Best of Manhattan: Services
BEST VIDEO STORE
1577 1st Ave. (at E. 82nd St), 212-772-2058
213 W. 79th St. (at Amsterdam Ave.),
While Netflix seems to have converted most everyone to mail-order movie watching, Champagne Video, a good ol’ fashioned rental palace, endures-which speaks volumes about this business. The recipe is pretty simple: Champagne employs people who actually know film, plus it boasts a user-friendly layout of DVDs that helps indecisive browsers make selections, rather than overwhelming visitors with endless rows of films. In fact, Netflix subscribers sometimes visit Champagne while waiting for their next shipment or if they’re not quite in the mood for whatever’s sitting at home. Plus there’s something so comforting and old-school New York about all that pink neon-like a little slice of Times Square, minus the live nudity.
BEST PLACE TO FEEL WELL-HEELED
State of the Art Shoe & Leather Repair
2449A Broadway (betw. W. 90th & 91st Sts.), 212-877-7787
At his tiny, tattered storefront on Upper Broadway, Uri Zilkha has tended to the soles of well-and unwell-heeled Upper West Siders for more than 20 years. In the 1980s, he re-dyed their leather motorcycle jackets. In the ’90s, he re-heeled their strappy stiletto sandals. Now, he rebuckles their statement designer handbags. But that’s not all. For $4, he will shine the shoes of their offspring. For $50, he will put new zippers in their winter boots. And for $60, he will take their favorite pair of footwear, the one with the holey lowers and the threadbare uppers, and make it new again. Because Zilkha knows that nothing fits quite like an old shoe.
FINEST (AND NICEST) SALES TEAM ON THE UPPER EAST SIDE
Alvin Ingram & Patrick Dawes at Stubbs & Wootton
1034 Lexington Ave. (betw. 73rd & 74th Sts.), 212-249-5200
Clearly the nicest and most stylish sales crew on the Upper East Side, Alvin Ingram and Patrick Dawes not only know their brand of European handcrafted shoes, slippers and accessories inside and out, they go above and beyond when it comes to customer service. Walk in the door and you are automatically greeted with a smile and a hello. Both Dawes and Ingram will gladly run up and down the store’s stairs searching for your size-and they are great with style suggestions, too. Primarily made of embroidered velvet, the shoes and accessories at Stubbs and Wootton are fashionable and fun. Embroidered coin purses for $60 make great gifts.
BEST PLACE TO SMOKE FOR FREE
12 E. 42nd St. (betw. Fifth & Madison Aves.), 212-764-5000
It seems that thanks to Mayor Mom, smoking indoors has been relegated to divey bars and your apartment when you’re too lazy to step outside. Not so! At the Nat Sherman store on East 42nd Street, smokers can sit back and relax with one of the luxury brand’s nine varieties of cigarettes or cigars. For those with undeveloped smoking palates, the tobacconists will even crack open a pack and let you try a smoke on the house (we’re partial to the MCD’s and Hint of Mint). Downstairs in the Johnson Club room-where membership gets you a private humidor and invites to all sorts of smoky events-you can relax with a cup of specially blended Sherman coffee and laugh at all the suckers who have to stand outside for their fix.
BEST BRA FITTING
630 Ninth Avenue, Suite 601
(betw. W. 44th & 45th Sts.), 212-957-7000
If you wear a bra (or should), this is the place to go since no one in the city knows more about giving women a properly fitting bra. Ask Bette Midler, Nicole Kidman and Melanie Griffith. Bra Tenders has been working with costume designers, wardrobe professionals and actresses for more than 30 years and has converted many to their customized, over-the-shoulder-boulder holders-even ’60s holdouts who hated wearing bras.
Call and make an appointment for a fitting. When you arrive, you’ll be shown into a spacious private room for a consultation. You’ll be amazed at how well they fit and feel-and that you really do look so much better in a sweater. Although they carry bras from Calvin Klein to Cosabella-size AA to L-you can also find things as pedestrian as Playtex. And there’s no charge for the attention. Lori Kaplan, co-founder with her husband, says, “We’ve never let a customer walk out of Bra Tenders without the right-fitting bra for her body-and we never will.”
BEST PLACE TO SHOP FOR A LAST-MINUTE GIFT
Museum of Sex
233 Fifth Ave. (at E. 27th St.), 212-689-6337
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of perusing the merchandise at the Museum of Sex gift shop, you know that it’s impossible to walk out without mentally putting together a wish list for your loved one’s next special day. The gift shop boasts an assortment of gift ideas with a surprising variety of price points (including the good ol’ standby: penis pasta). From your standard sex shop novelty items (erotic dice, vibrators, flavored lubes) to inappropriate twists on old standards (naughty balloons, naughty doorknobs, naughty playing cards) to high-end designer options by Jonathan Adler and Cynthia Rowley. And if, upon opening, the giftee has the audacity to become scandalized, just tell them to relax-it came from a museum.
