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Unique Gifts for Last-Minute Shoppers on the Lower East Side

By Serena Solomon | December 20, 2012 1:07pm

LOWER EAST SIDE — While hordes of shoppers scour Fifth Avenue and SoHo for high-priced holiday gifts, those in search of unique and tasteful presents can head to specialty boutiques off the beaten path — in the depths of the Lower East Side.

The area south of Delancey Street approaching Chinatown has become a hub for destination stores, such as the vegan footwear specialist Moo Shoes or BMX bike store Dah Shop. And shoppers are coming from all over the city — and across the world — to purchase their one-of-a-kind wares, storeowners said.

Here's a look at some of the best destination stores below Delancey Street for last-minute gift buying.

The Cast, 71 Orchard St.

This tiny store has been measuring clients, most recently Scarlett Johansson, for custom-fit leather jackets since 2004. The Cast also provides a collection of ready-to-wear leather jackets and pants, as well as denim, T-shirts and bags.

"We can go off our patterns or go off a full made-to-measure jacket," said storeowner Chuck Guarino, of the array of colored leather, lining and hardware a customer can choose from. "You can mismatch arms — you can do whatever you want really."

A standard off-the-rack jacket in a biker cut will set you back about $1,075, with a custom one starting at $1,500, depending on the materials used.

"I feel like we are doing something really different from anyone else," Guarino added.

Moo Shoes, 78 Orchard St.

"You can walk into our store and know that everything is vegan," said Moo Shoes co-owner Sara Kubersky. Because of the shop's huge selection of heels, boots, casual and men's footwear, Moo Shoes has become an international destination for the animal-friendly shopper, according to Kubersky.   

The store has its own shoe line called Novacas, which translates to "no cow" in Spanish, and stocks each of Dr. Martens' recently released vegan boots, as well as numerous other brands.

"When we opened 10 years ago, there was such a little selection [of vegan shoes]," Kubersky said. "Now there is so much."

Labor Skate Shop, 46 Canal St.

Instead of pinning his hopes on skateboard fashion, James Rewolinski wanted to create a store focused on the sport's hardware.

"There idea of the shop is that it is all about skateboarding, as opposed to a boutique," said the lifelong skateboarder.

The store stocks wheels, decks and trucks, as well as a workstation where committed skaters can stick their own grip tape on newly purchased rides. Customers can choose from brands such as Five Boro and Anti-Hero, as well as a shoe selection from Nuf and Emerica.

"You can come in here and pick up a complete or a custom-made board," Rewolinski said. Complete boards with wheels, trucks and grip tape start from $115, with custom boards beginning at $140.

Dah Shop, 134 Division St.

This store represents the passion of professional BMX biker Tyrone "Rone" Williams and Qian Who, and it specializes in selling and repairing the bike synonymous with jumps, tricks and racing.

"Often people bring their bikes in with particular damage that needs specific repairs," said Who, of the specifics of working with BMX bikes. "It gets complicated."

Not only will Dah Shop repair BMX and other bikes, it also sells custom BMX rides.

"They can pick and choose," said Who, of the bikes, which run as high as $2,000.

Complete rides cost on average $350 for a child to $400 for an adult or teenager, he added. 

The Little Shoe Store, 58 Orchard St.

This shop is for those with tiny feet, specifically under size 6.

After years of painfully shopping for shoes her size, Sydney Pringle — a size 4 — decided to spare others the difficulty of little-shoe shopping by opening her store in June.

Customers can find shoes — including boots, heels and casual shoes — in the latest styles that are the perfect fit for diminutive feet.

The Little Shoe Store stocks a range of vintage footwear and new shoe lines, such as the Odd Slipper, designed by Pringle's business partner Sindy Sagastume.

The Bureau of General Services Queer Division (BGSQD), 27 Orchard St.

While currently only a pop-up shop, one of New York's few bookstores specifically aimed at the LGBT community is fundraising to make itself a permanent fixture in the neighborhood.

Holiday shoppers will find unique book titles such as "Bi-Curious George," a parody of the classic children's series, and Sarah Schulman's "Israel, Palestine and the International Queer," about how the LGBT community works together from the two sides.

The temporary store also specializes in LGBT-focused 'zines.