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East 9th Street Beckons as the Fifth Avenue of Small Business

By Serena Solomon | November 23, 2012 10:21am

EAST VILLAGE — East 9th Street has arguably become the city's Fifth Avenue of small business.

For New Yorkers preparing to mark Small Business Saturday, there may be no better place to find a hub of unique, independently owned stores than on this East Village street.

Numerous stores offer up the wares of local designers for both men and women. Shoppers can also find spots that specialize in highly curated vintage clothes and antiques — or the out-there combination of umbrellas and candy.

Small Business Saturday is an annual event that encourages communities to shop at their local small businesses on the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year, with the damages small business suffered during and after Hurricane Sandy, it's seen as an even more crucial holiday shopping day.

The East 9th Street shops, like every other business below 34th Street, continue to rebound in the aftermath of the superstorm that hit more than three weeks ago and triggered power outages that cut cash-flow as doors remained shut.

"It is a loss of income for sure," said Amanda Loureiro, 37, who owns Dusty Buttons, a store that sells a combination of vintage and new women's clothing. "We aren't trustfund babies."

Dusty Buttons' stock was not damaged in the storm, but the five-day blackout that followed halted her customers and her income — but not her bills.

"You still have to pay rent," Loureiro said.

At the 9th Street Haberdashery, an antique clothing store where everything in stock was made before 1960, even when the lights went back on, business took a while to get back to normal.

"People were more concerned about relatives and friends, making sure they had food, rather than making sure they had a dress," co-owner Stacey Luckow said.

To celebrate local small businesses, DNAinfo.com New York has compiled a guide to some of the stores on East Ninth Street that offer unique gift options for any friend or relative this holiday season.

Ame Ame, 318 E. 9th St., East Village

A shop selling the unusual combination of wet-weather gear and candy makes perfect sense to store owner Teresa Soroka.

"If it's a gloomy day a bag of lollies will cheer you up," said the 30-year-old, who is pushing stylish and quality wears such as raincoats, rain boots and umbrellas along with sweets for $2.99 a quarter pound.

After a year in business the concept seems to be working for Soroka, who was inspired by the fashionable rainwear in Japan after living there for a few years.

A unique and interesting umbrella is at the top of Soroka's gift suggestion list because it is ideal for women (and men) of any age, she said.

"There are so many fashionable women around the city with a broken umbrella," Soroka said.

Signatures Gifts: Japanese Umbrellas in numerous designs are $69.95. A unique collection of rainboots sell for between $85 to $320.

The 9th Street Haberdashery, 346 E. 9th St., East Village 

In this vintage clothing store you won't find anything before 1960.

The owners and curators of 9th Street Haberdashery, Stacey Luckow and Meri Rauber, have chosen to focus on women's antique clothes and accessories from the early 19th century through to the 1950s.

One of their specialties includes stocking small men's suits from those eras for women of today to wear for the in-style androgynous look.

"There are no fillers here. Everything piece is fantastic," said Luckow, who coincidentally has a work history in archaeology. 

The best way to keep up with the latest items in the store is to follow their regularly updated Instagram feed at The9thsthaberdashery

Signatures Gifts: Buco biker-style leather jacket from the 1940s with shoulder grommets are $2,500. French work-wear pants from the 1930s made from cotton that are naturally distressed are $585. Velvet long coats from the 1940s made with art deco fabric are $750.

Mr. Throwback, 428 E. 9th St., East Village

Shaking up the East 9th Street shopping strip is new arrival Michael Spitz with his collection of 1980s and 1990s vintage sportswear.

The store is full of clothing to tickle the fancy of any inner teenage boy including plenty of neon colors, flannel shirts and well as game-worn collector items.

"It's all the stuff I wore in middle school and it's still cool now," said Spitz, who has built the store's stock of caps, jerseys, jackets and sweatshirts from his own collection as well those of friends and strangers.

Spitz posts new arrivals on the store's Instagram feed — mrthrowbacknyc — or on its Tumblr page.

Signature Gifts: A vintage LL Cool J Troop Jacket is $500. A game-worn Karl "the Mailman" Malone jersey sells for $500.