BEST JEWELRY REPAIR
1395 Third Ave. (at 80th Street), 212-879-3690
Murrey’s Jewelers has been around for so long that the grandchildren of its earliest customers are now getting married. And when they do, they buy their rings from the same shop their grandparents did. The quaint family-owned store has been the go-to place for jewelry repair since 1936, and does everything from restringing pearls to retooling watches. The store’s employees are so good at what they do-together, their experience adds up to 150 years-that those in the biz have nicknamed Murrey’s the “jeweler’s jeweler.”
BEST DRY CLEANERS
Ernest Winzer Cleaners
1828 Cedar Ave., Bronx, 718-294-2400, www.winzercleaners.com
To find the best dry cleaners, you’ll have to leave Manhattan and travel to the Bronx. But that’s no problem since Ernest Winzer Cleaners’ radio-dispatched trucks pick up and deliver anywhere in the tri-state area, especially near Broadway and Lincoln Center, as they’ve been cleaning costumes for Broadway productions since 1908 and now the New York City Ballet, too. They’ve cleaned costumes for George M. Cohan, Helen Hayes, the Barrymores and Ziegfeld. When we had a Burberry cashmere sweater with a nasty stain (long story), Mr. Winzer sent it back as good as new.
Mr. Winzer is a wizard: clothes will never come back with broken or missing buttons, or with leather buttons that are torn, cracked or discolored. This isn’t the cleaners you go to because they’re cheap, but because they’re good. And anyhow, it’s cheaper than having to throw the garment out when it’s ruined by lesser craftsmen.
BEST PLACE TO GET TARTED UP (VEGAN STYLE)
Polished Beauty Bar
250 W. 78th St. (betw. Broadway & West End Ave.), 212-933-1830
This bright new spa, recently opened by sisters Micki and Susan Nam, is a working girl’s dream. After their first visit, returning customers are routinely greeted by name. Here, they can browse through the entire 240-plus Essie color collection to find the perfect match for that fuchsia dress. Or they can go “vegan” and opt for one of more than 300 vibrant hues by Zoya, favored by health-conscious women for its lack of harmful chemicals. At Polished, high-end sterilizing equipment keeps tools and surfaces germ-free, and tricked-out pedicure chairs offer full back and bottom massages. While their nails dry, patrons can peacefully leaf through dozens of unspoiled gossip and fashion magazines, watch classics on the flat-screen TV, or simply sit back and enjoy their complementary mini-shoulder rub. The salon stays open until 9:30 p.m. on weeknights, so there’s plenty of time after work for both a bite and a mani-pedi before heading home to TiVo.
BEST USED BOOKSTORE
12th Street Books
11 E. 12th St. (betw. 5th Ave. & University Pl.), 212-645-4340
Rumors continue to swirl that this little basement bookstore is threatening to close or move location, but it all seems to be baseless twittering. And if it ever does disappear, we will almost give up trying to find quality used books in the city. While others cater to rare book tastes or overpriced selections-complete with misanthropic proprietors-this short-aisled shop continues to stock hard-to-find titles without the perplexing penchant of charging almost-brand-new prices. Organization is just right: Alphabetical by sections, but still disorganized enough to make you feel like you’re discovering some lost jewels. You won’t get rich on trying to re-sell your books (don’t even try, just head over to the nearby Strand for that). The selection of lit, architecture, art and criticism is so fine, however, that you won’t mind the little inconveniences.
BEST BOOKSTORE, EAST SIDE
1575 York Ave. (betw. 83rd & 84th Sts.),
In a neighborhood in which Barnes & Noble operates two stores within two avenues of each other on 86th Street, it’s nice to throw some business to the little guy. Though Logos isn’t a superstore, it’s certainly not lacking in selection. The shop, part of a 24-store nationwide trade association, boasts a large Judeo-Christian specialty section and is also well stocked with the less pious fare of contemporary fiction, children’s literature and history. For those customers who find themselves paralyzed by the choice, owner Harris Healy runs reviews and suggestions on the store’s website, http://logosbookstorenyc.com. Should nothing there suit, the site invites patrons to call for a personal recommendation. Try getting that kind of help at Borders. Its book club, Kill Your TV, meets on the first Wednesday of every month.
BEST NEW GROWNUP TOY STORE
MUJI Flagship Store,
New York Times Building
620 Eighth Ave. (at 40th St.), 212-382-2300
We don’t follow the cult of MUJI-we enjoy being organized but don’t need everything in a muted palate of Japanese design-but we were more-than-excited to finally have the designer store at the base of the New York Times building. Not only can you pick up your collapsible cardboard speakers, nifty wall hangers and transparent plastic organizers in one big ode to style, you’re in a vortex of black, white and tan that includes the media behemoth that could crush you from above. Watch out!
