I have been known to profess a hatred for shopping. But really, I do not harbor any serious aversion to the act. Rather, I hate going from uninspiring store to uninspiring store in search of...I'm not sure what exactly. I'm not someone that loves to shop for shopping's sake, wandering through a mall just to be in the presence of things for sale. But I do love having a roster of fabulous little establishments from which to pull items that perfectly perform a function that I might suddenly have the need to fulfill.
I come by this honestly. Put my father in a department store and his face immediately contorts into an expression of extreme pain, but put him in his favorite local hardware store in search of an obscure wall anchor and he practically glows with anticipation. In the same vein, my mother is not a fan of large chains, but can also shop for hours in smaller specialized establishments.
I was taught to shop this way as well, to seek out functional, well priced items, no matter how far off of the beaten track it might take me. Often, this means going to where the professionals shop. Restaurant supply stores, for instance.
Check out the prices at East Bay Restaurant Supply (a haunt of my youth) or any of the myriad of spots on the Bowery (haunt of my adulthood) and you'll never step foot in a William Sonoma store again. Take a trip to Ray Beauty Supply over on Eighth Avenue and Ricky's will become a faded memory of a time when you actually paid retail. And next time you're tempted to head over to Home Depot, give Prince Lumber Company on West 15th Street a try to find out what real customer service is. As I happily discovered, real customer service is never letting a clueless woman attempt to carry a box of bricks to Ninth Avenue to catch a cab. Insist that the box is much too heavy for her to carry (it was physically impossible for me to lift), bring the box to the curb, hail a cab, and load up the car for the ignorant lass.
New York lends itself to shopping in this way, as the city is organized into a series of micro-neighborhoods, many of which are devoted to one specific industry. For instance, the garment district is well known (and the location of my best sample sale experiences), but I recently discovered that a subset of the area is devoted almost entirely to fur. And there is of course the diamond district (it sounds much more romantic than the reality, I assure you) and the theater district (exactly as romantic as it sounds). These types of neighborhoods are fading (the meatpacking district being a prominent example of one that has faded completely away) but those that have endured are wonderful to wander through.
And so the other day, as I was walking from one meeting to another, I routed myself through the flower district on West 28th Street in search of a bit of floral-based inspiration. There was much foliage out on the street, but it was inside Jamali Garden that I really found bliss. I actually have heard of this establishment many times before, as it seems that anytime I see some trinket that I like cited online it is attributed to this place. Why it never occurred to me that the store was in my own backyard I'll never know, but I'm so happy it has all been straightened out. Inside I was confronted with stacks upon stacks of large planters, tiny votives, hanging strands of crystals and dishes and platters of all shapes and sizes. And among this bounty I found an item that I had been searching for for ages...
...a tray to contain my kitchen sink accoutrements, for the low low price of $4.99. Exactly how much something like this ought to cost, I think. Now off to the orchid store to score some sub-ten dollar blooms.