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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” or so the song goes. But is it though?
I think so, and I want to take a moment to celebrate the good that has happened this year, ‘cause Lord knows we hear about the bad on a daily basis.
Since being locked in our homes, many of us have learned new skills, connected with old friends and family, got in touch with our inner selves, danced like no one is watching, rid ourselves of unnecessary things (physically & emotionally), maybe even started a new at-home business, and so much more.
I want to say, and maybe no one has told you yet, I’m proud of us. Navigating this year hasn’t been easy and now with the time change and the cold weather we are going to have to work a little harder to keep our spirits alive. This holiday season will be no easy feat, whether you celebrate all the things or nothing at all.
This is where I come in! As your local W42ST foodie, Christmas Elf, and unofficial Mayor emeritus of Hell’s Kitchen I wanted to spread some love and cheer and bring you the best of the best products from all of the shops we know and love in our neighborhood to ease the stress of holiday gift buying!
The stress of the holidays can be immense – even more so with everything that is happening in the world around us. Plus these small businesses have been hurt badly and with things closing daily, we can’t afford to lose more of the places we love in our neighborhood.
Before I stop jabbering I want to mention that these are most, not all, of my favorite things/places. This neighborhood has so much to offer that if I listed everyone and everything this article would be miles long. The point here is to remind you that perhaps right around the block from you there may be the perfect gift for your drunk Aunt Sally! So get your clicking fingers ready and your credit cards warm, because without further ado I present the Michael Muñoz 2020 Holiday Gift Guide!
You So Fine… And Dandy!
Fine & Dandy – Tucked into the cutest little place on 49th Street, this store is the perfect shop for that vintage, dapper person in your life. From spats to socks, handkerchiefs to suspenders, solid perfumes and much more, there is no not finding the perfect gift in this store! Plus shopkeepers Matt Fox and Enrique Crame III are the cutest! My faves are the little flower lapel pins. Hint Hint…
Scorpio Vibes All Around!
November 19 – Who knew 49th Street was such a hotspot for great gifts? This really cute and curated shop brings you the best in home and lifestyle goods from around the world. The fashions and Mr. Chung Incense are a complete vibe. So why not check them out and add to Uncle Bill’s floral shirt collection?
Nothing Like A Well-Stocked Pantry!
Amy’s Bread & Pantry – A few years ago, our beloved neighborhood bakery opened a “pantry” to the best in meats, cheeses, jams, and more. Nothing soothes the soul more than comfort eating by the Netflix Yule Log while listening to the dulcet tones of Karen Carpenter. Call Amy, tell her I sent you (although it won’t get you far), and send a curated basket to Grandma. Plus you can’t experience your family’s lactose issues via Zoom! Everyone wins!
A Pop, or Two, or Three or Four of Color!
Domus – I never knew I needed a handwoven runner from Guatemala and an inlaid wood box from Morocco until I entered this mecca of home goods. Run by two very beautiful ladies, this is another neighborhood one-stop-shop for all of your holiday needs. Being the Christmas Elf that I am, I’m especially drawn to the beautiful glass ornaments of all your favorite power women!
Extra Caffeine For The Boring Zoom Meeting!
St. Kilda Coffee – In this neighborhood, you can’t throw a snowball without hitting a coffee shop. Everyone has their favorite and it is no secret that St. Kilda is mine. Besides the fact that the owner, Artie, is the nicest person (and really easy on the eyes!), the coffee is exceptional. They are super coffee nerds and you definitely need to stock up for yourself and perhaps buy some for that friend/employee who’s always late! Go in, grab a pound of curated, small-batch coffee, a mug, a Chemex, and VOILA! Instant coffee lover’s gift basket!
Walking On Sunshine or Dog Poop?
Walking Manhattan Sideways – You know as well as I do that we have had nothing but time to catch up on our reading. This beautifully written and stunning ode to Manhattan by Betsy Bober Polivy is the perfect coffee table book for a neighbor who is homebound – or your New York and history obsessed Uncle Bob who can’t wait to get back to see Times Square.
