Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Never Look a Gift Street in the Mouth

Wallets and Small Bags at Exit 9 (127 Smith St., 718.422.7720).
By Anita Sarko

Unless you live in Brooklyn, going to Smith Street may seem a tad MUCH just to buy non-essentials ... except ... Smith Street ROCKS. One trip there and, whenever you need something quirky and unique, you’ll find yourself channeling James Brown, hollering, “Take me to the bridge!” Besides, Summer’s a’comin’ and you’ll surely need some WOW! Gifts, especially if you “... have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

The wonderfully named ENAMOO (109 Smith St., 718.624.0175) gives kitsch a good name. A trio of Pee-wee Herman dolls sit on a ledge with their hands set in see/hear/speak no evil poses. Perhaps this ledge is a precipice metaphor ... considering ol’ Pee-wee’s career-ending ignominy?

“It’s a piece of ART.” We’ were chastised by the shop’s good-natured proprietress, Un Sook Lim. Her partner, Michael Schade, is actually responsible for most of the art here and it is truly special. The paintings ($500-$3000) and the Brooklyn-themed patches, caps, tops and messenger bags are all exclusive to ENAMOO, “... designed here, printed here.” Says Lim proudly. Borough pride never looked so fashionable
Clockwise from top left: Pee-wee Herman Dolls on a Ledge ($500); Glass Telephone Installation Cap Collectables ($10); Brooklyn Bridge Sweatshirt ($65), Skull & Crossbones Messenger Bag ($49) designed and printed by Michael Schade, Italian Murano glass rings ($29); Monkey painting by Michael Schade ($900). All available at ENAMOO (109 Smith St., 718.624.0175).
Speaking of ART, I was informed by my companion, Brooklynite photographer, Jonathan Grassi, that the colorful glass telephone pole tops resting on one display table have returned from installation cap heaven to become COLLECTABLES! When I wondered WHY, I was told that they are prized as paperweights and doorstops ... though I’m certain that Martha Stewarts everywhere can come up with lots of alternative uses for these things.

Exit 9 (127 Smith St., 718.422.7720) may not be ARTY, but it sure is hilarious. Scattered throughout arrangements of nice bags, wallets (some made of duct tape), religious tsatskes, books and kitchen timers were some really amazing funny-bone ticklers. We immediately gravitated to the Black Bar Glasses (“be shameless and blameless” screamed the package), the Hangover Survival Kit ($10) and the copious amount of wall stencils ($11).
Anita and Jonathan elude the Paparazzi in their Black Bar Glasses ($12). Available at EXIT 9 (127 Smith St., 718.422.7720).
“You would be so surprised by how many we sell on weekends.” We were told as we pondered the need for a sinister-looking Mexican Wrestler plastered ... ummm ... ANYWHERE. We also imagine that the baby deer border is not exactly a welcomed design element for children’s rooms in the Hamptons, where Bambi is generally reviled as a (protected) disease-carrying tick monster.

For the monster in ALL of us, there’s The Poison Pen Writing Kit. “Everything you need to let someone know how you really feel”, says the cover. Along with the sheets of paper and envelopes are “20 stickers in four hatred-filled designs” and a book dispensing tips on related topics, such as how to stay anonymous (I’ll assume there’s a warning to NOT lick the envelope.) Unfortunately (or fortunately), the kit doesn’t include coverings for your hands, eyes, nose and pesky molting hairs, so you still might end up as the star of your very own “C.S.I.” or “Law & Order” episode.
L. to r.: Various D.I.Y Projects: Mexican Wrestler Wall Stencil ($11), Red Chinese Sewing Kit ($16), Poison Pen Writing Set ($16.95), Animate The Inannimate Kit ($3.50), Photo Block Kits ($25); Purses ($80-$25). Available at EXIT 9 (127 Smith St., 718.422.7720).
Of course, if you become THAT (in)famous, you might eventually find yourself a subject of the awesomely clever limited-edition t-shirts at WATTS ON SMITH (248 Smith St., 718.596.2359). Part of Trong G. Nguyen’s Humanitarians Not Heroes “artist-as-company” project, each category (i.e. artists, philosophers, musicians, writers) is defined by a singular color and the subject matter is only identified by dates of birth and death. “A lot of people in the neighborhood went with musicians.” Store Manager, the aptly-named Glow Price, informs us. “The Marquise de Sade is (also) a steady seller.” Hmmm ...

