If you haven’t seen the barrage of articles about Dimes Square — in Vanity Fair, Daily Beast, Women’s Wear, and articles and opinion pieces in the New York Times — then you haven’t been paying attention. Dimes Square sits at the juncture of Canal, Orchard, Ludlow and Division Streets. Young skaters first colonized the area ten years ago, and in 2013 the veggie-friendly Dimes opened a restaurant, deli and a market. Depending on what you read, the area is either annoying or amazing. New wine bars and restaurants have opened recently, and a posh hotel has landed in a renovated landmark.
Bars and restaurants aside, new stores have been opening on lower Orchard Street, below Grand Street. Some of them offering seriously good shopping. They stretch into close-by Chinatown, which had been moving up into the Lower East Side and Nolita for years; adding hip stores. Welcome to the New York City mix.
The stores come in all shapes and sizes. Carrying used books, magazines and records, Sweet Pickle Books is a fun addition. Take a book from these shelves (they are free!), but go inside as there is very large assortment of books found inside the shop.
Along with books, they also sell dill pickles and tees. Lots of them. The store is long and narrow, and it is almost always full of browsing customers.
Books are arranged by category, and the cashier is at the back. They buy books and accept donations. There is also a selection of “rare” books, including works by Joan Didion and Philip Roth.
Art tomes, cookbooks, poetry and more. The fact that a new bookstore has opened in New York is heartening. And the fact that the community supports it is even better.
There are fun touches, like a very vintage typewriter. The customers enjoy playing with the pre-tech gadget. Clearly, there is a lot of poking around to do at Sweet Pickle Books.
Sweet Pickle Books, 47 Orchard Street
The November 19 Shop is packed full of all sorts of goodies for the home and to wear. Smiley face berets and tote bags in hand-made patchwork fabrics set the tone. You can also find smiley face socks.
Handmade bowls and plates sit on an etagere. Candles shaped like tarts, croissants, cream puffs and other pastries and candle sticks made from vintage salt and pepper shakers are tabletop helpers.
The product comes from around the world. There are cases of artsy jewelry and several rabbit toys and objects. Unusual planters, spoons and mini bowls fill this table.
There are very nice hand-dipped candles in addition to fun themed ones. There are more treats for the tabletop, including butter dishes with rabbits on top. And there is plenty of artistic pottery.
One wall is all clothing for men and women. It is handmade, and much of it is one of a kind, or limited production. There are also cheeky mid-century vibed retro drinking glasses — if you are in the mood.
November 19 Shop, 37 Orchard Street
Desert Vintage is located across the street. The boutique is full of designer and historic vintage. The current owners bought the sister store in Tucson, and have recently opened this version in New York.
The clothing mix goes from turn of the 20th century, with a big emphasis on clothing from the ’70s into the ’90s. Ossie Clark is a specialty, as are Zandra Rhodes, Geoffrey Beene, Saint Laurent and Issey Miyake. There are prints, like the one on the wall, that are the original strike-offs of vintage fabrics. A strike-off was made to test the screens used to print fabrics, and to finalize the colors used in the print.
Edwardian pieces and beaded pieces from the ’20s are here. The jacket at the far right is an extravagant Gianfranco Ferré work. Because it is vintage, everything is one of a kind, and they are collector’s pieces.
The decor is rustic; the exposed beams have a historic European look. The clothing is anything but rustic, but rather a beautifully curated collection that actually can be worn today.
Desert Vintage, 34 Orchard Street
When you reach the Susan Alexandra, you know that you are there. The designer carefully decorated the store to complement her signature handbags and accessories. Everything here is happy.
The small space is warm with attractive display areas. Toots Vintage was doing a pop-up of their vintage lingerie-inspired pieces when I last stopped by. You can barely see the beaded flower pots.
And interestingly, the yellow walls are quite flattering for customers and staff alike. It’s a candy-colored dreamland. The brand is known for its quirky bead bags and jewelry. Everything is made in America.
