Best of Manhattan 09: City Services

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Best Grown Up Cut and Color: Two Do
210 W. 82nd St. (betw. Broadway and Amsterdam), 212-787-1277
Two Do is the place to go when it’s time to abandon your budget-minded haircutting ethos, but you’re afraid of ultra trendy salons that dole out pretension as lavishly as they pile on the mousse. Below street level and hidden behind a stairwell, Two Do feels like a secret, low-key spa—there’s absolutely no attitude. As soon as you enter, you are offered coffee or tea and cookies in their intimate, attractive salon. Co-owner and colorist extraordinaire Megan Gordon will spend time analyzing your hair and helping you decide on the technique and color that’s just right. Prices for color treatments and cuts are a little high but still reasonable for New York City, and given upfront—unlike at more upscale salons that coyly refrain from telling you the price until you’re slapped with an astronomical bill. My two process foil highlighting cost $150 and was well worth it since it “lasted” for four months. Similarly, the $88 cut by sweet Israeli stylist, Yaniv, grew out in a way that let me go longer between cuts than ever before. Yelpers rave about cuts by Sasha, and, indeed, the first day I went to Two Do an acquaintance emerged from the dressing room and I did a double take: she had gone from a pony-tailed, harried Mom look to a retro-chic Petula Clark style; Sasha had effected the transformation. Bye-bye Supercuts!

Best Under-Appreciated Wine Store: Yorkshire Wines and Spirits
1646 First Ave. (at 85th St.), 212-717-5100
Perhaps the most frustrating experience for anyone who actually cares about wine is trying to buy a decent bottle in New York City. You would think that in a city like this, it would be easy. Unfortunately, wine and liquor stores are one of the few businesses wherein the owner doesn’t feel like they need to know anything about the product they’re selling. You’d never know it from the humble exterior, but at Yorkshire Wines and Spirits, not only do they know their stuff, they also have a spectacular selection. From high-end offerings like Sassicaia to expertly chosen, inexpensive bottles, they’ve got it all. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Unlike most wine and spirit shops, they won’t stare at you blankly and point to a bottle of Turning Leaf. —JP


Best Knitting Store for Budding Designers: Knitting 321

321 E. 75th St. (betw. Second & Third), 212-772-2020
Tucked away just five steps below street level is a very unusual yarn store. Owner Valeria Kardos learned to knit from her grandmother in Budapest when she was just 7. She’s a former fashion designer whose husband wanted her to do something that didn’t require so much travel. Luckily for neighborhood knitters, she opened this shop. Knitting 321 specializes in “the best of the best” yarns in all manner of gauges and colorations. But it’s Valeria’s design talents that make her shop unique—she can create patterns for custom-made designs made to measure. Whether you can knit sweaters that look like they came from Bergdorf, or don’t know a knit from a purl, this store is a treasure. She teaches private lessons (an hour each) for beginners in both knitting and crocheting. And people feel comfortable enough to drop in all day for some quickie help with a dropped stitch or a mis-stitched purl. —JW

Best Knitting Community that Just Happens to Sell Yarn: Knitty City
208 W. 79th St. (betw. Broadway & Amsterdam), 212-724-9596
It’s easy for a knitting novice to walk into narrow, crowded Knitty City and feel cowed. Knitters are perched everywhere, often blocking your path, and it’s hard to tell who works at the store or who just hangs out. You feel like you’ve crashed a party until you tap a staff member on the shoulder and say, “I dropped a stitch five rows back. How do I fix this?” Patient, extremely knowledgeable staff members including Aryn, Maxine, Betty, Jennifer and Diane will sit down with you, sometimes for 15 minutes at a stretch, explaining a craft they clearly love and want to pass on to you. This is exactly the kind of environment owner Pearl Chin wanted to create three-and-a-half years ago when she opened Knitty City. By the way, you’ll also find gorgeous yarns (from Alchemy to Rowan to Zitron), every stitchery book you’ll ever need and the cutest knitting accessories. Knitty City hosts classes, charity knitting nights, a men’s club and a book group that meets on the first Thursday of each month. Visit www.knittycity.com for details. —NJB

