You’re looking for a truly unique gift, and we’ve got Manhattan’s best shops from which to pick the perfect present — hightail it to Flower Power Herbs & Roots, Delphinium Home, Pink Olive and MAISON 10 for one-of-a-kind finds.
Three friends and self-proclaimed theater kids — John Soroka, Michael Quinn, and Gary Alaimo — were searching for something to do in between jobs and auditions. They started a flower shop, Everlastings, out of their shared apartment and began making arrangements for street fairs, offices, and homes. Upon realizing that the business had taken over their living space — “There were flower petals everywhere,” John recalled — the trio rented a place in Hell’s Kitchen and decided to sell gifts and cards along with the bouquets.With time, these additions became the central focus of the shop, which was later renamed Delphinium Card & Gift. Though some thought the men were “insane” for opening in Hell’s Kitchen, they have remained a fixture in the area for over two decades and counting. “We had taste, we knew what we wanted, and we always had a knack for knowing what the neighborhood needed,” John mused. Buoyed by their initial accomplishments, the trio started a second store, Delphinium Home, that stocked home goods and accessories, followed by a men’s clothing store, Wear Me Out, in 2003.In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and with the cost of rent skyrocketing, the friends closed the boutique and consolidated the two Delphinium shops into one location in 2011. Today, they sell decorations, home furnishings, works by local artists, and clever greeting cards that are handpicked by John. “Now that I’m not doing theater anymore, it’s my creative outlet. "Delphinium Home is my theater,” he joked.Overall, John appreciates how lucky they are to have surmounted so many obstacles thanks to the constant support from the people around them. “We are only here by the good graces of those who have known us for such a long time and love what we do.”
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.”
Maison 10, an exciting and innovative gallery and boutique project from the minds of co-founders Tom Blackie, Henri Myers, and Carsten Klein, opened in June 2016. For the trio of founders, ten is the magic number, as the space operates in ten-week cycles, each centered on ten featured works by a particular artist, alongside ten different product categories, each with ten carefully selected items. Customers can also choose one of ten different charities to which ten percent of the proceeds of their purchase will be donated. Maison 10 combines the founders’ shared love of art, culture, and philanthropy.Despite its bare bones appearance, the storefront is bound to catch the pedestrian eye, or perhaps first their nose with sage burning out front. When Manhattan Sideways stopped by, the wall on the side of the building featured a striped mural, which we learned is repainted every ten weeks by the newest featured artist. The shop is minimally decorated with white display tables showcasing a colorful array of products. It is clear that the room is meant to be rearranged every ten weeks, and that the items on display speak for themselves. The window display rotates even more frequently, changing daily at four pm. “It’s all about engaging with customers. We like to keep it fresh, and the opposite of formulaic,” Tom remarked with a laugh. The only constant presence in the store is the large statue of a gorilla sitting in the back corner, overseeing the boutique.The founders’ wide range of backgrounds and experiences give Maison 10 the worldly quality it effortlessly seems to possess. Henri, who is originally from New York but has spent quality time in Los Angeles, has spent most of his professional career working in fashion marketing and branding development, attending trade shows, and cultivating a keen sense of taste. Tom, who hails from Scotland, cut his teeth working in the London non-profit sector, learning the intricacies of how charitable institutions operate. Carsten, who is of German origin, is the visual thinker of the group, working mostly in typography, packaging, interior and web design. The three have each made New York their home and describe their shop as “a mixture of all our worlds put together.” By combining their skills of curation, altruism, and design, these men have created a space dedicated to ethical consumerism.So, why ten? In addition to being a good number for design and numerology, ten has a nostalgic connection for the team. “When all three of us were teens, growing up in our different cities, we were music freaks, and we would run to the record stores every week to keep track of the top ten charts,” Henri recalled. Similarly, the diverse selection of gifts, fine art, and lifestyle items ranging from candles and books to handmade jewelry appears to be the best of the best. “With only ten categories and ten products, we’ve already pre-selected the best items, and they all have a story,” Henri noted as he moved between a fruit bowl made from copper and walnuts to a bag made from authentic Japanese satin. “It mostly comes down to personal taste. These are the things we love and feel should be on everyone’s radar. It’s about introducing the customer to an experience one on one. We want to bring back shopping.” Henri mentioned how important it is that Maison 10 offers products at a wide range of prices, so as not to alienate any potential customers, “We wanted to make it so that you could come in and find a $15 book, a $600 bag, or even a $7,000 piece of art.”Nine out of the ten charitable organizations to which the men donate remain fixed throughout the year. The tenth changes with the cycle and is chosen by the designer. The fixed charities are mostly found through personal connections thanks to Tom’s work experience in the non-profit world, and thus are largely New York- and London-based. The impressive list contains local favorites like Housing Works, which is dedicated to fighting the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS, and SAGE, which supports LGBT elderly nationwide. There are also world humanitarian causes including Orange Babies, an Amsterdam-based organization that advocates for HIV positive pregnant women throughout Africa.The Manhattan Sideways team visited right around the first anniversary of Maison 10's opening, and Tom was pleased to report that the business was doing well after its first year. “It keeps getting busier and busier; people love the concept and we’ve definitely gained some super fans who come in every two or three days." The founders told us that many people who live in the vicinity come in on a regular basis to introduce the shop to their friends. The men are thrilled that they are on their way to becoming a "strong community" - "We believe in our project and we believe that it’s good for the street too.” They have already collaborated with their neighbors, such as Yeohlee Teng, whose work was featured during a cycle. The team is also working directly with designers on future products, including an original fragrance by Henri himself.Events are a regular part of Maison 10's cyclical process, with launch and closing parties every ten weeks that boast several hundred guests over the course of the night. Additionally, the shop hosts “Friday Night Live” which features five of the designers and five display islands organized by category. These provide an opportunity for customers to interact with the artist or designer, adding a personal touch to the consumer experience. At each of these events, Tom, Henri, and Carsten can be seen in their signature black jumpsuits.
The excellent selection of herbs, flowers, leaves, roots, and seeds at Flower Power can spice up any home, flavor any cuisine, add zing to any tea, or add a little pizzazz to anyone’s day. There is so much to see and learn – glass jars packed with herbs, dried flowers hanging from the ceiling and a helpful staff willing to converse about the healing power of any item. After spending some time here taking in the aroma, we definitely walked away feeling calm and centered. And as we learned from neighboring shops, Lata Kennedy, owner of Flower Power, is the "main witch of the East Village." She is described lovingly as a healer for all.
You’ve staked your reputation on being a great gift-giver, but you’ve hit a new wall — what do you get for the person who has everything? Steer clear of Am*zon and try one of Manhattan’s most unique stores for fun and funky finds that feel like treasures. First up is a trip to Delphinium Home, one of Hell’s Kitchen’s go-tos for a selection of cheeky, irreverent trinkets mixed with trendy decor items. Over in the East Village, fashion-buyer Grace Kang has taken her Bloomingdales, Saks and Barney’s expertise to curate a whimsical-yet-tasteful shop of New York-themed gifts, and the team at Flower Power Herbs & Roots are known for their carefully selected stock of spices for the foodie in your life. And if you want to give while giving back, don’t forget MAISON 10 in NoMad, where a rotating collection of 10 items from different artists are paired with options to choose one of ten charities to share proceeds.