BEST MIDDLE-OF-THE-NIGHT HAIRCUT AND PEDICURE
Hair Party 24 Hours
76 Madison Ave. (at E. 28th St.),
You didn’t know you needed to get your hair cut at 4 a.m.? Well, of course you do! And luckily the crew at this 24-hour glass box dedicated to cutting, styling and painting are there to pamper and primp at all hours. Just imagine: you’re out late at a cocktail event and suddenly your coif falls flat. Well, just hop in a yellow cab, hightail it to just north of Madison Square Park and hop in a comfy seat to get a blowout so you can head on over to the next soriée. OK, maybe it seems silly, but can you imagine scheduling a facial for the middle of the night so you can wake up feeling nice and clean? Or how about a mani-pedi after a Friday night of drinks so you can relax with your toes bathed in bubbly? The possibilities are pretty endless and, in a city that claims to be running on all cylinders at all hours, it may now actually be becoming a reality.
BEST SIGN THAT RECORD STORES AIN’T DEAD
60 E. 3rd St. (betw. 1st & 2nd Aves.),
A record label, music store, mail-order business and soon-to-be performance space, Hospital Productions is evidence that weightless iPods have yet to eclipse bulky, colorful albums that used to be carted around in milk crates. Owner Dominick Fernow has actually expanded recently, stocking his store with more than 1,000 cassette tapes (remember those?), CDs and vinyl. Fernow specializes in bands like Burning Star Core and Akitsa-noise and black metal bands. “I came to New York because I wanted to fill what I saw a void with a truly underground store,” Fernow said. We’re not giving up our iPods anytime soon, but we’re happy to go down to Fernow’s store and buy some music with actual heft. We reveled in something we’d forgotten about long ago after we made our purchase: liner notes.
BEST MASSAGE ON A BUDGET
New You Again Chinese Bodywork
205 W. 80th St. (betw. Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.), 212-721-5437
At New You Again, don’t expect a lavish waiting room to lounge in pre-massage while sipping cucumber water and enveloped in a plush terry cloth robe. Masseuses at this basement-level establishment usher clients through a small entryway adorned with Chinese scrolls and acupuncture charts to a dimly lit back room where thin white curtains separate the three massage tables. The operations are bare bones, but the prices can’t be beat: an hour-long massage at New You is $48, whereas most city spas charge upwards of $100.
The slight awkwardness of having to discreetly disrobe in such close quarters quickly fades as you relax into the freshly laundered sheets and take in the soft instrumental music playing overhead. The massage therapists apply pressure to just the right spots gently-but persistently-to work out all your kinks, putting the massage on par with the best chi chi spa. The back massage includes a hand and arm kneading, a neck and shoulder rub and a relaxing scalp massage; it ends with a warm towel on the back. Stop in for a quick, 10-minute back rub ($10) or stay for longer; 20 minutes is $18, 30 minutes is $26. A 40-minute foot rub costs $36. Credit cards are accepted and, after 10 visits, clients get a free massage. As your treatment draws to a close, the timer next to your table will ding and your masseuse will ask if you want more time. Saying “no” will be a struggle.
BEST MASSAGE, UPPER EAST SIDE
Mimi Nail & Spa
1541 Second Ave. (at 80th Street),
1540 First Ave. (betw. 80th & 81st Sts.),
David at Mimi Nail & Spa wins hands down (no pun intended) as the finest masseuse on the Upper East Side. He truly is the best in town. Some people just know what to do and are meant to do this kind of work-he’s one of them. David intuitively knows which areas need focus, and his handiwork is topped off with a hot towel press. If David happens to be busy, just walk one block east to Mimi’s second location, on the corner of First and 80th, and ask for Mike. He’s a very close second. Prices start at $15 for 10 minutes and run up to $80 for a full hour.
BEST LITTLE LINGERIE SHOP
386 Columbus Ave. (betw. W. 78th & 79th Sts.), 212-724-5608
Owner and designer Helena Stuart’s intimate boutique stands out for its elegant-yet racy-high-quality lingerie. The friendly employees are even better for their eagerness to help you look and feel your sexiest. You’ll spend more on Stuart’s made-in-NY delicate lace panties, beautiful bras and comfy cotton and silk cami-boy short sets than on your run-of-the-mill undergarments. The pieces are well made, however, and reasonably priced for luxury lingerie. A delicate white lace bra costs $62 and sheer white panties $32. Shopping at the store is also a pleasure compared to the chaos of some of the larger, chain lingerie stores.
If you’re on the prowl for something fetching to unveil during an intimate evening with that special someone, splurge on one of the store’s scented Tocca candles or chocolate body frosting to truly sweeten the night. Only Hearts also carries cute cotton dresses, slinky slips, nightgowns, Italian-made leather shoes and jewelry (many designed by New York artisans).
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