Century 21 (Manhattan)

One of the most dangerous stores on the entire planet is located downtown in New York’s Financial District.  Directly across from the World Trade Center site, the large department store Century 21 has been stocking up on designer wares for years and it’s their keen eye and bargain prices that have made them one of the best places to acquire all of your household goods.  (Think bedding, luggage and clothing!)

Now when we say “dangerous,” we’re strictly saying with regards to your pocketbook, since no matter when you visit, chances are you’re going to find bargains too good to pass up!  As an old stand by, we still manage to pop in to Century 21 every time we visit NYC, if only to stock up on our favorite underwear or pajama bottoms!  (Prior to moving, Set of Drifter Doug pretty much furnished his entire New York apartment with goods from here.)

Of course, designer duds + good pricing = large crowds!  It’s probably best to check out Century 21 early in the day since even by lunch time, the place seems to be overrun with bored office workers needing an escape, or Eurotrash visitors who are in on the secret!  Set of Drifters tip:  Century 21’s sale section is worth looking into regularly, as the staff continually marks down prices every few days!  Also, if you are looking for shoes, the department store outlet offers a separate side entrance to their two-level shoetopia!  Look for dress shoes on Level 1 and sneakers in the basement!  We could literally spend hours here, and if you have the patience, so will you!

Century 21 - 22 Cortlandt Street (between Church and Broadway), New York, NY  10007, (212) 227-9092


Alphabet City/ East Village grab bag (Manhattan)

The legendary “East Village,” long home to NYC’s “punk” contingency has been through much iteration in its day.  Always a hotbed of rough ‘n ready grittiness, the neighborhood once played host to the electric no-wave/ graffiti art scene of the 1980s.   Yes, luminaries such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Grace Jones, Keith Haring, and even a young pre-”Like A Virgin” Madonna, once roamed these streets.  Sadly, we’d have to admit the scene today feels a bit warmed over.

Perhaps it all started back in 2008 with the closing of everyone’s favorite costume kitsch shop Love Saves the Day.  In the few years since, rising rents have forced many original East Village vendors out on their ear.  That being said, there are still a number of wonderful thrift stores and edgy artisans selling their wares here.  Some of our favorite East Village marts include:

A-1 Records:  If you like your music on wax, this is a fun place to shop, especially if you groove on disco, 80s funk/ dance, hip-hop and freestyle.  The prices were pretty reasonable the last time we visited in 2013, though you may have to hunt the bins on the ground to get cheaper duplicates of the items on offer in the well-categorized racks.  Speaking of which, you’ll be heard-pressed to find a staff more knowledgeable of their inventory.  We noted classifications by both record label and genre, including categories as finite as Chicago House, Detroit House, Garage, etc.  Looking for that rare 12” of “Get On the Dancefloor” by Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock?  We’re sure they’ve got it, and you can find a clean copy under Profile Records or HipHouse for around $7.

A-1 Records - 439 East 6th Street (off Avenue A), New York, NY  10009, (212) 473-  2870, http://www.a1recordshop.com/

Sunrise Mart:  This funky, and always crowded, supermarket is mostly for locals looking to stock their pantries with delicacies from Tokyo and beyond.  That being said, a stroll through Sunrise Mart is worth a trip for anyone who enjoys the Japanese aesthetic.  In addition to exotic veggies, seafood and other foodstuffs, expect to find both imported sundries and magazines as well as a collection of related housewares on the cheap!  The last time we visited in 2013, Sunrise boasted a great selection of Japanese pottery, small sushi side plates and full ceramic tea sets.  Ah so!

Sunrise Mart - 29 3rd Avenue (between 10th Street and 2nd Avenue), New York, NY  10003, (212) 598-3040, http://sunrisemart.org/

Alphabets NYC:  What a cool store!  Packed with items both highbrow – and low – Alphabets NYC may capture your interest first with a smattering of zany, graphic Ts in its shopfront, but it’ll sustain your attention via a faultless collection of trendy stationary, stylish housewares and kitschy toys and candy.  Treat yourself right and buy something completely superfluous; you’re on vacation.  Heck, if you get back home and wonder what you’re ever gonna do with a Barry Manilow bobblehead, you can always re-gift it later.

Alphabets NYC - 115 Avenue  A, New York, NY  10009,    (212) 475-7250, www.alphabetsnyc.com/

St. Mark’s Bookshop:  An NYC institution for over 35 years, St. Mark’s Bookshop is your one-stop shop for the latest hipster reads and art tomes.  Specializing in rare finds, imported fashion mags and local fanzines and self-published oddities, St. Mark’s Bookshop has the goods, if you’ve got the hours to spare!

St. Mark’s Bookshop - 31 Third Avenue, New York,       NY  10003, (212) 260-7853, http://www.stmarksbookshop.com/

Trash and Vaudeville:  Of course, no shopping visit to the East Village can be complete without a jaunt down St. Mark’s Place itself.  The frenzied block between 2nd and 3rd Avenues is pretty much a well-contained “tourist hell” at this point, but first-timers to New York should appreciate gawking at all of the faux-raggamuffin fashions that abound here.  In other words, would you like that tall matcha green tea freddo with one dread, or two?  A classic St. Mark’s stop is the venerable Trash and Vaudeville.  Are you Latex, lace, or both?  Whatever the answer, you’ll be in Heaven (or Hell) at Trash and Vaudeville’s emporium of all things flesh and fantasy.

Trash and Vaudeville - 4 St. Marks Place, New York, NY  10003, (212) 982-3590, http://www.trashandvaudeville.com/

Other fun spots to shop for threads include vintage kingpins Search & Destroy and Village Style, though expect to pay top-dollar for any fancy finds from these fab outlets of yesteryear!  Of course, you could always browse those stalls lining St. Mark’s.  With so many buskers afoot, chances are you won’t have a choice!