Earrings and necklaces are beaded to celebrate fruit, flowers, vegetables, animals and any shape that can be beaded. Hair and bag charms, lighter cases, and leashes and collars for dogs are tucked around the shelves.
The bags come in all shapes and sizes. A collection for the home is at the front of the boutique. Hanging planters, fruit bowls, glass bowls and glasses come in a fun rainbow of colors. Step in; be happy.
Susan Alexandra, 33 Orchard Street
Suzie Kondi is located a block south. The Australian transplant started out selling velour tracksuits and what she called “athluxury.” Before the pandemic, this store housed the C.W. Pencil Enterprise, selling any kind of pencil you could dream of.
It is now a retro-chic store with updated basics in velours, knit terrycloth, gauze and some sweaters. The styles are updated basics, and they come in a range of colors.
A small selection of printed cottons is also for sale. Sweaters come in cashmere and other fibers. There are patterned jacquards and intarsia sweaters that add a pop of pattern to the shop. Men and kids can find their own sizes here in similar styles.
Suzie Kondi, 15 Orchard Street
The Hunt. Around the corner on Canal Street lurks a different kind of store with a different kind of vibe — one more attuned to taxidermy (see the bear), skulls (everywhere), and an indie-goth feel.
The jewelry (the cases are full of ’em) is primarily silver, and comes from a variety of different designers. The vintage posters on the walls are for sale. And there is a collection of brand logo tees. Perfumes sit atop the cases at the right.
Hunt sweats are also for sale. The brand logo is a stylized eye. You can find it on their clothing and jewelry.
There are more cases of jewelry at the rear, where a large ceremonial boat is in dry dock. Take a peek to the right. The space is also full of odd signs, Chinese dragons, drugs, and one for a 19th-century optometrist.
And if you were just walking by, chances are you might walk right past. Only the tell-tale eye in the window gives the store away.
The Hunt, 27 Canal Street
The 9 Orchard Hotel is a newcomer. There is a pricey corner watering hole on Canal, and a full restaurant is on the way. It is not the only luxury hotel on the LES, but it is raising the bar.
If you head down Division Street you hit Chinatown. It is definitely a bit funkier with restaurants and grocery stores that barely feature English. I walked by one food store that had pictures of animals, including reptiles, for sale. The only writing in the entire store were in Chinese characters.
HBX, the superstore from the street website and blog, Hypebeast, has opened a New York flagship. Hypebeast was started in 2005 by a Hong Konger Kevin Ma, who was into men’s style and culture. It was wholly an e-commerce site with over nine million visitors a month until it opened a first store in Hong Kong, and now, New York. A hypebeast is someone who is devoted to finding fashionable clothing and accessories. The ground floor has clothing and sneakers, and fun Medicom toys, plus a coffee bar called Hypebean.
There is a long rail of women’s clothing behind a wall of sneakers. Women’s clothing had not been part of the original mix, but as the brand grew so did its offerings. The Hypebeast headquarters is a newly renovated seven-story loft building. It is located in Chinatown, because its founder liked the idea.
Sneakers come in a wide variety of price points, from very affordable to designer. They all have the Hypebeast seal of approval. The staff at the store are helpful, when they are not on their phones.
As you enter the second floor there is an exhibition space, with a series of skate decks by multiple artists. There will be more exhibition spaces on the upper floors, and the brand’s offices are here, too.
This floor is devoted to designer fashion. Acne Studio, Stone Island, Jil Sander, Rick Owens, Thom Browne, Raf Simons, Maison Margiela, Loewe, Burberry and more. Bags and accessories are available, too. Men’s and women’s clothing mixes together seamlessly.
The cashier is in an office at the back of the store. This leaves the selling space very clean and focused. Aesop products are for sale on the left, and amusing sculptures decorate the space at the right moment.
A compelling new concept has arrived in the city, also at just the right moment.
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.