P.S. I’m Vegan!
P.S. Kitchen – Remember hosting dinner parties? They were such fun but sometimes stressful, especially when there was that one person, I’m talking to you Cousin Forest, who recently proclaimed they were vegan or eating plant-based. Like many other eateries, P.S. Kitchen was hit hard when the pandemic struck. The difference here is that their business model is to give 100% of profits to sustainable and charitable work locally and overseas. Help them out and stay in Cousin Forest’s good graces by purchasing their “Good Gifts” box! This is a healthy eater’s dream!
Leaf Me, Leaf Me! Say That You Leaf Me!
Leaf Me – This is the cutest plant company and I am going to need several. If you’ve been following social media trends, it seems like everyone these days is a “Plant Dad” or “Plant Mom” or “Plant Person” and now you too can join in the fun! Leaf Me delivers the best and most adorable “carbon-dioxide thieves” straight to your door. You can personalize them with your favorite Headspace mantra for that extra self-love moment. These would be a great gift for that lady downstairs who always sits by the window.
Oh There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays
Delphinium Home – Another glorious gift catch-all in our beautiful neighborhood, Delphinium Home offers the best in traditional and sometimes non-traditional gifts. Their card selection is superb and always a go-to for me. Are Uncle Fred or Aunt Genevieve super difficult to buy for? Well, their eclectic selection has got you covered for sure! When you check out, be sure to throw in one of those really amazing pine-scented candles in your bag for me!
Come And Read Those Dancing Feats!
W42ST – Your favorite neighborhood media source for everything from food to news, and even gossip at times, has had to step ball change along with everyone else this year. Phil, Ruth (you are missed!), and I (on occasion) kept the news coming your way and are still keeping you informed daily through this entire ordeal! Why not show your W42st pride by buying everyone on your list a really cute Cover Page Mug? Pair it with the coffeemaker & coffee from St. Kilda and it’s an entire mood! #MindBlown!
A Lip Schmackin’ Good Time!
Schmackary’s – The minute this beloved cookie shop hit the scene, the neighborhood was changed for the better! Drunk late at night and want a cookie? There’s Schmackary’s! Need a cute place to meet that Tindr date? Schmackary’s it is! Niece and nephew a pain in the butt? Appease them with Schmackary’s! Everyone, big and small, Broadway to local has embraced this adorable cookie store, and now you can give Great Aunt Evelyn the cookie box of her dreams! Or why not send a box to those cousins out in Indianapolis to remind them of the last time they were in the city? There’s a gift card option too!
In Yo What?!?
In Yo Mouth – You may know that I run the only LGBTQ food podcast on the airwaves, called In Yo Mouth. A podcast is the new form of talk radio, but on the internet. In Yo Mouth not only brings you the best in food news but also tells the stories of LGBTQ people through a food lens. My podcast celebrates the best of LGBTQ people in food. Recently, I have worked my tuchus off to put out some cute fan merchandise to help support this passion project and it is now available! Woo-Hoo! So why not introduce your recently out Cousin Vinny to a hot new podcast and buy him some fan merch? There’s a fun T-shirt with a hand-drawn version of your favorite foodie on it! Give one to everyone this holiGAY (yup I said it) season!
Well, there you have it folks, a curated list of some of the best right in your own backyard. If none of this tickled your fancy, remember you can always buy restaurant gift cards – because they still have rent to pay and it’ll be nice to have in your back pocket when we can go out and dine again safely. Remember, if this year has taught us anything, it is to be kind to one another, help whomever you can, give however you can and, most importantly, self-love and mental health are the best kinds of love and health. If you are alone this holiday season, I implore you to do something amazing for yourself. Make a meal! Go for a long walk or run. Video call your best friend. Take a luxurious bath. Dance the entire day away. Reach out if the holiday blues get to be too much. You are not alone.
Happy Holidays from my 120 sq ft of Midtown to yours.