Savings & Discounts

The 10 Best Specialty Stores in NYC

With so many impersonal chain stores around, it's a treat when you find a shop that sells one kind of merchandise alonethe kind of shop that manages to thrive in New York City. Most of these are small operations; many have been in business for a long time. Customers love them, both for their personal service and their unique wares. You will, too. Read on for our picks for the 10 best specialty stores in New York City.

Best of NYC Specialty Stores: Fishs Eddy

fishs eddy housewares nyc

There's a tiny hamlet in upstate New York from which the owners of Fishs Eddy borrowed the name for their shop. They stock all things dining-related in terms of glassware, plates and platters, kitchen storage, flatware, and gadgets. This is where to come if you seek an Alexander Hamilton shot glass, a serving platter featuring a dinosaur, or a Brooklyn-accented sugar bowl and coffee mug (reading "Shuguh" and "Cawffee.") It's a great spot for dishes for a first-time homeowner or for furnishing that beach housemost stock isn't in the joke modei.e., simple white dinner plates for under $8, and dishes featuring iconic NYC spots like the Williamsburg Bridge and Empire State Building, are equally reasonable. 889 Broadway, 212-420-9020, fishseddy.com

Best of NYC Specialty Stores: The Evolution Store 

In the market for a beaver skull? Prefer a green turbot seashell, or are agate slices more your thing? Head to The Evolution Store for a vast selection of science and natural history collectables and 142 home furnishings set out so it has a museum-like feel. All offerings have come from paleontologists, entomologists, anthropologists, and  are obtained legally and can be legally sold in New York State; in fact, the store is  licensed by New York State and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Sales staff is full of help and owner William (Bill) Stevens is often around and happy to chat. If you have entomology needs or a request, you'll need an appointment. Otherwise, drop in anytime. 687 Broadway, 212-343-1114, theevolutionstore.com

Best of NYC Specialty Stores: The Upper Rust

upper rust antiques

The Upper Rust sells antiques and strange finds. More precisely, it's a trove of the unusual like an old penmanship chart or barbershop sign. You can find jewelry, sets of china, and home accents you can be sure no one else will be displaying in her digs. 120 W. 25th St., 212-533-3953, theupperrust.com

Best of NYC Specialty Stores: Tender Buttons 

An Upper East Side street houses Tender Buttons, the only store in the U.S entirely devoted to its namesake objects. (Gertrude Stein wrote Tender Buttons, a collection of works about small things; this was the inspiration for the shop's name.) Knitters and sewers visit to purchase the perfect final touch for their creations; artists buy buttons of special interest; and you can buy buttons made of carved ivory from France, made in the nineteenth century, among fasteners of pretty much any color or material you can imagine. 143 E. 62nd St., 212-758-7004, tenderbuttons-nyc.com

Best of NYC Specialty Stores: The Strand

The Strand

Back in 1927, New York had a six-block area known as "Book Row," housing 48 bookstores. How far we've come, or gone. The Strand, named after the London street where writers used to meet and talk, began as a haven for booklovers. Today it carries more than 2 million new, rare, and used books, as well as literary-related gifts of all kindseven a Strand baby onesie. Outside the store are dollar carts for bargain books; inside is everything else, as well as book readings and signings, mostly in the evenings. You can get lost among the shelves for hours should you choose or else find what you seek with the aid of the book-loving staff. 828 Broadway, 212-473-1452, strandbooks.com

Best of NYC Specialty Stores: Enchantments 

To pull off a full Harry Potter, head to Enchantments, New York's oldest store dealing with the occult. From blended oils to incense to candles custom-carved with astrological signs and hundreds of talisman necklaces, wave your wand (and credit card) and it can be yours. Make an appointment for a tarot reading or have your chakra scanned. People claim their lives have been changed after burning a particular candle or wearing a special oil. Burning sage is said to remove bad spirits, a practice often employed in a new home. 424 E. 9th St., 212-228-4394enchantmentsincnyc.com

Best of NYC Specialty Stores: DeLuxe 

It's delightful, it's delicious, it's DeLuxe, a shop on a chic stretch of Lexington Avenue that trades in sculpture, lighting, mirrors, furniture, art, clocks, and jewelry, all from the last quarter of the 20th century. Owner/buyer Sandi Berman has a keen eye for goods and brings in new items up at a rapid clip. "Runway" jewelry trends big with pieces from Cardin, YSL, Chanel, and the like (although there are plenty of smaller earrings and necklaces) and there is stylish vintage barware (bar carts, martini glasses, cocktail shakers, and more), all currently making a big comeback. A single object from this shop can add the perfect note to anyone's living space. 979 Lexington Ave., 212-472-7222

Best of NYC Specialty Stores: Bellydance America

bellydance america classes

Shaking your booty gets new meaning (or maybe just retains its current meaning) at Bellydance America, where you can buy a striking tribal necklace, a full costume, or just some finger cymbals. There are elaborate bra and belt sets, hip scarves dripping with fringe, drums, and music on CDs and for an MP3 player. If you want a fancy caftan, here's a place to buy it. An adjoining studio offers classes for all levels. 265 W. 37th St., 212-768-4888, bellydanceamerica.com

Best of NYC Specialty Stores: Oriental Lamp Shade Company

At the Oriental Lamp Shade Company, in business for almost a century, shades come in endless shapes and materials (Pongee or Dupioni silk, string, burlap, several kinds of linen, etc.). They carry bell shades, drum shades, wide top corner square shades, and everything in between, as well as a huge selection of finials (the top piece that holds the shade on the lamp). Oriental can custom-make the shade of your dreams or repair a lamp that needs it. If you have a vase or other special object, they can turn it into a lamp. Aladdin would have loved it here. 223 W. 79th St., 212-873-0812, orientallampshade.com

Best of NYC Specialty Stores: Fabulous Fanny's 

fabulous franny's eyeglasses

Stuffed with vintage eyewear, shoppers (and browsers) can investigate hundreds of pairs of eyeglass frames divided by shaperound, octagonal, cat-eye, 1920's, 1960's, rather than color. Frames are stacked on racks and tucked into drawers so you can try on at your leisure. There's no doctor on site so for lenses they will refer you to an inexpensive place for the prescription. Staff is patient and helpful in guiding you to a shape that works for your face; prices start under $100 and can range way upwards, especially for antique pieces. 335 E. 9th St., 212-533-0637

About the Author

Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer whose work has been published in The New York Times, American Profile, Go Nomad, www.newyorkarts.com, Stratton Magazine, Go World Travel, and other outlets. A lifelong New Yorker and avid traveler, she also writes on food, theater, and other cultural events. Her blog, But I Digress…can be found at www.marigoldonline.net.

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