Holiday Shopping, New York City

Yuka Goes Shopping!

By Yuka Hachiuma

Skip to: Coach | Crate and Barre | FAO Schwarz | Henri Bendel | HMV | MoMA Design Store |
             Kate's Paperie | The Store Next Door | Tiffany & Co. | Victoria's Secret


    When I was in school, I always found Coach goods to be slightly too conservative for my taste, but now that I'm in the working world, I'm starting to realize the value of tradition and all that comes with it. There are very few leather goods stores that come close in terms of leather quality and craftsmanship--all of which comes with a life-time guarantee. I have been eyeing a particular briefcase since graduation, which by now will most probably become a Christmas gift, if I'm lucky. Another gift that I would highly recommend are the leather gloves; the leather is unbelievably soft to the touch, and the gloves are amazingly warm due to the cashmere lining. Every time I walk by the Coach store, I always wander in and try on the gloves, walking away at the point right before I break down and surrender my credit card at the register. The goods they sell at Coach are reasonable in terms of price, considering how long they will last you because of their craftsmanship and timeless quality.

    Madison Avenue at 57th Street, (212) 754-0041
    Madison Avenue at 44th Street, (212) 599-4777
    4th & Broadway, (212) 799-1624
    Rockefeller Center, 620 Fifth Avenue, (212) 245-4148
    South Street Seaport, 193 Front Street, (212) 425-4350
    143 Prince Street, (212) 473-6925

Crate and Barrel

    It's here, it's here, Crate and Barrel is finally in New York! Being a native of Chicago, I was beside myself with joy when this store from my hometown opened up on Madison Avenue this summer. Sure there's Pottery Barn and Pier 1 Imports (both of which I frequent), but when it comes to household goods, the first place I head to is Crate and Barrel. Where else could you get a stylish potpourri/candle holder, a sleek, shiny martini shaker, and glasses with embossed cows, all under one roof? Not only that, during the holiday season, the store transforms into a veritable Santa's workshop with an assortment of ornaments, decorations and stocking stuffers to fill everyone with the Christmas spirit. Although this list is intended for the holiday season, Crate and Barrel is also a great place to set up a wedding registry, for those who are interested.

    650 Madison Avenue at 59th Street, (212) 308-0011

FAO Schwarz

    I have to begin with a disclaimer: I have never purchased anything from FAO Schwarz in my life. So why include it in this list? Because holiday shopping wouldn't be the same unless you stop by this museum of nostalgia where every corner you turn, there's a different theme and something for the child in everyone. On one of my recent shopping excursions to Fifth Avenue, I spent the majority of my time navigating through the plethora of playthings offered up for hefty prices, trying out various toys. The only place I was truly tempted to take out my wallet was in the "FAO Schweetz" section where you feel like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, enclosed in walls filled up to the ceiling with candy. What deterred me was the incredibly long line at the register, which is something to get used to now that the holiday season is in full swing. If crowds irritate and annoy you, I wouldn't recommend this store, but if you have time, you may want to drop by and check out the new section where they pay homage to the infamous blonde babe, Barbie--it's quite a hoot.

    Fifth Avenue at 58th Street, (212) 644-9400/9410

Henri Bendel

    Welcome to the "Women's Paradise," where you will seldom see a man near any of the beautiful cosmetics counters or their colorful displays of fragrant bath oils. I don't know where the men go while the women shop in this most exquisite of department stores, but it's a peculiarity I have noticed time and time again. So, leave your beau behind and visit the Mecca of trendy cosmetics (Bobbi Brown, MAC, and Trish McEvoy are sold here) and walk out with the adorable little Bendel shopping bags in which they lovingly package your acquisition--no matter how inexpensive the purchase. Makeup isn't the only thing they sell here, but you must have a strong heart and a robust bank account to venture to the upper levels where they sell clothes by designers to whom fashion magazines need only refer in the first-person. Last, but not least, if you ever find yourself shopping on Fifth Avenue and in need of a bathroom, explore the basement level of this brown and white striped oasis where you'll discover bathrooms bigger than studios on the Upper West Side and a powder room immaculate beyond belief.

    Fifth Avenue at 56th Street, (212) 247-1100

    I usually try to stay away from music stores because once I step foot inside one, I can't leave without buying a stack of CDs. Now I spend even more time whenever I go to HMV because I now have my very own I Card. For those who don't know what it is, there are "I-Stations" situated throughout the store that allow you to preview most any CD you wish before purchasing it. I never would have gambled and bought the Edith Piaf CD I have unless I hadn't previewed it on the I Station. Now I can't stop listening to it. This is also where I discovered "The Carpenter's Christmas" which I bought as a Christmas gift for a friend who was brooding over the fact that he missed hearing Christmas carols playing in the stores because he was cooped up in his room completing graduate school applications. There's always something for everyone at a store with as comprehensive a collection as HMV.

