In my last edition of Sunday Confessions, I happened to confess to my occasional missing of the shopping experience of the suburbs which prompted a question from Alyx that begged for it’s own blog entry so hard that I just couldn’t tell it no. She asked:
I’ve always wondered how normal shopping works in NYC. Obviously you have all those fancy schmancy stores, but what do you do when you need a Walmart, Costco, or Ikea? Do those exist there?
Before I get into talking about stores, I think it’s pretty important to talk about transportation. I don’t have a car. I rely mostly on the subway and my own two feet to get me places. I’ll occasionally take a bus (but for most places I want to go that’s not convenient) and I’ll occasionally take a cab (but those are expensive). When I’m shopping, I want to carry as little as possible over the shortest distance possible paying the least amount possible to get it home.
Which basically means, I want to shop in my own neighborhood whenever I possibly can.
While we have box stores like Target and K-Mart in the city (no Walmart, though!), these stores aren’t in my neighborhood, they’re all the way across town. It doesn’t make sense to trek to Target for my dish soap and toilet paper. These are things I can buy in my neighborhood shops. In fact, there’s not much that I can think of that’s worth the hassle of a trip to Target. I might feel different if I lived within walking distance… but I don’t.
So, if I’m not going to a box store for my household items… Where do I go? To a bunch of different shops in my neighborhood, of course! Here are the sorts of places where I often shop. Oh, and I should probably mention… I live in a poor neighborhood… so some of this experience will vary based on where in the city you are.
1. The dollar store / 99 cent store / five and dime. These stores are full of random household goods, usually of the knock off from China variety. They’ll usually have the staples of cleaning products, basic bathroom toiletries and toilet paper… but beyond that? You have to go in to figure out what they have because it can vary greatly from store to store. You might find basic linens. You might find some basic crafting supplies. You might find basic hardware goods, dishes, cookware, cheap kids toys, party favors… Some dollar store stuff is fine, some of it’s total junk.
2. The hardware store. This isn’t your Home Depot. Usually a narrow, cluttered store that has most of your basic hardware needs. Chances are if you want to find anything, you’re going to have to ask somebody because you’re never going to find it on your own. Nails, screws, and usually a limited selection of cookware that’s typically better than what the dollar store offers.
3. The linen store. You’ll find all your bedroom and bathroom accessories here. The offerings here are nowhere close to being top of the line. This is where you go if you don’t care what your curtains look like, you just need them covered… Stat.
4. The bodega. AKA your corner store. This is where you grab your soda, chips and your smokes. You can also buy a lunch a dollar if you’re one of these guys (put on your headphones if you don’t want your children learning the f-word though):
Our grocery stores are pretty normal… except for the fact that they’re a lot smaller (5 aisles or less generally). Chain drug stores like Rite Aid are exactly the same as everywhere else in the country. By far and large, those are the only shops I really need to visit on a regular basis.
If I need to get something special, I will wander to other neighborhoods to get it… Clothing choices in my neighborhood are pretty limited unless you’re into spandex. If I want higher quality goods, I generally have to leave the neighborhood… whether or not I shop at a department store or specialty shop depends on what I’m getting.
I tend to get clothes at discount department stores like Century 21 or Daffy’s which are kinda like the Marshall or TJ Maxx of designer clothes or I thrift…. but I don’t often buy new clothes.
If I’m getting kitchen related stuff, I’m more likely to go to Zabar’s, a locally owned kitchen shop over going to Bed, Bath and Beyond.
We have a 24 hour Best Buy in town, and we actually have had to to go to Best Buy in the middle of the night to buy a new monitor when James’ broke. Okay, so we didn’t have to, but we did just because of the novelty of it.
There’s an Ikea in Brooklyn. That’s totally a special occasion thing. If you want, you can pay them to assemble and bring it to your apartment… but the one time I bought things there, we paid for a car service to bring us home with our goods.
I find that I shop recreationally so much less now that it’s not a convenient pass time, which I think overall is a good thing.