They are sold out of John Lennon, Bob Marley, Billy Holiday, Joey Ramone, Buddha, Sigmund Freud and Rimbaud. There’s little left of Martin Luther King. And both the 80s (the entire decade) and the Great Depression are in the $10 sales bin. (Make up your own joke here.)

This well-regarded menswear shop carries such hipster labels as Vans, Fred Perry, Built by Wendy and Paul Smith, along with pricey sweaters and jeans. However, while you’re leafing through all THOSE goodies, check out the outrageous dioramas ($75-$100) on the walls.  How about a beautifully depicted dissection of a clam, earthworm, cell or cat? “These came from Jen Argenta’s father’s classroom.” Glow explains. Argenta is the shop’s owner. “He was a biology teacher.” Hey, if Mexican wrestlers or baby deer aren’t your idea of wall candy ... (We are not here to judge)
Clockwise from top left: Humanitarians Not Heroes T-Shirts ($26); Dissected Clam Diorama ($75); Vans And More Vans ($45-$88); Albert & Piccolo Brooklyn Octopus Boxer Briefs ($59), Built By Wendy Gene And Gilda T-Shirt ($45), Brooklyn Rocks T-Shirt ($50). All Available at WATTS ON SMITH (248 Smith St., 718.596.2359).
Next-door is MONGO (246 Smith St., 718.858.1394), which is a sanitation department term for valuable found objects. “I have a real focus on recycling.” Says the friendly and helpful owner Tom Diller. There are chic sweaters, coats ($285-$400) and micro-fibered hoodies and robes that increase in price the lighter they are. That concept confuses me as much as food costing more when it DOESN’T contain something (i.e. fats and sugar). Anyway, the heirloom (an acceptable euphemism for “recycled”) blankets (baby/adult), quilts ($400/$500/$600: Single/Queen/King) and rugs ($90-$2,800) are outstanding, as are the silk-screened duct tape wallets (duct tape is, apparently, the new leather?), watercolors by Reina Gillson ($125-$750) and recycled rice bags from Cambodia. Coming in May is the perfect gift for anyone’s favorite (?) Eliot Spitzer-wannabe: Cotton PJs from Hong Kong’s Goods of Desire covered entirely with printed hooker ads (in Chinese).
Goods of Desire Hooker Ad PJs ($72) and Reina Gillson Watercolor Painting. Both available at MONGO (246 Smith St., 917.671.7696).
Silk-Screened Duct Tape Wallets ($85); Rug Samples ($20 per square foot) and Blankets with pockets (from $287). Both available at MONGO (246 Smith St., 917.671.7696).
It’s everything for the girls (hookers included) across the street at ANDIE WOO (251 Smith St., 718.694.9336/7). “It’s a necessary store. Girls come in here to feel better.” We are informed.We’re one of the only lingerie shops in the neighborhood. We have everything.” She ain’t kidding.

There’s everything from basics in nude, black and white to the most hubba-hubba ribboned and lace confections. They even do bra fittings! (Now THAT’S an ART!) There are adorable dresses (under $200) and Nick & Nora makeup ($18-30), but it’s the delicate jewelry with precious and semi-precious stones that will REALLY surprise you.
Jeanine Payer Sterling Hand-Engraved poetry jewelry ($352-$800). Available at ANDIE WOO (251 Smith St., 718.694.9336/7).
As for the few remaining women’s clothing shops on Smith Street, forget them. The owners and/or managers are all really nasty and neurotic and don’t deserve even a mention. Besides, you can find the same or better anywhere in Manhattan. So there!

Now, where IS that F train ...
Clockwise from top left: Goods of Desire Tape Measure Bags ($95-$110), Recycled Cambodian Rice Bag Bags ($26-$50), Ohm Throw ($125); Magic Underwear Sets (They Inflate!) ($32); Kas Chiffon Pleated Dresses ("True To Size!") ($144); Chocolate Diamond Frog Ring ($1200). All Available at ANDIE WOO (251 Smith St., 718.694.9336/7).