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THE WINNER: DOMUS
“Luisa and Nikki are so welcoming and people-intuitive,” says Kathleen, of the two owners of Domus, the winner of Hell’s Kitchen’s best store in our Best of HK awards.
“While it is a beautiful and elegant shop with merch that the discriminating buyer will not find elsewhere,” she continued, “its owners immediately make one feel at home and welcome. Nikki and Luisa are excellent examples of why we want and need independent retail.”
Elaine agrees. “When I need a gift, I always go to Domus – no matter who it’s for, I can always find exactly what I need. I’ve bought Manhattan tea towels and simple but yummy candles; luxurious linens and a unique, beautiful necklace; and many vegan handbags and purses for friends and myself.
“I’ve bought lovely baby and kid items – some of the books are so great, I can’t help but add them to my teacher collection.
“There is never a day that goes by that I am not wearing earrings that come from Domus, or drying myself on their super-soft Tunisian towels, or using my Domus bag or purse. And I love that nearly every item in their shop comes with a story, whether it’s the place they travelled to and picked it up, or about the artist themselves.
“However, what I love more than anything in the shop are the owners themselves. They really do care about you and who you are buying for. They are among the sweetest, most thoughtful and loving human beings I know. They have met all my dear friends and family as no one comes to visit me without a visit to Domus.”
“I first moved to this neighborhood about five years ago,” says Jennifer, “and came upon the store as a happy little surprise off the main stretches of 9th and 10th Ave. It had such a charming window display and livened up the block (I still remember what caught my eye – an embroidered pillow featuring a cow with a flower crown in the style of Frida Kahlo, if you can believe it). There are so few small stores left anywhere in Manhattan, it really made my day to see it there.
“Over the years, it’s been my go-to for charming presents and happy little knick-knacks and cards for friends and family of all ages. I’ve purchased gifts for new babies, for my growing niece, and have even found gifts for relatives as obscure as my step-mother-in-law.
“The owners are kind as can be. Whether your purchase is big or small, they are always gracious and warm and treat you with personalized care, with absolutely zero sales pressure. They even still offer gift wrapping.”
Domus, W44th St – 9th/10th Ave
RUNNER UP: DELPHINIUM HOME
“Delphinium Home is my go-to store for unique gifts and cards,” says Elisha. “It’s also the best place to go if you don’t want to give your friends the same same-sex wedding card that they’ll be getting from everyone else (there are actual choices).
“During the pandemic shutdown, I saw a mug in Delphinium’s window. It said, ‘Bitch please, I’m from Hell’s Kitchen.’ The week they reopened, I went there and got that mug. It felt like a victory for both me and Delphinium.”
Delphinium Home, W47th St – 8th/9th Ave
RUNNER UP: FINE & DANDY
“I could go on for days about Fine & Dandy,” says Nico. “I love the mix of their original collections and vintage items, there is always something new each time I go into the store. This year, I love how they have taken a very old school item like the neckerchief and made it relevant to 2020 with modern patterns. The quality of their items is hard to come by anywhere else – I’ve been wearing one of their belts almost every day for the past year and it still looks brand new. Also, I’m always burning their candles.
“Lastly, and most importantly, Matt and Enrique really create a welcoming atmosphere. Every time I go in, we end up chatting for the longest time. They know I went to Columbia, so every time they get any Columbia vintage items, they set them aside to show me for the next time I come. You don’t feel like a customer coming into a shop when you go to Fine & Dandy, you feel like a friend visiting a very tastefully designed living room.”
Fine & Dandy, W49th St – 9th/10th Ave
RUNNER UP: NOVEMBER 19
“I love November 19, because the owner/manager Clark sells a lot of products from France and from Japan,” says Francois, “and I’m biracial/bicultural French and Japanese, so his selection of products always speaks to me. Also, Clark is super friendly, so I always like to visit and have a little chat with him. The store is so cute too.
“Clark has done an incredible job sourcing and curating the most unique, charming, thoughtful gifts and decor,” adds Jack, “and the store is unlike anything else in the neighborhood. There is something there for anyone and everyone, and it’s presented in a way that feels inspirational and aspirational. Though the store is small, it is most definitely mighty. It is so easy to discover any one of the treasures there, whether it be a gorgeous, hand-crafted item from abroad, or a thoughtfully sourced vintage piece that you’ve been looking for all along and could never find it. It truly is one of the hidden gems in the neighborhood, and it couldn’t be run by a nicer man.”
November 19, W49th St – 9th/10th Ave
HONORABLE MENTION: VERITAS STUDIO WINES
“Veritas’ staff are so knowledgeable and willing to share that knowledge,” says Beth. “They have a wonderful selection of wines, instead of just the same old bottles you see at most other shops. Plus, it offers ‘Mystery Mondays’ which are a bargain and so much fun. It includes mystery wines valued up to $32 that are not quite perfect any more (eg wines with a slightly stained or ripped label) which are then sold, sight unseen, for $10 with the purchase of another wine. I’ve stumbled on some marvelous finds this way.”
Veritas Studio Wines, W45th St – 10th/11th Ave
For more of Hell’s Kitchen’s Hot 100, see the rundown of the neighborhood’s Best Pizzas and Best Burgers.