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Holiday Cheer, and Gifts, in Greenwich Village

Our Saturday tour group in front of Teich Toys & Books.

This past Saturday and Monday, many dedicated souls braved the winter weather to celebrate the local businesses of Greenwich Village. With tour guide Joyce Gold, GVSHP and our partners at Village Alliance, Washington Square Park Conservancy, and many local businesses, celebrated the holiday cheer and local atmosphere that is abundant in our neighborhood at this time of year.

We all know that Midtown is famous for its storied holiday displays in the windows of the grand department stores. But neighborhoods like Greenwich Village exude a holiday cheer all their own, and our local businesses design charming holiday displays for their storefronts that you can’t find anywhere else in the city. With our tour groups on Saturday and Monday night, we were able to stop by many of these stores to learn about the history of the store and the personal touches that make a Greenwich Village holiday season feel so special.

Many proprietors cite early childhood influences in their holiday displays. Allison Teich McGowan, who, with her husband, owns Teich Toys & Books (as well as a home goods store simply called Teich), said that she remembers being dazzled by local holiday displays as a child. Now that she owns her own storefronts, creating an inviting display is important to her. Yesterday when we arrived after dark, the windows of Teich Toys & Books were practically glittering. And the store’s wholesome sensibilities and thoughtfully designed merchandise were a welcomed addition to the frenetic world of toy shopping.

Many local shops were proof that you don’t need the opulent plate-glass windows of Saks and Macy’s to design a moving display. Pink Olive, Te Company, and Noah Waxman all featured minimalist holiday displays that were personal, sweet, and stylish.

One of C.O. Bigelow’s groovy holiday displays.

Village mainstays C.O. Bigelow had one of the largest displays – both their historic shop windows were decked out. The shop, which provides prescriptions, healing remedies, unique and unusual beauty products, and rare apothecary items, has operated from their current location on Sixth Avenue since 1902. Current owner Ian Ginsberg, who inherited the business from his father, told us that C.O. Bigelow has a long history of creating eye-catching window displays; during World War II they designed windows extolling the virtues of penicillin. Today the shop cherishes its place in the history of Greenwich Village, and Ian is proud to create window displays year-round meant to delight and entertain their many loyal customers.

Chloe, owner at the new Ancolie.

Our friends at Village Alliance arranged for many of the great businesses along West 8th Street to participate in the tour, and a couple even designed holiday windows specifically to be a part of our tour. Our first on that street was Ancolie, where we met owner Chloe Vichot. Chloe’s small restaurant has been open only one month, but she’s already making big waves in the world of healthy and sustainable eating. Chloe serves all her hearty (and beautiful!) salads in glass jars. They feel nicer to use than plastic, and the jar is yours to keep. Next time you’re craving one of Chloe’s salads, you’re encouraged to bring back your jar and reuse it – you’ll get a dollar off your meal for the effort (plus the peace of mind associated with not sending more plastic to the landfill!).

Further down 8th Street, Uncle Sam’s Army Navy Outfitters had gone all out for their windows. Richard Geist, founder of Uncle Sam’s, was on hand to tell us personally about his motivation and inspiration for the windows. Go check them out, and not just for the holidays – Richard designs topical and fun displays year-round (Richard even designed an election-themed window recently). Uncle Sam’s has been on West 8th Street since 1996 and I know I’ll be stopping back in for warm-weather gear, tools, patches, accessories, and some military-inspired fashion.

The artistic holiday window at Graey Studio.

Richard walked us down 8th Street to our next stop – the fabulous store and studio of artist Storm Ritter. Graey Studio‘s home on West 8th is a two-story building that, in 1931, was Gertrude Vanderbilt’s art studio. Today, Storm designs, produces, and creates all the pieces of her unisex line in that shop. And the space itself is amazing – it’s exploding with personality and a creativity that is very clearly unique to Storm. Her holiday window is no exception, either – working with a “naughty and nice” theme, Storm designed a really impressive display that spans the two stories of her studio and features a lot of the same motifs you’ll find in her energetic artwork and clothing. Storm and her staff were so welcoming and enthusiastic, too – stop in sometime soon, check out Storm’s fantastic Christmas display, and say hello to the great team there.

No Greenwich Village holiday walk would be complete without stopping by the Washington Square Park tree. Villagers have been treated to the brilliance of a lit tree since 1924, although an evergreen has stood in the park at Christmas since before then. Washington Square Park Conservancy volunteer tour guides were kind enough to make time to tell our group a little about the tree and its history in the park. What a perfect way to end a wintery stroll through our beautiful Village.

And to warm up after all that winter walking? The cozy Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor on West 8th was nice enough to offer to host a reception after each outing – complete with a generous offer of a free drink! Their inviting atmosphere is perfect for craft beer aficionados or anyone just looking for a delicious drink in a neighborly spot. Their hospitality extends far beyond Christmas so next time you need a drink or snack in the area, think of Arts and Crafts. Tell ’em GVSHP sent you!

Our deepest gratitude goes out to Joyce Gold, Village Alliance, Washington Square Park Conservancy, and all the dedicated local businesses who made these two tours possible. This tour was a grand effort by many people, but our local shop owners especially spend so much time and energy during the holiday season. Show your thanks by shopping local, and ensuring that our neighborhood remains personal and cooperative!

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