    2081 Broadway at 72nd Street, (212) 721-5900
    1280 Lexington Avenue at 86th Street, (212) 348-0800,
    565 5th Avenue at 45th Street, (212) 681-6700,
    57 West 34th Street at 5th Ave, (212) 629-0900,

MoMA Design Store

    The gift shop connected to the Museum of Modern Art holds its own with an extensive collection of funky poster frames made of colored aluminum, but for truly innovative gifts, I recommend going down the block to MoMA Design Store. There you will find an assortment of design-conscious objects that manage to be surprisingly functional at the same time. I have to admit, a lot of the merchandise sold here is beyond my price range, but there are many small gifts that are reasonable, even with my shoe-string budget. My prized possession from the store is a gift my sister gave me when she first visited New York--a black token holder with a succinct "MoMA" written in white, so compact yet so chic in its simplicity. Alas, due to the changing of the size of tokens, I can no longer use it--now I'll have to move to a place that has tokens that fit my token holder. But seriously, this museum shop is worth the trip, even if you're not going to see the exhibits.

    44 West 53rd Street btwn 5-6, (212) 767-1050

Kate's Paperie

    I still remember how I discovered this wonderful little stationery store when I was meandering the streets of SoHo, wracking my brains for a gift idea for a friend. I wanted to get something unique, so I walked into the store which, judging from the store window, promised to have such gifts. For anyone who has an interest in paper, this is the store to visit--there is every type of paper and paper goods imaginable. They have absolutely magnificent stationery, as well as beautiful bound books for whatever purpose you may choose. The store also has quite an extensive collection of pens, which, for someone who has a pen fetish, like me, is quite exciting. After literally spending hours roaming the store, and asking millions of questions to the knowledgeable staff, I chose an intricately engraved seal and sticks of wax. Another hour or so went into selecting the wrapping paper due to the sheer variety of designs from which to choose.

    Broadway btwn Prince and Spring, (212) 941-9816

The Store Next Door

    Perhaps it's because it's right next door to one of my favorite museums, but I have an inexplicable affinity for The Store Next Door. I wouldn't be surprised if other people pass by the store thinking it's rather small and nothing special, but I always find myself stopping by whenever I'm in the area. I even tried to get a job there as a cashier one summer, although they didn't want me because I had no experience working with cash registers. Many of the stained glass candleholders that are perched on the windowsill in my bedroom were purchased there, along with countless postcards I've bought intending on sending them, yet ending up on my walls because I couldn't part with them. As is the rule with all museum shops, the things they sell here tend to be on the expensive side, but some things are just worth the extra dollars. Unlike the museum shop within the Whitney, The Store Next Door's merchandise doesn't necessarily reflect the special exhibit that is going on next door, but don't forget to stop by if you're into decorative doodads.

    Madison Avenue at 75th Street, (212) 606-0200,

Tiffany & Co.

    Need I go into an explanation as to why this store is on my list of places to shop for gifts? Tiffany & Co. is where they must have coined the phrase, "all good things come in small packages." There's something about that little blue box with the white satin ribbon that makes my heart skip a beat with anticipation. Whenever I am lost as to what to buy my mother, a stroll through the aisles of expertly crafted jewelry inspires me with numerous ideas. Most of these inspirations are out of reach for me, but there are many sterling silver pieces that are financially less daunting, yet just as beautiful. This store is also for dreamers; whenever I get the catalogue in the mail, I spend endless hours perusing the pages. Then, I proceed to the store to see the merchandise in all their glory, carefully protected under the spotless glass of the counter. This store definitely has the power of making both the act of gift giving and receiving absolutely magical.

    727 Fifth Avenue & 57th Street, (212) 755-8000

Victoria's Secret

    What I find most amusing about shopping at Victoria's Secret is spotting men wandering helplessly through racks of racy, lacy lingerie, quickly taken in by the experienced salespeople who walk them through the process of purchasing lingerie. Sometimes it's just as difficult for women to attempt to find a gift in this store as well, for lingerie is something that is extremely personal and difficult to select for other people. Just ask the numerous women who have gone to the store to return gifts they felt were not quite right for them. That's why when I visit this store, I steer clear of the tricky lingerie and look for things that people normally don't buy for themselves. Not only does Victoria's Secret have an extensive selection of lingerie, they also offer many enticing satin pajamas as well as ultra plush robes. Their fragrance section is rather comprehensive as well, as evidenced when you step into the boutique and are greeted by notes of jasmine or lily of the valley. The holiday season does tend to get hectic at this bastion of lingerie, so have a rather clear idea of what you plan on buying beforehand.

    Madison Avenue at 63rd St, (212) 838-9266
    57th Street between Park and Madison, (212) 758-5592