Peter Glassman was the kind of child who would move books back into their rightful places while browsing bookstores. Hooked on reading before the second grade, by age twelve he had “read his parents’ home dry.” Pegged as a bookworm by his friends and family, for his Bar Mitzvah he received over a dozen bookstore gift certificates. Aged fourteen, he applied for a position at a local bookshop but was turned away for being too young. A year later, he was finally able to land a job at a different bookstore, quickly becoming the buyer for its science fiction section.
After spending just a year at Brown University, Peter moved to New York and began taking acting lessons. One day, his acting coach said, “If you're going to be an actor, it should be the only thing in life that makes you happy. If anything else in life brings you more joy, then you should do that.” It was at this moment that Peter realized, “Books are my greatest joy.”
Soon after this epiphany, Peter began collecting antiquarian books, acquiring enough stock to sell. Originally, he thought he would rent space in a basement and have a mail-order business, but then he discovered a humble 200-square-foot location at 444 Hudson Street. With the help of a few friends, Peter cleaned it up, built some book-cases, and went to a wholesale book company to fill the last four shelves with a selection of his favorite titles, including The Cricket in Times Square, A Wrinkle in Time, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Snowy Day, and Where the Wild Things Are. The fervent reader was only twenty years old when he opened Books of Wonder.
In 1982, Books of Wonder opened a second store nearby, tripling in size. Stocked with mostly new books, he also offered a selection of old and rare titles. In 1986, he relocated to an even larger space on 18th Street and Seventh Avenue after he learned that Barney's was opening a “fancy” store nearby. He believed that this would attract more families to the neighborhood. He was correct.
Peter soon decided that it was not necessary to pay avenue prices. Instead, he could open on a side street. In 1996, Books of Wonder settled on 18th Street, where he hosted readings by J.K. Rowling, Maurice Sendak, and every other larger-than-life name in children's literature. In 2017, Peter enriched the Upper West Side with his second location on West 84th Street.
Of the many attractions at Books of Wonder, Peter is most known for his selection of The Wizard of Oz. He was mesmerized as a preteen when he first devoured L. Frank Baum’s series, and it was a copy of The Magic of Oz spotted at the Strand bookstore — with its beautiful colored plates — that inspired him to restore the series to its former glory. Together with Harper Collins, he printed all fifteen Oz books with their original illustrations under Books of Wonder Classics, something never done before.
For some forty years, Books of Wonder has been a space where many children have become avid readers, and Peter is always touched when parents remind him that his store also turned them into devoted readers a generation before.
“I really want families to play together. That’s my goal in the store,” said Christina Clark, who has been wowing parents, grandparents, and, most importantly, children for decades with her wonderland of toys and games.Christina worked in a toy store as a young mother and realized she had found her calling. She opened Kidding Around on Bleecker Street, followed by several other locations. Today, it is the 15th Street shop that has survived throughout the years. “I love going to work every day, so it was a good choice for me.”In the shop’s beginnings, its selection of toys and games leaned toward the traditional — “no batteries, no remote controls, and everything that just uses your imagination.” Over the years, however, Christina chose to grow with the times and introduce more modern, automated items into her inventory. Her own children later helped her bring new options into the store. Today, Christina feels lucky to work with her daughter, Kasey Coyle, who uses her background in applied behavioral analysis to stock plenty of books and toys for younger children and those with special needs. Interestingly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Christina found that her clientele went back to the basics — the demand for puzzles and classic board games was revived. “I hope that trend continues,” she said earnestly. “I hope that people remember how much fun they had playing games with their family so it brings us together and off our devices.”
