Where To Buy Books, Toys & More This Holiday Season

help the uws stay strong

At Stationery and Toy World, 125 West 72nd Street

I’m back with a few ideas as to where you can spend your holiday money on the Upper West Side. See my previous post for the impact that our holiday dollars could make if we all commit to shopping local!

You’ll note that not all of the stores on this list are mom and pops. While locally-owned small businesses are certainly where we should start, if anything good can come from the loss of Century 21, it’s the realization that no business, no matter how big, is immune from the challenges facing the economy today. We need to support all of our local businesses, big and small, as our larger businesses also draw more people to the neighborhood who spend more while they are here.


So here are a few ideas for your local holiday spending:


Book stores have a storied past (and present) on the Upper West Side. We love them, we adore them, we even have treasured movies about them. That means that we can NOT go in them to peruse and then click on Amazon to save a few bucks. I recently did the opposite: I bought five books at Shakespeare and Co., and afterwards checked how much money it would have saved if I bought them on Amazon. $4.

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I’d say that’s worth the price of admission for this gem and others like it. So please visit (and actually buy your books) at Shakespeare & Co., The Strand (it’s pinch-worthy that they’ve come to the ‘hood), Books of Wonder (for kids books and the most knowledgeable staff in the business), and Westsider Rare & Used Books (perfect for the true bibliophile or collector on your list, as well as for your book donations). Even our local Barnes and Noble needs our support. In non-COVID times they draw some good authors and speakers, and there’s no telling how the AMC across the street is going to stay in business, so we need to support those big spaces on that block of Broadway in the 80s.


Given the sudden disappearance of in-person birthday parties, our local toy stores are in dire need of our support. And for any parent who has needed a birthday gift at 10 a.m. for the 11 a.m. party, if you want these stores around, we need to support them now. Favorites include Stationery and Toy World on 72nd near Columbus (they survived Hurricane Sandy, when much of their inventory supply on Staten Island was flooded). There’s also West Side Kids on 84th and Amsterdam. The aforementioned bookstores also have tons of great kids’ gifts and stocking stuffers. Flying Tiger (set to close on 11/20), Paper Source and craft store Michael’s are all great options too.

Athletic Gear

Great options for fitness wear including Jackrabbit on 72nd (I hear they have great running masks) and Super Runners Shop on Columbus and 77th (they introduced me to my new favorite brand of fitness wear, Vuori). It’s also a great chance to support your favorite (empty) fitness studios like Pure Barre, which has great brands of athleisure wear like Alo. And of course Athleta, Lululemon, and Gap all have fitness wear; the loss of Modell’s is another reminder that even the big guys need our support.

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Given so many of us have worked from home for the last seven months, it’s safe to say that people on your gift list may be in need of some updated personal wear. Silk kimonos anyone? A few great places to visit include Town Shop (best bra fitting in town, amazing bathing suits, and we almost lost them at the beginning of the quarantine!), Only Hearts (they also have lots of small great gift items) and Laina Jane. The disappearance of Bra Smyth from the UWS should again be an incentive to support these local spots. This isn’t something you want to have to buy online.


Supply chains are up and running again and bikes are back in stock (for now?). Whatever you do, don’t buy online but instead support one of our three amazing bicycle shops who have struggled with inventory issues. Togo (NYC’s oldest and largest bike store), Bicycle Renaissance (going on 40 years strong!), and Master Bike on 72nd Street. It’s not a small purchase, so it will get you to your $500 local holiday spending goal pretty quickly. But great for a child or the active partner in your life!

So hopefully that’s enough to get you started on your local holiday shopping. More ideas and suggestions coming soon! If you want to track your spending in an anonymous 5 second google poll, you can do so here. Please send other suggestions we should include in these updates!

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