From flowers to pickles to vintage signs, Pamela Keech, author of 'The Curious Shopper's Guide to New York City,' shares her secrets to the best holiday buys in a great shopping town
1. What are some of your favorite places to do holiday shopping in New York?
The Flower Market has the best holiday atmosphere in the city. I like things that sparkle, so I go to Jamali on West 28th Street for beaded votive holders and mirror garlands, glitter paper to make place mats, and little lights to stick into flowers. For the real sparkle I go to Grey & Davis/D.K. Bressler on West 47th Street in the Diamond District for fabulous estate jewelry. It's not in the book, but Bryant Park is also lovely, and the stalls there have great gifts.
2. What are some gifts that are unique to New York?
The Antiques Garage on West 25th Street has seltzer bottles, old advertising from New York City businesses, and vintage photographs of city scenes. Guss' Pickles on Orchard Street ships that Lower East Side staple anywhere in the country, and Russ & Daughters on Houston Street does the same with smoked fish, bagels, and halvah.
3. When's the best time to find deals around the holidays?
There are always deals at the flea markets in Chelsea.
4. How can you avoid the crowds?
Don't go to department stores. The small, independently owned stores in Curious Shopper offer personalized service in a much less hectic atmosphere. And by buying from these stores you are supporting family businesses.
5. When buying a present for the person who has everything, where should you shop?
For men: Perhaps at Olde Good Things on West 24th Street. They have singular architectural relics there--great old signs, intricate faucets and doorknobs that could be paperweights, four floors of "guy" stuff.
For women: Tinsel Trading on East 38th Street. Their collection of metallic fabrics, buttons, and trims goes back to the 19th century, and they have a new line of jewelry, home accessories, and cards made from old stock. Or Deco Etc. on West 25th Street for a vintage Lucite handbag.