Tender Buttons

In a neighborhood dominated by Bloomingdales and other big retail stores, there is one shop around the corner on East 62nd Street that defines a different type of high-end shopping. The shop Tender Buttons between Lexington and Third Avenue shifts the priorities of value by emphasizing not on the mass-manufactured, bigger-is-better attitude, but on the personalization of the things that matter — buttons.

The slim, brownstone building reveals a charming window display beneath one large button that used to be pink, but now glimmers in gold. This signature button is the logo of Tender Buttons and is also one of the many millions of buttons sold in the store. The narrow interior houses countless buttons ranging from the 17th century to the present day, and all of the furniture in the store is also antique, including the desks the clients can sit at to sift through buttons and find a perfect match.

The Tender Button’s building itself also has a rather storied past, and is one of the narrowest in Manhattan at 12.6 feet wide. In 1929, Dorothy Caruso, the widow of Enrique Caruso, set up the Dorothy Caruso Reproducing Studio in this building, making personal phonographs–a precursor to the modern recording studio. Interestingly, she catered to more than music–recording anything from a greeting to a sales letter. The space was renovated in 1950 and a home decor store moved in. This area remains a mini-enclave for home decor stores and of-course, unique shops like Tender Buttons.

For more on the shop, read the rest of our previous Tender Buttons profile: Cute As a Button: the story of Tender Buttons.

Jan’s Hobby Shop

A whimsical treat for anyone walking along Lexington Avenue just before the 96th street station is a quick (or maybe lengthy) stop in Jan’s Hobby Shop in Yorkville. The shop, which is filled mostly with miniatures of all types– model trains, planes (allegedly over 1,000) boats and toy soldiers– along with other activities such as paints and puzzles, is almost as quirky as the face of the shop– Collette Hutchins.

Colette, the very French mother of Fred Hutchins, greets guests with a thick accent of the Lorraine region (the Lorraine dialect being one of four languages she speaks, she might add) and ice-blue eyeshadow while Fred works away in the back, hand-assembling each and every model you see in the store. It was Fred who prompted his parents to buy the shop’s first location– the prior home to the York Avenue hobby-shop–when he was a teenager back in 1973. Though they moved to their current location on Lexington in 2003 for more room than their old shop could provide, the cozy essence of Jan’s remains the same. According to a New York Magazine article, the shop both “attracts hobbyists and parents eager to tear their children away from the television. Many even arrange with (Fred) Hutchins to have model-building birthday parties for up to 10 kids in the store’s dusty dungeon (his only rule: no food).”

Check out Jan’s Monday through Saturday, 10 AM – 6:30 PM or Sunday’s, 12 – 5. Just be prepared to say “goodbye” along with au revoir and Auf Wiedersehen as well on your way out the door.