhoods as Tribeca, Soho and Chinatown, is an astounding bazaar of up-to-date knockoffs, some surprisingly well executed. Longchamp, Rolex, Dior and Gucci all have their doppelgangers here, as do many current films and popular CDs (pirated, at about $4 a pop). Even if you are morally opposed to fakes or prefer the cachet of the real thing, seeing stall after stall of the legally questionable booty is a worthwhile experience. Haggling is encouraged … and fun. Canal Street, from Sixth Avenue eastward .
Edgy New York — Ricky's, the edgy New York novelty shop, carries everything from primary-colored wigs to panties to removable tattoos. The West Village outpost, open until midnight on weekends, often attracts bar hoppers looking to stock up on lip gloss, hair color or something more — a kinky backroom touts a decent variety of erotic memorabilia. There are several locations throughout the city. Broadway in Noho has the best selection, but it closes at 9 p.m. 718 Broadway; 212-979-5232; www.rickys-nyc.com .
French country — Located on a picturesque strip of Ninth Avenue in Chelsea, the merchandise at La Cafetiere, a home goods store known for its sunny elegance, matches the gentility of its surroundings. The shop specializes in the finest house wares imported mostly from France, including stunning damask cotton table linen, hand-woven natural fiber throws and stylish ceramic crockery in the season's latest colors (as determined by Paris fashion, of course). Even if you're not buying, browsing through the handpicked, eclectic inventory is a pleasure in itself. 160 Ninth Ave.; 646-486-0667; www.la-cafetiere.com .
Take the A train — There are so many corny pitfalls in the world of souvenirs — the "crystal" Empire State Building paperweights, the Statue of Liberty magnets — that after a while, it's difficult to discern the barely acceptable from the really bad. The New York Transit Museum Gallery and Store in Grand Central Terminal ( 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue ) alleviates the pressure of finding the perfect gift. It turns out that the subway — an enormous part of the New York experience — is also perfect fodder for some very clever keepsakes. No. 1 train Christmas ornaments? Check. Subway-map wrapping paper? Got that, too. And a T-shirt with the F Train insignia makes for a pretty funky memento — so cool, in fact, that New Yorkers themselves have been spotted wearing them around town. 212-878-0106; www.transitmuseumstore.com .
Conspicuous consumption — Food lovers will want for nothing once they enter Chelsea Market. Located in a former Nabisco Factory, this building saw the birth of the first Oreo cookie. Years later it is home to a unique gastronomic collective. Nearly two-dozen food vendors occupy the sizeable urban mall, which takes up one square New York City block. The stripped, raw interior features exposed brick, pipes and abstract artwork, lending a gritty character appropriate to the city. The excellent Amy's Bread, Italian importer Buon Italia and Chelsea Wine Vault are just a few of the marvelous places to visit. Check the Web site for events — it's not uncommon to stumble upon a wine tasting, fruit carving demonstration or tango lesson here. 75 Ninth Ave.; www.chelseamarket.com .
Chocolate city — When it first came onto the scene in 1996, Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker put American chocolate on the map. This Berkeley-based company showed the world that a baking chocolate that rivals imports like Valhrona and Callebaut can originate State-side. In November 2004, Scharffen Berger opened its first satellite story on New York City's Upper West Side. In addition to carrying the brand's best-known products, like 70% bittersweet chocolate bars, the complex 82% extra dark and tins of addictive roasted cocoa nibs, the new shop has introduced a line of handmade ganache-filled confections that make Godiva chocolates look like Hershey's. 473 Amsterdam Ave.; 212-362-9734; www.scharffenberger.com .
Good vintage — The future of shopping has arrived, and we're not talking online groceries. The aptly named Discovery Wines is a new kind of wine emporium dedicated not only to the pleasures of the vine but to making related information accessible. The airy Alphabet City store features touch-screen kiosks that allow shoppers to view the profile of any wine by simply scanning the bottle's UPC code. Kiosks also allow shoppers to search for wines by grape, food pairing, region and price. If you want to take home more than just a bottle or two, Discovery Wines ships to 10 states outside New York and is working on increasing that number. 10 Avenue A; 212-674-7833; www.discoverywines.com .
For the kids — The city's best-known independent children's bookstore, Books of Wonder, has just changed locations — all the way from No. 16 to No. 18 W. 18th Street in Chelsea. Before the move, Books of Wonder was already the largest children's book store in Manhattan. Now it's even bigger. This model for The Shop Around the Corner in the film You've Got Mail peddles in new and rare books and features an entire section dedicated solely to the Wizard of Oz . The store is a hub for regular events and attracts readings by major children's book authors almost weekly. The new site will also be home to another New York favorite, the Cupcake Café, which will serve ornate cakes and cupcakes, salads, sandwiches and afternoon tea. 18 W. 18th St.; 212-989-3475; www.booksofwonder.com .
