35 Awesome New York Independent Businesses You Have to Check Out

bridge

New York City was built on small, independent businesses.

From the restaurants and the delis immigrants brought over from Europe a century ago to the modern businesses that draw America’s brightest to the city, local merchants have always been the backbone of the Big Apple.

And the creativity here has allowed some great ideas to flourish. With nearly two dozen locations in the New York City metro area, we’re proud to call these amazing local businesses our neighbors.

Here are 35 of New York’s best boutiques, cafes, breweries, creative spaces and small shops.

Lower Manhattan

What Goes Around Comes Around, Soho

What other shop organizes its collections into “stories?” What Goes Around Comes Around is THE place in New York to find luxury vintage.

“There’s nothing twee about this Soho vintage shop, which has made a name for itself with an enormous selection of like-new designer pieces, many with a rocker edge, for men and women,” Racked writes in its guide to New York’s essential stores. “The selection also includes high-end bags and jewelry from Chanel and the like, and it’s not out of the ordinary to find a celebrity browsing the racks every once in a while.”

AQUA, Tribeca

The Franklin Street boutique fitness club AQUA offers what fashion company Stylight recently described as “perhaps the chicest way to work out”: Exercise bikes submerged in a candlelit saltwater pool.

Aquacycling is a great way to burn 800 calories in one go, and the saltwater improves blood circulation, eliminates impact on your joints, and can even help you sleep better. “That’s what I like about this,” AQUA founder Isabel Dupré told the New York Times in 2013. “You come out and it’s like you had a massage. You sleep like a baby, and you feel great.”

Astor Wines & Spirits, NOHO

A purveyor of fine drinks since 1946, Astor Wines & Spirits spent its first 60 years in Greenwich Village, before relocating to the De Vinne Press Building in 2006.

Across seven decades, Astor has maintained its reputation as a well-stocked shop, but not one where you will be subjected to pressure from the sales staff. Instead, there’s plenty of room for you to simply explore.

“Astor Wines & Spirits is home to, arguably, one of the largest selections of wines and spirits in New York City,” the company says. “We carefully curate our selections, carrying less of what you’ll see everywhere else and more of the gems you’ll want to discover.”

Dirt Candy, Lower East Side

Dirt Candy is a lot of people’s favorite restaurant.

Reason No. 1: The restaurant makes a broccoli dog. That’s a hot dog, but made with broccoli. And it’s delicious.

Reason No. 2: Chef Amanda Cohen’s cookbook, “Dirt Candy: A Cookbook,” is a graphic novel.

The list goes on. Suffice it to say Cohen can make a believer out of even the most steadfast veggie skeptics. “Anyone can cook a hamburger,” she says, “but leave the vegetables to the professionals.”

Credit: Evan Sung
Credit: Evan Sung

Conscious Step, Financial District

Conscious Step makes great-looking, unique socks that are ethically manufactured, and part of the proceeds go to a nonprofit partner that works to reach the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Those include the elimination of poverty and hunger, universal primary education, environmental sustainability and worldwide improvements in health.

“Every one of us has an ideal: a perfect world, a perfect life — an aspiration for a better tomorrow,” the team says. “Though our attitudes are positive, and our choices are caring — we’re limited to what we have control over.”

“Here at Conscious Step, we strive to build a community through sustainable beliefs and honest collaborations, while simultaneously spreading knowledge for a better tomorrow and a fresher wardrobe.”

lower-manhattan - new york independent businesses

Economy Candy, Lower East Side

Economy Candy is a throwback to a world that doesn’t really exist anymore. This family-owned candy shop first opened its doors in 1937, back when corner candy stores were common:

“Bulk bins full of colorful hard candies enticed youngsters with their panorama of choices,” Economy Candy’s site says. “Guys could buy their dolls a heart-shaped box of chocolates when they had trouble expressing themselves in words. Barrels in the back yielded a geography lesson of nuts from around the world.”

Today, second-generation owner Jerry Cohen oversees a store that’s seen the rise of big-box retailers and artisanal upstarts — and the whole time the Economy Candy team has dutifully been stocking and moving one of the biggest candy collections you’re likely to see.

Chambers Street Wines, Tribeca

This summer, Chambers Street Wines celebrated its 15th birthday — no small feat for a shop that focuses on naturally made wines from boutique producers. But it’s precisely the staff’s obsessive attention to quality that’s earned it such a following.

