In my quest to shop local and in honor of Women’s History Month, I visited three New York City businesses owned by women this month. While I was hoping to check out many more, the ones I’ve featured here have inspired me to keep seeking out female entrepreneurs. I recommend each of these establishments for unique gifts, eclectic home décor, or just to see the creative spaces that New York City women are carving out.
Remember that Friday in March when the winds were whipping at around 60 mph? Times Square was like a movie set, with sideways sleet illuminated by garish neon signs. Metal trash cans, propelled by the wind, scraped down the sidewalk. A rogue umbrella appeared out of the sky and hit one guy square in the chest, and I had to take shelter in a Shake Shack doorway on Ninth Avenue.
Then I found my way into DOMUS (the Latin word for home), a cheery gift shop with its inventory arranged so carefully that it seems like colors are beaming from the shelves. The list of items that fill this small store could fill a notebook, but you can expect to find a large selection of adornments, handbags, accessories, toys, tchotchkes, and much more.
Owners Luisa Cerutti and Nicki Lindheimer select goods that are handwoven or otherwise created by craftswomen in countries around the world, and everything seems chosen with care.
I realized soon after I entered that the bright spot of color gathered into a focal point in the center of the room was from the wishing tree, which Ms. Cerutti said she puts out every year during the Chinese New Year. She asks her customers to write their wishes on a piece of red paper and then hang them from branches that spread outwards from the center of the store. The gesture is intended to build community, which seems integral to the operation at DOMUS.
When I paid for my purchase, a bracelet made of tiny copper disks beaded around an elastic band and garnished with a hot pink tassel, the sales clerk behind the counter was thrilled. She had put the bracelets out just that afternoon and when she finished arranging the display, she had wished them good luck. “It’s like talking to plants,” she said. “You just need to give a little encouragement.”
Ms. Cerutti said she loved being a business-owner in the neighborhood, but was concerned about the new Target going up less than a block away. According to a recent New York Times article, Target is slated to open in 2019 as part of a block-wide construction project at 615 10th Avenue. The 29,000 square-foot discount retailer may be welcomed by many because this part of town lacks retail stores, but it’s understandable how it’s causing distress for small business owners. 413 W. 44th St., Hell’s Kitchen
Olivia Wolfe and Steph Krasnoff met in seventh grade and years later, after Wolfe had gained some experience in the art world and Krasnoff in retail, they opened American Two Shot in SoHo. The friends from Miami opened the lifestyle boutique in 2012.
Entering American Two Shot kind of feels like walking into a museum—a low-key, accessible, really colorful museum. On the Saturday afternoon I visited, the entryway was swarming with green, leafy indoor plants and a decorative cactus which, even though it was the tail-end of a snowy New York winter, somehow worked with the overall décor.
A nice mix of items are for sale here. Vintage clothing, clever greeting cards, beer koozies that say “Hold Me,” pom pom earrings; in other words, there are enough interesting things to keep you browsing for a while, but the items are not so outrageous that you won’t want to buy a little something.
For some reason, I was fixated on a drinks cooler with a clear glass door that revealed row after row of Orange LaCroix Sparkling Water. Everything in the store is so artfully arranged that I wondered if this was part of the plan—LaCroix-as-décor or something. But no, the saleswoman told me the cans of the orange drink were left over from a big event they’d recently had, and I was welcome to help myself to one if I liked. That sums up American Two Shot for me–uniquely trend-setting but also just really down-to-earth and friendly. 135 Grand St., SoHo
This modern, minimalist gift shop is located on a Lower East Side street that’s populated with equally-hip cafés and boutiques. I loved the space as soon as I walked in. I had that feeling of envious admiration I used to get in high school when a friend would convert their parents’ basement into the coolest hang-out spot in town, with the perfect number of lava lamps, the exactly right hair-band posters, and even a tiny, dingy corner bathroom so we didn’t ever have to emerge into the bright living room lights of parent-land. But rather than a basement, this was more like a converted garage, and converted uber-tastefully for that matter.
The store products are an eclectic range of items—toys for kids, upscale throw rugs, arts and craft supplies, and a whole array of things I didn’t know I needed, like a silk handkerchief embossed with the image of Ernest Hemingway’s face.
Before Top Hat opened, owner Nina Allen ran (and still runs) Sweet Bella, a wholesale company that sells items Allen hand picks on her global travels. She chooses some of her favorite things and features them at Top Hat. She hones in on handcrafted items rather than mass-produced, and presents her treasures for her customers in a boutique that also has the feeling of a very well-traveled person’s space.
I plan to keep working on my list of businesses owned by kick-ass women, so let me know what places I should check out!