Ken Giddon likes to say that he went “from riches to rags” by leaving a career as a bond trader to reopen his grandfather’s men’s clothing store. Harry Rothman used to peddle his wares from a pushcart on Delancey Street in the 1920s before moving into a retail space. “He kind of created the concept of a discount clothing store,” Ken remarked. Rothman’s closed for a time after Harry’s death in 1985, but Ken revived the business a year later in a stunning, 11,000-square-foot storefront on the corner of 18th Street in Union Square. “I love being on a side street. It gives us the ability to afford a bigger space while watching the movable feast that is New York walk by every day.” Five years after the shop’s reopening, Ken invited his brother, Jim, to join him. “This is one of the true family businesses in Manhattan.” The store, which carries both casual and formal attire from top designers, aims to make the shopping experience for men “as efficient and rewarding as possible.” To this end, Ken and Jim scour the market, travel abroad, and attend numerous trade shows to find the best brands. “We try to provide our customers with that personal, small-town feel in the middle of the city,” Jim said. Despite Rothman’s more modern look and merchandise, the brothers strive to keep some core elements of their grandfather’s business alive, particularly by preserving his humble approach to owning a men’s retail store. As Harry used to say, “It’s not so serious what we do. We just sell pants for a living.”
Upon entering the front room of Beads of Paradise, we were greeted by long strings of brightly colored beads, boldly patterned fabrics, and African art filling every inch of space. While this certainly makes for fun exploring, the magic really happens further back in the store, which is replete with thousands of beads and endless jewelry-making materials. Welcoming anyone from novices to experts, the shop holds regular beading classes on Sundays. What sets this store apart from others where beading materials, pre-made jewelry, or textiles are sold, is that they are serious about beads. Really serious. Glass cases throughout the shop are filled with beads from all over the world and all periods of history. We noticed a bowl of small bead fragments labeled with the location and date of Djenne (a town in Mali), 700 AD. We became quite curious and had to investigate further. After talking to Joe, one of the managers, not only were we convinced of the validity of the labels, but as people with no previous interest in beads, we were now hooked on this store. Joe knows everything about beads, and his passion is so clear that we could not help but get excited with him. He gave us the history of several of the oldest beads in the shop - the very oldest being warring state beads from China dating to 300 AD. He then proceeded to pull out his favorite books on beads and show us how they go about dating and validating the beads. Finally, we were whisked away with a fascinating discussion on early bead-making techniques and early man’s impulse for self-ornamentation. In the end, Molly purchased one of the original Djenne beads that had caught her attention - for a mere $3.00. It was a tiny broken fragment, but still, the fact that a piece of history was made so accessible to her was extraordinary. Of course, for those able to spend more, there is a vast selection of much larger historical beads in beautiful condition. Beads of Paradise is sure to delight anyone with an appreciation for history, jewelry, or craft-making - and if Joe is around, we recommend engaging him in a conversation on ancient cultures.
When asked what cake means to her, Lisa Mansour did not hesitate for a second: “Cake is happiness!” she exclaimed. An award-winning cake decorator and owner of NY Cake, Lisa has had a hand in shaping the baking industry, from judging competitions to creating new and innovative product lines. In addition, Lisa has been inducted into The Wilton Method Instructor Hall of Fame and has won several awards from the Societé Culinaire Philanthropique. Besides her own hard work and determination, Lisa attributes her many accomplishments to a long family tradition of dessert-loving. Her grandmother was a chocolatier and her mother, Joan, a cake decorator, who opened The Chocolate