Not that there's anything wrong with coming to New York and hitting Century 21, Forever 21, four different locations of H&M... you get the idea. Lots of people do it, and there's a plenty to be said for novelty if your city doesn't have any of the mega-chains. But, it shouldn't come as a huge shock to anyone that if we were in charge of the shopping portion of your travel itinerary, well, we'd send you to some of our favorite, hyper-local Brooklyn shops.
There are lots to choose from and it all varies by taste, of course, but whether you're into beer, cheese, delicate jewelry, or superhero capes (yes, really), we've picked out ten places that represent the best of what the borough has to offer.
From the name, you can already sort of guess where this is going. Which is a lovely assortment of locally made goods, be it soap, tote bags, or "maple bourbon bread and butter pickles" from Brooklyn Brine (get these, no matter what you do). Cozy and imminently browsable, this place is ideal whether you're picking up a few last-minute gifts to bring back home or looking to stock your own home with, say, an "Oy Vey!" shot glass. And who doesn't want an "Oy Vey!" shot glass?
261 Smith St., Cobble hill
- Photo via Lauren Carol Smith/Bedford and Bowery
You didn't really think we'd get through this list without including some sort of booze, did you? Especially not when Bushwick just got its very own, ultra-comprehensive beer emporium, where every bottle is labeled with handwritten details and you can sit yourself down for a tasting and some snacks. Think of it as a little like Tørst,
if all the fancy, rare beers were to-go. It may be a little heartbreaking if you have to edit your selection to "that which can be carried on a plane," but it's better to have loved and lost, we hear.
234 Starr St., Bushwick
Granted, there are many, many places in Brooklyn to buy beautiful clothes these days. But this is due in no small part to the influence of Jennifer Mankins and the small empire she's created with Bird, which now has three locations throughout the borough and created the mold after which countless small boutiques have modeled themselves. And rightly so. With an eclectic, always-shifting collection (and what my friends with glasses tell me is an excellent selection of frames), this is one of the rare places that truly lives up to the idea of "something for everyone."
203 Grand St., Williamsburg
316 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope
220 Smith St., Cobble Hill
Bedford Cheese Shop
Self-explanatory. Who doesn't like cheese? Especially the rare, smelly kind? Or, for that matter, impulse buying cheese accoutrements, like special knives and fancy jams? That's what we thought. And if the thought of traveling home with a bag full of cheese is less than appealing, well, they've got you covered, in the form of a "Cheese of the Month Club." In which cheese is regularly Fed Exed to your door, in case that's not clear.
229 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg
One of many spot-on independent local bookstores we love (Word
, Book Court
, and Powerhouse
are also well worth a visit), Greenlight is particularly great about championing local talent—they regularly host readings on-site, and also offer a "First Editions Club" featuring Brooklyn authors. More than that, though, with its spacious layout and afternoon flood of natural light, it's maybe the best place in the borough for quiet, leisurely browsing. The best kind of browsing.
686 Fulton St., Fort Greene
Not for the dust-averse—of Brooklyn's endless sea of thrift shops, this one may be the most notoriously cluttered in the bunch—but if you're willing to dig you'll almost certainly be rewarded with something incredible that you'd never find just about anywhere else on this earth. Their biggest strength is the formidable record collection, but they've also got just about everything else you could dream up, whether your thing is old books, old VHS, or the occasional piece of vintage porn (yes, they've got that, too).
1001 Manhattan Ave., Greenpoint
Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company
- Photo via Nerdsontherocks
To be filed under "things you never realized you needed until the minute you saw them." Like flippers, or a cybernetic heart. And as the pet project of Dave Eggers, the Superhero Supply Company also has a second purpose, which is an extensive, free after-school tutoring and writing program for kids between the ages of six and 18. Meaning, then, that you can feel very, very good about the (possibly unnecessary) "brain mold" you'll inevitably decide to buy there.
372 Fifth Ave., Park Slope
Another thing that's tough for anyone getting on a plane, but well worth the hassle. As with many plant stores, the Twig Terrariums brick and mortar is just a real pleasure to walk around, smelling the plants and browsing the tiny little worlds they've created. And well worth the investment, too. After all, how many people do you know who have an adorable little terrarium, featuring a figurine of a woman flashing her boobs? "Not enough," is the answer.
287 3rd Ave., Gowanus
A necessary pilgrimage for food obsessives—no need to bring the word "foodie" into this—and casual browsers alike, with a vast, perfectly curated selection ranging from giant oak barrels (good for aspiring home brewers) to beer-and-pretzel caramels (good for everyone). Enough said.
100 Frost St., Williamsburg
- Photo via Your Little Black Book
One of those places where every time, without fail, you go in and are blown away by how unbelievably nice
everyone is. That and the huge, well laid-out selection of charms and chains—you can make or put in a request for jewelry on-site—sold alongside beautiful pre-made pieces by some of the most helpful, knowledgable retail staff we've ever seen. Whether you're in for a quick $2 repair, for a few minutes of pleasant, idle browsing before meeting someone for drinks, or to immerse yourself in one of their jewelry-making courses, you'll always be in good hands here. For what it's worth, when friends of mine have been on the fence about gifts for their wives or girlfriends, I've always sent them here, and it's always worked like a... well, you get the idea.
145 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.