Bargain basement — Test your New York mettle over slashed-price haute couture at Century 21, one of the great bargain basement stores. Steady incoming streams of accessories, house wares, and men's, women's and children's clothing replenish the fought-over inventory that occupies four glorious floors in lower Manhattan. Since the name of the game is "who gets the best deal," this is one time when it isn't tacky to brag about how little you paid for your Zegna suit. Rather, it's appropriate. When purchased at Century 21, your low-price garment is not only a fashion statement — it's a badge of honor. 22 Cortlandt St.; 212-227-9092; www.c21stores.com .
A shoe wonderland — Pay dearly for irresistible fashion-forward men's and women's footwear at the magnificently varied Otto Tootsie Plohound, with two locations in Manhattan. Brands like Gucci, Costume Nationale and Miu Miu can drive prices sky-high, but once you snap out of sticker-shock, see if anything is on sale. The discounts can be as rewarding as the prices are prohibitive.
Midtown: 38 E. 57th St.; 212-231-319.
Soho: 431 W. Broadway, 212-925-8931 .
Alife on the Lower East Side is the hipper-than-thou sneaker store — you need to buzz just to get in. Confront style upon style of sought-after Nikes, Adidas, Converse and other hot commodity footgear in this rubber-soul shrine. Come to think of it, these are the perfect shoes for hoofing around the city in. Displayed in individual, backlit cubbies, you'll never look at your runners the same way again. 158 Rivington St.; 212-375-8128 .
For the gals — If you're looking to replicate the easy sophistication with which many New York women dress — and fast — Searle could easily be a one-stop shopping destination. Its multiple locations, mostly in midtown and the Upper East Side, offer a broad range of garments, from delicious floor-length shearlings and hooded parkas to a tempting array of super-fine cashmere sweaters, designer jeans and other everyday chic items. Prices here are fairly steep, but if you choose well, the high-quality selections could last you a lifetime. A new, three-level flagship store in midtown east opened in summer 2004. (Visit the store's Web site for other locations.) 635 Madison Ave.; 212-750-5153; searlenyc.com .
For the guys — If you wonder what the source is of the brash multicolored stripes and flashy prints showing up on men's dress shirts these days (think Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger), look no further than British designer Paul Smith. Although this classy, humorous men's clothier is being knocked off shamelessly, he manages to stay several steps ahead of the game. His specialty? Clothing with personality. Take the opportunity to enjoy his delicious lightweight sweaters, quirky patterned shirts and beautifully tailored suits — this Union Square-area shop is the designer's only U.S. store. 108 Fifth Ave.; 212-627-9770; www.paulsmith.co.uk .
For the kids — Inconspicuously nestled on a Tribeca street, the precious children's clothing store Bu and The Duck has established quite the following. The vision behind this eclectic line of clothing is so-called immigrant-chic, which aspires to combine vintage and contemporary elements to achieve a modern American look. The store, which masterfully curates its garments with antique children's toys and furniture, will have you seeing in sepia tones. Children's T-shirts made from shimmering mercerized cotton are an especially luxurious summer buy. 106 Franklin St.; 212-431-9226; www.buandtheduck.com .
High-tech toys — The airy two-story space of Apple Store Soho, punctuated by an innovative yet user-friendly glass staircase and see-through walkway, is the architectural equivalent to the milky white I-Book. A hands-on merchandising approach encourages visitors to play with every item in the store. If you care to deepen your understanding beyond tinkering, ongoing presentations and workshops on topics like GarageBand, iPhoto and intro to iPod are available daily, free of charge. 103 Prince St.; 212-226-3126; www.apple.com/retail/soho .
Book 'em — The Strand Bookstore boasts "eight miles of books" including that special edition you've been looking for and volumes you never realized you needed. Near Union Square in Greenwich Village, this cavernous shop is the same place where Michael Caine seduced Barbara Hershey with a volume of e.e. cummings in Hannah and Her Sisters . Climb a rickety ladder to grab one of a million used and new titles piled ceiling-high. Bring the book you finished on the plane and trade it for something else for the way home. Or, if you like, settle on the floor to read — employees will just step over your legs. 828 Broadway; 212-473-1452; www.strandbooks.com .
Put that in your pipe and smoke it! Enter a tobacconist's without shame at Nat Sherman's, a nicotine-lover's emporium squarely located on the northwest corner of 42nd Street. The staunch visibility of this high-end purveyor of barely legal smokeables has taken on new and proud meaning in post-smoking ban New York. Even before puffing was outlawed in bars, this original New York City-based company has had a lot to crow about. The American maker of hand-rolled cigarettes has been putting out a classy product since 1930, which includes a signature make of cigars and pipe tobacco in addition to their fashionable smokes. If you don't personally indulge, an elegant hard-pack of these cigarettes — some of the most delicious and slowest burning out there (in fabulously kitschy packaging, no less) — makes a great New York souvenir. 500 Fifth Ave.; 800-MY-CIGAR; www.natsherman.com .
Design source — Browsers at Moss in SoHo frequently speak in whispers, as though they were at a museum. The reverence is understandable, since many of the industrial design items at this vaunted establishment are displayed, like priceless antiquities, behind glass. The store also features reproductions, contemporary furniture, sleek shelving, innovative lighting and sophisticated toys for grown-up kids. 146 Greene St.; 866-888-6677; www.mossonline.com .