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NYC Shopping, One Gal’s Experience

    I have done some shopping, but I have never come close to dropping.  However, I am pretty sure that your chances increase significantly in New York City.  There is an endless number of stores, and a little something for everyone.  When I travel I have a rule to never shop anywhere that I could visit in Charleston, which helped to cut out a lot of the larger retailers.  I’d like to share a couple of experiences and tips from the trip, so here goes.

    It’s a little cheesy, but you have to get an “I Love NY” t-shirt!  Sometimes cheesy is a good thing, especially when it only costs you $2.99…that’s right, for less than three American dollars you too can be the proud owner of an “I love NY” shirt.  There’s really nothing more that I can say here, just get one.

    Now that you have your obligatory t-shirt, we can move forward.  Our first stop was Century 21, not to be confused with the real estate company. Supposedly, this is one of the best shopping stops in NYC.  To me, it sounded like a huge TJ Maxx or Marshalls but with more designer clothing.  My expectations were very high as I held my clutch and ordered Jason to “stretch it out, these bags may get heavy.”  Instead, I only found disappointment inside of the doors.  The store does have a little of everything, but it is so crowded and cluttered that I found it difficult to navigate.  Hordes of shoppers randomly grabbing and invading my “personal shopping bubble” kept me from finding any treasure.  After finally losing hope, I retreated to the center aisle and made my way out.


    Our next stop was Tiffany & Co, it was my first time being inside one of their retail stores, but I have a history with them none the less.  You see over the Summer Jason took a trip to Las Vegas with his buddy Joe.  Joe’s fiancé’s parents lived there, and he was asking for her hand in marriage.  Innocent enough right?  That may be, but every gal out there knows that for her man to be turned loose in Sin City for a weekend there must be gifts given.  Jason was specifically told to “bring me back something pretty and platinum”.  Seemed like a fair trade to me.  Instead, I received an In-N-Out Burger t-shirt…colossal failure in the husbandly duties.  Soooo, knowing that you can imagine how excited I was to see Tiffany and Co.!  Finally, Jason could redeem himself in my graces…just how to convince him.  Inside I found something I loved in every case, but I have to hand it to him, he stood his ground.  No little box for me this go round, but there will be others.  A girls got to try right?  


    I grew up being a fan of the movie “Big”.  The FAO Schwartz scene in the movie is famous because of the large floor piano inside the store.  When we walked inside we made our way through the thousands of toys and candies to the piano.  A couple of employees have mastered the instrument and routinely play songs.  We stayed for the recurring concert and saw them play chopsticks and even some difficult classical pieces!  Afterward, the children in the crowd  were allowed to play a few notes themselves.  We all felt like kids again as we walked around this enchanting store looking at toys new and old.

FAO Schwartz Piano from The Shady Umbrella on Vimeo.



    Do you remember having a pair of KangaRoos brand shoes as a child?  I never had a pair, but Jason happened upon some that were in adult sizes.  I have never seen him so excited!  Roos have a pouch made into the shoes that you can keep things in.  As a child, Jason would haul around his lunch money in the pouch.  Apparently they are still a fairly popular brand, even though they are new to me.  We found them while trying to find me a pair of rain boots on a very nasty morning.  They were having a huge sale on them, so we each grabbed a pair. I initially bought them to have something to wear in the rain so I wouldn’t ruin my boots, but I have come to really like my lime green Roos.  These are Jason’s. 

    Before going to New York we heard stories about going over to Canal Street to get unbelievable deals on purses.  I don’t know whether they’re real or just good knock offs…Who knows?  We knew that we wanted to check it out, but didn’t really know what to expect.  Should you ever end up there, here’s the low down.  We had no sooner stepped out of the cab than to have a woman on the corner start questioningly whisper names of high end designers to us.  A little caught off guard we retreated to collect ourselves and have dinner.  There was a lot of suspect behavior happening all around.  Groups of women disappearing behind false doors in the backs of junk stores, whole families hopping into parked cargo vans with perfect strangers, shoppers hurriedly following scouts back to the goods…you get the idea.  Oh, also everyone, and I mean everyone, was toting big black trash bags filled with stuff.  I spoke with a woman with a bag at dinner that was kind enough to explain what to expect.  While we were all a little nervous, this is what we had come for.  Don’t misunderstand, we didn’t feel threatened at all, we just usually don’t spend our weekends ducking in and out of concealed rooms.  The scouts that are stationed on and around the street corners have inventory cards with pictures of what they offer.  They show you what they have, and if you want to see some items then you are escorted to them.  We had one woman actually go and retrieve the items for us on the street, but this was the only one.  She must just be getting her feet wet in the biz, as her competition all had very James Bondesque hidden doors and passages that are hidden behind the facade of  trinket shops.  

    While waiting for some bags to arrive we ran into a cute couple from Savannah, GA who was also waiting.   This helped put my mind at ease, especially when one of the guys asked where Jason was from because he was the only person wearing boat shoes in NYC.  When the goods came back, I checked them out and decided what I wanted.  I would estimate that $35-$45 a bag is about the norm, but deals can be struck on multi item purchases.  Pay in cash, and never take their first offer.  Don’t be afraid to low ball them.  They will only say “no”, then you continue negotiating from there.  We definitely got taken on the first deal by about $35, adrenaline got the best of us on that one.  Live and Learn.  After the first few deals we were becoming more comfortable, and it was even turning into a funny game.   When we went into a dark basement only to find a dad laughing while his wife and daughter picked out their goodies it was hard not to shake our heads in disbelief of what had become normal for the day.  This was by far my favorite experience in NYC.


    We also checked out the designers on 5th Avenue.  I think most people have an idea of which retailers line the street, so I will spare you those details.  I will leave you with some pictures of the very elaborate and beautiful window displays along 5th instead. 

Happy New Year!

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