For shoppers, the Five Towns can be both challenging and rewarding. It can be tough to find parking, to navigate one-way streets and share the roads with lots of other people, but the area brims with shopping districts that are walkable, include countless restaurants and offer merchandise that otherwise might be found only online.
“We have three floors here, one dedicated to eBay,” said owner Beth Honig of The Emperor's Old Clothes, a designer consignment shop in Cedarhurst (570 Central Ave., 516-239-2470, shopteoc.com), “but you can walk in the door and easily find something you will not find anywhere else.”
The shop's brands include Chanel, Burberry, Dior and more, every piece curated by Honig. “I might have someone come in with 50 things, and maybe I take 15, but there’s always new things here every day,” she said.
Maria Beauchesne, of Oceanside, a wife and mother of three, made two trips to Honig's shop on a recent Sunday. “I came in here with my family, then left; but once we all sat down at a restaurant near here, I left them there to come back. I mean, I had to have this vest,” she said showing a Piko piece dating to 1988 but looking fresh and new.
“The first time I walked in here and looked at the walls, I immediately saw things I liked. I knew I was buying something,” she said.
The shop is wall-to-wall clothing, almost completely for women. “We sell men’s clothes online, for sure, but here is really a ladies-only experience — we have a tiny dressing room, and it’s ladies only.”
As it turns out, the women who shop there and the women who work there tend to bond over this attribute, said staffer Fay Morganstern. “The place is very 'chill,' we have a life-is-good personality . . . before you know it we’re all chatting about everything.”
“That’s how I know so much about the area’s shopping,” noted Honig. Ask her about nearby spots for snacks and she has a recommendation. “Oh! Nuts, that place is delicious! And so cute; you need to head over there.”
A short walk from The Emperor's Old Clothes, Oh! Nuts (480 Central Ave., Cedarhurst, 516-295-0131, ohnuts.com) is indeed something to see. With its high ceilings and a rear corner where large tubes of candy cascade down so customers can scoop and self-serve by the pound, it has the retail personality of a Manhattan business.
Among the classic sweets are such items as dried fruits, a rack of large-face lollipops and candy-covered popcorn — and as with many shops in this area, several items are kosher and nondairy.
The Five Towns, consisting of more than five villages (Cedarhurst, Lawrence) and hamlets (Inwood, Woodmere and the Hewletts) is home to a large Jewish population, some Orthodox. Many restaurants are certified kosher, and several shops are closed from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday in observance of the Sabbath.
Meanwhile, over in Hewlett, Jeff Lewis, owner of Time Warp, a comics and collectibles shop (1164 Broadway, 516-295-1431), deals in a very different sort of treat.
“Of course, collectors come in here,” Lewis said of his customers, “but we get lots of people who are nearby, maybe waiting for their kids at the doctor or waiting to catch a train. They come in knowing that these characters are in movies and shows, but not about where they really come from.”
That’s a key attribute of Lewis’s store: walk in and see hundreds of books, plus a wide variety of figures and figurines of superheroes and supervillains. “Some people are like, ‘I have to have this for my desk at work, or somewhere,' ” the owner continued, “and many of these are such high quality, it costs a lot to have these shipped here.”
Lewis admits that shipping, and more so online shopping, have challenged his store (in business for 24 years over two locations in Hewlett). But, he said, customers' ability to handle the stock and his own knowledge of the genre give him an advantage over e-retailing.
“People tell me they buy things online and find out what they bought isn’t quality or isn’t what they hoped. You come in here, I can show you a product and we can talk about it, too,” he said.
A side treat: Lewis also sells unopened packs of baseball cards, dating to the early '90s, for only 50 cents a pack. “You never know, you can walk out of here with a [Roger] Clemens or a [Don] Mattingly.
"I try to give people reasons to come in,” Lewis said.
Here are more shops worth a stop in the Five Towns area:
Blue Door Books, 501A Central Ave., Cedarhurst, 516-837-0040, bluedoorbooks.com. This independent bookstore also carries book bags, notepads and desk accessories.
Petite Pram, 500 Central Ave., Cedarhurst, 516-295-8801, petitepram.com. Here you'll find a lovely selection of baby furniture, strollers and related items.
Under 5’10, 536 Central Ave., Cedarhurst, 332-255-2550, under510.com. A unique boutique specializing in clothes for guys under 5-foot-10-inches tall.
Ahuva’s Grill, 1326 Peninsula Blvd., Hewlett, 516-341-0400, ahuvasgrill.com: Yemenite Israeli, with kebabs, falafel, shawarma. Cork & Slice, 477 Chestnut St., Cedarhurst, 516-837-7788, corkandslice.com: Modern Italian, with pizzas, pastas, salads, more. Friendlier, 1006 Railroad Ave., 516-569-5373, Friendlier1976.com: Pastas, pizzas, salads, soups, with Italian accent. Graze Smokehouse, 529 Cedarhurst Ave., Cedarhurst, 516-828-5000, grazesmokehouse.com: breakfast, pulled beef and chicken.