Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers

Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers
Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers

Type of Place: Specials

As the year draws to a close and the last-minute gift hunting/holiday preparation heats to a frenzy, I'm thinking back on some of the shops I've visited in the last twelve months and considering how they might help harried shoppers out of various binds. Here are some common seasonal dilemmas--and some retail remedies that can lend relief.

Q: Our toddler is included in an invitation for a formal holiday event--and rather than braving the search for a sitter, we've decided to give this a shot and bring little Henry/Henrietta along. Must we spend megabucks on a formal outfit that our darling will outgrow in approximately 3 weeks?

A: You needn't do any such thing. Flying Squirrel brings the thrift store/vintage trend to the preschool set, offering lovely, gently used outfits for younguns at fantastic prices. Some items, indeed, were never used at all by their original owners, and were sold to the shop with their original tags still on. Parents swear by the store's values (one told me it factored into her decision about whether to get pregnant again!); and its friendly, laid-back vibe makes it a pleasure for all. Brand-new items are available here, too--also tres cute, and also great deals.

Q: My teenage nephew has, in the last few months, decided to hate pretty much everything. Do I have a chance of getting him something he won't despise?

A: You do--and you might find just the item at Trackstar, which has the whole "edgy" thing down cold. Practically speaking, the shop is for people who "ride Track"--a type of bicycling that involves having limited use of your breaks and that I won't pretend to fully understand. But its funny, snarky t-shirts and other unimpeachably cool gift items will brighten the day of the dourest wannabe-tough-guys (or gals). Of course, said recipients will not be able to show how much they love the gift; that might jeopardize their above-it-all stance. Just understand that a mumbled "Yeah, um, thanks" means "I totally love this"--and look forward to the time when the fog lifts and they start having actual conversations again.

Q: My friend is a 70s-sitcom nut. But 70s-sitcom memorabilia is not exactly in stock at Barnes and Noble or Bloomies.

A: Nope, it isn't; but it's all over Alphaville, along with vintage glassware, sunglasses, film relics, and much more. Alphaville's owners comb flea markets far and wide to bring together well-preserved cultural artifacts from the last five decades or so, at reasonable prices. The late-60s astrological fridge magnets I got here for my own kitsch-loving friend were an instant hit.

Q: I want to wear something totally distinctive to a holiday party. How can I make sure to avoid the carbon-copy blues?

A: At MoMo FaLana, every floaty, hand-dyed item is unique; so even in the unlikely event that someone shows up in an outfit from the very same shop, they won't have exactly what you do. Same goes for the locally made treasures from Treehouse, which also offers a well-chosen vintage selection.

Q: I asked Aunt Eloise what she wanted for Christmukah, and she said, "Something beautiful." Now what?!

A: Now you consider heading to Pier Glass for a gorgeous hand-blown glass item. The space is beautiful; the wares are beautiful; and many of them are priced well within reach. Outside the studio, the river view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, from Redhook, is also beautiful; so take a picture and slip it into Eloise's card.

Q: It's December 23rd. I've hardly started shopping. What is wrong with me?

A: Oy. Take heart; whatever is wrong with you is wrong with many. And for the very-last-minute masses, the craft fairs at Bryant Park, Grand Central, and Union Square offer the potential for one-stop shopping: Their appealing and diverse booths and wares just might let you check everyone off your list at once. Whew. But avoid agita by getting things together earlier next year. (Yeah, right....)
  - Pamela Grossman; Dec 18, 2006

Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers
NYC citywide, NY