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Holiday Shopping Guide: Destination Glen Cove, where variety reigns

Alice, one of the owners of Life's ABC's,

Alice, one of the owners of Life's ABC's, will give shoppers a tour of aisles brimming with Japanese fans, crossword puzzle books and snuggle-worthy teddy bears 1-3 Glen St. in Glen Cove. Credit: Linda Rosier

Glen Cove’s downtown shopping scene is a bit off the beaten path, but it’s worth the winding six-mile drive north along Route 107 from the nearest Long Island Expressway exit to experience the city’s quirky variety stores and retro retailers.

If you want to pack entertainment into your shopping day, the 2-year-old AMC Glen Cove 6 (5 School St.) shows first-run movies in theaters with comfy reclining seats. Or start your day by treating the kids to a local history lesson at the North Shore Historical Museum (140 Glen St.,, 516-801-1191), in the city’s former Justice Court building, where the classic Hitchcock spy thriller “North by Northwest” (1959) was filmed. The current museum exhibit, “100 Years of Children’s Books,” runs through Jan. 25.

The Glen Cove Business Improvement District is hosting a holiday festival where lots of free stuff will be given away from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 7. It’s being held at Village Square, offering a preview of the multiuse downtown housing and retail development expected to open next year.

Santa will arrive by horse and carriage, pose for photos with kids and give them Christmas tree ornaments and candy canes. The horse and carriage will stay to give free rides to visitors. A theater group will perform an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” The annual Christmas tree lighting is scheduled at 4:45 p.m. 

At Life’s ABC’s (1-3 Glen St., 516-277-2426), a lively variety store at the corner of Glen and School streets, half the fun is meeting proprietors Alice and Vincent. The married store owners will give you a tour of aisles brimming with Japanese fans, crossword puzzle books and snuggle-worthy teddy bears. On a recent evening, Vincent happily demonstrated the store’s collection of dancing robot toys.

“I’m often surprised at the amount of items and unusual things that are found in these cute mom-and-pop stores,” said Patricia Holman, executive director of the Glen Cove Business Improvement District.

Glen Cove, which officially became a city a little more than a century ago, has no Main Street, per se. Instead the downtown retail scene runs for about a mile on Glen Street, beginning at the Long Island Rail Road station.

Downtown shopping continues with a right turn at the end of Glen Street onto School Street. Unique Tobacco & Accessories, spread over two storefronts (12 and 14 School St., 516-200-9800), offers a selection of more than 1,500 cigars, including imports from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador. You can choose your smoking material inside two walk-in-humidors or take home a travel humidor to keep purchases fresh at home. Soon to open: the Toro Cigar Lounge, where customers can light up alongside fellow cigar aficionados.

GLY Religious Store (34 School St., 516-656-0330, caters to the faithful. Its initialism stands for “God Loves You,” and the store is a source for Nativity sets, First Holy Communion dresses and suits, rosaries, ceramic statues, Jewish prayer shawls and mezuzahs. There's also a selection of Bibles, so you can find your preferred Bible version — from King James to the New Living Translation.  

On a window-shopping stroll, shoppers will pass many downtown businesses that have been open for decades:

Charles of Glen Cove (19 Glen St., 516-671-3111), for instance, began selling hardware in 1929. “We’re an old-fashioned, family-run hardware store,” said Doug Goldstein, whose father, Fred, bought the business from its original owner in the late 1950s. Goldstein learned the business helping his dad from age 11 and nowadays runs the store with his wife, Susanne, and their daughter, Kristin. They’re usually on hand to greet customers looking for housewares, tools and Christmas tinsel, garlands and the retro C9 Christmas light sets beloved by baby boomers.

London Jewelers (28 School St., 516-671-3154,, the venerable retailers founded in downtown Glen Cove in 1926 by immigrant and self-taught clockmaker Charles London, is still selling jewelry and timepieces on School Street.

Shanti Maa (31 Glen St., 516-671-2972) is home to a dizzying array of merchandise. In Glen Cove as in many downtowns of old, the shop owners often act as greeters and tour guides. Heralding visitors at the variety store, owner Larry Ved said that his “hottest sellers” include unicorn stuffed animals and sleeping bags. Other popular gifts include soccer jerseys and blankets emblazoned with team names, and character pillow and throw sets with “Frozen II,” “Toy Story 4” or Minnie Mouse themes. “You can get gifts for the whole family,” Ved said.

Capricho (95 Glen St., 516-671-4783) is another rambling general store. Ask for it and they’ve probably got it. (It helps, though, to speak a little Spanish.) The merchandise for sale includes — but doesn’t end at — jewelry and watches glittering in glass display cases, guitars hanging on the wall and furniture peeking out from the cluttered aisles.

quick bites

Henry’s Confectionery, 8 Glen St., 516-671-3222: Has been open since 1929, serving luncheonette staples alongside homemade ice cream.

La Bussola, 40 School St., 516-671-2100: A crowd-pleasing spot for upscale Italian fare.

Zouji Dumpling House, 188 Glen Cove Ave., 516-801-4848: This new place has a mix-your-own dumpling-sauce station and beef buns in addition to such Cantonese-American dishes as kung pao chicken.

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