Explore New York City

27 Stores for the Niche Shopper

In the city where you can get it all, here are some retail gems of the most specialized kind.

Take a closer look at New York, peer into storefront windows and there is depth to match the range of shops in a city that has something for everyone. Trust us—if you can’t find it in New York City, it probably doesn’t exist.

Chess Forum

An atmosphere of quiet concentration pervades the back corridor of Chess Forum, where players of all skill levels compete against each other at several small tables. Stop by to purchase games such as backgammon, mah-jongg and dominoes in addition to specialty chess pieces made of wood, stone, glass and other materials. 219 Thompson St., 212.475.2369, chessforum.com

Mustard
Hand-filling a jar of gourmet mustard (Courtesy Maille Boutique)

The Maille Boutique

French brand Maille has been packaging mustard in elegant bottles since 1747, but waited until late 2014 to open its first U.S. store, the Upper West Side’s Maille boutique. A new flagship store opened in April 2016 in the Flatiron District. Both have mustard bars for tastings that are served by America’s first and only mustard sommelier, who helps shoppers find the right condiment varieties and food pairing for their palate. 185 Columbus Ave., 212.724.1014, maille.com; 927 Broadway, no phone at press time

Sutton Clock Shop

Established in 1965 by a former Olympic rower from Denmark—the late Knud Christiansen—the Sutton Clock Shop is now run by his horologist son, Sebastian, who moved the store from E. 61st St. to E. 82nd St. in 2012. The Upper East Side repair shop has a salesroom displaying barometers and antique to modern clocks, gently ticking along with softly whirring parts, many chiming in unison. 218 E. 82nd St., 212.758.2260, suttonclocks.com

Pencils
Pencils galore at CW Pencil Enterprise (Courtesy CW Pencil Enterprise)

CW Pencil Enterprise 

They may be old-school, but they are still adored: Colorful rows of artisanal pencils fill the shelves at CW Pencil Enterprise, opened by Caroline Weaver on the Lower East Side in 2014. Her obsession with pencils began when she got her first box of Caran d’Ache color pencils at about age 6. She stocks those as well as John Steinbeck’s favorite type, Blackwing 602, scented pencils and pencil accessories. As a mark of dedication, the 25-year-old has a pencil tattoo on her left arm and a singular job title: chief pencil lady. 100A Forsyth St., 917.734.8117, cwpencils.com

Buttons, buttons everywhere at Lou Lou Buttons. (©Roz Farhadi)

Lou Lou Buttons

Since 1994, owner Roz Farhadi has sold buttons of his own design, as well as those from all over the world. Metal, glass, plastic, bone, shell and other materials are crafted into customized creations, perfect for any and every button need. The store, named after a character from Persian poet Rumi’s work, has provided buttons for countless theatrical productions (Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera and the like). Who do you think made those silver and black “Oz” buttons on the guards’ uniforms in Wicked—munchkins? Nope. Roz. 69 W. 38th St., 212.398.5498, no website at press time

Games, games and more games! (Courtesy The Compleat Strategist)

The Compleat Strategist

In business for over 25 years, this game sanctuary has everything from board games, card games, computer games and dice games to role playing games, books about games and games about books (probably). Whether you are a gaming pro or someone who is looking to get into gaming, The Compleat Strategist has the tools you’ll need to be on your way and then some. 11 E. 33rd St., 212.685.3880, thecompleatstrategist.com

Empire Mayonnaise Co.

Micro-batch mayonnaise is very much a real thing, and it been made in Brooklyn since 2011 by chef Sam Mason and designer Elizabeth Valleau. What separates Empire mayo from its mass-produced counterparts is that not only is it made by hand, but it is also packaged and shipped by said hand (well, hands). Made from cage-free, pasture-raised eggs and with non-GMO oils, this mayonnaise comes in savory flavors such as bacon, white truffle, Sriracha, pink peppercorn and smoked paprika. Though the mayo is mostly sold wholesale, tastings can be arranged at the kitchen. 564 Vanderbilt Ave., 718.636.2069, empiremayo.com

Fanelli Antique Timepieces Ltd.

Specializing in clock and watch sales and repairs, Fanelli’s services vintage, antique and new models of timepieces. The expertise of the folks at Fanelli’s has led them to be recommended by the likes of Tiffany & Co. and Sotheby’s, among others. A female-owned company established in 1969, Fanelli’s embraces the concept that “time is our most precious resource.” Let them help you keep your precious resource running smoothly. 790 Madison Ave. Suite 202, 212.517.2300, fanelliantiquetimepiecesltd.com

With so many pens to choose from, you're destined to make the write choice here. (Courtesy Fountain Pen Hospital)

Fountain Pen Hospital

Founded in 1946 by the father and son team of Al and Phil Wiederlight, and now run by Al’s sons Terry and Steve Wiederlight, along with director of operations Ed Fingerman, Fountain Pen Hospital has quite a collection of writing implements. It is here where you will find the world’s largest inventory of vintage fountain pens that were made between the 1880s and 1960s. A lot of these pens are one of a kind, making them unique finds for pen enthusiasts. In addition to fountain pens, customers can find rollerball pens and mechanical pencils for sale as well. 10 Warren St., 212.964.0580, fountainpenhospital.com

Records
Vinyl is back! Find specialty records at Rebel Rebel Records. (Courtesy iStock)

Rebel Rebel Records

“Rebel Rebel, you've torn your dress

Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess

Rebel Rebel, how could they know?