Gallery in the ’80s. In 1989, Lisa and Joan grew The Chocolate Gallery into a store and school that focused purely on cake decorating. Then, in 1992, the duo opened NY Cake & Baking Supply on West 22nd Street. The business boomed, and, in October 2018, moved into a new, larger space just down the street from their old location.NY Cake is a baker’s paradise. The new location includes a commercial kitchen, a café where customers can purchase baked goods and coffee, and an expanded school. And, of course, there is the sprawling retail section that first put NY Cake on the map. Here, one can buy every baking supply imaginable and then some: cake and pie pans in multiple shapes and sizes, cupcake wrappers, chocolate molds, cookie cutters, food coloring, rolling pins, and hundreds and hundreds of other items. It is overwhelming in the best sense, stacked ceiling high with everything needed to create that special dessert. The idea, according to Lisa, was to provide something for every sweet tooth. “If you like to bake yourself, you can get your supplies in the back. If you wanna learn how to do it, you can come and take a class. Or, if you have no desire to bake, you can just come in, sit, have a coffee and have a treat.”The expansion has been stressful, to be sure (“I’ve never worked so hard,” Lisa confessed), but the challenge is what makes it so exciting for her. With the extra space, they have been able to grow the NY Cake line of specialty baking products–designed to help bakers execute intricate cake designs, such as a Chanle-esque quilted bag–and have started selling a series of blinged-out cake stands that are sure to jazz up any dessert table. The larger school can accommodate twice as many students, and the industrial kitchen has allowed them to actually sell cakes, rather than just helping people make them. “It’s so fulfilling for me to teach, to take an order,” Lisa said, “It makes me happy.”In addition to professional customers from bakeries, wholesalers, and restaurants, NY Cake has carved out a market among amateur baking enthusiasts and counts many Chelsea and Flatiron locals among its regulars. That sense of community loyalty goes both ways: From baking competitions and events to the cake-pop class Lisa volunteered to teach at a center for the blind on 23rd Street, NY Cake is a true neighbor. This might stem in part from the fact that the store is as much family as business. Three generations of Mansours work at NY Cake (I met Lisa’s nephew, sister and mother during our interview), and even those who are not blood-related are part of their big, happy “cake family.”
“When Brian took over, he knew nothing about the business. In two weeks, I decided to let him play ball on his own,” said his proud father-in-law, Rob Pinzon, former owner of Abracadabra. “He came out swinging.” Paul Blum opened Abracadabra in the Village before moving to 21st Street about ten years later. Rob's brother was the manager, so whenever he was riding past on his bike, he would stop in to say hello. He became fascinated by the “weird and spooky” world of magic and costumes. In 2007 he decided to purchase the shop. “I saw the potential.” After “cleaning it up a bit,” adding a kid's section, and hiring a professional magician to entice customers, Rob quickly turned it into a destination spot for tourists. In recent years, the store has expanded its costume section to include custom designs and rentals. Today, with Brian Clark and his wife, Nina, running the show, not only is Abracadabra for the fun at heart, it is also a serious place for professionals to find tools for their craft. Visitors can sift through high-end stage makeup, an extensive collection of mustaches, wigs, boas, hats, and masks, all while being entertained by the store’s array of fantastical animatronics. Tricky Henry, resident magician entertains anyone who stops by his counter. He is the real deal with an assortment of tricks to please every age group. Surrounded by boxes of magic tricks for purchase, Henry is delighted to open one up and teach amateurs how to use its contents. Friendly and magnetic, as well as technically skilled, Tricky Henry got his start years ago on the streets of Harlem. He made us question the laws of reality - like any good magician - but then he was kind enough to explain it.
