The gift of the city

I begin this column before completing my mental return from Thanksgiving break, but the post-Thanksgiving shopping season is clearly already in full swing. I’ve been tempted to fade into the masses of people swarming the malls, but instead, I’ll share some shopping places unique to New York.

First off, there’s Union Square’s Holiday Market. South of 15th Street, Union Square is filled with red and white booths, many of them are one-of-a-kind vendors, from now until Christmas Eve. For my readers who live far away, there are plenty of New York-themed gifts like old subway pictures and maps, that you can bring home next month. There are plenty of artisan gift, jewelry, and accessory clothing booths at Union Square. Make sure to bring cash if you want to shop in Union Square. Booths are typically open from 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m.

Moving further downtown, there are a plethora of cool places to shop between 14th Street and SoHo. You can probably find almost anything in those neighborhoods if you look hard enough, so my description of the shopping scene is by no means exhaustive.

I doubt the Engineering Department is cool with students 3D printing gifts, but you can go to iMakr, a 3D printing shop at Allen and Rivington Streets in the Lower East Side. Simply give them the file you want them to print and wait for them to get the job done. There are a few other shops on Allen Street to check out while you’re there.

If you have a relative or friend who’s into modern art and fancy household or office items, like cat-themed clocks or office organizers that look like hedges, they might appreciate a gift from the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA. Don’t worry about making a journey 20 blocks away from PATH station territory; because MoMA has a small store in SoHo. Located at Spring and Crosby Streets, this satellite store allows you to stay relatively close to the PATH while avoiding larger crowds near the museum itself.

Recently, Nike opened their flagship store at Spring Street and Broadway. Their inventory should be pretty obvious, but their displays are fantastic and create a unique store theater. Some sneakers have towers of basketballs for their displays, others have glass boxes, but no merchandise has your average mall display. The displays seem to be a combination of those of an Apple Store and those of a small, unique clothing store. They even integrate technology into the store by having virtual environments to test out your shoes before deciding if you want to buy them. Be warned, though, Nike can get rather crowded.

Now it’s time for my personal favorite – the cheapest stuff. Ironically, most of the cheap stuff in Manhattan is located pretty far downtown, where the real estate gets more expensive. The most well-known, and my personal favorite, is Canal Street jewelry. It’s pretty much the definition of fake jewelry you buy on the street. I know some people think giving Canal Street jewelry is an ethical dilemma, but I think it’s fine as long as you don’t pretend that it’s the real, premium stuff that it’s supposed to look like. Get it as a joke side gift.

Of course, there are plenty of high-end fashion stores in the Village and SoHo. They’re not really my cup of tea, so I don’t have much to say about them. If you or someone you know fancies them, though, you only have to walk on Bleeker Street or Church Street until you find one.

There are also plenty of typical department stores and electronics stores that you can find in any mall. The only one that really stands out (aside from Nike!) is the Union Square Best Buy. Marked by a huge clock facing 14th Street, it’s impossible to miss. Bonus for Best Buy: they have bathrooms. This Best Buy has a pretty impressive inventory for a one floor setup, you can find just about anything that’s on the Best Buy website in that store (thumbs up for that NYC efficient use of space). Aside from that, the only things really separating a department store or electronics store in the city from one in the Deer Park Outlets or Monmouth Mall is that the former is in a more open, free environment and involves bringing a lot of bags onto the subway as opposed to driving.