Williamsburg Shopping: Visit Grand Street in Brooklyn

••• View of Manhattan from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Alexander Spatari/Getty Images
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    Shopping on Williamsburg's Grand St

    ••• Vintage Clothing Store on Grand Street: Le Grand Strip. Photo by E. Freudenheim

    Looking for an offbeat, interesting shopping experience? Head to Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

    The shops along Grand Street in Williamsburg are, by turn arty, unusual, thoughtful. And, of course green.

    The unique — OK, awesome — retail recipe that's at play in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is something you'll never find in a suburban mall, manicured DUMBO, or already gentrified Brooklyn neighborhoods like Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.

    What's So Special About Grand Street?

    Why Grand Street?

    A September 2013 article in the New York Times titled The Williamsburg Divide pinpointed Grand Street as the dividing line between an increasingly Manhattanized North Williamsburg, home to glitzy highrises and super expensive shops, and scruffy South Williamsburg, where one still feels a sense of old-meets-new.

    So, a walk down Grand Street enables visitors to straddle both sides of the gentrification fence - and get a good sense of what's happening in this very high profile 'hood.

    Boutiques...MORE selling $400 shirts and $50 French vintage lace underthings nestle comfortably between bars that stay open until 2AM, old bodegas with big window posters welcoming customers paying with food stamps, and neighborhood churches, at least one of which serves as a haven for the occasional homeless napper.

    Welcome to Grand Street

    Shoppers can easily spend a happy few hours exploring the boutiques and one-of-a-kind stores along a three or so block strip of Grand Street where you can find:

    • an artistic cashmere recycler
    • a vintage shop with fabulous lingerie and dresses, many French,
    • a vegan clothing shop, and
    • not one but two discount shops for well known brands, including one for the popular and pricey line Paul Smith.

    Flip to the following pages to "meet" several of the trendy shop keepers on trendy Grand Street, accessible from the L subway line stop at Bedford Avenue, the first stop on that line in Brooklyn.

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  • 02 of 10

    Practical Info for Shoppers

    ••• Historic red brick building on Driggs and Grand St. in Williamsburg. Photo by E. Freudenheim

    How to Get to Grand Street in Williamsburg Brooklyn

    By subway:

    Take the L train to the Bedford Ave. Stop, exit subway via Driggs Ave., 
walk 8 blocks south on Driggs to Grand Street and turn left.

    Or, take the J, M or Z train to Marcy Avenue stop, exit down elevated platform to Broadway, walk about a half block on Broadway, turn left on Havemeyer St., then walk 6 blocks to Grand Street and turn left.

    When to Go Shopping on Grand Street in Williamsburg Brooklyn

    Don't even think about getting there before 11 AM. The stores open at 11 or later.

    Uh, Where Am I Exactly? And is it Safe? A Word on the Reinvention of Williamsburg

    Yes, it's safe.

    Until the mid-1990's, Williamsburg was an off-the-radar section of Brooklyn that was home to primarily low-income Puerto Ricans, Hasidic Jews, and some urban pioneering artists.

    Its transformation has been remarkable and driven largely by, first artists, then hipster 20 somethings and since about 2005, deep-pocketed developers building fancy high...MORE rises on the Manhattan-facing waterfront.

    Williamsburg in 2013 is a sprawling, vibrant center of youth-driven tourism, bars, small business, entertainment, bands, music venues, poetry readings, outdoors movies, indoor movie theaters that double as restaurants, vintage boutiques, unique retail and specialty restaurants (many with tin ceilings and antique veneer) —with a growing upscale element defined by waterfront high-rise apartments, the fancy Wythe Hotel, and pricey shops.

    (Urban planning wonks take note: There is no constraint in the development of Williamsburg by landmarking, as in the brownstone neighborhoods, nor of central management, as in DUMBO.)

    How Long Should I Spend on Grand Street?

    A two hour trip around Grand Street allows plenty of time to shop, explore and get the sense of the 'hood.