Search & Destroy - 25 St. Marks Place, New York, NY  10003, (212) 358-1120

Village Style - 111 East 7th Street, New York, NY  10009, (212) 260-6390, http://www.villagestyleny.com/

"Groove" - and bargain  - hunting on the Upper East Side (Manhattan)

“NYC Groovespotting” is a sport unto itself.  Groovespotting, you ask?  “What is it?”  We’ve already covered the topic before in our reports on Buenos Aires and Mexico City.  In a nutshell, a “Groove” is Set of Drifters speak for an older lass who either dresses completely over the top, or who is simply super fashionable beyond her years.  Our obsession with New York City’s “Groove crème de la crème” has taken hold of our eyes, and our camera phones, ever since 2003, turning the two of us into something we never thought we’d admit to:  paparazzi of everyday real people!

Unfortunately, the gig is non-paying, but even so, the excitement we feel once we’ve landed one of our elusive targets must rival that of the paps once they’ve snapped that coveted shot of the Jolie-Pitts licking popsicles!  To see exactly what we’re talking about, you can “groovespot” our separate blog at http://oldgroove.blogspot.com/.  (Yes, “Old Groove” is old school!)

Think you’ve got what it takes to become a NYC Groovespotter?  We’ll see.  To hone your skills, those interested would be wise to head on up to the museums and upmarket thrift stores of the Upper East Side where “Grooves” are in full-force!  Some of our favorites include “Batwings,” “Jan Brady,” and “Gym on the Move Groove.”  Seeing is believing folks, so if you can catch any recent updates on these ladies, we’d love you to share them with us!

Of course, everyone loves a good multi-tasker.  So, while you’re snooping for Grooves, why not do some browsing of your own at some of the Upper East Side’s best designer “thrift” options.  One of our favorites is the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Thrift Store, a multi-room space that boasts crazy, pristine examples of antique and retro furniture as well as finely selected vintage clothing.  While living nearby, we would hit this store up at least once a week, and with each new visit, there was usually at least one grand item that would make our mouths drop!  If you’re looking for furniture and have money to burn, make sure to investigate this place.

There are also several other nearby thrift stores that are worth checking out.  Another not to miss is the Council Thrift on 84th Street.  While the ladies who ran the shop were never the most friendly, the goods they shilled - impeccable housewares, interesting decorative arts and media - were always top-notch!

Haven’t had your fill of Grooves just yet?  We also recommend a side-trip to Yorktown’s Carl Schurz Park.  Primarily known as the location of Gracie Mansion (aka the Mayor’s home), this small park located on the bank of the East River, is like a mini-Central Park, complete with dog-walking areas, bridges and floral gardens.  Spend any time on a bench here and we also guarantee some “close encounters of the groove kind.”

True, there are certainly plenty of Grooves to be spotted in our current home of Los Angeles, yet with everyone driving in cars to destinations far and wide, it‘s decidedly harder to catch them!  Alas, we miss the good old days on NYC’s Upper East Side when sneaking a pic of “Kabuki Groove” or “Corpse Groove” was as easy as taking candy from a “Sassabone Haunch.”  Set of Drifters tip:  Men who fit the “Old Groove” description are called “Mangroves.” So, now you know.

The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Thrift Shop - 1440 Third Avenue, New York, NY  10028, (212) 535-1250, http://mskcc.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=soc_support_thrift_shop

Council Thrift - 246 East 84th Street, New York, NY  10028, (212)439-8373, http://www.ncjwny.org/thrift.htm

Carl Schurz Park - East End Avenue and East 86th Street, New York, NY  10028, http://www.carlschurzparknyc.org/

We also recommend:

MoMA Design Store (SOHO) - 81 Spring Street, New York, NY  10012, (646) 613-1367

Pearl River Mart (SOHO) - 477 Broadway, New York, NY  10013, (212) 431-7388, http://pearlriver.com/v2/index.html

Rebel Rebel Records (West Village) - 319 Bleecker Street, (between Christopher Street and Grove), New York, NY  10014, (212) 989-0770, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rebel-Rebel-Records/148458791874071

Bookmarc (West Village) - 400 Bleecker Street, New York, NY  10014, (212) 620-4021, http://www.marcjacobs.com/special-items/bookmarc/

Goorin Bros. (West Village) - 337 Bleecker Street, New York, NY  10014, (212) 256-1895, http://www.goorin.com/hat-shops/west-village

Academy Record Annex (Williamsburg) - 96 North 6th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY  11211, (718) 218-8200,

Catbird (Williamsburg) - 219 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY  11211, (718) 599-3457, http://www.catbirdnyc.com/

Earwax Records (Williamsburg) - 167 North 9th Street, Brooklyn, NY  11211, (718) 486-3771, http://www.earwaxrecords.net/

Brooklyn Flea/ Smorgasburg (Williamsburg) - 27 North 6 Street (between Kent and East Avenue), Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY 11211, http://www.brooklynflea.com/smorgasburg/

Brooklyn Industries (Williamsburg) - 162 Bedford Avenue (between 9th Street and 8th Street), Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY  11211, (718) 486-6464, http://www.brooklynindustries.com/

Cold Spring Antiques Center‎ (Hudson Valley) - 77 Main Street, Cold Spring, NY  10516, (845) 265-5050, http://www.coldspringantiquescenter.com/

Bijou Galleries, Ltd. (Hudson Valley) - 50 Main Street, Cold Spring, NY  10516, (845) 265-4337, http://www.bijougalleries.com/

Citarella (Long Island) - 2 Pantigo Road, East Hampton, NY  11937, (631) 537-5990, http://www.citarella.com/