The Best Theater Book Shop in Manhattan: The Drama Book Shop
250 W. 40th St. (betw. Seventh & Eighth), 212-944-0595
You name it, the Drama Book Shop has it—or will at least try to get it. Rozanne Seelen, who presently owns the shop, says that she deals with approximately 3,000 publishers to keep her bookshelves stocked with more than 40,000 titles. The current selection includes play scripts and biographies, as well as books on dance, film, musical theater, costumes and puppets. This institution humbly began in 1917 when Marjorie Seligman set up a card-table in the lobby of the ANTA Theatre and began selling theater books to playgoers. Incorporated since 1923, the shop has been at its present venue for the past eight years. With a caring staff of 20, Seelen oversees the business matters as well as the diverse theater events presented at the shop. Personalities like Frank Rich have appeared for book signing events in past years. More recently, Back Stage’s David Sheward, veteran actor Tammy Grimes and actor Harriet Walter of Broadway’s Mary Stuart have showed up to plug their newly published books. There’s also a children’s group called “Striking Viking” that stages original works at the shop’s black-box theater. And on Thursday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m., the shop serves wine and cheese to patrons. Rejoice, theater lovers. This shop combines old fashioned appeal with an encyclopedic range of theater materials. —DD

Best Place to Nap on Your Lunch Break: Yelo
315 W. 57th St. (betw. Eighth & Ninth), 212-245-8235
Are you an overworked urbanite who simply needs a break from the stress and pressure of the fast-paced concrete jungle? Yelo sure thinks so. “The city that never sleeps needs a nap!” hails the mantra of this wellness center, specializing in reflexology and the art of power napping. The ultra-modern interior looks and feels like Judy Jetson’s day spa. Step inside, tired city dweller, and use that one-hour lunch break to revitalize your overworked bones in the cleverly named YeloCab. A YeloCab is treatment or napping cabin designed to exude serenity and wellness. Adjust color, lighting, music, nature sounds and even scent to personalized settings that are most conducive to sleep. The YeloCabs are complete with a patented zero-gravity YeloChair designed to keep your legs elevated above the heart to slow your pulse and help you doze off quickly and soundly, also encouraging a delightful sensation of weightlessness. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough to help wash away that Friday morning hangover, purified air circulates to encourage brain clarity and restfulness. When naptime is over, LED lights are used to simulate a natural sunrise, ever so gently nudging you back to consciousness. Napping sessions range from 20 to 40 minutes starting at $15, a small price to pay to walk out feeling like a million bucks. —CL


Best Local Hardware Store: Beacon Paint & Hardware

371 Amsterdam Ave. (betw. 77th & 78th), 212-787-1090
We know Home Depot has everything. But can the sales staff have an intelligent conversation about the merits of matte versus eggshell finish? Probably not. That’s why we love Beacon Paint & Hardware, a warmly lit and intelligently staffed resource for paint, tools, cleaning products, housewares and other home goods. Co-owner Steve Stark will help you navigate the well-stocked shelves of this longtime neighborhood store that’s been run by several generations of the Stark family. An added bonus: petting Bru the black lab while your purchase is rung up. —CE


Best Spa Splurge: The Spa at Mandarin Oriental

80 Columbus Circle (at 59th), 212-805-8880
If, after using an amethyst crystal steam room, you like to choose the type of precipitation for your shower—from a light spray called “fog” to a firm jet labeled “land rain” or a relaxing downpour deemed “tropical rain”—then this is the spa for you. They say the small things in life make the difference. So too with spas. Underfloor heating in the changing areas. Citrus-infused drinking water. A vitality pool set to your own ideal temperature between 100 and 105 degrees. It all creates a sense that you really should be doing this more often. The five-star hotel prices swiftly shatter that illusion. But at least Mandarin Oriental adds to the enjoyment of your rare indulgence. In the Spa’s case, it can be literally superlative. For example “MOSST”—the Mandarin Oriental Spa Signature Treatment—is two hours of refined relaxation from the first chime of a Tibetan cymbal. Through a psychological survey and some probing of pressure points, your therapist gauges your weakest bodily element according to traditional Chinese medicine. It could be wood, fire, earth, metal or water that’s letting you and your vital organs down. Thankfully, there are appropriate oils to help remedy each. —JJ


