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Looking to give the perfect gift? LIers' stories behind their most prized items

Of the 150 or so pairs of sneakers

Of the 150 or so pairs of sneakers that Justin Yeung has at home, this pair--the Supreme x Nike SB Dunk Low--stands out for being so surprisingly simple to buy. Credit: Justin Yeung

O. Henry tried to warn us. Yet more than a century after his 1905 short story “The Gift of the Magi” went viral, as it were, we still don’t seem to grasp the moral about love and selflessness being more important than gifts.

Nearly half of Americans feel pressured to spend beyond their means on holiday gifts this season, according to a new Women and parents are the two groups most susceptible to that pressure.

We sought out new stories, asking Long Islanders about their favorite gifts — ones they’ve either received or given themselves. And we came up with three gifting lessons for the modern, post-magi age.


Justin Yeung estimates he’s got easily 150 pairs of sneakers stored at home. Granted, he’s in the biz — the Syosset native, 29, is a general manager at Renarts, the sneakerhead haven with outposts in South Huntington and East Northport.

His favorite kicks? That’s like picking a favorite child. But one pair stands out — the Supreme x Nike SB Dunk Low, released in 2012, which he bought online shortly after their initial drop time. Simple. No lining up for hours at midnight with a mob outside Roosevelt Field mall (which is more typical, he says, and which he’s done).

“It brings me back to a time when sneakers were easier to obtain and there wasn't so much of a 'hypebeast' culture as there is now,” Yeung says. “Of course, I had no idea what they'd be worth,” he says. Those sneakers, in pristine, unworn condition, can fetch $600 to $900 today. But not his, which are worn in — and not for sale.

“No regrets,” he declares.

MORAL: Forget all those hot, trending gifts or rare, hard-to-find limited editions. Sometimes a simple purchase brings the most satisfaction.


Ask Emily Hayes about her necklace — a sliver of a crescent hanging off a delicate chain, which her mother gave Emily for her birthday last March — and you’ll get a story as poignant as an episode of NBC's “This Is Us.”

It's fitting because the women set aside one hour each week to sit down on the living room couch and watch that TV series together.

“It’s our bonding time,” says Hayes, 21, a beauty school student who lives with her mom, Jennifer Hayes, in Lynbrook.

But it’s not mere entertainment. For Emily, who’s long wished she and her mom were closer — “We’ve always fought,” she admits — the show has helped strengthen their relationship. “I know it sounds silly but … after the show‘s over, we‘re crying in each other’s arms, and laughing that we’re crying. And we start talking about our lives.”

The necklace is nearly identical to a gift that the show’s hero Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) gave his wife, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), in season one. Emily’s mom found hers on, a Beaux Bijoux 925 sterling silver necklace, selling now for $32.99. A modest price tag, but to Emily it means much more.

“It’s the most beautiful gift I’ve ever received,” she says. “The show and me, and my mom — that necklace ties it all together.”

MORAL: O. Henry was right — it is the thought that counts. Focus on the hours you spend with loved ones, not the dollars spent on them.


Like many brides, Brookville native Blake Cohen Geffen knew exactly what her wedding day would look like, down to her earlobes.

“I had a specific vision — big diamond studs, pretty simple, but with some depth, like an ear crawler,” she says.

She’d found her dresses for the wedding and rehearsal dinner, and had hoped to rent some dazzling accessories, but Geffen, a fashion publicist, was surprised to find there was no one shop or website that carried the breadth of styles and brands she was looking for at a reasonable price.

She wound up buying diamond earrings — an indulgence, she admits — in Manhattan. The lack of options frustrated her, so she created a business plan for a new startup — with her groom while on their honeymoon in the Maldives.

Geffen’s online members-only club, Vivrelle, launched this fall offering rental access to designer jewelry, handbags, watches and diamonds for $99 a month. There's an option to buy pieces you don't want to send back.

“You never had a chance before you made a big purchase to try it before you buy it,” Geffen says. “Now you do.”

MORAL Splurged? Don’t sweat it. Sometimes an indulgence pays off in ways you could never imagine.

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