Favorite shops

by sunshine

Many of us have mentioned paying our cleaners, tipping extra-generously and supporting our local shops. Which of those shops are hidden gems that rise to the level that even people from other places would adore? Give them a shout-out on here, perhaps even with sharing with us what your favorite things are from the shop. Many of these shops have worked hard to figure out an online platform….maybe we can find some unique treats or gifts and show some totebag love to these businesses.

If there’s a special backstory for your love of the shop or how you discovered it, please tell us about that too.

73 thoughts on “Favorite shops

  1. Thanks to LfB, I’ve discovered Chocolat Moderne. Dangerous for your waistline but great as a gift or treat for yourself. Excellent, personal customer service. Based in Manhattan but ships nationally.


    We also support local bookstores and a local baking supply store, but the locations/websites are a bit too revealing for this site.

  2. Chocolat Moderne in NYC: DH was randomly searching for chocolate shops, and this one was near where we were planning to go that day, and BOY was it a hit. I will be ordering stuff from them for Christmas presents for people for sure. I particularly adore their 9-piece squares with caramels inside — I go for their dark chocolate with smoked caramel, but their passionfruit/white chocolate one is amazing, and I don’t even like white chocolate.

    John & Kira’s: I like Chocolat Moderne’s chocolates better, but John & Kira’s honey bees are something else. This is probably my dad’s favorite thing that I ever got him.

    Ooni pizza ovens: DH ran across them in an article on Wired. They were the right price point for “who knows if it will be worth it” ($250), so we got one. Hands-down the best total flyer I’ve ever taken for that amount of money. We’ve had it up and running for @2 weeks now and used it maybe 3 times. I was able to put it together myself in 5 minutes. We got the one that is fired by wood pellets; they also have ones designed to hook up to a propane tank. This thing gets up well over 900 degrees and cooks a pizza in about a minute. The best part is that with the no-knead dough recipe I got online (literally 5 minutes work the night before), it’s less than an hour from setup through cleanup — light the oven as you’re portioning out the dough and setting up the toppings, by the time it’s up to temp in 15 minutes you’re ready to go, and then scrape/wipe the countertop and stick the leftover toppings back in tupperware while you let the oven burn itself out. Last time it took 45 minutes — so basically like a normal quick weeknight dinner — and was WAY more family fun than what we normally do on a weeknight. Warning: they are back-ordered, so if you want one by Christmas, shop now.

  3. I always learn about places from you when we talk about shopping since I am the most reluctant shopper in the world, I’m lazy, cheap, and I don’t like to browse. In addition to perennially trying to limit the amount of great tasting and enjoyable stuff I eat that bottom line is not particularly healthy.

    I do buy direct from an upstate NY farmer (meats) from time to time but I have not been getting his emails re delivery dates for a while.

  4. Kerri – thanks for mentioning the coffee. Needed to order and wanted to try a new place for sourcing Kona.

  5. I like to patronize etsy craft shops. One I go back to again and again is Flax of Life for those grain filled microwaveable neck wraps. The kitten knocked over and shattered my midcentury vintage ceramic pepper mill, so I just ordered a hand turned wooden salt and pepper mill set from Dailey Woodworking, but can’t report back on that yet. I patronize independent local merchants, in my town or next ones over, as much as possible, but beyond personal and medical services, hardware, baked goods, or specialty foods, there isnt much that is offered for sale that way. I used to buy local art or handmade clothing or jewelry on my travels.

  6. And I will be ordering myself some Cougar Gold cheese

    I second this – we bought some when we were up there last year. It’s too bad there’s no way to ship the WSU ice cream, that was truly outstanding.

  7. Cougar Gold

    That sounds like one of the color options for LfB’s water aerobics swim cap.

    I’ll stop now.

  8. Thanks, Rhett — I’m scrolling through on a Management Committee Zoom call right now, and now I have to make up a story for why I burst out laughing for no reason whatsoever.

  9. I love the cold brew from Mongos Coffee. I discovered this place when I was visiting a sick relative at a nearby hospital. It is far from my house so I started ordering the cold brew beans directly from Mongos.

    I have bunch of everyday (costume) jewelry from Allison Daniel jewelry. I was able to take road trips to her studio before covid. She also designs real jewelry and I have a couple of beautiful pendants that are real stones/gold/silver. She will also custom make any chain or piece even it isn’t an expensive piece. For example, she once cut a $18 chain to fit my neck. She usually runs a 20% off sale on everything from now through the holidays. She has great style and ideas if you have a dress or event (some day!) that you need to match some accessories.

  10. I wish Risley was around more, but this place is great for food gifts.

    As a life long NYer, I have shipped many packages from Zabars when friends are in need of some bagels or other true NY products. They also have good coffee and their prices for shipping are more reasonable vs some other food places.