Vera Meat, 315 E. 9th St., East Village

With jewelry sculptured off unique muses including skeletal spines, animal faces and human body parts, local designer Vera Balyura can provide a distinctly East Village gift with a grungy vibe for both men and women.

The designs or rings, bracelets and necklaces are made from recycled silver or brass dipped in 14k gold. Purchases can be made online, but a visit to the East Village flagship store is its own adventure with jewelry displayed hanging from molded human hands.

Signature Gifts: A Spine Duster, which is a ring that goes across multiple fingers, in gold plated brass is $110. a High French Ring with a French bulldog face charm attached sells for $170.

Meg, 312 E. 9th St., East Village

After successfully maintaining an East Village store for her fashion line since 1994, designer Meghan Kinney has proven her place in the neighborhood’s matchless style scene.

"She knows the body of a woman so well," said store manager Sara Altobell, of the classic designs she described as “clean, versatile and very wearable."

The designs are that rare breed, dressing anyone from a size 0 to 16, according to  Altobell, who also noted pockets on dresses, shirts and tops as Kinney's signature look.

Signature Gift: A Lady O cocktail dress for all the seasons in black pattern silk with pockets and a low V neck is $295. Faux Fur Sweaters with faux-fur lined pockets are $220. The Boyfriend Coat made with softened wool and a design based off a men's wear coat is $375.

The Upper Rust, 445 E. 9th St., East Village

The owner and curator of this antique gift shop, Kevin Bockrath, labels his wares as "weathered chic."

"I just look for the odd, the fun, the charming," he said, of the estate sales and flea markets around the country where he shops for the store's collection.

Every item in the shop, which has gone from a single storefront to three in the 11 years it has been open, has “a time-worn flavor with a history to it,” according to Bockrath.

Signature Gift: Vintage rolls of colored yarn bought from an old knitting factory in Massachusetts. Arranged and sold as a decorative set, it's $395.

Dusty Buttons, 441 E. 9th St., East Village

"I get excited when someone isn't dressed like any other girl," said Dusty Buttons owner Amanda Loureiro, about her ideal customer.

The small, but packed, store contains a mix of both vintage and new women's clothing, footwear and accessories with prices ranging from a few dollars to hundreds.

The styles for both new and used items tend to focus on the feminine attire of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

"When someone is wearing a piece of vintage you are wearing a piece of history, a piece of time," Loureiro said.

Signature Gifts: 8,000 Nerves new lace and collared dress is $124. A vintage coat from the 1950s in navy blue with button detail and Peter Pan collar is $260. A vintage 1930s crepe top with embroidered collar sells for $198.

Pink Olive, 439 E. 9th St., East Village

This highly curated gift and children’s clothing store will give you present options for someone of any age.

"Some people just come in for a card and baby clothes, but then they discover everything else in between," Pink Olive store manager Ellie Castillo said.

Cookbooks, letter sets and other knickknacks are waiting to be found in this quaint store, according to Castillo.

Signature Gifts: Specks onesie for a newborn baby is $32. Pink Chicken dress for a toddler is $78. You Are Loved coffee table book containing a collection of prints from numerous artist and blogs as well as the Etsy website is $15.

Reason, 436 E. 9th St., East Village

This men's wear brand has been around since Phil Bassis and John "D.J. Price" Totaro began printing T-shirts out of their East Village apartment eight years ago.

Now their store sells a mixture of new clothing from the Reason brand, with a focus on the printed T-shirts, as well as vintage pieces, hats, bags, sunglasses and denim.

"Our own line is inspired by the vintage pieces we sell," said Bassis, adding that the typical Reason customer is hunting for something cool with an East Village edge.

Signature gift: Vintage Metallica tour shirt sells for $35. A Reason brand printed T-shirt is $39.

Seyrig, 305 E. 9th St., East Village

This store focuses on warm and cozy knits for men and women, created or curated by local designer Benjamin Ruhland. Seyrig also stocks a range of shoes, accessories and other quality and stylish clothing for men and women.

Signature Gift: Iris Von Arnim Hand Knit Sweater Jacket for a woman made from 70 percent merino wool and 30 percent raccoon with hook and eye closure is $1,295.