Popover Plums

Neighborhood: West 80s
Type of Place: Gift Shops

Carol Baer didn't have a background in store ownership or management
when she opened a gift shop, Popover's Plums, in September of 1998. But
that didn't seem like a major problem; after all, she hadn't had any
restaurant experience when she opened Popover's Cafe 24 years ago, and
that went on to become (and still remains) an Upper West Side institution.

The birth of Popover's Plums reflects the kind of sense one needs in
business, with a restaurant, a store, or anything else. The space next to
the restaurant--which is known for its baked goods and especially, of
course, its Popovers--became available when a dry cleaner closed up
shop. Baer heard that this space was being eyed by a bakery. "It didn't
seem too smart for me to have people selling coffee and baked goods right
next door," she explained; so she went for the space herself, and a
gift shop was born.

Fortunate for us that it was. This is a shop where one can sense
immediately the presence of a thoughtful and creative buyer. Baer stocks what
she enjoys, and her varied tastes produce a uniquely satisfying
inventory. There are classic antiques (including some great McCoy pieces;
prices vary) and lovely jewelry (hand-enameled, antique-glass pieces by
Anne Koplick, from $29, are popular); but they sit alongside whimsical
items like the talking Mr. Right Doll (utters spot-on phrases like "I
could listen to you talk all night!" and "As always, you're right!";
$14.95, and a bargain at any price!). Another in-demand offering is Dig Out a
Dino ($4.95), a toy that lets budding archaeologists dig "bones" out of
a platic "rock" and then put them together to create a mini dinosaur
skeleton. (If you happen to see my little nephew, Kameron, please don't
mention this to him, as it will certainly be part of his gift for his
next birthday.) So you're never at a loss for the right words when in
Paris, there are "Don't Pardon My French" cards, featuring popular French
phrases with their meanings and pronunciations. And for those who seek
to replicate the signature of their dining experience next door,
there's Popover Mix ($4.25).

So what did Baer have a background in, before she started all this?
Stage Management, which she taught at the university level. We love
stories like this, and shops like this--both demonstrate that good instincts,
good taste, and common sense are at least as important as formal
training, and that actually there *are* second (and third) acts in American

  - Pamela Grossman; Sept. 12, 2005

Popover Plums
555 Amsterdam Ave (bet. 86th & 87th)
New York, NY 10024

Average rating:
What do you think?