    You can’t go wrong with either place if you want to ship food to anyone at any time in the US. Both stores are adored by the locals in AA and NY, but they are reliable and they take pride in their products so even the shipped products are the originals.

    for candy, both of these places are great. They have all of the old favorites plus new candy. It isn’t the level of Chocolate Moderne, but lots of childhood favorites.


  11. Ok, I just went to Friday’s post to catch up.

    First of all, thanks to Lauren for that list of resources, which has been securely stored. You and Mooshi are right that it’s getting late to apply for next year. DS doesn’t think he’ll be ready start to begin to be serious about the process until after Dec 15, which is why I’ve decided not to support him in trying to get into a US college in the fall. It’s totally normal not to do anything for a German university until spring. Either way, I see a gap year in his future. He doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing with US universities, and he’d want to do a year of German before starting German university. So I’m switching my energy to reminding him of appropriate steps for enrollment fall of 2022 and finding good gap year options. I’m sure he might think I’m the a-hole until he tries to send in some applications on his own good time and finds out for himself that he’s too late.

    Speaking of who’s the a-hole, Laura, yikes! My tack would be to really emphasize your agreement with SiL on the importance of FiL’s health, all the things you’re (not) doing during the run-up so your guests will be safe, and making an opening for her to suggest safety precautions during the event. We are doing a bit of that ourselves, trying to convince my mom to let us visit over Christmas.

    And now I see where the Laura does water aerobics thing came from. Awesome sauce.

  12. SM: I’d hate to write off college applications as an option for your son right now. Given COVID, I think your DS still is well within the window of opportunity. Not every kid applies early.

  13. Shhh…I have tried Zingerman’s baked goods and found them lacking. This is speaking as a baking nerd though.

  14. S&M, I’d suggest he apply to some schools. He can take a gap year whether or not he has acceptances and there is little harm in practicing applications.

    If he thinks he might want a career in politics or law, then he probably should consider a school near a state capital. That narrows the towns down to 50. If he has an idea of no goes….size, climate, whatever that narrows the list as well.

    Throw out some applications. The worst that can happen is the school says no. Rejections happen all the time. It happens to everyone.

    It may happen that come May a school he wants has accepted him. Yay. Off he goes to start the next phase of life.

    Also, lots of kids go to college without knowing exactly what they want. This is ok. It is also common to work in a field different than one’s degree, This is also ok.

    In the words on my diseration advisor, “Don’t worry about getting it right, get it written.”

  15. SM – Re: visiting parents for Christmas, were you able to get your passports back? Maybe I missed that story?

  16. Cass, maybe I’m just being selfish here. When we got here, he was depressed. Since then it’s been one thing after another, mostly new schools and now Covid, that have kept us from traveling and enjoying our city like I hoped to. I see no reason for him to have to rush off to college. Seems entirely possible to me for him to grow and learn and not fall entirely off the path while spending a year doing some kind of internship(s). I completely agree with you that knowing what you want to do is not required before going to university in the US the way it is in Germany. That’s what gen ed requirements are for, as I’ve argued on here many times.

  17. @SM: why the focus on “support” or “not support” any particular decision? Just the way that is phrased strikes me, because DD was the kind of kid who would absolutely bristle at any helpful “suggestions” from me, and would then have to do the opposite to prove her independence. What worked with us was when I stopped talking about the decision itself, and just made it clear that I supported *her* no matter how it turned out — that is, I made it her problem to solve, and I was just her emotional support animal along the way.

    (It’s still happening, btw: I made the mistake of suggesting a study abroad program that would have meshed well with her major/minors AND used her Spanish, and now she is determined to go to the opposite side of the globe from the one I suggested. You’d think I’d learn.)

  18. There is certainly time left to get college applications in, since a lot of regular admit deadlines are not until January/February. And I agree that lots of kids head off to college not knowing what they are going to major in. Usually, though, kids have some kind of opinion on something – maybe the kid isn’t sure if she wants to major in business or a liberal arts major, but she want to go to a school with Greek life. Or she is interested in engineering but isn’t sure so she wants a school with a wide range of majors beyond engineering. Maybe the kid wants to go to school out West, or wants a school with a great athletics program, or wants a very tiny supportive liberal arts college. Usually there is *something*. But what I see here, from your description at least, is a kid who has absolutely no idea what kind of school, what programs he might be interested in, geographic region,or anything else, and who also doesn’t seem to be very eager to figure it out. He may simply be overwhelmed by the sheer variety of schools and options out there. It is hard to tell. To me, that is a sign of a kid who needs to take some more time.