Today, Shareen Mitchell is a bicoastal business owner, a sought-after entrepreneur with fourteen employees and a celebrity following. But no one would have guessed it eleven years ago, when Shareen was, in her own words, “broke, in debt, and selling at a flea market.” That flea market booth soon grew into a 7,000 square foot vintage warehouse in LA, and within a few years, Shareen had expanded to New York City.In spite of her success, Shareen’s location on West 17th Street is one of the best-kept secrets in Manhattan. Hidden away on the second floor of an old walk-up, the only sign of its existence is a red dress hanging from the fire escape, and sometimes—like the day I visited—not even that. Fortunately, a friendly employee from the salon next door pointed me in the right direction, but if I had not been in the know, I would have missed Shareen entirely.This secret location may seem like a bad business decision, but it is actually one of the keys to Shareen’s success. Her stores have always fostered a sense of exclusivity, and Shareen told me that her warehouse, especially in the early days, was not only the hottest vintage store in LA, but also a gathering place for a society of hip young women. “It was a crazy, fun secret,” she told me. “No one knew where they were getting their vintage.”Because there are no dressing rooms at Shareen—women change out in the open—both store locations have the same “no boys allowed” policy. But the resemblance between Shareen’s two stores ends there. While the LA warehouse is constantly buzzing with youthful energy, the New York location has a quiet, sophisticated feel that caters to a slightly older crowd.The reason for the difference, Shareen explained, is that by 2009, many of her original customers at the LA warehouse were now young professionals living in New York City. “They told me there was nothing like Shareen in the city,” she said, “so I decided to test the waters.” She opened a shop in a train station parking lot on Long Island, above an auto shop. “People like Ivanka Trump would get off the train,” she told me, laughing, “and walk into this auto shop with their dogs and babies and everything.” But after a while, the trip to Long Island became exhausting, and Shareen decided to open a location in the city. “It was kind of a secret,” she said. “I had no money for a sign, so I put the red dress out on the fire escape.”Though she did not put much effort into the store’s exterior, Shareen transformed the inside. The former apartment is now an elegant retail space, filled with ornate mirrors and old-fashioned couches, and yet it still manages to feel warm and welcoming. One large room is devoted entirely to wedding dresses, while another two rooms are filled with vintage clothing of all kinds, from evening gowns to 1950s prom dresses.When I asked Shareen about the bridal section, she told me that the store is in the process of transitioning. “A lot of my clients are starting to get married,” she told me, “but they don’t want to look like traditional brides.” These young women, many of whom get married in unorthodox venues—upstate farms, Brooklyn lofts, and Manhattan rooftops—are looking for unique dresses that will express their personalities. Over the past few years, the demand for these “indie wedding dresses” has grown so much that Shareen predicts that the store may soon be entirely bridal. “A year ago, we were half bridal and half vintage, and now it’s more like seventy-thirty,” Shareen told me. “We’re double-booked on the weekends with brides.”The New York location may be transitioning into bridal wear, but Shareen insisted that the store will not abandon its vintage roots. Along with her bridal collection, which is all under $2,000, many of the wedding dresses for sale in the store are reworked vintage. Shareen added that her collection is designed to flatter all kinds of body types, to celebrate women rather than inhibit them. She always tells her brides, “I want to see you looking beautiful, not you in a beautiful dress.”
Yes, there are numerous choices in the Union Square area for lunch, and Rainbow, since it is takeout only, might not be the best choice for anyone who wants to have a sit-down meal. However, the falafel sandwiches are so well prepared that we might have to say they are the best we have ever had. On a nice day, it was the perfect spot to grab some lunch, sit outdoors, and enjoy the sunshine, the passersby, and some delicious falafel.
This little urban oasis provides families and individuals acupuncture treatment for a wide range of ailments – infertility, stress, and muscular and skeletal pain. Husband and wife founding team Jill Blakeway and Noah Rubinstein have been a functional medical and media presence in the world of acupuncture for years, publishing a number of books, appearing on Bravo, CBS, The Today Show, and lecturing on the benefits of Chinese medicine.
Namaste has the ability to bring a feeling of calm to almost anyone who walks through its doors. The sensation begins even before entering, as the incense wafts onto the sidewalk. Specializing in Eastern and Western spirituality, there are books on every relevant subject lining the shelves alongside a vast music collection, incense, chimes, tarot cards, and all things yoga. Recently, Namaste opened a healing center upstairs where workshops are held.
The Anthroposophical Society is an organization whose main concerns are extending the scientific method into the realm of spirituality, fostering "imagination, inspiration and intuition," and the teachings of Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner. The inventory at the adjoining bookstore covers a wide array of subjects as diverse as parenting, children's literature, biodynamic farming, meditations and spiritual pursuits. It also serves as a repository for the collected works of Rudolph Steiner. The society accepts people of all creeds, denominations, and philosophies in their varied programs, study groups, and events, most of which are held in the bookstore. In addition, this location houses the Center Point Gallery. The gallery provides a staging ground for unconventional art installations and other workshops.