Best Restorative Facial: Yin Beauty & Arts Spa

103 W. 86th St. (near Columbus), 212-362-2626
Facials are viewed as something women mainly do when they need to feel pampered and coddled. In truth, however, a facial is a somewhat painful affair—if done right, as the ladies at Yin Beauty & Arts do it. The goal isn’t just to have your face steamed, massaged and swathed with pleasantly scented, hydrating lotions in a semi-dark room while listening to soft, vaguely oriental music (though Yin does that part extremely well too). It’s to keep those blackheads and whiteheads from clogging your pores. Yin combines Western high-tech (a computerized ultra magnified look at your skin) with Eastern beauty arts based on ying/yang balance and feng shui. Whatever. My 60-minute facial ($95) and extra 10 minutes of whitehead removal ($30) made my face actually look better, not blotchy as after some facials, and it left me so relaxed I had a Buddha-like smile for hours afterwards. Yin offers a wide variety of intriguing skin and body treatments, most costing $150, such as “Chinese Pearl Facial,” “Yin Sculpt Muscle Toning for Face and Neck” and “Aromatic Jade Therapy.” Note: an “express” facial is $60 for 35 minutes of cleansing, gentle exfoliation, an intensive mask and a neck/shoulder massage—pure bliss without the pimple plucking. —NJB

Best Old-School, Family-Style Shoe Repair: Jim’s Shoe Repair
50 E. 59th St. (near Madison), 212-355-8259
Need a good shoe shine? High heel just broke? Bring your drab and mangled footwear to Jim’s Shoe Repair. This family-run establishment is recommended by the insiders of upscale department stores in Manhattan. Over the years, legends like Ed Sullivan, Andy Rooney and Mitch Miller (the 98-year-old entertainer was recently in the shop) have depended on “Jim’s” to keep them well soled. Many loyal patrons refuse to turn elsewhere for their shoe doctoring. Just in case you’re wondering who “Jim” is, he is Vito Rocco (born in Italy), who founded the business in 1932 and adopted “Jim” as his American moniker. Vito died in 1964, but his son Joe, who is the current proprietor of the shop, also goes by “Jim.” There have been four generations of Roccos working at the shop. It’s a family thing. —DD

Best Quick Shoe Repair: Sam’s Shoe Repair
330 E. 65th St. (betw. First & Second), 212-861-2278
New Yorkers put a lot of wear and tear on their shoes, handbags and leather goods. But there are few things that Sam, of the eponymous Sam’s Shoe Repair, can’t revive. In his glass-front, hole-in-the-wall shop, Sam will repair your shoes while you wait. Dirty loafers or broken heels come home looking like the day you bought them. Sam also fixes rips, tears, zippers on handbags, belts and basically anything else you might bring him. His shop, pungent with shoeshine, may not be the easiest to find, but your shoes will be glad they walked the extra mile. —ZK

Best Second-Hand Surprises: Goodwill
217 W. 79th St. (betw. Broadway & Amsterdam), 212-874-5050
Unlike other city nabes, the Upper West Side isn’t flush with thrift shores, and in this economy, baby, we need ’em. You can go to Salvation Army on West 97th, which is, frankly, quite skanky, or Housing Works on Columbus—a bit too tony, but great steals on furniture and designer togs. Goodwill, however, offers a happy medium that won’t overwhelm. It organizes all clothing neatly by size and color, and you will always find surprises. To wit: a boy’s Gap dress shirt perfect for bar mitzvah-hopping ($9.99), a green corduroy J.Crew jacket ($14.99), a chic gauzy girls’ top, great for wearing over leggings, a sterling bracelet with dangling hearts ($4.99) or six cheery red and white striped plastic popcorn holders, perfect for family movie night (50 cents each). And for those who haven’t abandoned the technologies of the 1980s, there are cassettes and classic VHS movies (African Queen!). In these tough times, one needs a reliable thrift store for last-minute Halloween costumes and expensive outerwear items like sweaters, jackets, snow pants and snow boots. Beat the chill at Goodwill and use the dollars you save to head someplace warm (they sell beach towels, too). —NJB