“We wanted the shop to be completely personal—to get know people’s taste, and to recommend wines we liked and that we thought they would enjoy,” co-founder David Lillie told Slate back in 2011.

Obscura Antiques & Oddities, East Village

The subject of its own TV show, the famous Obscura Antiques & Oddities has proudly sold some of the weirdest stuff imaginable (papier-mâché anatomical mannequin, anyone?) for the past two decades.

The shop’s secret to success? Hard work. “Lessons learned from the antiques trade: Get up very, very early; stay very, very late; and look over everything three or four times from different directions,” shop co-owner Evan Michelson tells Fast Company. “Because no matter how good your eye is or how sharp you think you are, you’re going to miss it.”

Prohibition Bakery, Lower East Side

“New York City’s original alcoholic cupcake company.” For those who like to mix and match their indulgences, check out Prohibition Bakery. Founders Brooke Siem and Leslie Feinberg opened their boozy bakery in 2011 and have grown it at an impressive pace. They’ve since begun shipping their cupcakes nationwide, established a wedding catering service and even written a cookbook.

Credit: Prohibition Bakery
Credit: Prohibition Bakery

Rudy’s Music, Soho

Guitar World magazine recently ranked Rudy’s Music among the best brick-and-mortar guitar shops in the country, which puts it right at the top of guitar shops in the city. The shop has been around since 1978, thanks largely to the hard work owners Rudy and Fran Pensa have put into building relationships with customers.

“Rudy’s stellar reputation as a guitar builder, shopkeeper and gentleman is well deserved,” the company says. “Every person who walks in the door of Rudy’s Music Stop is treated with the same respect whether they are a platinum selling artist, a Wall Street banker or a kid with a dream.”

Morgenstern’s Ice Cream, Lower East Side

Former pastry chef Nicholas Morgenstern opened his own place, Morgenstern‘s, in 2014 because of his inborn desire to spread the gospel of our country’s native desserts. “Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream is my chance to express my love of the quintessential American indulgence,” he says. “I have been dreaming of these flavors, this style, and this place for years.”

That drive just earned him TimeOut New York’s 2016 pick for best ice cream in the city.

midtown - new york independent businesses

Midtown

Rizzoli Bookstore, NoMad

“The most beautiful bookstore in New York.”

That’s straight from Rizzoli Bookstore‘s Facebook page … and it’s not a boastful statement at all. When the 50-year-old-plus bookstore moved to its new location just up from the Flatiron Building, its owners called in architecture Ike Kligerman Barkley to adorn the new space with lush murals and a beautiful stone floor to match the space’s original clean, classic interior. The result is nothing short of incredible.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner, Theater District

The famous Ellen’s Stardust Diner opened in 1987 with a clear concept in mind: Be authentic to 1950s American diners, and make sure the servers can sing well — the diner is on Broadway, after all.

“Ellen’s Stardust Diner has since served as the launching pad for many of its waiter/vocalists who have gone on to success in Broadway musicals and touring companies, both domestic and international,” the restaurant says.

Today, lines to get a table snake out the door and around the corner.

Knot Standard, NoMad

Co-founders John Ballay and Matt Mueller started Knot Standard in 2010 with a mission to bring Old World men’s tailoring practices to modern shoppers through the use of technology.

So, when their tailors measure a customer, the measurements are recorded and converted into 3D images to ensure each piece of clothing fits perfectly every time. The company says it can turn around a perfect-fit bespoke order in 4 to 6 weeks.

That’s helped the company grow by leaps and bounds. In fact, Knot Standard just made Inc.’s list of fastest-growing private companies.

Shadowbox, Flatiron District

Founder Daniel Glazer understood that there was a demand — especially among women — for boxing workouts that could be done in somewhere other than, well, an old boxing gym. That’s why he created Shadowbox, which takes the idea of group fitness and pairs it with shadowboxing, a workout boxers use to train for fights.

“By reimagining these practices, we create a full-body workout incorporating bodyweight exercises with high-intensity rounds of shadowboxing and heavy bag work using various guided punch combos,” he says.

Tannen’s Magic, Midtown

The city’s oldest operating magic shop, Tannen’s Magic has been helping professional and amateur magicians alike since 1925. And since 1974, the shop has hosted a camp for young magicians.

