above: Cotton Candy Machine
While this mecca of hip is more well known for its restaurant, bar, and music scene, Williamsburg is also home to some of the greatest shops in NYC, featuring unique craftwork, heavily-curated oddities, and amazing works of art. And cheese – lots and lots of cheese.
Cotton Candy Machine, 235 South 1st St.
No, they don’t sell cotton candy machines, but they do fire one up for art openings. What they do offer is an amazing array of prints, illustrations, books, and various toys from some of the most cutting edge artists around, many of which live right in the neighborhood. Opened by Tara McPherson and Sean Leonard, the store showcases much of McPherson’s work in the space where her studio used to reside. A stuffy boutique, this is not – the owners are some of the most gregarious and enthusiastic people you’ll meet in your life, and will gladly guide you through all the work they have in their store. Not only is their enthusiasm genuine and inspiring, they also make sure that their wares are accessible, offering affordable prints of some of the pricier oil paintings. And who knows, if you ask nicely, they might even offer you up some cotton candy. -Teddy
Earwax Records, 218 Bedford Avenue
Considering what a hang out Williamsburg has become, you would think there would be more record stores… right? Earwax reminds me of the small indie stores I used to hang out at as a teen. They have a great eclectic selection especially considering the size of the store, with a little of everything, including jazz, blues, experimental, indie, and electronic. It’s not too big, but they have all the cool necessities to get you started on or to complete a collection. They also have a nice vinyl section too; I bought a Hawkwind reissue there – hooray! Where else are you gonna find that?! This record store is curated like a gallery. They give you a well-rounded presentation of the best music throughout the decades. They also have sale and a used section so check it out next time your in the hood! -Dale
Bedford Cheese Shop, 229 Bedford Avenue
Even though I’m lactose intolerant, I cannot avoid a trip to the Bedford Cheese Shop every once in awhile. I have won the hearts of many at a party, offering gifts of their über delectable cheeses and fine cured meats. Leaving empty handed is not easy when physically weakened by all of the edible displays of sorted international cheeses, each catalogued with amusing and playful descriptions.
Their informative staff are genuinely helpful and are more than willing to tempt you with freshly sliced samples. But wait there’s more! They also carry a variety of sweets – marzipan candy bars, fresh caramels, jams and tart curds, bottled olive oils, vinegars, and pickled vegetables shelved like apothecary tonics (fitting since the store was once a pharmacy). During the summertime, they carry one of my favorite childhood treats, a chocolate-covered, oatmeal cream sandwich called “IT’S-IT” from my hometown San Francisco. It’s the care and thought that goes into the product that makes this one of my favorite Williamsburg destinations. -Aaron
Baked In Brooklyn, 242 Wythe Ave
Embrace your inner five year old at Baked In Brooklyn, a ceramic painting studio that’s also conveniently BYOB in the evenings. At this marvelous addition to the hood, you get to pick out your own plain ceramic piece, decorate it to your heart’s content and get your creative juices flowing with a bottle of wine. Pieces to paint start from $5, and on average, most plates, mugs, or cups cost about $15-$20, so you can find whatever suits you and make something cool for your apartment, boyfriend, mother, or cat. They fire and glaze it there and you can pick it up a week later. Do something different next weekend and come home with an experience to remember. -Nikki
Junk, 197 North 9th St.
If you ever find yourself wandering around Williamsburg thinking, “I sure could use a vintage clown lamp,” then head to Junk. Unlike the plethora of vintage clothing stores in the area, Junk sells exactly what its name suggests. Reminiscent of a hoarder’s basement meets flea market, you are bound to find a number of unique items –albeit covered in dirt and dust.
While their offerings can range from a vintage place settings, furniture, plastic toys, buttons, old magazines and knick-knacks, I often find myself getting lost sifting through their bins of old photographs. After one particularly lengthy dig, I came across several photos of the same house taken over the course of the last century by different owners – creepy, yet fascinating. Next time you need a chair, a matchbook cover, or salt and pepper shakers, skip the Swedish-made fiberboard products and opt for something more sturdily built with a 30 year old patina at Junk. -Meagan
The City Reliquary, 370 Metropolitan Avenue
One of New York’s most endearing and unique qualities is its constantly changing landscape. It is the reason why many of us live here and yet, at the same time, it imposes upon us a curious fascination to understand and experience New York’s past. For anyone who has spent time watching old movies that were filmed in New York just to see a snapshot of the city’s past, or who relishes a spontaneous and momentary glimpse of an old subway or store sign that has somehow escaped banishment into complete obscurity, the City Reliquary is the perfect way to indulge in the rediscovery of old New York. The small space makes maximum use of its walls with displays of old photos and objects of New York’s past, from old souvenirs of the World’s Fair, to leftover pieces from old subway cars, to an entertaining story about Little Egypt, New York’s most famous belly dancer at the turn of the century. The City Reliquary is quite small and perfect for taking a short break from shopping or as follow-up to a weekend brunch. -Nancy
While you’re in Williamsburg, stop by our original store at Bedford and N.8th, and our Outlet store at Broadway and Driggs.