Neighborhood: Chelsea
Type of Place: Gift Shops

So your shopping list has been whittled down (at least a
little...right?), but there are always some names that remain stubbornly
unchecked--some folks for whom you need to shop and yet cannot think of what to
get. As Christmas drew nearer, I began to wonder: Is there a shop in this
city that might actually have something for everyone? Someplace we can
go--and no, I don't mean a shopping-mosh-pit like Macy's--to get every
name on the list checked off at last?

Walking to meet my friend Liz for a movie ("Charlie Wilson's War," and
I recommend it; Phillip Seymore Hoffman is brilliant, again), I
stumbled upon a lovely little place that just might fit this bill. Kyotoya
features beautiful Japanese imports; and its merchandise is varied enough
that your Grandma, your 6-month-old niece, your Uncle Paul, and your
teenage stepdaughter could all be covered here.

A gorgeous classical-piano CD was playing as I admired the displays and
felt the well-ordered shop's sense of peace start to work its magic.
Little by little, the craziness of the season thus far and the craziness
yet to come began to melt from my shoulders. Pretty patterned tea
canisters (for a favorite aunt? or a helpful neighbor?) start at $15;
writing brushes are $7 (and made me want to learn calligraphy). Elegant
chopsticks start at $9; kimono-fabric photo frames in various colors are
$25. Wooden marionettes are $7 and "Lucky Cat" coin purses $16.

Among my favorite items were tiny ceramic figurines ($5): green turtles
are Japanese symbols of long life and "teach that perseverance
eventually will bring success"; waving cats "beckon good luck and fortune";
dogs bring good luck during pregnancy; and frogs, when carried in a
purse, are said to help insure that any lost money will be returned.

I was browsing through the kimonos (from $90) when Liz called, having
already arrived at the theater. I had assured her I'd be there before
her, not knowing I'd stumble on this great place. Damn. I grabbed my
things, scooped up one of the ceramic turtles as an "just-because gift" for
Liz, and prepared to head out. As I was paying, I complimented the
music--and learned that the CD (I didn't have time to catch the musician's
name) is also carried at the shop.

It may be small, but it's not to be ignored: A shop that truly might
cover everyone and that, at least as important, provides a soothing
shopping experience at the same time. And yes, they are open on Christmas
Eve! Happiest of holidays.
  - Pamela Grossman

23 West 19th St
New York, NY 10011

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