It's become a yearly tradition in these pages to pay tribute to the most noteworthy openings of the past year every August, but I'll admit this year I approached the task with some anxiety. Truth be told, the only stores that kept popping into my brain during my Winnie-the-Pooh-esque "think, think" sessions were spots that had closed. The recession-induced rash of shutterings has cast quite a cloud over the shopping scene in the city — indeed, the Times recently reported that the number of empty storefronts in Manhattan has reached early-90s levels. That said (and maybe this is my trademark optimism talking), I feel like things are starting to look brighter. Frankly, people are getting tired of moping. Thusly, I'm happy to dedicate this page to some luminous shops, but I'd also like to use this space to give props to the ones we've lost.
Maryam Nassir Zadeh: A true gem, representative of what every boutique should be, but all too often isn't. The space has all the charm of an art gallery — gorgeous objets from colorful textiles to old arrowheads are dreamily scattered around the space — and a ridiculous lineup of designers including Isabel Marant, Rachel Comey, and Acne. (123 Norfolk St, LES)
Smith + Butler: This little shop has a rough-and-tumble kind of elegance, all Wrangler, APC, Woolrich, Barbour, moccasin boots and leather accessories. Oh, and did we mention the sexy-as-hell motorcycles on display? Ralph Lauren stores, take note: this is the real deal. (225 Smith St, Cobble Hill)
Topshop: It's highly improbably that you missed this opening, since it was covered by, oh, every publication and blog in the city. No, it's not as awesome as the London original, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. You'll probably still spend money there, and like it. (478 Broadway, Soho)
The Brooklyn Bridge Flea: You know you've made it when Brooklyn locals debate the various merits of the Fort Greene location versus your (newer) Dumbo outpost. (Water St at New Dock St, Dumbo)
Pas De Deux: Female fans of boy's shop Odin now have a store of their very own next door, stocking the same downtown mix of Alexander Wang, Vena Cava, Karen Walker, and more — all in an elegant, mirrors-and-chandeliers type of joint. (328 E 11th St, East Village)
No. 8b: Stark décor is the perfect vehicle for the equally crisp-and-minimal menswear at Project No. 8 spin-off. Expect ultra-hip international designers like Bless and Martin Margiela. (38 Orchard St, LES)
The Reformation: Founded by Yael Aflalo (as in, "Yaya") and her partner Chi Bui, the brilliance of this store is its emphasis on simple design: wispy racerback tanks, exposed zippers, and lots of lace. (143 Ludlow St, LES)
Dossier: Proving there may yet be a few genius moves left in the print media set, arty mag Dossier Journal has managed to curate a seriously cool store, with designers like Samantha Pleet, Sunshine & Shadow and jeweler Anna Sheffield alongside art books, music and vintage accessories. (244 DeKalb Ave, Fort Greene)
STELLAR RE-OPENINGS & MOVEMENT Bird is officially the boutique of Brooklyn, claiming outposts in Cobble Hill, Park Slope and, now, Williamsburg. Its new 203 Grand Street location is massive and stocks the same always-on-trend-yet-somehow-timelessly chic wares from designers from 3.1 Phillip Lim to Bodkin. Also, those who despaired at the closing of the cool and modern Eva in Nolita had a brighter March when they heard the boutique had merely relocated to a bigger space in Noho at 355 Bowery.
NOW CLOSED (R.I.P.)
Girls Love Shoes (LES) • Yoko Devereaux (Williamsburg) • Staerk (Nolita) • Woodley & Bunny (Williamsburg) • I Heart (Nolita) • Coletta (Soho) • Alice Roi (LES) • Dernier Cri (MePA) Dulcinee (LES) • Johnson (LES) • Lisa Levine (Williamsburg) • Mayle (Nolita) • Pear (LES) • Shop (LES)