  19. I can’t really think of very many local, nonchain stores here that I frequent. There is a nice cheese store that has great selection and employed my kid to work the farmers market. We have a great soda and beer distributor with a huge beer selection (soda and beer distributors are a weird NY thing that I haven’t seen in other states), and a fantastic brewery with a tasting room and outside tables that is close enough that I can walk to it. But largely our stores are either chains or these sort of odd old school places with long standing traditions I don’t fully understand (the place that evidently outfitted generations of local kids for summer camp, for example, which is now closing – I went there once, and didn’t see anything I liked).

  20. SM – is it easy to get an internship ? Is a job an option for the gap year ? To my mind there has to be a plan to fill the time during the gap year.

  21. I haven’t purchased yet but I’ve come across some Etsy shops that offer handmade and custom-made shoes. Beautiful colors and some soft leathers. Not a priority now, but I do plan to try them out. By chance has anyone bought Etsy shoes?

  22. “There is certainly time left to get college applications in, since a lot of regular admit deadlines are not until January/February.”

    There are lots of schools that have deadlines well past that, although if he’ll be considered an international student, that may not be the case for him.

    E.g., local flagship deadlines are May 1 for US applicants, Feb 1 for international applicants.

    “But what I see here, from your description at least, is a kid who has absolutely no idea what kind of school, what programs he might be interested in, geographic region,or anything else, and who also doesn’t seem to be very eager to figure it out. He may simply be overwhelmed by the sheer variety of schools and options out there. It is hard to tell. To me, that is a sign of a kid who needs to take some more time.”

    OTOH, perhaps he might benefit from the practical experience of just diving in somewhere, and using real experience to determine some of his preferences.

  23. because DD was the kind of kid who would absolutely bristle at any helpful “suggestions” from me, and would then have to do the opposite to prove her independence.

    That’s my DD as well. She got it from her father. :)

  24. We occasionally pull out and enjoy the candles my son got his first year here from the Homesick candle company, designed to smell like specific places.

  25. “Cass, maybe I’m just being selfish here. When we got here, he was depressed. Since then it’s been one thing after another, mostly new schools and now Covid, that have kept us from traveling and enjoying our city like I hoped to. I see no reason for him to have to rush off to college.”

    Yes, could be selfish.
    You may be giving him the idea that Mom wants to have him around for another year as a travel buddy. If so, then he will feel very guilty about making any moves at all towards college in the US.

  26. MM, that store was my camp store when I was a kid!! It is sad that they are closing, but there are more modern versions of the old army navy store that kids and families prefer in 2020. I took DD there before her first summer of camp and she hated it even though they sell the same stuff as the two trendier stores that are popular now. You have to know how to shop that store and you are right that they don’t make it easy.

    I like a local woman’s clothing store that has a second location in your town. It is across from the train and I buy a lot of gifts in their original location because the store is much larger.

  27. Lauren, are summer-long camps like you went to and your daughter goes to as popular as they used to be?

  28. There is a clothing store across from the train? I am trying to picture this. Across from the train,there is a “healthy” Chinese takeout, a pizza place, a drugstore, an Irish bar-restaurant, a dog grooming place, and a fancy bakery. Oh, and a Mexican restaurant, and further up there is a shoe repair.

  29. Lauren, see you are old school Westchester! I am a mere outsider, and since I never went to sleepaway summer camp nor knew anyone who did, the fashions don’t speak to me. When my kids were little I mainly shopped Lands End and LLBean for them, as well as Kmart.

    We like that mini chain variety store that has all the holiday decor set up outside. It is a drugstore but we call it the “stuff store”. Everyone here gets their school supplies there because they have the lists from the local schools, and will pull all the stuff together for you. You come in, tell them which grade and which school, and 2 days later you pick it all up. See, I can do shopping traditions too!

  30. My favorite local children’s bookstore – https://www.wildrumpusbooks.com/let-wild-rumpus-start
    It’s the type of place that has a little 4 foot tall door for kids, a few cats and a chicken roam around. They have chinchillas and hamsters, and in Before Times story time. Along with a used book section so kids can go in with $2 in their pocket and buy a book. This place is a treasure.

  31. We have very few independent retailers left. We do have chain store locations that have been here at least since we moved and DD would be very sad if the local Hallmark and Michael’s ceased to exist. I went to my local Target after months and it has undergone a make over. It looks good but I couldn’t find items right away. I then realized that the store was brand new when we moved here twelve years ago and it was time for a makeover.

  32. Lemon Tree, a chicken in a bookstore? Is there an employee who just cleans up after it all day?

    There are more malls and chai stores here than there used to be, including some malls by US corporations, but indie stores still get support, including in Corona packages. I’m glad. The other day I went to the cobbler to pick up my boots, but didn’t have my ticket with me. Silly banter ensued, starting with him asking me to repeat part of what I’d told him about the boots when I dropped them off. Later he told me to discard the ticket if I found it. I told him no, I was going to bring it in and demand more shoes. He said they kept some on hand, right over there, for just such situations. I realize this is by no means this important part of having small, locally-owned shops, but it’s a part I enjoy. And I love the stationary stores with their fountain pen displays and angle sheets of wrapping paper, in contrast to the overstuffed, overly utilitarian office and school supply chain stores. I haven’t bought many clothes this year, because I want to only get them from regional makers, and haven’t wanted to brave the Covid streets to find shops that carry them, but I’ll get there eventually.