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  • 03 of 10

    Life:Curated- For Gifts, a Hip Lifestyle Store on Williamsburg's Grand Street

    ••• life:curated Shop on Williamsburg's Grand St.

    Whether you're a tourist shopping for a souvenir or gift to take home to Australia, or a local looking for something interesting to decorate your apartment or yourself, this tasteful shop, "life:curated," offers a wide range of appealing goods with an urban/retro/practical/ironic twist.

    What's with "Curated?"

    The name of this shop, of course, captures one of the most popular words in the contemporary hipster vocabulary: curated.

    What "curated" suggests: Pre-digested, in a less-is-more sense. Pre-sifted and sorted. Exclusive, but in terms of style and aesthetics -- not money. That is, someone has already culled through the avalanche of possibilities for you, so whatever you buy, you can rest assured it "fits" within the current aesthetic.

    And so if you like the particular "curated" style here, you'll find great shopping. For gifts, you might pick up a handsome wallet or a $250 leather purse imported from Germany. Or, if you go for things...MORE with animal themes, you might find a mug with an antler decor.

    Need clothes? Check out the cool jeans, t-shirts and shirts.

    Where It Is, Contact Info

    • Name: life:curated
    • Address: 186 Grand St., Brooklyn 11211
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  • 04 of 10

    Paul Smith Sale Shop in Brooklyn, Outlet Store for Upscale Men's Wear

    ••• Paul Smith Sale Shop in Williamsburg on Grand St. Photo by E. Freudenheim

    Yes, it's that Paul Smith. The trendy designer, with stores on Manhattan's 5th Avenue and suits sold in Neiman Marcus, also has its (as of this writing) only "discount" store smack in the middle of Williamsburg.

    The shop carries clothes and shoes for men and women, and a smattering of children's clothes as well. So, it's a good place to come for shirts, suits, shoes, ties, jackets, trousers, jeans, t-shirts. There's a smaller collection of women's skirts, dresses, and purses.

    The clothes are not seconds, but fine goods left over from the prior season. So if you shop here in the autumn, it's last autumn's gear that you'll find — at a very substantial markdown.

    And, the people watching is not half bad, either. On any given day, visitors will likely be tended to by store staff wearing the informal hipster uniform that's popular in the area, including, for male sales staff, perhaps certain kinds of beards, certain kinds of jeans, and perhaps a...MORE certain kind of hat. It's a look.

    Paul Smith's line of clothing tends toward the classic. Men's clothing doesn't vary seasonally as much as women's, and so pretty much nobody will be able to tell the difference if you're wearing a Paul Smith suit from the Paul Smith Sale Shop in Brooklyn.

    Where It Is, Contact Info

    • Name:Paul Smith
    • Address: 280 Grand Street, Brooklyn
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  • 05 of 10

    Fred Perry Sale Shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

    ••• Fred Perry Sale Shop in Williamsburg. Photo by E. Freudenheim

    The clothing sold here at the Fred Perry Surplus Shop has a certain subtle irony: classic-looking polo shirts, for instance, decorated by small stripes of in color combinations you'd never have seen in the 1950s at Lord & Taylors.

    Prices are slashed, relative to the same goods you'll find in major department stores.

    In a sense, Grand Smith is a fashion-forward bargain hunters dream, with Paul Smith and Fred Perry shops within a few storefronts of one another.

    Where It Is, Contact Info

    Check the site or call for hours; things change.

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    Brooklyn's Southside Guitars: Vintage Guitars & Repairs in Williamsburg

    ••• Southside Guitars on Williamsburg's Grand St specializes in vintage guitars and related gear. Photo by E. Freudenheim

    With a huge inventory of collector and player grade vintage guitars, basses, amps and effects, Southside Guitars has been a staple of this very musical and band-rich neighborhood for years.

    Walk in and you'll see an artfully displayed wall full of brightly colored vintage guitars. In the back, you'll find a selection of acoustics, and also a collection of amplifiers and other gear.

