When it comes to back-to-school shopping, from pre-K all the way to college, students are focused on two things: comfort and style.
"What kid doesn't want to be comfortable?" says Lori Strouse, buyer and manager for Long Island retailer Max & Gino's. "The younger generation is more sensitive than ever to the feel of what they're wearing."
Local stores geared toward kids and teens are stocking the softest fabrics and the trendiest casual wear, from sweatshirts and sweatpants embellished with lace, studs and prints, to vintage-inspired graphic tees and dressed-up leggings.
We found top spots to shop for every grade.
7915 Jericho Tpke., Woodbury (516-496-4441) and 1022 Willis Ave., Albertson (516-621-2450)
Please Mom is all about the kids -- from the funky tees, colorful leggings and faux fur vests to the play sets to keep them entertained while adults shop. But there's plenty for mom and dad to be happy about, too: a wide selection of warm coats ($90 and up) and cute backpacks, pencil cases and lunch tote sets ($10-$38).
"It's an easy place to shop," says Suzanne Jassey, a mom of three from Commack. "I've picked up everything from winter jackets and great holiday dresses to printed leggings, jeans and fabulous tops to match."
Jaime Horowitz, who has owned the shop with Marni Leiderman for four years, says it's about finding items that aren't at every other children's store. "Parents are coming here because they want to see what's different," she says.
15 E. Main St., Babylon
INFO 631-587-0050, bubblelearning.com
Owned by two state-certified teachers, Bubble is more than just a retail shop. Kids can enjoy art, music, cooking and foreign language classes while parents and grandparents browse the selection of sweaters, plaid button-downs, sporty Junk Food T-shirts, hoodies, Mim-Pi crochet dresses and hair accessories handmade in-store.
Valerie Basile, of Babylon, says finding clothing her 5-year-old son will wear is a struggle, but even he approves of Bubble's selection of tees. The mom of three recently scooped up a coral sweater jacket for her daughter for fall and often heads to the store to pick out unusual gifts. "The best thing about shopping at a neighborhood store is that they know us well," she says. "If they see something I would like, they'll let me know."
Middle school on up
6401 Jericho Tpke., Commack
INFO 631-499-4100, facebook.com/indiebyjennalauren
Laura Greenfield gained an adult following on Long Island for her two Emily Sky stores, but she always heard the same feedback: "My customers would tell me, 'You need to open a place like this for our daughters!'" she says. And so she did, on August 15, right nextdoor to her Commack shop.
Indie, an eclectic spot that caters to girls and young women ages 13 to 28, is organized into zones to target different styles, with most clothing running for less than $100. The bohemian section is stocked with denim, printed maxi-skirts and flowing lace tops, the rocker section with fringe, biker-inspired jackets and studded accessories. There's casual-- cozy sweatpants and embellished sweatshirts, and dressy-- the highlights a 1920s art deco-inspired top, royal blue blazer and mod black and white party dress. A wall of shoes offers studded and floral-print booties, and another is filled with everyday jewelry.
Within the first five days of opening, Brooke Schneider of Dix Hills had already visited twice to shop for her 14-year-old daughter, among her prized back-to-school purchases a pair of Doc Martens. "The selection is huge, it's trendy, and they want to help you look your best," Schneider said. "You walk out of here feeling like a million bucks."
1013 Port Washington Blvd., Port Washington
INFO 516-767-0071, lindasg2g.com
Teens are flocking to Linda Levinger's style-savvy shop this fall for everything from soft-washed sweatshirts with college logos ($38-48) to NYC-themed necklaces and Israeli sterling silver and opal jewelry ($35).
"Skater skirts are huge for fall," says manager Diane White, referring to a style that flares out at the bottom and comes in vegan leather, stripes and animal prints ($40-90). "They'll throw tights under them when the weather gets cooler and wear them with combat boots and a bulky sweater."
White says anything camo-print is flying off the shelves, and mixed-fabric jackets (think denim or vegan leather with a sweatshirt-style hood attached) are the "new blazer" for the younger set. The store starts at toddlers and works its way up to adults, and while their older siblings are going for the more sophisticated styles, elementary school students are loving the wild leggings, with everything from chocolate chip cookie to sushi prints. "The crazier the pattern the better," she says.
High school and college
42 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck
INFO 516-487-8309, shopcampandcampus.com
This family-owned Great Neck staple has shifted its audience towards older teens and adults, but they're still a go-to spot for must-have back-to-school clothing and accessories. Among the best-selling items are Wildfox sweatshirts printed with fitting phrases such as "I hate Mondays" and "I'm allergic to mornings," comfy Bella Dahl button-downs, novelty sweats, Vegan leather leggings and chunky sweaters. For college-goers, there's dressier apparel perfect for a night on the town.
Michele Girardi, of Great Neck, says she comes to stock up on well-made basics for her two teenage daughters before school starts so that they're set for the rest of the year. "The leggings and sweatpants they carry wash completely differently than cheaper versions-- they're so long lasting," she says. Leggings by So Low, Splendid and David Lerner run from $28 to $128.
Fun accessories include embellished headbands handmade in Manhattan by Indian designer Deepa Gurnani, $28-72, faux-leather, studded backpacks, $82, and exclusive jewelry, $14-286. But perhaps the biggest project of the moment for owner Heidi Wolf Saltzman and her team is the brand new website, shopcampandcampus.com, which offers e-commerce for the first time in the shop's 58 years of existence. "We're really excited to reach college girls going away to school all across the country," she says.
INFO 1317 Broadway, Hewlett;(516-295-6895); 2073 Merrick Rd., Merrick (516-379-6888); 7911 Jericho Tpke., Woodbury (516-364-1700)
Max & Gino's has been a favorite shop of teens from the north and south shores alike for years, but Strouse says the open-minded attitude Long Islanders have towards style always keeps things interesting. "Our customers will go outside the box," she says.
The stores are a mix of pieces they've made themselves (Vintage Harley Davidson tees found at thrift stores are cut and sewn onto the back of sweatshirts and adorned with studs), and on-trend brands such as Chaser and Free People. Among the best sellers right now? Camo-print, muscle tanks, $38-88 (layer one under a cardigan to carry it into fall), high-waisted jeans, $48-68 and back-to-school bags, $50-150.
Butter, their original brand geared towards elementary and middle school students, has its own space at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station and also occupies a small but notable section of Max & Gino's stores with colorful sweats decorated with graphics inspired by iPhone Emojis and popular games such as Candy Crush.
And speaking of tech-savvy style, the store's Instagram handle, @maxandginos, is a major hit with young fans. "We'll post something, and I'll get calls from moms before their kids are even out of school saying, 'I heard you got this new item into the store,'" Strouse says.