New York Insider: Jon Caramanica
The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica knows retail. As a fixture of the newspaper’s Critical Shopper column, Jon surveys the highs and lows of the shopping landscape, on the lookout for what’s new, what’s next and what’s needed. Here, we pick his brain on shops to hit in New York, plus get his recommendations for restaurants and nightlife in the Big Apple.
As someone who spends a lot of time visiting different retailers as part of your day job, what do you think the current retail landscape in New York offers that other cities may not have?
I think we’re past the days were New York can claim any sort of exclusivity over particular styles. You look at a store like Totokaelo Man, and it feels exactly like you’d imagine a good New York store to be, and yet it’s in Seattle. I feel like I increasingly have very New York-like experiences in other cities, which I guess means that the New York experience isn’t what it once was. That said, I wouldn’t want to shop for sneakers in another city, and I imagine the bootleg game isn’t as thorough elsewhere. But the days of New York having a stranglehold on things is gone. Now I think more about what’s not here.
Is there anything you think is lacking from New York retail?
This is easy: smart men’s designer vintage. Not a rack of men’s in a primarily women’s store. Not a place like Procell, which I love and patronize, which specializes in vintage of a certain era and aesthetic. Not a t-shirt specialist like La Petite Mort. Not a flea market passing for a vintage store. I mean a place you can get creatively-edited Margiela or Raf or Polo or Isaia or Yohji or even Paul Stuart if it’s the right piece. Someone who’s going to rifle through the closets of your best-dressed friends and liberate some pieces back into circulation. There are about 100 of these shops for women in NY, and maybe 1 for men.
Are there any lesser-known shops visitors to New York should check out while here?
Nothing is lesser-known anymore, but sure: C.H.C.M., Idol, Carson Street Clothiers, Inventory, Nepenthes are the obvious go-tos. There are cooler things at Bergdorf Goodman than you’d think. I genuinely enjoy shopping at Dave’s New York, the workwear store. You should get lost for a while in the variations of black clothing at IF in Soho, and then go to the Vibskov store to get woken up by color. Stop in at Owen and KITH and Hickorees Floor Two. Only NY seems like the smartest of the streetwear guys. It’s worth walking the length of Madison, not for Barneys and Hermes and the obvious places, but for the handful of older, smaller shops that still dot the strip. Leffot and Jay Kos are helpful reminders that you probably would like to make more money.
What are the most important aspects of the retail experience any new store owners should pay most attention to when designing their space?
I know this will sound counterintuitive, but shoppers need places to hide. Buying clothes is an intensely personal experience, and it helps, in a store, to have a space where you can peruse and not feel exposed. It slows the heart rate. It encourages lingering. It breeds comfort.
Caramanica’s New York
248 5th Ave (Brooklyn)
Northern Italian cuisine direct from Park Slope
157 Second Avenue (Manhattan)
Wylie Dufresne’s East Village outpost
41-10 Main Street (Queens)
Authentic Chinese cuisine in the heart of Flushing
691 6th Ave (Brooklyn)
Pies and calzones; that’s all you get and all you need
349 E 13th St (Manhattan)
Southern-inspired comfort food with a twist
74 Wythe Ave (Brooklyn)
The best sound system that side of the East River
1120 Manhattan Ave (Brooklyn)
Greenpoint’s intimate rock club
The Apollo Theater
253 W 125th St (Manhattan)
Everyone from Jimi to Mariah has graced this legendary stage
2124 Broadway (Manhattan)
One of uptown’s most enduring venues
Hill Country BBQ
30 West 26th Street (Manhattan)
Come for the ribs; stay for the honky tonk