“Tannen’s is indeed well known in the magic community and has been a force behind many magicians’ careers,” Joanna Fantozzi wrote for Narratively in 2013. “Years ago, David Copperfield started out as a customer at Tannen’s and still comes in the shop from time to time. J.J. Abrams, creator of Lost and director of Star Trek, is a frequent customer.”

brooklyn - new york independent businesses

Williamsburg and Greenpoint

Co-Op 87 Records, Greenpoint

Co-Op 87 is one of Brooklyn’s best record shops, which probably puts it among the top record shops on the planet. The team’s emphasis on curation (“well-groomed selection”) makes for great browsing, whether you’re looking for obscure Motown vinyls, old school hip-hop records, rad post-punk tapes, or new releases that will be on everyone else’s radar in a few weeks’ time.

Y7 Studio, Williamsburg

Founded in 2013, Y7 Studio can lay claim to being the city’s first hip-hop yoga studio. Co-founders Sarah Larson Levey and her husband, Mason Levey, say they purposely went an unconventional route with their yoga studio because every other place they tried didn’t feel quite right.

So, they created a place with a solid hip-hop soundtrack and mirrorless walls. “When I would practice in bright mirror-filled rooms, I was always comparing myself to everyone else around me instead of focusing on myself and my body,” Sarah tells Taste The Style.

“I always left class feeling like I wasn’t good enough and ashamed of my body. We wanted to create a safe space where everyone — no matter what their level of practice — feels comfortable and confident to give it their all.”

Awoke Vintage, Williamsburg

One of the city’s best vintage shops, Awoke Vintage had to close earlier this summer due to a fire. With a lot of work, though, the crew and friends were able to get the shop up and running again just three weeks later. That kind of perseverance deserves a ton of respect. And so does their unique collection.

Credit: Awoke Vintage
Credit: Awoke Vintage

Five Stride, East Williamsburg

There aren’t too many roller skate shops left in New York — which is great news for Five Stride, because it’s always ready to hook up anyone about to join a roller derby league, or a club that’s planning a roller disco night. Plus, it’s New York’s “only full service skate shop,” where you can touch, feel and try on skates — and get that perfect fit.

Frankel’s Delicatessen, Greenpoint

Here’s a review of Frankel’s that’s sure to leave just about anyone hungry:

“The young brothers Frankel seem to take their ancestral cuisine (Zabarsian, a.k.a. Upper West Side Jewish) quite seriously,” Grub Street‘s Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite write. “In a tiny retail space inspired by places like Russ & Daughters, they make a smartly streamlined selection of deli classics from good ingredients.

“The pastrami, prepared to the brothers’ specifications at a nearby facility under a characteristic veil of deli secrecy, is terrific, and can be had on classic rye or as a fiendish pastrami-egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwich.Even better are homemade items like a savory, almost buttery matzo-ball soup, and a hot brisket that’s sweet and lush and based on a Frankel-family recipe.”

dumbo - new york independent businesses

Downtown Brooklyn and Surrounding

Runa, Prospect Heights

Just days after graduating college in 2009, Dan MacCombie and Tyler Gage co-founded Runa, which makes natural energy drinks from a plant native to Ecuador called guayusa. People in the Ecuadorian Amazon use guayusa — a naturally caffeinated tree leaf that is brewed like tea — to give them energy and mental sharpness while hunting in the jungle.

The co-founders learned about the plant while studying in Ecuador, and realized the opportunity they had. “When we started the company we received a grant to build the first research and development facility for guayusa processing and export in Ecuador’s Napo Province,” MacCombie told the

Today, the company is growing steadily by working with indigenous farmers — some 2,300 families, in fact — to buy guayusa from them at scale, and at a fair price.

Milk Bar, Prospect Heights

Australian Alexander Hall opened Milk Bar as an authentic Melbourne-style cafe, and it’s grown into a neighborhood favorite. Credit the great staff (and the cheddar chive biscuits). This is one reliable cafe for locals who are looking for a filling, healthy breakfast or lunch.

Twisted Lily, Boerum Hill

The Twisted Lily Fragrance Boutique and Apothecary is a sensory overload in the best way possible. The shop specializes in niche perfumes, colognes and other grooming products — the kinds of things that even the best perfume professionals in France would have a hard time tracking down.

Credit: Twisted Lily
Credit: Twisted Lily

Propel Bikes, Brooklyn Navy Yard

When U.S. Army Reserves veteran Chris Nolte came home from the Middle East injured and unable to ride a bike as he used to, he began tooling around with the idea of electric-assisted bikes. That’s how he came upon the idea for Propel Bikes, which Nolte has grown from a small operation to a fully staffed storefront in Brooklyn.

