Whether your endgoal is providing gifts for nieces and nephews at Hanukkah (which starts the night of Dec. 8!), co-workers for Christmas, or dear friends for Kwanzaa, we’ve all got serious shopping to do. You may not be aware of the wealth of independently owned shops around Queens where you can find something unique and interesting while at the same time supporting your neighbors, so we’ve rounded a few up.
In Boutiques and Specialty Shops
SITE, located at 35-11 34th Avenue (GMAP), brings together the energy of Astoria with good taste in design. It’s a hub of the locally made and the otherwise carefully sourced and an all-around great spot for gifts sure to delight recipients and brighten rooms. Right now the store’s collection of holiday ornaments is inspired – colorful seated Buddhas, glittery clip-on mushrooms and running dinosaurs – but the shop carries a full array of items for the home, kitchen tools, exotic aromatic lotions, device cases, decorative prints, tasty goodies and fun wearables.
Inside Astoria, at 28-07 Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria (GMAP), is another great store with a focus on the home, a destination for the serious nester, someone seeking pretty tableware, mood-enhancing candles or items for the nursery that will be cherished and kept.
Maybe your giftee appreciates something wearable with little history. Loveday 31 Vintage, located in Astoria on bustling 31st Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets, (GMAP), is a jolt of artistic energy, custom-made for the creative classes. You’ll find vintage pieces – starting with mid-20th century – and some items from the near present, all selected for their expressive style. Owner Ivona Bilicic stocks inspired pieces, sometimes thoughtfully altered to make them more flattering, at a variety of prices. Hover about in anticipation of the luxury items that pop up now and then.
Speaking of luxury, Instant Replay vintage, at 72-20 Austin Street in Forest Hills, (GMAP), is a serious hub of used Louis Vuitton and Chanel handbags, (this would be for a beloved relative or very good friend), and is jam-packed with jewelry – both real and costume – fur coats and other treasures from days gone by.
In the shopping district of Austin Street in Forest Hills, a place with such mainstays as Barnes & Noble and Ann Taylor, a few specialty shops keep the village from seeming like any American mall. Case in point: Dimitry, a high-end tie shop located at 72-28 Austin Street, (GMAP). Dimitry is its own brand – you may have seen their accessories on online retailers – with a flagship store in Forest Hills. The silk tie selection focuses on standard length, offered in both regular and skinny width. Styles range from preppy to jet-set, all priced at around $69, however, right now you can pick up three for $99 when you shop in-store.
Just next door is Thank Heaven, at 72-18 Austin Street, (GMAP), a very posh shop for children’s attire, dressing kids from layette (newborn) to elementary school in inspired wear, including adorable pieces from 3 Pommes and Le Top and exquisite onesies from Sippy’s Babes. For the holidays Thank Heaven is featuring packaged sets from Books to Bed, wherein favorite titles such as Goodnight Moon, Paddington and Casey at the Bat are paired with pajamas featuring the book’s iconic motifs.
Also in Forest Hills, but over on Metropolitan Avenue, which has a decidedly retro feel, you’ll find Royal Collectibles, a very serious comics, action figure, and sports memorabilia shop with a friendly vibe. They stock the newest comic book and graphic novel issues as well as old ones – vintage Batmans go for $950! Stop in, browse, and if you have vague ideas as to what to get your dad, brother, or uncle but aren’t exactly sure, ask questions – you won’t be disappointed. Spotted: Iggy Pop action figure for $30. If you enjoy a bit of digging, there are four antiques and used furniture shops on Metropolitan, such as Frieda’s Fine Antiques and Collectibles, good for single teacups, depression-era glass, quirky oil paintings, and waterfall dressers.
In the Museum Shops
Image source: MOMI
If you have a cinephile in your life – and who doesn’t – THE destination for gifts is the Museum of the Moving Image at 36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria, (GMAP). Show pride in Astoria’s rich film production history, sourcing books on Fellini and on films shot in New York City, and take your pick of logo items just right for stockings stuffers.
ARTBOOK @ MoMA PS1 is located inside the venerable contemporary art venue, MOMA PS1, at 22-25 Jackson Avenue, (GMAP), and in a relatively small space, manages to stock all of the newest and most often referenced titles in modern and contemporary art and culture. Popular gift items include the Redstone Diary – $19.95 – an original item issued for the holidays every year with a different theme – this year it’s Language rendered graphically. Also perennially on the hot list is the boxed set, “European Poster, 1888-1838″ for $55. Give as one set or frame them individually and pass around the wealth.
In the World Market
For shopping, as with eating, a trip around Queens is like a trip around the world, from Europe to Asia, from Latin America to Africa, and these international shops are filled with authentic, imported goods that are interesting to peruse, inexpensive to buy and unexpected as gifts.
You may know about the extraordinary array of Asian Indian goods for sale in Jackson Heights – fine gold jewelry, Bollywood DVDs, curry spices – but perhaps you don’t know quite where to start. An excellent shop is the Amit Fabric & Sarree Palace at 75-04 37th Ave., (GMAP), which is well-organized and easy to comprehend. Ready-made outfits for men and women run along one wall, and fabrics, grouped by price range, along the other. You can buy three yards of three complementary fabrics – raw material for creating a full sari ensemble – for as low as $15.
Nearby Patel Brothers supermarket, at 37-27 74th Street, (GMAP) has a great supply of classic Indian kitchen tools, they’ve also got decorative serving pieces, including copper bowls for $14.99 ea and the big silver bowls with pointed handles for $15.99 ea. Happy for his success but sad to report in terms of the the loss to Jackson Heights, Rudy Volcano has moved his excellent shop of high-quality imported Guatemalan fabrics, clothing and pottery to the East Village at 167 Avenue C.
Over in Flushing’s Chinatown, the Double Star Trading Company, located at 135-05 Roosevelt Avenue, (GMAP) is an absolute goldmine of great items for the home. They’ve got dinnerware sets in both plastic and pottery, all sizes of woks (up to three feet in diameter – talk about bang for your buck), plentiful varieties of chopsticks, standard clay cooking pots – small with handles or big without – spider ladles, perfect for scooping up boiling short ribs, gilded papers, sitting Buddhas in jade, and on and on.
Slovak-Czech Varieties, at 10-59 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, (GMAP), is stocked with classic Eastern European goods like Prague glass and wooden marionettes. Plus, there’s nothing like Butcher Block, 43-46 41st Street in Sunnyside, (GMAP), an Irish deli and grocery, for a full supply of British candies from seemingly familiar brands like Mars and Cadbury served up differently for the UK palate.