Until the mid-1990's, Williamsburg was an off-the-radar section of Brooklyn that was notable as a Hasidic Jew enclave. Its transformation was driven largely by artists that were priced out of their former Manhattan apartments, then followed by twenty-somethings seeking cheap rent and a youth-oriented community. Since about the mid-2000s, deep-pocketed developers began building fancy high rises on the Manhattan-facing waterfront, and that trend still continues today.
Now a sprawling, vibrant center of bars, small business, live entertainment, high-quality restaurants, and boutique hotels, Williamsburg has become the premier destination for tourists looking to expand beyond Manhattan.
Great Shopping on Grand
Even Brooklyn neophytes are familiar with Bedford Avenue, as it is the main entryway into the area by way of the L train, but may have never ventured out to the lesser known Grand Street. The shops along Grand are highly curated, of the moment, and unlike anything you would encounter in a suburban mall or in the more family-friendly Brooklyn neighborhoods like Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.
The New York Times pinpointed Grand Street as the dividing line between an increasingly Manhattanized North Williamsburg, home to glitzy highrises and super high-end shops, and scruffy South Williamsburg, where one still feels a sense of old-meets-new.
Shopkeepers, just like the rest of the neighborhood, prefer to sleep in, so don't bother arriving before 11 a.m., or you may find that most shops are closed.
You should allow yourself about two hours to traverse around Grand Street. That allows plenty of time to shop, explore, and get the sense of the neighborhood. If you're planning on trying one of the area's restaurants, increase that time allowance to at least four hours, as there may be a wait for a table at most of the eateries.
Getting to Grand Street
The most popular mode of transportation for New Yorkers is the subway. Whether you are coming from Manhattan, or another one of the city's boroughs, getting to Williamsburg is rather easy.
- Take the L train to the Bedford Avenue stop, and exit subway via Driggs Avenue. Then, continue on Driggs Avenue, walking 8 blocks south until you arrive at Grand Street, and turn left.
- Or, you can take the J, M or Z train to Marcy Avenue stop. Exit down the elevated platform to Broadway, and walk about a half block until you reach Havemeyer Street, and turn left. Then walk, another six blocks to Grand Street and turn left.
Fred Perry Surplus Shop
The clothing sold at the Fred Perry Surplus Shop is a nod to classic, preppy styles with a sporty twist. Evoking a bit of Lacoste's aesthetic, with slightly cleaner lines for a more minimalist look, you can't go wrong with a polo, or oxford shirt from this shop, especially given the prices.
As the name indicates, the items stocked at this location are surplus goods from other area Fred Perry stores. You will find men's and women's clothing for sale.
306 Grand Street
With a huge inventory of collector and player grade vintage guitars, Southside Guitars has been a staple of this very musical and band-rich neighborhood for years.
Walk in and you'll see every color of the rainbow in an artful display of brightly colored vintage guitars, all for sale. Southside Guitars also offers guitar repair services, as well as basses, amps, and other audio equipment.
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 admire these pieces of musical history.
303 Grand Street
The Brooklyn-born shop Bird sells high-end casual and work wear for both men and women.
You'll find much-loved designer collections at this curated, stylish shop, along with lesser-known independent and local labels. 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, Band of Outsiders, Hope, Shipley & Halmos, and many more. You can also find an unusual selection of jewelry, bags, and accessories.
The store has won some acclaim in a competitive marketplace, cited as Best Women’s Boutique in New York City by New York Magazine and Top Visionary Boutique in the nation by Lucky Magazine.
The shop, which has the signature airy, welcoming interior of all Bird's locations, was designed by Norwegian architect Ole Sondresen and received a LEED-CI Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
203 Grand Street