Best Place to Sport Your New Lululemons: Ride the Zone
201 E. 67th St., 3rd floor (at Third), 212-327-1217
Say good-bye to yoga, pilates and kickboxing. There’s a new trendy workout for ladies who lunch—and this one might just be a keeper. In addition to two studios in the Hamptons, Ride the Zone has set up camp on the Upper East Side. What makes this spinning studio different from all others? The handlebars and bikes are not stationary but move from side to side, allowing you to feel like you are—low and behold—on an actual bike. Instead of being a workout just for the legs, the classes here incorporate turns, leans and one-handed stunts that leave abs and arms aching for days. Forty-five minutes of sweating while listening to Michael Jackson and the Black Eyed Peas has never been so much fun. And if you’ve forgotten your expensive, butt-hugging leggings, there’s a Lululemon store conveniently a block away from the studio. —ZK


Nancy J. Brandwein, Deirdre Donovan, Charlotte Eichna, Joe Jackson, Zara Kessler, Christina Livadiotis, Josh Perilo and Jane Warshaw

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Best of Manhattan 09: City Services

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Posts.


Best Place to Feel Like a Man: Brooklyn General Barber
144 Bedford Ave. at N. 9th St., Brooklyn, 718-486-3777
It’s more-than-trendy to have a beard in the city these days. Everywhere you turn, it seems some young guy is carefully manicuring his face with a creepy mustache or close-cropped fuzz. Of course, you can do it alone at home, but if you’ve never had a barbershop face shave, we are here to tell you it’s no ordinary experience. A bizarre blend of fear and trust—kind of like a new relationship—you want to feel your in safe hands, which is why we suggest Brooklyn General Barber. Meredith Chesney’s cuttery not only prides itself on developing quality relationships with its clientele, but co-owner Tamir Kraft, particularly enjoys trimming men’s chins and necks, especially because it involves shaving with the straight blade, creating a precision like no other. This is no run-of-the-mill barbershop though: It’s like you’re walking into a retro 1950s eclectic candy store. Plus, it’s equipped with a signature red velvet “pimp” chair.

Best Yuppie Supermarket:  Brooklyn Fare
200 Schermerhorn St. at Hoyt St., Brooklyn, 718-243-0050
Trader Joe’s might get the lion’s share of the attention at the intersection of Downtown Brooklyn and BoCoCa (DoBroBoCoCa?), but for our grocery money, Brooklyn Fare is the way to go. Equipped with all of the fancy groceries that you might need—we found silken tofu in about three seconds on a recent trip; the five previous stores we’d been to didn’t even know what it was—and managed to keep a warm, neighborhood vibe. Prices are slightly higher than at nearby bodegas, but the quality of the produce, prepared foods (hello, mac and cheese!) and meats is unparalleled—and there’s also plenty of junk food for those of us who need Doritos to dip into our organic edamame hummus.

Best Fashion Store Worth a Look: Buckler
13 Gansevoort St. at Hudson St., 212-255-1596
We usually shy away from spending too much on our denim or, hell, any clothing for that matter, but there’s something about Andrew Buckler’s relaxed, minimalist store in the otherwise overpriced Meatpacking District that makes us feel less dirty about forking over cash for fashionable duds. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s usually a sale, so things don’t seem quite so out-of-whack. And how many other places make wearing mesh feel like you’re actually in fashion and not some guido douchebag?

Best Place to Sweat the Sweaty: Mendez Boxing
251 5th Ave., 2nd fl., at E. 28th St., 212-213-6085
The second-floor window-filled space seems to be at just the perfect eye level to ogle men or women sparring or as they sit on their stationary bikes and pump the pedals. Getting punched in the face holds little appeal for us, but when we don’t have time to actually go and sweat off some of those buttery pounds, it’s at least is a pleasure to watch other dedicated pugilists get all hot and sticky late into the night.