Hot tramp, I love you so!”

Yes, David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” is the inspiration for this store’s name and you are sure to find Bowie’s records among the vast vinyl collection just waiting to be perused. This narrow, yet hallowed hall of tunes that opened in 1988 celebrates music for what it is—everything. The staff knows their stuff, so if you’re looking for something specific or are a newbie in need of a recommendation, just ask. 319 Bleecker St., 212.989.0770, no website at press time

Casey Rubber Stamps

Owner John Casey continues to make rubber stamps (with real red rubber and a Maple backing with the stamp design stamped on it) in an ever-increasing digital world. Because why not? A stamp maker/seller for over 35 years and working out of his shop in the East Village for more than a decade, Casey Rubber Stamps boasts thousands of designs—letters, animals, bugs, logos, faces, acorns—and if you can’t find what you need, Casey can custom make you one. 322 E. 11th St., 917.669.4151, caseyrubberstamps.com

Block the rain with a burst of color. (Courtesy Rain or Shine)

Rain or Shine

A good umbrella is a precious commodity in New York City. Since 2002, Rain or Shine offers a wide selection of functional and fashionable rain-blockers, in addition to parasols (for your sun-blocking needs) and walking canes. Choose from a selection of dark or brightly colorful solids or pretty paisley and plaid patterns for the umbrellas/parasols. 45 E. 45th St., 212.741.9650, rainorshine.com

Top off your outfit with the perfect hat. (Courtesy Goorin Bros.)

Goorin Bros.

Established in 1895 by Cassel Goorin and renamed in 1921 by his sons Alfred and Ted, Goorin Bros. continues to pride itself on finding the perfect hat for an individual’s face shape. Straw hats or cloth hats—each hat is American made with quality materials. There’s a style for everyone and every one is stylish. 337 Bleecker St., 212.256.1895, goorin.com; 26 Prince St., 212.965.1895; 181 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, 718.599.4287; 195B Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, 718.783.4287

Image Anime

Image Anime embraces (and sells) all things relating to Japanese animation—apparel, DVDs/Blu-rays, models, bags and action figures. Established in 1992, this store also features a variety of toys from popular anime and gaming series. 242 W. 30th St., 212.631.0966, imageanime.com

Seigo Neckwear

Designer and proprietor Seigo Katsurgawa’s ties and bowties are made with 100% silk and hand-sewn by skilled craftsmen in Japan. Printed fabrics are hand-blocked silk-screened while other ties are woven in small mills in Kyoto to be sold at one of three stores in NYC, the first of which opened in 1992. Some Seigo ties have extremely limited production, with only eight ties total (in the world!) of certain patterns. These special edition ties are labeled with serial numbers for authenticity. 1248 Madison Ave., 212.987.0191, seigoneckwear.blogspot.com; 762 Third Ave., 212.308.3008; 1034 ½ Lexington Ave., 212.439.8585

Beautiful beads of every size, shape and color. (Courtesy Beads of Paradise)

Beads of Paradise

What started out as a small store in the East Village in the late 1980s grew to this larger haven of handcrafted wares that has called the Flatiron District home since the 1990s. Beads of Paradise features beautiful beads from all over the world that come in a rainbow of colors and materials. This boutique is also home to ready-made textiles and accessories, honoring African and Southeast Asian cultures. 16 E. 17th St., 212.620.0642 beadsofparadisenyc.com

Retrofret

If you’re in need of vintage, rare and unusual fretted instruments, then you’ve come to the right place. Retrofret’s parent company, the New York String Service, was founded in 1983 by Steve Urrik. Musicians and collectors alike will appreciate the selection of stringed wonders at this Brooklyn showroom. Browse and play a variety of guitars, mandolins, banjos, basses and more. 233 Butler St., 718.237.6092, retrofret.com

Midtown Comics

Founded in 1997 by four friends who met as teens in Astoria, Midtown Comics is the largest comic book store in America. With three locations in NYC fans of comic books, graphic novels and manga can appreciate the nearly half a million books in Midtown Comics’ collection. An official retail sponsor of New York Comic Con, Midtown Comics also sells DVDs, trading cards and back issues, in addition to new and recently released comics. 200 W. 40th St., 212.302.8192, midtowncomics.com; 459 Lexington Ave., 212.302.8192; 64 Fulton St., 212.302.8192

