When we walked into Noir et Blanc, we were lucky enough to meet its wonderful and charismatic store owner, Deborah Koenigsberger. In 1989, at the age of twenty-nine, after working as a model and stylist, Deborah opened her first storefront on 23rd street. Now on 25th, Noir et Blanc caters to the stylish woman. Repeat customers grace her presence everyday, therefore allowing Deborah to get to know them well. In addition to dressing women to feel confident, Deborah has also dedicated herself to helping homeless mothers and children. In 1996, she founded the organization Hearts of Gold. Her next door thrift store, The Thrifty HoG supports this effort, by acting as a hub for selling clothes whose proceeds go to the organization, and also as a job-training site for struggling women.
Crossroads Trading Company now has almost thirty locations around the United States, but even in Manhattan they keep their original relaxed Bay Area vibe. The company began in Berkeley in 1991 and has since become a hub for recycling both men and women's clothing with the goal of helping the environment and working to eliminate waste. Locals are welcome to come in and sell their gently used garments for cash or credit... and while there, hopefully browse for something
Whenever Rebecca, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, asked her glamorous college roommate from Arizona where she had bought whatever fabulous item of clothing she was wearing, the answer was always the same... Buffalo Exchange. Founded in 1974 by Kerstin Block in Arizona, it was one of the first used clothing shops to open in the country. The store offers its patrons a place to buy, sell, or trade second-hand garments so that they can find a new life in someone else's wardrobe. Today, Kerstin continues to run her company with the help of her daughter, Rebecca, and they have expanded to forty-seven stores nationwide. The company has maintained its funky, fun vibe and reasonable prices even as it has grown so large.
Deborah Koenigsberger had no plans to start a non-profit. As the owner of Noir et Blanc, an upscale, French-themed, women’s clothing boutique on West 23rd Street, she had enough on her plate. On her way to work every day, she would cross Madison Square Park and encounter the same young homeless woman and her three-year-old daughter sleeping there. Deb learned that the woman had faced abuse in the shelter system and had decided to “take her chances outside. ” Over time, she would bring them food, until suddenly, they were gone. Deb was so impacted by the experience, combined with the words of a Stevie Wonder song, “Take the Time Out, ” that she felt compelled to “help homeless mothers and their children reimagine their lives. ” Even though that young woman physically left, Deb says, “She motivates me every day to keep going. ” Thus, Hearts of Gold (HoG) was born with a mission of enabling homeless mothers and their children to “reclaim their lives, transition out of the shelter system, and become self-sufficient. ” In 2010, Deb opened the thrifty HoG on West 25th Street. A year later, she moved Noir et Blanc to a retail space a few doors down. The beautifully curated resale shop sells vintage, new, and gently used clothing for men and women, as well as small decor items, bric-a-brac, and home goods that are “consignment quality at thrift prices. ” In Deb’s words, “If I wouldn’t buy it and wear it, I’m not selling it. ”The mothers in need who work at the thrifty HoG earn a living wage, acquire job skills, and undergo training through HoG’s Earn As You Learn Program. All net proceeds from sales at the shop pay the moms and fund programs and services that support the women and children. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, while everyone was sheltering at home, Deb never stopped. She worked every day to fundraise, purchase, and deliver essential health supplies, food, and other necessities to the moms and kids in the shelters. Over the course of 2020, Deb distributed more than 2, 000 meals and emergency care packages, proving her dedication to her non-profit’s overarching goal: “HoG exists to make these women’s and children’s lives the best they can be and to help them retake control over their own stories. ”
With all the centers we have discovered dedicated to children, pets, students, and shoppers, it was refreshing and intriguing to come upon Senior Planet – “the country’s first technology themed center for over-60s. ” The center offers courses, skill-shares, workshops, special events and lecture series that help senior citizens deal with the ever-changing technological world. 22 computers, 3 Skype stations, a gaming area, a projector, mobile devices and a lounge create a space that one might think is fit for a youngster, but is, in fact, the perfect space for the senior folks. “Aging with attitude” is their motto. Computer basics, advanced computing, introduction to the iPad, digital photography, social networking and more are all taught in a welcoming environment. What a brilliant concept!
A favorite of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Sarah Jessica Parker, New York Vintage is what co-founder Shannon Hoey describes as “a leader in fashion. ” Shannon has spent the past twenty-three years amassing an extensive collection of vintage clothing, which includes a downstairs retail space open to the public and an upstairs industry archive open by appointment only. Over the years, Shannon has dressed red carpet actresses and world-famous singers, and has worked closely with costume designers on a range of films and TV series, including Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men. In 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama made a historic appearance in a New York Vintage Norman Norell dress, and since then, Shannon has dressed her on many occasions. When I first visited New York Vintage, I could not believe my eyes. The window display was stunning, as was the old-fashioned décor, complete with richly upholstered chairs, gilded mirrors, and ornate chandeliers. I was captivated by the wall of Vogue photographs, each one featuring a piece from Shannon’s collection, and of course, by the true treasure of New York Vintage: high-heeled shoes, flamboyant hats, and endless racks of beautiful dresses from designers around the world. Upstairs, the industry archive upstairs was filled with even more outrageous items, from a dress owned by Ulysses Grant’s wife to intricate McQueen headpieces. “Every piece here has historical significance, ” Shannon told me. “We’re an institution, a working museum archive. ” In fact, she added, many of the items at New York Vintage have been purchased from museums, and each piece is meticulously documented and entered into a database. Today, Shannon is one of New York’s foremost experts on fashion as an art form, so I was surprised to learn that she never set out to work with vintage clothing. “Fashion discovered me, ” she told me, explaining how her husband’s career in antiques first sparked her interest in vintage. It quickly became her passion, and within a few years, she and her husband co-founded New York Vintage. “He handles the business side of things, and I’m the creative director, ” Shannon explained. “So I get to do the fun part. ”But the vintage business can be difficult, too, and it took years of hard work for Shannon to build her collection. “The kind of fashion we seek is not easily found, ” she said. “It takes patience and capital, and you need to know what you’re looking for. ” In the early days, Shannon spent a lot of time searching for new pieces in Europe, but nowadays, with three young daughters, she travels much less. When I asked about her children, she said with a smile, “They spend a lot of time here with me, and they love playing dress-up. ”Shannon, unsurprisingly, also loves dressing up, and she told me that she has a lot of opportunities to wear items from her collection. “Halloween is my favorite holiday, ” she explained, “And last year I went to Allison Sarofim’s Italian futurism-themed party in a pink Mohawk and mod clothing. ” But Shannon’s favorite era is the 1920s. “I’m obsessed with all of it, ” she said. “The mindset, the freedom, the departure from women being bound and put in corsets. ”Still marveling over Shannon’s list of celebrity clients, which includes Julia Roberts and Beyonce, I asked if she ever gets starstruck. When celebrities first started flocking to the store, she told me, it was totally overwhelming, “like running from a tidal wave. ” But since then, the only time she has really been starstruck was her visit to the White House with the First Lady. “Some celebrities still catch me off-guard, ” she said, “Like the time Nicole Kidman showed up unannounced. But otherwise, I’m used to it. ”When I asked Shannon about the future of New York Vintage, she told me that they are hoping to expand overseas. “We want to open our doors to global clients, ” she told me, “maybe by opening an outpost in Europe. ” But until then, she told me, she will continue to do what she loves here in New York, working with designers, inspiring them and feeling inspired. For Shannon, the truly fulfilling part of her job is working with designers and models, creating with them and helping to communicate their vision. “I’m always inspired, ” she said with a smile. “I have the best job in the world. ”