Nette, David, and Colman were three of the most welcoming witches we have encountered on the side streets of Manhattan. We met the trio at Enchantments, which is the oldest occult store in the city, having been established in 1982.
As we spoke, Colman carved a custom candle, David shelved books, and Nette hand-blended herbs, oils, and salts for the Magickal Apothecary. Incense wafted in the air, the floor sparkled with glitter, and a scrawny cat sprawled on top of a glass display case. As we listened to the witches talk about their work, we began to understand why many view Enchantments not just as a store, but as a sanctuary.
“We don’t do magic on people,” Nette emphasized, referring to the fact that they do not traffic in “black magick” or spells meant to exert control without consent. Our photographer countered with a question, “What if I feel I am the subject of a hex? What would you offer then?” Nette sighed. “Many customers come to us with problems of that type. The truth is that nobody can put a hex on you unless you have given them your power. In fact, laughter is one of the strongest banishment techniques because it can help you reclaim that power for yourself.”
Some people come to Enchantments because they are curious and want to browse the curated collection of occult supplies. Others are dealing with grief, loss, trauma or unforeseen challenges in their lives, and the witches on staff offer support and spiritual advice.
Colman noted, “It can be hard helping other people all day long, but it is fulfilling as well. We all support each other and are constantly collaborating to assist the folks who walk through our door. Often we offer supplies that simply help people calm and center themselves so that they can think clearly and make healthy decisions.” Nette then jumped in. “What we are really about is education, empowerment, and balance. The world can be a tough place to find spiritual fulfillment, and in many popular patriarchal religions, for instance, there is a lack of balance that drives people away. Here we encourage people to value and embrace themselves.”
Before we left, Colman showed us through the back of the shop to a small, cozy courtyard ringed with lights. He gestured to the chairs scattered around a firepit and explained that, weather permitting, this was a space for the occasional event or ceremony, often led by David, a Wiccan High Priest. On the way out, David summed up the philosophy of Enchantments and the community it helps to foster. “We don’t pretend to have all the answers to the questions and problems that life presents. However, we do feel that mysticism can be an important aid in your personal journey.”
In 1954, a Ukrainian refugee began Veselka as a shop that sold cigarettes, candy, and newspapers with a few tables for some tasty homemade Eastern European food. Over the years, it slowly evolved into a coffee shop, and then to a casual restaurant. Almost fifty-nine years later, it continues to thrive as a neighborhood destination when one is in need of comfort food, or as my own kids have told me, it is a great late night spot too. Open twenty-four hours a day, the restaurant’s menu is a mix of Ukrainian and typical American diner fare. More than a diner, though, Veselka is a family-friendly establishment that serves up Ukrainian "peasant" food - known to many as "Ukrainian soul food. "
Shahrzad Ghajar, founder of the gift shop Spooksvilla + friends, takes curation to another level. She meets with each of the artists represented in the store and personally chooses every piece showcased on the walls and shelves. Shahrzad, herself, is a talented artist, and many of her designs are featured in the shop. By focusing on the artists, Spooksvilla ensures that everything for sale - from apparel to wall art - is one-of-a-kind. “We like to be representative of original people doing original things— be it art, products, charms or any other kind of cool item, " said Ethan Velez, manager of Spooksvilla. Despite the fact that multiple artists contribute to Spooksvilla, the store is not a hodgepodge of styles. Rather, the art is united in its bold, whimsical designs. A favorite is the label on the bottle of the rose bath salts - a piece of art in itself. A woman with purple skin and purple hair rides a pink dragon, holding, of course, roses.
Serving an interesting but decadent assortment of coffees, hot cakes, desserts, Japanese tapas, sandwiches, pasta, and more, Hi-Collar functions as many things. In the morning the atmosphere is subdued and relaxed like a coffee shop, as customers come to enjoy “kissaten” – a term to describe Japanese-style coffee shops. The lady we spoke to at Hi-Collar told us their coffee selection is extensive and that there are a variety of beans to choose from. Not only is there the opportunity to select the bean varietal, but one can also choose how the coffee is made as well: pour over, aeropress, or siphon—each method drawing out a distinct flavor. For the non-coffee drinker, there are teas and even a fruit milkshake. As the afternoon wears on and evening approaches, Hi-Collar becomes a bar complete with wine, sake, and beer. Inquiring about the name, we found that Hi-Collar is in fact a term that came to be during the Japanese Jazz Age, when Western culture infiltrated Japan and many men were seen wearing Western style high collars. The only seating available is at the long bar, and the beautiful flowers and lamps that hang from the ceiling add to the allure of this multifaceted nook on 10th.
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. ”