The Upper East Side is well loved for its leafy streets, excellent schools, and world-class museums, but it also happens to be a shopper’s paradise. Quieter than the luxury corridors of Midtown, the East 90s are home to a charming array of independent book shops, old-fashioned candy stores, and chic home accessories boutiques. New residents of The Kent condominiums who are in search of home decor inspiration, special treats for kids, or a thoughtful birthday present need not venture far: Carnegie Hill’s retail offerings are distinctive, tasteful, and bound to please.
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d somehow landed in the South of France when you visit Bonpoint at 1269 Madison Avenue. Inside this exclusive children’s boutique, the weathered, wide-plank floors offer a clue to the atelier’s refined aesthetic: you won’t find any hot pink or spangles here. The clothes and shoes for infants, boys, and girls are sweet but also sophisticated and come in subtle hues like slate, crushed berry, gray, and tan. Exquisite party dresses for girls feature delicate embroidery, frills, and traditional smocking, while boys will find blazers, sensible wool sweaters, and Bermuda shorts. But there are some more adventurous items to be had, including a shimmery silver rain jacket and “neon coral” ballet flats that seem sure to become a favorite pair of party shoes.
And when it’s time for a birthday party (or summer camp care package), one of the neighborhood’s most irresistible treat emporiums will beckon: E.A.T. Gifts at 1062 Madison Avenue was founded by Eli Zabar, the proprietor of the more grown-up cafe and bakery, E.A.T., that’s located right next door. E.A.T. Gifts offers novelty items, books and cards, toys, sweets, costume jewelry, games, and puzzles galore, and stocks witty gifts for adults, too, like the set of dessert plates bearing the Julia Child quote “A party without cake is just a meeting.”
For kids and adults who love a well-chosen book, one of the neighborhood’s longtime gems, The Corner Bookstore at 1313 Madison Avenue, is a must-visit. Since it opened in 1978, The Corner Bookstore has prided itself on selecting the best of each category, from mysteries and travel to poetry and art books. The shop’s “book nook” is stocked with options for kids of all ages, mostly arrayed on low shelves to encourage browsing, and there’s a robust calendar of signings and events throughout the year. Kids can also enjoy a special store charge account (set up by their parents), and regulars aged 8-13 are often invited to review publishers’ advance copies. The CornerBookstore offers personalized services that big-box stores usually do not, from tracking down rare and out-of-print titles to carefully gift-wrapping presents.
Chic Upper East Side residences, be they prewar apartments or innovatively designed luxury condos, all need the personal touch of cherished heirlooms, unique works of art, and stylish accessories to really make them feel like home. Jonathan Adler, one of the masters of cheery, effortlessly cool interior design, has a boutique at 1097 Madison Avenue that stocks mirrors, ceramics, carpets, furniture, and chandeliers, in addition to art prints and small sculptures. Adler’s look, which combines preppy South Floridian patterns and color with sophisticated midcentury design, is ideal for New Yorkers who want to make their homes both elegant and fun. Highlights include the reversible Peruvian flat-weave rugs that sport two different geometric patterns, allowing them to be stylishly flipped with the seasons. A selection of animal-shaped ring bowls make lovely gifts for jewelry fans, and their shapes are guaranteed to bring a smile: the brass dachshund bowl is extra-long, and his pal, a charmingly rotund pig, resembles a Botero sculpture. Adler made his name as a studio potter, and his company still produces vases and boldly decorated tableware in vivid colors like royal blue, white, and gold.
Design mavens in need of the perfect present flock to the shop at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum to find illustrated books, notepads, accessories, games, jewelry, and hard-to-classify delights like the shop’s Bauhaus-style chess set. Nestled inside the museum at 2 East 91st Street, the Cooper Hewitt Shop is a showcase for contemporary design from all over the world, including lighting by Munich-based designer Ingo Maurer; glass and kitchenware by the Danish firm HAY; a “green” dollhouse with its own tiny solar roof panels; Marimekko teapots and trays; and soft merino scarves in vibrant patterns by the UK-based textile studio Wallace & Sewell. The shop also stocks small items like the KIOSK cheese slicer and optic table tile coasters, which are ideal for a last-minute stocking stuffer or housewarming gift.