Best Way to Feel Like a Stud: Samurai Sword Class
The Workman’s Circle, NYR Studios, 45 E. 33rd St. betw. Madison & Park Aves.
You need a physical hobby and yoga isn’t butch enough and Karate might involve getting hit, right? So what’s left? There’s always swords. No we’re not talking swallowing or any other sort of swordplay (such dirty minds!) Raab Rashi offers a class in “Siljun Dobup,” or “the art of the Samurai sword” for only $15 bucks a class. We’re not endorsing any sort of Kill Bill antics, but how often can you learn how to kill a man for cheaper than what it costs to buy him a decent dinner? We’re in. Visit swordclass.blogspot.com to learn more.

Best Under-Appreciated Wine Store
Yorkshire Wines and Spirits, 1646 1st Ave. at E. 85th St., 212-717-5100
Perhaps the most frustrating experience for anyone who actually cares about wine is trying to buy a decent bottle in New York City. Unfortunately, wine and liquor stores are one of the few businesses in the city where the owner doesn’t feel like they need to know anything about the product he’s selling. You’d never know it from the humble exterior, but at Yorkshire Wines and Spirits, not only do they know their stuff, they also have a spectacular selection. From high-end offerings like Sassicaia to expertly chosen, inexpensive bottles, they’ve got it all. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Unlike most wine and spirit shops, the staff won’t stare at you blankly and point to a bottle of Turning Leaf.

Best Eurotrash Pretenders: Topshop
478 Broadway at Broome St., 212-966-9555
Come on people: Topshop is just a Brit-version of The Gap. Sure, you can feel like you’re getting something extra-special as long as you stay in a tiny bubble of reference, but once your Euro friends see you, they’re gonna call you out on the crap that you’re so proud of wearing. The lines around the block that trumpeted the opening of the chain were laughable, and the hype that accompanied the lines of fluorescent styles and tacky accessories was one of the most disappointing young-people moments we’ve ever witnessed. Give it up, find your own style and stop trying to be so goddamn cute!

Best News for Brooklyn Homebrewers: The Twin Arrival of New Supply Shops
brooklyn-homebrew.com and brooklynbrewshop.com
Until this year, area homebrewers who wanted to craft ales or stouts had to resort to ordering costly grains and hops online. But now, brewers don’t need a WiFi connection to make great beer. Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Homebrew, run out of an apartment building in residential Sunset Park, and Brooklyn Brew Shop—found at the Fleas in Fort Greene and Dumbo—now meet all your suds-making needs, from a giant glass fermentation tank to whole Amarillo hops. How can you thank us? You can start by offering us a beer.


Best Unexpected Place to Start Jonesin’ for a Tat: Friday Jones Fifth Avenue

At Senses NY Salon & Spa, 138 5th Ave. betw. E. 18th & E. 19th Sts., 2nd fl., 212-242-7979 or fridayjones.net
The idea of “tattoo couture” may make you throw up in your mouth, but the fact is that Friday Jones is kinda cool. She has plenty of rock ’n’ roll attitude, but really she just wants to ink more ladies who are too put off by going to a grimy downtown parlor. With so much skin art on everyone these days, we know it’s only a matter of time before a mall-like store opens up in the city. And why shouldn’t some UES witch have an art attack of trendsetting proportions on her stretched-thin skin? Thanks, Ms. Jones, we owe you one.

The Best Theater Book Shop: The Drama Shop
250 W. 40th St. betw. 7th & 8th Aves., 212-944-0595
You name it, the Drama Book Shop has it—or will at least try to get it. Rozanne Seelen, who presently owns the shop, says that she deals with approximately 3,000 publishers to keep her bookshelves stocked with more than 40,000 titles. The current selection includes play scripts and biographies, as well as books on dance, film, musical theater, costumes and puppets. This institution humbly began in 1917 when Marjorie Seligman set up a card table in the lobby of the ANTA Theatre and began selling theater books to playgoers. Incorporated since 1923, the shop has been at its present venue for the past eight years. Also a children’s group called “Striking Viking” stages original works at the shop’s black-box theater. And on Thursday evenings from 6 to 8, the shop serves wine and cheese, so you have another place to score free stuff on gallery night.

