Although the small Welcome Shoppe is just about the size of someone's walk-in closet, Robin, the owner, has been able to utilize every inch of space, filling it with clothing in an attractive and uncluttered fashion. I stopped by when Robin first opened in May 2012, and when I visited six months later in the fall, the inventory had changed dramatically. This time there were lush scarves and sweaters - even some cashmere blends for infants. Men's, women's, and infant's socks made in Bolivia were intermixed on the shelves with small pottery pieces. Having worked her way around the world, Robin chose to settle here in New York a few years ago. Many might remember her from Butter, a shop that she owned in Brooklyn before finding her way to 11th Street. When I commented on how much I loved the long-sleeved striped tees, she told me that these are part of a small line of clothing that she designs. All in all, this is a charming boutique where it might be difficult for many to walk out empty-handed.
I learned of Agnes B's clothing while in college and studying abroad back in the '70's. Somehow, even then, I knew to appreciate her simple French designs for women. It wasn't until I was much older, however, that I was able to purchase a few of her pieces for myself, and I truly treasure them. It seems that many of Agnes B's stores are closing around the country, but here's to hoping that she can continue here in New York.
Walking into Shop Untitled, which features exquisite clothing, chunky crystal necklaces, fierce leather boots, and gloves galore, is like walking into a fashion wonderland. Along the walls there are long black coats with leather spines, a full body piece that looks like something a ninja might wear, and effortlessly hip hooded shirts. “We don’t buy safe things, ” Kevin Kelly said to me, “They end up on the sales rack. We do risky things. They’ll sell the first day. ”Manhattan Sideways had the chance to sit down and talk with Kevin and Gapu Suri who have been partners in the shop since 1983. Kevin informed us that the store was originally located across the street until 2009, when it moved to its current location. After relocating, people thought they were the new kids on the block. “New Yorkers don’t turn around, ” Kevin jokingly said, but then explained that he and Gapu chose to stay in the neighborhood because of their loyal clientele. Young women who shopped here years ago are now mothers who bring their daughters to browse in this haven of chic clothes. As we perused the wares, we learned that Shop Untitled is a place that changes with the times, keeping up to date on all the newest trends - because it has always been for young people. Its racks are filled with the lines of up-and-coming designers. Gapu and Kevin do not carry the same things as other boutiques: they mostly feature smaller designers who prefer to be in a finely curated shop. They are proud that a number of the designers that they represent choose to work exclusively with Shop Untitled. “Customers like being surprised that they’ve never heard of someone, ” Kevin said, adding that it makes them feel unique in a sea of familiar brands. Talking with Kevin and Gapu was a wonderful experience. They have strong convictions and take great pride in being a launching pad for new designers. “We love what we do – we wake up and love doing it, ” Gapu exclaimed with a big smile on his face. Together, they run the store like a well-oiled machine. Gapu, who moved from India to go the Fashion Institute of Technology, said that he travels to Paris about four times a year to do the buying for the store. He does “tons and tons of research” to seek out new and fashion-forward designers. Kevin has not had any formal training in design, but definitely, as he says, has a “flair for it. ” Decked out in cool, architectural clothing, their aesthetic is evident. The Manhattan Sideways team gave Kevin the impossible task of picking just three designers to highlight. He landed on two edgy, eco-conscious artists: Barbara I Gongini, who makes sure her fabrics and pieces are sustainably attained, and Demobaza with an “end of the world, beginning of the next world” vibe. To round it out, Kevin mentioned the House of Malakai, a company that makes very special face masks that caught the eye of Madonna herself. Rihanna even flew Malakai to New York for the Met ball. Gapu and Kevin have a lot of interaction with the music, film, TV, and theater crowd. Recently, a designer had work featured in The Hunger Games movies after a buyer for the film came by the store. The two men place a heavy emphasis on seeking out new talent. Gapu told us that he is always on the hunt for designers that are “raw and fresh. ” These talented men and women enter into a strong legacy: Shop Untitled carried John Galliano’s and Alexander McQueen’s work straight out of school. In ending our conversation, Gapu announced emphatically that the clothing and accessories that Shop Untitled carries must have “a soul behind the creation. ”
Tucked in the middle of all of the high end antique furniture stores on this stretch of 10th Street is a European shop that has a women's line of relaxed, natural fiber clothing reminiscent of an upscale Eileen Fisher boutique. In addition to the fashion in Eskandar's expansive space, they have a carefully curated, eclectic selection of home furnishings including dishes, glassware, flatware, candles, and books.
The ice cream at Alphabet Scoop is refreshing in more ways than one: Managed by Robbie Vedral, Alphabet Scoop is an extension of Father’s Heart Ministry, which has been focused on empowering the neighborhood youth in the Lower East Side since 2005. Robbie, for his part, has always believed that if you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of you—in this case, those employees just so happen to be high schoolers from the East Village. Under the wishes of his parents, who are still pastors of the church next door, Robbie has taken it upon himself to hold Alphabet Scoop to an uncompromising standard, always ensuring that things are done right. From a background of 25 years in retail, Robbie has found that he can learn from anyone’s mistakes - including his own. He has, in this vein, adjusted the shop’s schedule to keep it open all year; previously it was just a summer stop, but Robbie found that being a seasonal location made it more difficult for customers to anticipate when Alphabet Scoop would be in business. So, now, rather than seasonal hours, Alphabet Scoop boasts seasonal flavors. Pistachio flavor, a summer 2019 special, comes highly recommended by the Manhattan Sideways team. Alphabet Scoop is also constantly experimenting with new flavors suggested to them by customers, so if you’ve been saving up that million-dollar ice cream flavor idea, Alphabet Scoop might just be the place to make it a reality. The “sweet n’ salty” flavor is proof of the potential here, as it was suggested by one of the shop’s younger customers. While the spritely New Yorkers that work in the shop are paid for their work, Alphabet Scoop is also a non-profit. The mission, transparently, is as stated on the walls: “Justice & Sprinkles for all. ” The kids, typically between the ages of 14 and 16, learn all aspects of the business, from hands on skills such as making ice cream to managerial skills like taking inventory. The goal of Alphabet Scoop is to encourage maximum involvement from its employees, so they are invited to help make decisions about the business. Robbie told us a story of a young woman, for example, who has worked in the shop for close to two years, and who was initially quite difficult to work with - but with patience and persistence from Robbie and other employees, the young woman grew to better understand the mission of Alphabet Scoop, and now even has keys to the shop. Robbie’s work at Alphabet Scoop shows the importance of creating strong foundations for young people, as well as how truly influential small businesses can be in their communities. Stop by the shop - any time of year - to help Robbie make his impact.