Holiday Gift Guide

Holiday Gift Guide
Holiday Gift Guide

Type of Place: Specials

There's no denying it: Financial times are tight, and this seems like a bit of an odd moment to get caught up in holiday spending. But the truth is, challenging times are perfect for gift-giving; a thoughtful present found when you're watching your pennies can mean more than a splashy something in flush times.

And though our city is not usually described as affordable, I make it my business to report on unique, appealing, and financially doable items wherever I find them. They're out there; it just takes some looking. A few notable finds to get you started:

Arcadia, in Chelsea, offers a huge array of gift and art items, and most of them cost way less than you'd expect. The candles are affordable and rarely run-of-the-mill; the beauty products and jewelry are offered in a reasonable range; and the chocolate bars (generally $5 or less) are a great, high-quality deal. Everything here is chosen fairly carefully by the owner, and affordability combined with quality of merchandise is one of his major concerns--so, no cheap knock-offs; no suspicious assembly-line items laden with lead. Plus it's a draw for both genders; I visited with a male friend, and while I was too busy reporting to shop, he left with several items for his home.

Regarding candles, special mention should also go to Sleep, in Williamsburg, and its so-yummy Voluspa candles ($6 for votives, $12 for tins), which had me reluctant to leave them. Coming to think of it, it's probably time for me to go back there and pick some up.

Bookworms on your list? Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books is what it sounds like it would be: Quirky, interesting, and seriously affordable. The selection (for adults and kids) changes all the time, so you've got to duck in to see what's what; but I have never been disappointed when looking here for a good read--as a gift or for myself.

New-shop-on-the-block Bit'z Kids, on the Upper West Side, has a cute and affordable selection of kid's clothes overall; but its current $10 sale is really something to note. Trendy and styling shirts, pants, and leggings for the price of, say, a bib at some other stores? We'll take it!

Continuing on the kid note, the downtown Collector's Toy den has banks, figurines, keychains, stuffed animals, and even a singing pen for under $10. Some items are more, but you'll find deals here; and again, you'll find things you won't see everywhere else. For grown-ups there are, among other things, fridge magnets celebrating old TV shows--and who wouldn't want a little "Brady Bunch" or "That Girl" in their day? (Actually, I know a five year old who's obsessed with Betty Boop; so maybe the oldies are not just for the older generation after all.)

Last but not least, I take you to East Village gift shop Exit 9, notable for its sense of humor; everything here is offered with a wink and a fun dose of style. T-shirts, books, candy, soap, more magnets (generally snarky rather than nostalgic), and much more can be found, often for $15 or less. And the shop's "We're in this together" vibe makes browsing a pleasure.

Time-honored aphorisms are holding true now: We *are* in this together, and it *is* the thought that counts. With a little looking, these holidays--and holiday gifts--can be some of the best. Enjoy it all.
  - Pamela Grossman; Dec 14, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide
NYC citywide, NY