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Shop Op: NY's Flatiron District – No Starch

By K.C. Summers
The Washington Post
Sunday, June 14, 1998; Page E04

New York's Flatiron district fulfills a pressing need. If you like to shop Manhattan but find Madison Avenue too snooty, and SoHo and the Village too mobbed, this relatively unknown, up-and-coming area from 14th to 23rd streets, between Lower Broadway and Fifth Avenue, is worth checking out.

Start at the Union Square Greenmarket (open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays in Union Square Park, year-round), a quintessential New York scene. The draw here is not the trucked-in farm produce, but the chance to observe an array of New Yorkers straight out of Central Casting: daredevil Rollerbladers, dowagers in pearls, cool couples in black, yuppies slurping ice cream cones, dogs on leashes, kids on leashes and assorted street musicians (one recent sunny afternoon, a proud dad and his brood of stairstep children, all dressed identically in lime green rain slickers, belted out R&B tunes). There are fresh flowers and pretzel guys and goat cheese people, some used-book action, and vintage postcards and CDs.

The square is lined with cafes --

the award-winning Union Square Cafe (21 E. 16th St., 212-243-4020) foremost among them -- and there's great shopping in every direction. Head north on Fifth Avenue or Broadway. You'll pass chain stores that you know all too well from home and, the real reason you're here, the New Yorky, one-of-a-kind shops that you can't find anywhere else. Just Bulbs (936 Broadway, 212-228-7820) has an impressive assortment of tacky Christmas light strings for $15. The T Salon T Emporium (11 E. 20th St., 212-358-0506) serves a civilized afternoon tea ($22.50) and also sells antique pots, books and all manner of teas and tea accouterments. B. Shackman & Co. (85 Fifth Ave., 212-989-5162), a tiny, wonderfully eclectic toy store, specializes in robots, vintage paper dolls and painted metal windup toys from Germany. Shoe fetishists should stop in at Otto Tootsi Plohound (137 Fifth Ave., 212-925-8931) -- the selection is foot-boggling.

Don't leave the Flatiron district without checking out its home furnishings stores, anchored by the incomparable ABC Carpet & Home (888 Broadway, 212-674-1144), with six floors of new and antique furniture, bedding and housewares. Similarly, allow lots of time for Fishs Eddy (889 Broadway, 212-420-9020), which is crammed with old corporate china (Helmsley Palace teapots, checkered American Diner dishes, Department of the Navy plates) as well as lots of vintage stuff. There are some real bargains here -- when I visited, an assortment of dinner plates were 75 cents each, and platters were four for $5. Coolest find: a white porcelain glove mold for $28, very handy as a place to drape jewelry.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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