* Updated November 2012*
During my most recent stay in New York, I went back to Bleecker Street in the West Village. It remains, along with better-known shopping thoroughfares such as Fifth and Madison avenues, a delightful spot for window-shopping or a session of heavy retail therapy. Here’s an update just in time for the holidays.
Bleecker Street runs southeast from Abingdon Square, veers east at Sixth Avenue and continues to the Bowery. The stretch between Abingdon Square and West 10th Street holds the greatest payoff for shoppers. Many overseas stores have opened their first American or New York ventures on Bleecker Street, and you’ll find a mix of big retail names and intriguing one-off shops. Their eye-catching seasonal décor is especially appealing on a chill December night, when the intimate scale of the low-rise Village creates a sense of cozy warmth.
Here are some places I particularly like, proceeding south from Abingdon Square (even-numbered shops will be on the west side of the street, odd numbers on the east side).
Sandro (415) draws the eye with its sleek displays of stylish clothes designed by Evelyne and Ilan Chetrite. This branch — there are stores throughout the United States and Europe — has offerings for both men and women. For someone with more traditional tastes like me, it is an education.
Jimmy Choo (407) offers shoes and handbags that are right at the top of many women’s wish lists and were often objects of desire for Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City.” The displays are stylishly inviting and worth at least a window peek.
The intersection at West 11th Street is an especially lively spot, with a sporty Marc by Marc Jacobs at the northeast corner (Jacobs has other shops on Bleecker, but his work is not really my taste) and the wildly popular Magnolia Bakery at the southeast corner. Magnolia is one of the pioneering contenders in the ongoing cupcake competition in New York (which we would never have anticipated). The most popular are the basics: chocolate or vanilla cakes with chocolate or vanilla icing. Cakes are also available, and we have been known to indulge in the rich multi-layered coconut. There is no seating, so you may have to wait until you get back to your hotel (if you can).
Bookmarc at the southwest corner was once a wonderful small independent bookshop, a designation that is an endangered species. The shop is now part of the Marc Jacobs mini-empire in the West Village. The shop does indeed have books — lavish coffee table affairs on art, fashion and music, as well as a selection of Jacobs’ bibelots and accessories.
Bond No. 9 (399) is a bright, lively fragrance shop that sells more than 39 perfumes created to reflect different parts of New York with names such as Park Avenue and Madison Soirée. It all seemed a bit gimmicky to us (and we’ve long since settled on our own fragrances) but some are quite appealing and would make interesting gifts for non-NYC friends. The store began at 9 Bond Street in the NoHo neighborhood and has expanded throughout the city and the world.
Jack Spade (400) is the brainchild of Andy Spade, husband of women’s designer Kate. This is for men and is filled with cleverly wrought utility bags, messenger bags, briefcases and travel bags, plus small items such as wallets, card cases and key fobs.
Ralph Lauren has several outposts on Bleecker, all relatively small with his usual stage-set appealing windows. RRL (381) will warm the rugged hearts of urban cowboys and girls, with a wide selection of jeans, boots and vests. Diagonally across the street, Rugby (390) embodies a sporty-preppy look for younger men and women with tweeds, tartans and neo-varsity apparel.
Mulberry (387) is the first American branch of a noted English leather goods company. Its very high-end goods are artfully displayed like museum pieces: Handbags, wallets, notebooks and luggage predominate, along with some clothing. If you find something you like but wish for some minor adjustments, customization is available. The styling is elegant and the variety impressive.
Diptyque (377) is the first U.S. foray for this French parfumer, and sells an impressive array of scented candles, colognes, eaux de toilette and body-care products. The shop itself is an atmospheric little world unto itself, boudoir-esque with the soothing scents from the products. While the fragrances are strong, they are never overpowering.
Coach (370; 372-374) offers a wide range of the stylish leather goods that has made it one of the top fashion brands in the United States. The shop at 370 is geared toward men, while 372-374 is for women. Everything is beautifully crafted, with clean, elegant lines. There are handbags, luggage and smaller accessories that make wonderful gifts.
Burberry Brit (367-369) brings the best of this celebrated British fashion giant together in a relatively compact space. Burberry has gone from stodgy to stylish in recent years, and here you’ll find contemporary clothing that is solidly rooted in the classic past.
The Bathroom (94 Charles Street) is just around the corner and is worth a visit. An utterly charming shop, it has a surprising array of lovely bathroom fixtures and cabinets, and all sorts of shampoos, soaps and lotions.
August (359) is the kind of bistro that should sit on every corner in the West Village. Cozy and welcoming, August has old wood floors, gentle lighting and a heated atrium for outdoor dining. From its woodburning oven come dishes such as an Alsatian bacon-and-onion tart, rabbit braised with juniper and rosemary with chestnut gnocchi and broccoli, and striped bass with saffron-licorice, braised artichokes and white anchovies. You will want to revisit this delightful restaurant.
GANT Rugger (353) takes on Ralph Lauren with a shop that has as much atmosphere as the Rugby and RRL stores up the street. The goods here are the Swiss company’s take on classic American clothes, with Oxford shirts, sporty jackets and plaid shirts, as well as women’s wear.
Black Fleece (351) caught our eye, as the logo looked familiar.
As it turns out, Black Fleece is one of two freestanding incarnations of a new Brooks Brothers venture (the other is in San Francisco). Star designer Thom Browne has gone back into the Brooks archives to revive several old styles with new looks. We particularly noted the iconic Brooks button-down Oxford, which Browne has remade with the original, thicker fabric (and at a dearer cost: $195). The shop also features jackets, sweaters, suits and a full array of clothing for women.