T&V’s last minute gift guide

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Procrastinators who’ve left their holiday shopping until the last minute needn’t worry that they’ve run out of time to find gifts people will actually want. For those frazzled folks, T&V offers a last-minute gift guide, highlighting a few local shops and holiday market booths with goods sure to please even the pickiest family members.

Hatbox of cheese (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Hatbox of cheese (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

For the foodie
Beecher’s New York, 900 Broadway, between East 19th and 20th Streets, (212) 466-3340, beechershandmadecheese.com
A cheese monger at Beecher’s told T&V said that the company’s cheese curds are a unique and frequent gift because the squeaky snack is not always easy to find. The shop also sells pre-made gift sets offering a hat box full of cheese and crackers for $55. A couple of options are available with different varieties of cheeses, with one offering the shop’s popular fig spread.
For the lactose intolerant, the shop also has a handful of quirky sauces and spreads, including the fig jam, a rosemary and pear spread and caramel mustard. For the most adventurous lactose tolerant, the shop offers a chevre cheesemaking kit for $27.

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Great gifts at the Holiday Market

Stuyvesant Town resident and vendor Mick Joseph notes one of the recent changes to the yearly market at Union Square, which is the addition of sections like “Lil Brooklyn.” Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Stuyvesant Town resident and vendor Mick Joseph notes one of the recent changes to the yearly market at Union Square, which is the addition of sections like “Lil Brooklyn.” (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The Union Square Holiday Market, which, every year, takes over the south end of Union Square Park for the five weeks leading up to Christmas, has now been around for over two decades.

But UrbanSpace, the company behind the long-running event, has made some changes this year, including putting in two stages for performances, an area for children’s activities, and a new section called Urban Provisions for packaged food items. There’s also been an expansion to a recently introduced section called Little Brooklyn, with many additional booths run by craftspeople and merchants from that borough. Aesthetic changes include more lighting and tree branches fashioned into archways and logs placed here and there to give the market a more woodsy feel.

Taking a T&V reporter on a stroll through the market earlier this week to explore some of the new additions was Mick Joseph. Joseph, a resident of Stuyvesant Town, is a market veteran, having operated a booth for DezignMind, the company she runs with husband Claus Ronnex-Printz for the past 14 years.

For that company, the couple works with families in different countries, in particular Bali and Thailand, to produce items Joseph designs, from wooden percussion animals that make surprisingly accurate noises when brushed with a baton or used as a whistle to fragrant clove boxes and ornaments to decorative masks.

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Unique gifts found at Holiday Market

 

planes

A few plane mobiles bounce in place at the Real Life Inspired Planes booth at the Union Square Holiday Market. The booth is one of 150 to do business at the market this year. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

 

By Sabina Mollot

On November 21, the annual Union Square Holiday Market opened for business with 150 booths hawking items from jewelry to clothing to artwork to toys, all from small businesses and artisans. The market, located at the south end of Union Square Park, will run seven days a week through Christmas Eve.

Since the selection of items can feel overwhelming, Town & Village has rounded up a list of suggested gifts. Many are handmade and unique items designed by local craftsmen and women.

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Holiday Market is big business for city as well as organizer and 150 vendors

The Union Square Holiday Market, now in its 19th year (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The Union Square Holiday Market, now in its 19th year (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

For small businesses looking to boost foot traffic during holiday season, there is arguably no better location than a holiday market, specifically, the 150-plus booth one that takes place at Union Square Park each year.

The market has grown over the 19 years it’s been run there by the company Urban Space, occupying the south end of the park, and a stroll through on any day it’s open clearly shows there’s always a steady stream of shoppers.

Urban Space has kept a tight lid on what it charges vendors for use of its red and white striped booths, but on a recent day, an operator of a medium-sized booth said his rent was about $15,000. This is for the five weeks, November 21 to Christmas Eve, that the event runs. Not that he was complaining. “It’s the busiest hub in the city,” he said. He, like the majority of merchants there, are repeat tenants, and those thinking of becoming one might want to sign up soon. A rep for Urban Space, Rachel Van Dolsen, said that the “footprint” of the event has gotten as big as it’s going to get.

Van Dolsen declined to discuss rents for booths although she said the aforementioned figure didn’t sound accurate. (Another vendor at last year’s event, however, told T&V that amount sounded similar to what she paid, though hers was a little higher. “Expensive, but worth it,” she said.)

Along with its location on top of an entrance to the Union Square subway, the market has become a hit with shoppers looking for items that are handmade or hard to find as opposed to mass-produced items, which Urban Space doesn’t allow.

Last year the amount of money the company shelled out to the city in exchange for use of the park was $1,378,972, so even without official numbers, it’s clear the bustling bazaar must do pretty well for the organizer. The city of course makes out too, with its cut going to a general fund.

The Union Square Holiday Market (Photo courtesy of Urban Space)

The Union Square Holiday Market (Photo courtesy of Urban Space)

Of course, being that the event runs throughout one of the year’s coldest months, even with the built-in foot traffic, there are still going to be retailers who don’t want to conduct business outdoors as well as businesses that wouldn’t be able to sell effectively in one of the stalls.

As Faith Hope Consolo, a broker for the real estate firm Douglas Elliman, explained it, “The holiday market is for a very specific customer, and if that retailer sells products for that shopper, sure, it makes sense to go there. These can include holiday decorations, ornaments, one-of-a-kind gifts. But a pop-up probably makes more sense for apparel. You might want to try on something, and an outdoor market is not the place for that.” Electronics are also not a big seller at markets, noted Consolo, though accessories are.

At this time, asking rents for retail spaces around Union Square are around $60 per square foot to $90 per square foot on the side streets, while asking rents on the avenues are a whopping $400 per square foot. The rent gets higher closer to Flatiron, added Consolo. And of course, these are the prices for longterm leases, not pop-up shop spaces, which around holiday time, are hard to come by.

“There are fewer pop-up opportunities at the holidays because many retailers will lease a holiday shop well in advance,” said Consolo. “But someone can always find something if they look long and hard enough.”

Ultimately, as for whether it makes more sense to rent at the market or at a store, “Holiday markets have the same rule of thumb as any retail site,” said Consolo. “Better locations have higher rents. You pay more to be near entrances, etc. And Union Square certainly is bustling as more retailers, restaurants and services open to appeal to all the high-tech workers and residents there.”

In related neighborhood retail news, to help push shopping at neighborhood stores as the market is open, the Union Square Partnership has been offering District Deals booklets at the information booth at the market (across from the subway entrance gazebo). The booklets contain over 40 deals from retailers like Union Square Wines and Spirits and Jivamukti’s yoga school.