  33. “We like that mini chain variety store that has all the holiday decor set up outside. It is a drugstore but we call it the “stuff store”.”

    That’s a great store, with another location in the next village. They sell some basic camp supplies, toys, party supplies, and other good stuff. It’s like an old five-and dime. I can get thread, ping pong balls, shampoo, etc. for example. I have no idea where else I would go to buy thread.

    The local hardware store is another gem. It seems my H is there a couple of times a week, picking up small odds and ends. We feel very lucky to have that option instead of having to drive to Home Depot or Lowes. And I can drop off my Amazon UPS returns there!

  34. The hardware store owner is a longtime member of the same church we go to. I remember his kids, who were a little older than mine, in the Thanksgiving and Easter pageants with my kids. We still stay friendly. The former mayor of the village that I think you officially live in was also in our church. They wrote recommendation letters for us when we adopted DD.

  35. And the stuff store – where else can you pick up cleaning supplies, ugly sweatpants, hair dye, Lego kits, earrings, and giant Christmas inflatables all at the same store!

  36. Follow-up from yesterday: FWIW, my Thanksgiving issue has self-resolved (not unexpectedly). Two of SIL’s son’s friends just tested positive, so they are backing out.* Meanwhile, my friend is not sure they will make it, since she can’t pick up her kid from school until W, and kid may well want to just hole up at home. So it may be back to just us and maybe FIL (assuming he feels safe to come, which he probably will). And food to survive WWIII.

    *All the angst over safety and my one friend, while she’s letting her kid go to in-person teen events that even my dumb-ass 15-yr-old knows are a bad idea, has generated an eye-roll of epic proportions. But whatever. Not my circus, not my monkeys.

  37. In a number of our chains we have stable employees. So my weekly Walgreens pharmacy visits and or shots include the same assistant and pharmacist. For years the same mentally challenged fellow ran the cash register. The local hardware stores have ACE or TrueValue affiliations, but they are still the same local ownership with the magic back rooms that have every little thing some where. Even many of chain restaurants are small regional chains. One continued to employ our long time waiter (until covid) a couple of weekday lunches even after a stroke reduced his effectiveness. The service businesses, hair, nail, face, dry cleaner, tailor, cookie shop, vet, my docs, dentist, shoemaker are all local shops. I admire a desire to purchase regionally made clothing and shoes, but it is impractical for me unless I engage a dressmaker, which expense is ridiculous to incur at my life stage. Ordering appliances, buying watches, toys, etc., from the local specialty retailer, as many have described, works for me, too, but if I want to support independent craftsmen or small food purveyors that is pretty much online. The eclectic shops run by creative women of a certain age that used to fill in the storefronts have mostly disappeared over the years in all but vacation destinations..

  38. Laura, glad the circus is staying away, hope the ILs & friend have those cases that’s just enough to make them rethink the things they’ve been doing.

    Meme, I’m still negotiating my definition of “local” for this purpose—does the felted wool vest from Italy that I got at a weekly market count? How about things designed in Berlin but made elsewhere in the EU? Anywhere in the EU has similar labor laws but further transit distance—how do I feel about that? Etc, etc. At the very least, this uncertainty has me greatly reducing my consumption of anything to wear besides Uniqlo heat tech, on which I’ve spent close to $300 this year for my son & me.

  39. If you embarrass easily, skip to the next comment.

    My BiL turns 60 early next year. For Christmas, or maybe just before his birthday, I’m thinking of giving my sister the following present, with a note along the lines of “he’s old, not dead”. The other sister has told me her husband doesn’t like sexy, & they’d rather not talk about it. This is the sister whose husband borrowed my Barry White CD & never returned it & once asked my assistance in picking out something at Victoria’s Secret. I’ve gotten her a chemise & robe, satiny babydoll, and similar over the years, and believe they were appreciated.

    I happen to know he likes the look of over the knee socks, the kind featured in tawdry “schoolgirl” looks and countless sexy Halloween costumes. I do not want to do that to my sister. The present would be some of those socks along with a tunic sweater, crochet shorts (like beach shorts) and a knit hat. Everything would be something she could wear out in the world, even as an ensemble of she’d sub jeans for the shorts.

    What do long-term married people of the totebag think of this idea?

  40. I might skip the shorts and just do a sweater dress with the socks & hat

    L, I assume you intend that the same way you once suggested Mary Janes with high, skinny heels?

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