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328 East 9th Street
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Lost Gem
Pink Olive 1 Gift Shops undefined

Pink Olive

Laughing, Grace Kang told me that when she was first getting started and running operations out of her apartment, her doorman handed her a box and commented, “Olives aren’t pink! ” She went on to explain the name, which, like many aspects of Pink Olive, is inspired by her niece, who has quite the imagination. Being that her niece loved pink and Grace was partial to both pink and green, Grace chose to name the business after those two colors. However, she did not want to name her store “Pink Green, ” so she decided on “Pink Olive, ” which suggests that in the fanciful world of the store, pink olive trees grow. Though Grace is originally from the West Coast, she considers New York to be the place where she grew up professionally. Her experience as a buyer at Bloomingdales, Saks, and Barney’s helped shape her skill set and her career. “I’m very Cali at heart, but New York is my home, ” she told me. Her customers see Pink Olive as a New York-centric business, and after speaking with her, it was clear that the city featured prominently both in her original development of her gift store idea and its current identity. When Grace first started looking for a space for her whimsical gift shop, she contemplated numerous locations, but one day, her mentor suggested that she should “go into an area that you have a personal connection with. ” Grace admitted, “The East Village always felt like home to me, ” and so immediately following her meeting, she decided to take a stroll in the neighborhood, spotted a For Rent sign on 9th Street, and started the ball rolling at an alarming pace. In 2007, Pink Olive was given a home. Grace’s business has evolved since its inception - it began primarily as a store for babies, and then expanded to include more gifts for every age. In the years since she opened, she has noticed that there are more and more new babies named Olive. At the same time as Pink Olive's opening, two Japanese girls started Atsuyo et Akiko. Grace began carrying their “Je t’aime NY” onesies, which continue to be a top seller for New York babies. Some of the other items that Grace cannot keep in stock are the New York metro card rattles made by Estella. She pointed out that the items are “a no-brainer, but unique. ” Pink Olive is where people now come for tasteful New York-themed gifts for every age range. Additionally, there are clever cards, scented candles, and chic accessories, among many other delightfully whimsical items. When I asked Grace how working as a buyer for the women’s departments of more corporate companies helped her in opening Pink Olive, she said that buying for women’s fashion is very different from buying for a gift store, but that she is glad to have had the experience. In fashion, everything is far more fast-paced, since lines are seasonal. Grace said it was very much like the mantra about succeeding in New York: “If you can survive the fashion world, you can survive anywhere in the buying world. ” But Grace is very happy to have followed her more personal passion by entering the gift business. She considers her time at Pink Olive extremely rewarding, since she can be a part of the special moments in people’s lives, whether it is a birthday, a new baby, sending snail mail to an old friend, or redecorating an apartment. And Grace feels that special moments are not few and far between: “I truly believe that everyday there’s a reason to celebrate. ”

More places on 9th Street

Lost Gem
Veselka 1 Breakfast Ukrainian Diners Brunch undefined


The warmly painted walls inside Veselka envelop the room in folky florals and traditional Ukrainian symbols. Hanging from the ceiling are glowing milk glass globes that seem to replace the sun or moon depending on the time of day — and it could be any time at all, as Veselka is open for twenty-four hours, seven days a week, serving a smorgasbord of pierogis, bowls of borscht, and other expertly prepared comfort foods — Ukrainian and otherwise. Wlodymyr Darmochwal planted roots for Veselka when, as one of the founders of the neighborhood Plast organization (akin to the Ukrainian boy scouts, teaching survival skills and Ukrainian language), he was asked to create a weekend study program for the boys. In response, he opened a five-and-dime style counter at the corner of East 9th Street and Second Avenue where the boys could buy paper clips, cigarettes, lighters, and, notably, bowls of borscht and other basic Ukrainian foods. The business expanded into another storefront on East 9th Street a decade later. After Wlodymyr’s passing in 1972, it was taken over by his stepson, Tom Birchard, who was later joined by his son, Jason. Today, having worked at the restaurant since he was a teenager, Jason has “done every single job possible here except cook the borscht. ”When Jason joined the team, one of his first projects was to find out, “How late can we stay open? ” It turns out the answer was “all night. ” As Tom and Jason once again prepare to expand the restaurant into an adjoining storefront on 9th Street, they are eager to continue serving the next generation the kind of traditional Ukrainian food that Wlodymyr would have had at his counter more than sixty years ago.

Lost Gem
Duo 1 Women's Clothing Vintage undefined


The essence of Duo is in its name; it is two things at once. It is dulled colors and clean lines, minimalist in feel but simultaneously filled with warmth and softness. Both young and old, vibrant and calm, it is modern and fresh but brings to mind memories of simpler times: of handwritten letters, cozy Sunday afternoons and soft breezes over the wide open fields of northern Minnesota, the owners’ home state. Conflicting and complementing all at once, Duo is the product of two minds at work. Sisters Wendy and LaRae Kangas have created a perfect little fashion oasis that fits right in with the small town vibes of Manhattan’s East Village. Growing up, Wendy and LaRae pestered each other and fought over clothes, as siblings will do, but in 2008 they decided to open up a shop together. Today, they work with dealers and emerging independent designers throughout the country and pick all their clothing, accessories and home goods by hand, combining masculine and feminine styles with modern silhouettes and vintage traces to curate a timeless collection of quality, classic pieces. “It’s a very personal process, ” they told me, “and we put a lot of love into our shop and our collections. ” Nothing at Duo is mass-produced, and most of their merchandise is recycled. The sisters pour their hearts into the shop and work hard to stay true to themselves while keeping an eye toward the future, expanding their business into the world of e-commerce and social media. “It’s important to stay current and give the customers what they want, ” they said. They love what they do, and working with family makes it even more fun, according to the sisters. “It makes work smooth when you don’t have to verbalize what you’re thinking, ” they told me, “We just know what each other is thinking and it makes choosing products and daily operations much easier. ”Duo is a celebration of creative spirit. It is clear that the sisters revel in the one-of-a-kind individuality of each and every one of their customers who come to them looking for pieces that will express their own unique style. When explaining what they love about their work, they said, “It’s great to make a customer feel better when they walk out the door. ”