    Southside Guitars sells vintage instruments to tourists and locals, of course, and are one of several Brooklyn shops frequented by visiting musicians with guitars in need of repair.

    It's a ​low key, friendly family business, co-founded by Ben and Sam Taylor, "to showcase our love of vintage music gear and the desire to provide excellent quality instruments to musicians and collectors." Visitors are welcome to browse.

    And why not pick up a 1950s electric guitar for your dad for Fathers Day or your sister for Christmas?

    Where It Is, Contact Info

    Check the site or call for hours; things change.

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  • 07 of 10

    Upcycled,Recycled:Arty Eco Cashmere,Housewares,Gifts in Williamsburg at GGrippo

    ••• GGrippo sells up-cycled cashmere and arty gift items from a showroom/workshop in Williamsburg; here, cashmere gloves and dress. Photo by E. Freudenheim

    Upcycle. Recycle. Reuse. Create. A visit to this tiny showcase of store is a must when you're exploring Brooklyn's Grand Street.

    Upstairs, you'll see an artful showroom/shop that feels like a museum store.

    Downstairs is the atelier, the workshop where you can watch as sewers piece together the one-of-a-kind, environmentally sustainable clothing and household items that are sold above in the store.

    UpCycled" Cashmere: Repurposing That Great Soft Material

    So, what's with all the colorful fabric? It's cashmere. Recycled cashmere. And down a steep stairway, tucked under the retail shop, is an inventive and environmentally responsible workshop where old scraps of cashmere are "upcycled" into wonderful new designs. Peek over the railing and you can see mountains of cashmere, mannequins wearing various kinds of clothes made of recycled cashmere, and often, a few people at work hand making what's sold upstairs.

    For environmentally conscious shoppers, this...MORE store/workshop is a rare bonanza. An excellent destination for unique gifts, here you can find, for instance, divine shawls of cashmere, or riotously colored sheath dresses of cashmere. Among the best sellers are long and short cashmere gloves, hats, gloves, scarves, and yes, pillowcases.

    A line of children's clothes features adorable A-line dresses, ponchos, kimonos, all in patchwork quilt fabric, all easy-to-wash-at-home cashmere.

    How's it made? The material is washed twice and upcycled, meaning that it's recycled with the least possible waste of energy and material. As much as possible, the original fabric is sourced locally, so there's not a huge carbon footprint to the products.

    How does upcycled cashmere feel to the skin? Soft as a cloud.

    And yes, you can order online.

    Gifts and Unique Household Items

    In addition to the made-on-premises cashmere items, there's other merchandise: you might fall in love with a cheery mobile, a fabulous teapot, or colorful handmade ceramic cups. The shop features a varying and carefully selected roster of products that are visually appealing and arty but also fun and functional. You might find objects created by such designers as ANKH, mnnr, Artecnica, Love is Mighty, Bon Bon Oiseau, Helveta Vyotlag, Hannah Parr, Steve Keister, Your Secret Admiral, Cyclus, Lisa Shaub New York, Viva la Vida, Eeboo Corp, Pip Studio, Fab Habitat, among others.

    Raincoats Made of Potato Peels....

    For instance, check out the $30 rain poncho " made from potato peels by Equilicua" and imported from Spain. Gearing the product to bike-friendly locals, it's "designed to ride your bike and walk your streets. " Just don't eat it.

    The store is the brainchild of an Argentine-born artist and designer known (as is his shop/studio) as GGrippo,AKA Gabriele Grippo who calls himself a "creative activist."

    (Find out about upcycling.)

    Where It Is, Contact Info

    Check the site or call for hours; things change.

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    Shopping Green? Check out Williamsburg's Eco-Closet for Clothes, Gifts

    ••• Eco-Closet on Grand Street, Williamsburg. Photo by E. Freudenheim

    Someone's got to do something about global warming, right? Well, if you love soft clothes with an environmentalist stamp of approval, check out the selective clothing and housewares at Eco-Closet on Grand Street.

