Save money and support local businesses by buying your holiday gifts at a Brooklyn boutique. These shops provide handcrafted merchandise you can’t get at chain stores– with prices starting as low as $5.
Many of the shop owners are also artists who make, market and sell their products; if you visit these stores, don’t miss the chance to ask them about their work.
Do you have a favorite Brooklyn boutique? Share your tip with other readers by leaving a comment below!
#10. Paper dolls
Think paper dolls are for kids? You’ll reconsider after visiting DUMBO’s Dumbelle boutique. Artist Elaine Pedlar channeled her love of fashion into a line of couture paper dolls that appeals to “children of all ages” (per her website). The three main characters represent a cross section of NYC youth: “May” is an imaginative 8 year old from Brooklyn, “Sunny” is a quirky fashionista who wears a hair bow and glasses and “Katie” is a preppy blond teen with a pug. Visit Pedlar’s shop to chat with the artist, color in a sheet or purchase her reasonably priced merchandise; prices start at $2 for postcards and go up to $18 for a sheet of cutouts.
#9. Custom tees
Show your hometown pride by wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of your ‘hood: Bed Stuy, Bushwick and Brighton Beach are a few choices. Neighborhoodies sells “ready-made” t-shirts and hoodies in its DUMBO boutique but the real draw is the ability to get a custom tee. Based on your own design, these shirts take a few days to process but can be picked up at the shop or mailed (popular destinations include Europe, Saudi Arabia and Morocco). They do all of the stitching in-house and you can even order a single item. Prices start at $32.99 for tees and go up to $89.99 for sweatshirts.
#8. Home brewing kit
When it comes to craft beer, nothing is more “local” than your own kitchen. Fortunately, Brooklyn Homebrew in Gowanus offers all the materials you’ll need to set up a mini-brewery at home. The “Essentials” kit ($125) provides the hardware and the store’s self-serve grain counter has ingredients for even the most obscure recipes. If you aren’t into beer, Brooklyn Homebrew also sells DIY kits for making kombucha tea and cheese ($24.95-$29.95).
#7. Chocolate Santas
If you can’t make it to a European Christmas market this winter, at least visit the Jacques Torres flagship store in Brooklyn. The warm lighting, sweet aroma of spiced chocolate and rows of milk chocolate Santas are guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit. One of several New York City-area locations, this Jacques Torres shop is the perfect place to buy stocking stuffers and gifts for those hard-to-shop-for acquaintances (co-workers and aunts come to mind). Chocolate Santas start at $6 for a small size and go to $45 for the “giant” edition.
#6. Organic hand cream
Few areas have embraced the organic movement like Brooklyn. At Anthesis, a small boutique in DUMBO, all skincare products are handmade with organic ingredients like floral waters and botanic oils. The most popular item is the chamomile and rose hand cream ($18), which is fast-absorbing and has a pleasant scent. You can pick up products for face, hands and body, and there is even a wedding line for “eco-conscious brides.” Order online or stop by the store to meet owner Anna Almiroudis (pictured). Most cremes cost between $16 and $25.
#5. Weaving classes
Sometimes the best holiday gift is an experience. Purchase a gift certificate from Brooklyn’s Textile Arts Center and your loved one can take a class in weaving, sewing, shoe making, quilting, embroidery– or just about any other ‘genteel art’ you can imagine. Classes start at $250 and come in two varieties: Four weekly sessions or an intensive weekend course. Located in Gowanus, this airy workshop is filled with looms and spools of multi-colored yarn. Gift certificates can be purchased over the phone or at the store.
#4. Handmade jewelry
If you’re hunting for jewelry this Christmas, skip the mass-produced necklaces at Zales and visit a Brooklyn boutique instead. Kokalaki Jewelry has been operating in DUMBO for the past year and sells affordable handmade designs. Many of the earrings, bracelets and necklaces are created by local designers while others are imported from overseas. Most items cost between $10 and $50, although a recent visit uncovered a $5 handmade beaded lighter from Bali– a great stocking stuffer!
#3. Sustainable home decor
Want a holiday gift that’s unique, affordable and benefits villages in developing countries? Perles Noire is your place. This recently opened boutique in DUMBO sells recycled and imported goods from across the globe. Perles Noire resembles a contemporary art gallery, with colorful African juju hats (made of feathers) lining the back wall and an assortment of woven bowls nested on shelves. Prices start around $20 and go up to $500; for smaller budgets, pick up a fruit bowl crafted by Vietnamese villagers from recycled magazines ($20, pictured above).
#2. Recycled bicycle
Biking and Brooklyn go hand in hand, so it’s not surprising that the borough is home to Recycle-A-Bicycle. This creative non-profit in DUMBO accepts donated bikes, repairs them with recycled parts and sells them to the public at reasonable prices. Proceeds go to youth programs, including job training, internships and a “ride club” for children ages 8 to 18. Prices for refurbished bikes start at $200, with most models falling around $300. Shops in DUMBO and the East Village also repair bikes for customers.
#1. Handmade knives
It’s hard to shop for a foodie who has every kitchen appliance and cookbook known to man. Something they probably don’t have: a hand-crafted knife made in Brooklyn. Cut Brooklyn owner Joel Bukiewicz and his team create world-class cutlery from scratch in the basement of a Gowanus storefront. Before selecting a knife, you can visit the workshop to see how it is crafted from all-American materials: Pennsylvania steel, recycled wood from a barn, and metal pins handcrafted in Oregon. Prices start at $250 for pairing knives and peak at $625 for the heftiest chef’s knife.
Special thanks to Made in Brooklyn Tours for including these local shops in their DUMBO and Gowanus itineraries. I participated in a Brooklyn tour this December during the Fairfield Inn’s “Brooklyn Blog-Inn.” Stay tuned for additional posts on Brooklyn attractions!