Best Old School, Family-Style Shoe Repair: Jim’s Shoe Repair
50 E. 59th St. near Madison Ave., 212-355-8259
Need a good shoe shine? High heel just broke? Bring your drab and mangled footwear to Jim’s Shoe Repair. This family-run establishment is recommended by the insiders of upscale department stores in Manhattan. Over the years, legends like Ed Sullivan, Andy Rooney and Mitch Miller (the 98-year-old entertainer was recently in the shop) have depended on Jim’s to keep them well-soled. Many loyal patrons refuse to turn elsewhere for their shoe doctoring. Just in case you’re wondering who “Jim” is, he is Vito Rocco (born in Italy), who founded the business in 1932 and adopted Jim as his American moniker. Vito died in 1964, but his son Joe, who is the current proprietor of the shop, also goes by Jim. There have been four generations of Roccos working at the shop. It’s a family thing.

Best Comic Book Shop: The Time Machine
207 W. 14th St, 2nd Fl., betw. 7th & 8th Aves., 212-691-0380
In an era when the very notion of retail stores is rapidly disintegrating among the developments of the exponential future, The Time Machine remains, appropriate to its title, the sort of humble and love-rich space that nostalgia was made for. The small second floor walk up is thoroughly stuffed with riches-stunning selections of back issues, aged monster magazines, walls and racks of current titles, and unlikely-to-be-seen-again merchandise items. The Time Machine is a verdant, overgrown jungle of comic book culture, and one that should be passionately explored.


Best Spa Splurge: The Spa at Mandarin Oriental

80 Columbus Circle at 59th St., 212-805 8880
If, after using an amethyst crystal steam room, you like to choose the type of precipitation for your shower—from a light spray called “fog” to a firm jet labeled “land rain” or a relaxing downpour deemed “tropical rain”—then you’re in luck. When it’s time to pamper, do it right: Underfloor heating in the changing areas. Citrus-infused drinking water. A vitality pool set between 100 and 105 degrees. It all creates a sense that you really should be doing this more often. The five-star hotel prices swiftly shatter that illusion. At least Mandarin Oriental adds to the enjoyment of your guilty indulgence. In the Spa’s case, it can be literally superlative. For example “MOSST”—the Mandarin Oriental Spa Signature Treatment—is two hours of refined relaxation from the first chime of a Tibetan cymbal. Through a psychological survey and some probing of pressure points, your therapist gauges your weakest bodily element according to traditional Chinese medicine. It could be wood, fire, earth, metal or water that’s letting you and your vital organs down. Thankfully, there are appropriate oils to help remedy each.

Best Quick Shoe Repair: Sam’s Shoe Repair
330 E. 65th St. betw. 1st & 2nd, 212-861-2278
We put a lot of wear and tear on our shoes, handbags and leather goods. But there are few things that Sam, of the eponymous Sam’s Shoe Repair, can’t revive. In his glass-front, hole-in-the-wall shop, Sam will repair your shoes while you wait. Dirty loafers or broken heels come home looking like the day you bought them. Sam also fixes rips, tears, zippers on handbags, belts and basically anything else you might bring him. His shop, pungent with shoeshine, may not be the easiest to find, but your shoes will be glad they walked the extra mile.


Best Place to Find a Last-Minute Gift: John Derian

10 E. 2nd St. betw. Bowery & 2nd Ave., 212-677-8408
We still hold that gifts are soooo last century and, rather than feeling compelled to spend money on some stupid present, we should just offer secret handshakes, smile inanely and maybe press the soles of our feet together in some surreptitious acknowledgement of our spirit-bonds. But sometimes we just can’t help but fall in love with a tchochke or feel guilty that we didn’t squander our paycheck on an adorable little trinket for the one we love. That’s where this cutesy story with ephemera and whoosits always pleases. Pick up something made from fabric scraps, a papier mache whatsit or useless Moroccan exotica. It’s like a faux-Victorian High Street store that never goes out of style.

