Washed in the warm lighting of this special shop, approximately 7,000 books rest on shelves, in drawers, and tucked away in little nooks. Open for more than twenty years, this store has focused on collecting scholarly books ranging from art books to philosophy and everything in between, with much of the prose coming from estate sales. The feeling of age is the first thing we sensed when we walked in through the front door: creaky wooden floors beneath our feet and the scent of old paper in the air conjure a comforting environment where anyone might stumble upon that rare book or record they have been searching for over the years. As a former bookstore owner, it warms my heart to see a bookstore such as this one still thriving.
Tucked into a cozy storefront on E9th Street, Pillow-Cat Books is — for any literary-minded animal lover — the cat’s meow. Guarded by the shop’s namesake cat, the bookstore opened by author Cleo Le-Tan is the city’s first animal-themed bookshop, offering new, used and vintage books across genre and language with one uniting theme — at least one animal or animal character within its pages. Cleo, a New York-based writer and the daughter of famed New Yorker illustrator Pierre Le-Tan, was inspired to open Pillow-Cat Books in September 2021 after working on A Book Lover’s Guide to New York, itself a charming tribute to the Big Apple’s best independent bookstores. “I interviewed people who have bookshops, and then I realized, ‘Oh, I want my own! ” she told the Manhattan Sideways team when we happened upon her eclectic collection one sunny Friday. She began to curate and source a stock of animal-themed works, finding special joy in hard-to-find tomes from years past. “I love vintage children’s books from the 1950s and 1960s, ” said Cleo, surrounded by books available to shop by category of animal as well as subject matter. Cleo told Manhattan Sideways that settling down in the East Village on 9th Street among the block’s many other speciality retail shops was one of her favorite parts about running Pillow-Cat. “I think it's a really nice block — I like how many independent, unique shops there are, ” she noted. “It’s a fun block because you get people coming from Tompkins Square Park who are friendly and local, but you also get visitors. ” We’d have to agree — as we browsed the shop, we already noticed several grateful visitors building their own stacks, making sure to give Pillow-Cat a pet on their way out.
In a city always on the cusp of change, certain havens embody the essence of the classic, idiosyncratic New York. Village Works Book Store on St Marks Place is one such retreat. Relocating earlier this year from its E 3rd Street location, the bookstore has become an organic part of its new setting — with a historic edifice from 1889 that was formerly the German American Shooting Society Clubhouse. Joseph Sheridan, the shop's proprietor, is a longstanding patron of New York City’s artistic and cultural scene, with a resume that includes everything from the Café Con Leche dance party to the Urban Works gallery. Village Works is the ultimate expression of his commitment to the city's culture, featuring an eclectic range of 5, 000 titles that largely focus on New York’s art, history and literature. The pandemic-induced exodus of tourists, students and wealthy residents revealed an opportunity to Sheridan. It was the ideal climate to unveil a bookstore aimed at documenting and celebrating this cultural resurgence. Starting with 2, 000 books from his personal collection, Village Works has since expanded to include self-published works and donated titles. Far from being just a bookstore, Village Works also serves as a gallery, and it regularly hosts events, book signings and fashion and retail collaborations, challenging the widely held belief that contemporary audiences are disinterested in New York's rich cultural history. Village Works is more than a retail space; it's a dynamic cultural hub. The scope of the bookstore has broadened from its initial emphasis on Village artists to include the wider New York City creative community. This commitment is evidenced by the store’s growing inventory, a series of art exhibitions complete with catalogs — and even foraying into publishing.
What a find... down a flight of stairs from street level on 8th Street, Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor is the "antithesis of a sports bar. " Artisan and craft beer are brought together in a friendly environment that certainly had us feeling like we were right at home. The Parlor is also named for the Arts and Crafts movement, “a cultural revolt against the ideals of industrialization. ”When we visited, we spoke to Robert, one of the two owners, with whom we thoroughly enjoyed chatting. Robert is an internationally recognized speaker and writer on dining out and traveling with special diets (he co-authored the series Let’s Eat Out! ), and he also has a background in acting and producing on Broadway. He told us that the other owner, Don, has an impressive resume working with the FBI and counterterrorism efforts both in New York and around the world - which left us wondering what brought this dynamic duo together as friends and eventually co-owners. Robert informed us it was a love of American Craft Beer and the visual and performing arts... and that they actually met enjoying a pint of beer in Manhattan. Just as intriguing as its owners, the interior of Arts and Crafts is beautifully designed; the sophisticated wallpaper is custom made by Bradbury and Bradbury, and the soft green and beige pattern was Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite, supposedly. The constantly changing art is displayed along the wall opposite the bar, and an exposed brick wall and fireplace give the parlor a true “extension of your living room” feel. Described by Robert, as the “Bugatti of beer systems, ” the twenty plus beers the Parlor keeps on tap rotate monthly and are kept by this state of the art system at a refreshing 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Robert also astounded us with how small the carbon footprint of the Parlor is — he told us they are very conscious of keeping things compostable and earth-friendly. In addition to their rotating display of art from both established and up-and-coming artists, the Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor also hosts a monthly lecture series on the subjects of art as well as culinary topics. We could not get enough of how interesting this place is — both the concept of art and beer coming together and the two fascinating minds behind it.