Forbidden Planet

Named after the science fiction feature film of the same name, Forbidden Planet’s roots are the streets of London circa 1978. This small comic shop on Denmark Street expanded to include film and television memorabilia and more stores began opening in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Forbidden Planet split into Forbidden Planet and Forbidden Planet International, of which the NYC store, established in 1981, is a part of the latter. Comic books, graphic novels, toys, apparel and more that embrace sci-fi, video games and other fantastical entities can be found at this geek haven. 832 Broadway, 212.473.1576, fpnyc.com

Bullion Trading LLC

Rare and valuable gold and silver coins, bullion and bars seem like buried treasure findings, but these are everyday sightings at Bullion Trading LLC. One of the only dealers in NYC to carry pre-1933 gold coins, Bullion Trading LLC buys back gold and silver in addition to selling these precious metals in various shapes and weights. Bullion Trading LLC is open to the public and has been in business for over 25 years. 20 W. 47th St. LL#24, 212.997.2520, bulliontradingllc.com

Badichi Belts

Fashion-forward folks know that belts don’t just keep your pants from falling down. A belt can accessorize a dress, add a splash of color to an otherwise muted outfit or, with a noticeable buckle, even be the focal point of your ensemble. Founded by Yinon Badichi—whose first NYC store opened in 2010—Badichi belts are made with 100% premium Italian cowhide and come in a variety of styles and colors. If you can’t find a belt in the store that suits your needs you can customize your own, selecting everything from width to pattern to buckle. 367 W. Broadway, 212.533.2107, badichibelts.com

Philatelists can find an array of stamps here. (Courtesy Champion Stamp Company Inc.)

Champion Stamp Company Inc.

NYC’s only street-level retail stamp store, Champion Stamp Company Inc. opened in September of 1992 and has since been a home for thousands of stamps from the United States and abroad. Established collectors and enthusiasts new to the stamp world can find stamps and the supplies they need to store or display them. In addition to stamps, Champion Stamp Company Inc. also has a large inventory of worldwide banknote specimens, banknotes, US stock certificates, foreign bonds and other interesting documents. 432 W. 54th St., 212.489.8130, championstamp.com

Make your sock game as strong as your personality. (Courtesy Stance)

Stance

Socks not only protect your feet from the insides of your shoes, they are an outlet for self-expression and artistic—as well as technical—innovation. Stance socks, which started as an idea in 2009, can be found in over 40 countries and hundreds of stores worldwide, and now has its own flagship store in SoHo as of the end of 2015. Collaborating with athletes (including James Harden), performers (such as Rihanna) and cultural influencers (like Willow Smith), Stance brings socks front and center to pay them respect instead of dismissing them as merely mittens for your toes. 510 Broadway, 646.257.3416, stance.com

Happy Socks

Happy Socks was founded in 2008 by two friends in Stockholm, Sweden who wanted to spread happiness via fun footwear. Available in more than 70 countries and on all continents, Happy Socks opened up a SoHo store in April 2013 solely dedicated to the brand’s high-quality socks and underwear. Bright colors and original patterns are meant to bring joy to everyone, which is why almost all of the socks are labeled as unisex. Happy Socks has collaborated with various designers and stores to create collections that celebrate lovable characters, places and trends. 436 W. Broadway, 212.966.9692, happysocks.com/us

Fancy some fantastic frames? (Courtesy Fabulous Fanny's)

Fabulous Fanny’s

If eyes are the windows to our souls, then they deserve amazing windowpane frames. Not everyone has to wear glasses, but for those of us who do, sometimes we want something a little more fun for our faces. Fabulous Fanny’s, open since 2001, has quite the collection of vintage frames—some dating back to the 1700s!—and sunglasses for folks seeking a different look than what may be available at your optometrist. Keep in mind, Fabulous Fanny’s does not provide prescriptions, just funky frames, so you’ll still need to see your eye doctor. 335 E. Ninth St., 212.533.0637, fabulousfannys.com

The Polish Pit

Customers—PitMixMasters—are given the opportunity to create their own custom blend bottle of nail polish, choosing from an array of colors and polish mixes at this Tribeca hot spot that opened in March 2016. Come in on Thursday or Friday evenings to make some pretty polishes, or book a weekend group session to design a unique look just for you and your friends. 59 Franklin St., 347.678.7803, thepolishpit.com

Tender Buttons

Tender Buttons, named for a Gertrude Stein book, started in 1964 as a button collection and salon attended by artists such as Jasper Johns. Over the years, the long list of famous clientele has included Greta Garbo and Julia Roberts. The store has also provided buttons for Kermit the Frog’s trench coat and Jack Nicholson’s The Joker outfit in “Batman.” Buttons are sourced from all over the world in glass, porcelain, bone, leather, plastic, metal, Swarovski crystal and sustainable materials, and include over 400 types of blazer buttons. 143 E. 62nd St., 212.758.7004, tenderbuttons-nyc.com

Buttons
Boxes of buttons at Tender Buttons (©Lee Howard)