    Shoppers who've been to, say, Bend or Portland Oregon will recognize the look here: loose, soft, comfy, fun. The clothing is upcycled, recycled, or locally sourced and produced with minimal energy expenditure. Green is the theme, but not the color of choice here. Clothing runs to earth tones, with lovely calm beige, blacks, and grays.

    Housewares are, of course, made of recycled materials.

    Eo-Closet is one of several "green" themed stores on Grand Street.

    Where It Is, Contact Info

    • Name: Eco Closet​​​
    • Address: 230 Grand St, Brooklyn

    Check the site or call for hours; things change.

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  • 09 of 10

    Williamsburg,Brooklyn:Where Pamper Yourself? Organic Sustainable SkinnySkinny

    ••• Skinnyskinny Soap Fragrance Store in Williamsburg: Grand St. Photo by E. Freudenheim

    Try skinnyskinny Homemade Soaps, Oils

    Just step inside this placid little shop and you'll feel relaxed. A whiff of freshness permeates the store, "a combination of all our soaps and scents," the shopkeepers will tell you. If springtime has a perfume, this is probably it.

    Perfect for a self-care pampering treat, or a gift for someone you love, Skinny Skinny soaps hark back to the old fashioned way of making soap" --- that is, by hand.

    You can also pick up some lovely candles, waxes, bath salts and so on.

    And there's sense to their scents, too: their products borrow from favorite retro-homemade cooking smells, like sugar cookies and creamy chocolate cake.

    Their promise: "No synthetics or artificial preservatives. No sulfates, parabens, or perfumes. Vegan (with the sole exception of the beeswax lip balm). Cruelty-Free, of course..."

    Where It Is, Contact Info

    • Name: skinnyskinny
    • Address: 268 Grand St., Brooklyn

    Check the site or call for hours; things change.

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    Bird: Elegant Boutique Shopping in Williamsburg

    ••• BIRD: Elegant Casual Shopping in Williamsburg-Grand Street. Photo by E. Freudenheim

    The Brooklyn-born shop called Bird sells pricey, high-end casual and work wear for both men and women. Bird's Grand Street shop, like its other locations in Carroll Gardens and Park Slope has its signature look: open, airy, and contemporary.

    You'll find much loved but perhaps smaller, independent designer labels at this curated, stylish shop. For women, brands include A Détacher, Acne, Alexander Wang, A.P.C., Christian Wijnants, Christophe Lemaire, Isabel Marant, Maison Martin Margiela Ligne 6, Mina Perhonen, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Rachel Comey, Rag & Bone, Raquel Allegra, Tsumori Chisato and Zero + Maria Cornejo.

    Featured men's labels include Acne, Alex Mill, A.P.C., Band of Outsiders, Billy Reid, Hope, Our Legacy, Patrik Ervel, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Rag & Bone, Robert Geller, Saturdays Surf NYC, Shipley & Halmos and Won Hundred.

    You can also find an unusual selection of jewelry, bags, and accessories.

    The store has won some acclaim in a competitive marketplace, cited as...MORE Best Women’s Boutique in New York City by New York Magazine and Top Visionary Boutique in the US by Lucky Magazine.

    Bird's success is a local retail fairytale come true: Owner Jen Mankins moved from working as an assistant buyer for Barneys New York to head buyer for Steven Alan and then co-founded the women’s fashion label Charlotte Corday before opening her first store in 1999 in Park Slope.

    If the space feels vaguely green and Scandinavian, that's perhaps because it was designed by Norwegian architect Ole Sondresen, winning a LEED-CI Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The Williamsburg shop also features the work of local artists.

    Try to come during the excellent sales, to reduce the sticker shock.

    Where It Is, Contact Info

    • Name: Bird
    • Address: 203 Grand Street, Brooklyn

    Check the site or call for hours; things change.