The Village Party Store, also known as Balloon Shop NYC and Halloween Headquarters, is a one-stop shop bursting with festive finds. From Christmas baubles to Pride parade supplies, this humble hole-in-the-wall has everything needed to throw a bash to remember. Inside, the shop feels like a dollar store, with packed aisles full of plates, cups, banners, costumes and more. But the real gems are the memories made here. Since 1993, New Yorkers have flocked to this party supply store to prepare for life's celebrations, big and small. For many, it's a family tradition to pick up graduation balloons or new year's hats. For others, it's the perfect place to find a last-minute baby shower gift or bridal shower decor. What makes the Village Party Store stand out is its focus on customer service. The knowledgeable staff help each customer find what they need for their perfect party. Next time you're planning a special event, check out this Greenwich Village gem. You'll find what you need for a celebration to remember.
We love Buon Italia in Chelsea Market for all their fresh ingredients imported directly from Italy, and what better way to enjoy those ingredients than prepared in a traditional Italian-style panini? La Panineria offers just that since it was opened by Mario Pesce, whose uncle is the owner of Buon Italia over in Chelsea Market. La Panineria is a quaint, authentic little Italian deli that offers sandwiches, pastries and desserts, soups, cheese plates, beer, wine, soda, and coffee, in addition to their small selection of Italian groceries. The shop is small, with just a couple of barstools in the window and one central table for people to eat around, but the food is absolutely delicious. We sampled the Parma Panini — a perfect combination of prosciutto and robiola cheese, along with the Cornetto — the Italian’s take on the croissant filled with Nutella and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Needless to say our taste buds were satisfied as we chatted with Mario about the subtle but notable differences between “American” Nutella and authentic Italian Nutella (Italian Nutella is apparently slightly healthier! ).
Warhammer is the retail branch of an online British company that has been providing its unique gaming service for thirty years. The 8th Street location is New York's hotspot for miniature table-top war gaming. Eager workers will walk customers through every step - how to assemble the models, paint the pieces, and how to play the game itself. It takes a certain kind of patience and skill set to contract one's army and may appeal to a customer who enjoys strategy games such as chess. While it is recommended that kids begin learning the game at age twelve, we met a half a dozen men from ages eighteen to fifty who were sitting around the large table, chatting and toiling away on their magnificently detailed pieces.
Over many months, we had the pleasure of observing the construction of Amelie through each stage of its creation. To experience the ambience of this spectacular bar and restaurant alone is worth the visit... but then there is also the impressive wine list and a full French menu. The award-winning team behind Amelie in San Francisco opened their east coast wine bar in early 2012 and all we can say is tres delicieux.
The only genre of music missing in Academy Records is classical.... but not to worry, that is completely covered in their shop on 18th. Otherwise, this shop, here on 12th Street, has an impressive selection of rock, jazz, soul, funk, country, and folk. In chatting with one of the owners, he told us that they are always actively looking for "new" records and are constantly receiving inventory. In addition, they host DJ events.
Nina was a happy girl when we entered A-1: "I take my music seriously, " she told me. So it wasn't much of a surprise that we ended up spending some quality time in this store. The extensive record collection here is mainly comprised of soul, funk, and hip-hop. Vinyl collectors will have a field day here, getting lost in the stacks of records. The staff is obviously very knowledgeable and Nina ended up with a stack of record recommendations to pore over at the listening station. There is also a constant stream of music playing in the store that might direct you to something you have not heard before. The vinyl store experience is something that you will not get on your computer at home. So, even if you do not collect vinyls, the way that Nina, age 24, does, come by here and discover something new.
Kristian Sorge should be everyone's new best friend. He has got a knack for knowing just what music people will like and an expansive knowledge derived from years of being a vinyl collector. He began working in film, and continues to spends time working on film projects, but as he celebrates his two year anniversary with Limited to One records, he has the perspective to realize music has been his true passion all along. The shop has a unique focus: contemporary and independent music; it leans early 90s and beyond, but even the classic rock or jazz fan has a spot inside this record store. Kristian spoke nostalgically about a 1977 rare jazz record someone brought in that ended up being worth about $2, 000. With a past as a DJ, Kristian’s inventory does reflect a lot of his musical preferences. He grew up on Metallica and Public Enemy before really diving into punk and hardcore bands. Now, one will often hear punk, indie rock, or rap on rotation in the store, from Nirvana to N. W. A. On any given day, there are about two to three thousand records - a mere third of the size of Kristian’s personal collection. While we were there, a customer came up asking about a Ryan Adams “Prisoner” box set, and you could see Kristian’s eyes light up as he showed them the hidden record behind the stage and opened it up to display other quirky features. The customers were actually tourists from Louisiana, and found themselves questioning the best way to transport their new treasures home, referencing multiple previous stops to the shop. The man explained: “the only records we’ve bought here I’ve gotten from you. ” Even though Kristian is easily able to cater to and excite customers from outside of the area, he emphasized that he saves new additions so regulars always “get the first crack at stuff. ”Kristian also pairs with artists to design prints, t-shirts, and bags. He will coordinate with labels to do store-exclusive pressings, such as a specifically colored-vinyl or alternative artwork, allowing customers to really get a Limited to One experience. The name itself is two-pronged: the shop mostly carries limited-edition records, but when he was only a collector, Kristian and his friends would always pay acute attention to the pressing info, asking “what’s it limited to? ”