Mast Brothers, Brooklyn Navy Yard

Harper‘s choice for the No. 1 chocolate company in the city, Mast Brothers was founded in 2007 by brothers Rick and Michael, whose goal is to introduce “chocolate to the world with an obsessive attention to detail, meticulous craftsmanship, groundbreaking innovation, and inspirational simplicity.”

Tours are available daily between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. First come, first served, and there is only room for 15 people per tour.

skyline - new york independent businesses

Multiple Locations

Barcade

Barcade, the OG arcade bar. Since the first location opened in Williamsburg back in 2004, many imitators have spawned from Portland to Chicago and Dallas, but nothing beats the NYC original.

With its focus on craft American beers and classic arcade games, Barcade has grown quickly: From four arcade machines in founder Paul Kermizian’s apartment; to the bar he opened shortly thereafter in a former metal shop in Brooklyn; to outposts now in New Jersey, Connecticut and Philly.

Brooklyn Roasting Company

The first of two excellent city coffee companies on this list, BRC deserves a shout-out for its spacious spot on Jay Street and its excellent Iris Espresso.

The key to its delicious brews? The Brooklyn Roasting Company team meticulously selects top-quality coffees that are as certified fair trade, as organic, and by the Rainforest Alliance. Then, they hand-roast the coffees every single day.

Ample Hills Creamery

Named after a Walt Whitman poem, the first Ample Hills location opened its doors in 2011 with a focus on making great ice cream … and not taking itself too seriously.

“As serious as we are about our craft we never forget who we make ice cream for: the kids,” owners Brian and Jackie write. “Your kids and our kids, playing, swinging at the park. And the kids still inside all of us.”

The company has grown quickly. It now boasts a handful of storefronts around the city, plus it ships its Brooklyn-made ice cream all over the country.

Midtown Comics

Midtown Comics opened just below Times Square in 1997, back when comics were still kind of a niche thing. Boy, how times have changed.

In the last two decades, Midtown Comics has added two more locations (by Grand Central and Downtown) and turned its online store into the biggest retailer of comics, manga and graphic novels in the country.

Think Coffee

Lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Jason Scherr opened the first Think Coffee location by Washington Square Park in 2006 with a mission to do more than just serve good coffee. He also sought to build a community and do good work through this business and the connections it built.

“We want to create goodwill with our staff and our customers,” Scherr told Entrepreneur in 2013. “We have to be able to tell them a story about how we’re doing a good thing. That definitely breeds loyalty and interest, and we want to keep attracting that kind of person.”

In just a decade, Think Coffee has grown to include seven more locations in New York and another five locations in Korea.

think-coffee - new york independent businesses

Babel Fair

Named one of Racked‘s 25 best indie boutiques in the the city, Babel Fair is built on the talented eye and the energy of founder Erica Kiang, who literally travels the world every few months or so in search of inspiration, new brands and unique pieces for her shop.

Doughnut Plant

Best doughnut makers on the planet? Owner Mark Israel and his team at Doughnut Plant can make a strong claim to that title.

Israel opened Doughnut Plant in 1994 with a recipe handed down from his grandfather, a doughnut maker himself in North Carolina. Since then, the company has grown to include four store fronts and a spot on the counter in dozens of restaurants around town, including Shake Shack, Joe Coffee, and Dean & DeLuca.

KITH

With impressive showrooms and a huge sneaker collection, KITH has become the go-to streetwear shop in New York City.

Last year, owner Ronnie Fieg renovated his shop’s Brooklyn location by, among other things, hanging more than 700 pairs of white Air Jordan IIs from the ceiling and putting in the borough’s first cafe/bar to focus on just cereal, KITH Treats.

hudson-valley - new york independent businesses

Way Uptown

Peekskill Brewery, Peekskill

Follow the Hudson River up to Westchester County, and you’ll find local favorite Peekskill Brewery, which serves up several noteworthy, award-winning beers. If you only have time to sample two brews, we recommend the Simple Sour and the Higher Standard Imperial IPA.

Moving to NYC soon, or already here and needing a little more space for life? Find storage units in New York City to make either transition easier!


Other images by: Anthony Delanoix, James W. LePage, Unsplash, Daryan Shamkhali, Brooke Cagle, Patrick Tomasso, dawnfu