Best Record Store: Academy Annex
96 N. 6th St. betw. Berry St. & Wythe Ave., Brooklyn, 718-218-8200
While the mothership Academy shop in the Flatiron boats a mind-boggling assortment of classical records that even we were impressed by, the real crown jewel of the empire is the Williamsburg shop. Thanks to its business of buying LPs, Academy always has a sick selection of new and used records perfect for either the burgeoning hipster—The Sonics, Love, disco 101—or the established pro. And, unlike at so many record shops, the adorable staff here is actually helpful; even simpletons like us have never felt dumb asking questions about the vinyl we’re buying. It’s stores like Academy that make us want to burn down the iTunes store.  


Best Knitting Community that Just Happens to Sell Yarn: Knitty City

208 W. 79th St. betw. Broadway & Amsterdam, 212-724-9596
It’s easy for a knitting novice to walk into narrow, crowded Knitty City and feel cowed. Knitters are perched everywhere, often blocking your path, and it’s hard to tell who works at the store or who just hangs out. We feel like we’ve crashed a party until we tap a staff member on the shoulder and say, “I dropped a stitch five rows back. How do I fix this?” Patient, extremely knowledgeable staff members including Aryn, Maxine, Betty, Jennifer and Diane will sit down with you, sometimes for 15 minutes at a stretch, explaining a craft they clearly love and want to pass on to you. This is exactly the kind of environment owner Pearl Chin wanted to create three-and-a-half years ago when she opened Knitty City. By the way, you’ll also find gorgeous yarns (from Alchemy to Rowan to Zitron), every stitchery book you’ll ever need and the cutest knitting accessories. Knitty City hosts classes, charity knitting nights, a men’s club and a book group that meets on the first Thursday of each month. Visit www.knittycity.com for details.

Best Local Hardware Store: Beacon Paint & Hardware
371 Amsterdam Ave. betw. W. 77th & W. 78th, 212-787-1090
We know Home Depot has everything. But can the sales staff have an intelligent conversation about the merits of matte versus eggshell finish? Probably not. That’s why we love Beacon Paint & Hardware, a warmly lit and intelligently staffed resource for paint, tools, cleaning products, housewares and other home goods. Co-owner Steve Stark will help you navigate the well-stocked shelves of this longtime neighborhood store that’s been run by several generations of the Stark family. An added bonus: petting Bru the black lab while they ring up your purchase.

Best Bookstore for People Who Still Believe in the Power of Print: Revolution Books
146 W. 26th St. betw. 6th & 7th Aves., 212-691-3345
Amazon.com can sell a book at half its retail price, so it’s easy to overlook the fact that a bookstore has a character that your Kindle just can’t touch. If you’re looking to pick a bookstore based on personality, why not go all out and choose one that’s actually got a purpose? What sounds more fun, going to the Starbucks in a Barnes and Noble to sit in silence or venturing into Revolution Books  in Chelsea to receive a lecture about the significance of the Chinese Cultural Revolution? Exactly. Revolution isn’t fucking around with Twilight displays, and we salute that. As manager Travis Morales told us earlier this year, “If you come to the bookstore most nights, you can get an idea of what a revolutionary society is going to look like.”

Best Cheap Gift Spot: $5.99 DVD Funhouse
655 6th Ave. betw. W. 20th & W. 21st Sts., 212-229-1005
We know you can buy cheapo DVDs at just about any drugstore or even for pennies online, but sometimes you need a gift for a friend at the last minute and, really, you can never go wrong with the ideal ironic movie for your college buddy that you hardly ever see but wish you were on better terms with. The thing about this shop is that it actually contains hundreds of good movies and TV show collections. From classic Hitchcock to stoner faves, you’re sure to find something—and for less than the price of a beer. 

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