Gone are the days when your hotel’s gift shop sold tiny toothpaste and miniature sewing kits and only tiny toothpaste and miniature sewing kits. Today, shops attached to hotels have become destinations in and of themselves. Read on for the five we frequent most often. By Jessica Allen.
What can’t the Ace Hotel do? Upon opening in 2009, this hotel almost single-handedly revitalized a down-on-its-luck block, thanks to destination restaurants like The Breslin and The John Dory Oyster Bar, as well as great stores like Opening Ceremony and No. 8. The latter sells cool, cute stuff like arty, oversized magazines, a stuffed pigeon made from wool (pictured), fountain pens, and a tote bag that looks like a tool bag, by such designers as Bless, Maison Martin Margiela, Papabubble, Various Projects, Chester Wallace, and Mühlbauer. It calls itself an “anti-souvenir shop.”
Skip the mini bar. Chelsea’s GEM Hotel is just steps away from a gourmet market with an extraordinary selection of good stuff to eat and drink. Produce comes from Foragers’ own farm in upstate New York, while sandwiches, salads, and other goodies are made on site. To drink, there’s biodynamic wine, coffee, or signature juice blends. You can have a veritable feast in your uniquely designed room (while watching the flat-panel LCD tv while wearing the monogrammed bathrobe, if you so choose). Or you can hoof it over to the High Line or Hudson River Park, both an easy walk.
The Plaza Boutique displays objects as luxurious, decadent, and unique as the Plaza itself. Here you’ll find specially designed tea sets, cuff links, picture frames, coffee mugs, scarves, leather totes, and monogrammed lounge apparel. Some folks might go in for Eloise at the Plaza, an all-pink emporium devoted to this favorite children’s book character who lives in the hotel with her pug and pet turtle. You, or a young friend, can try on Eloise-ware at the Fashion Room (pictured), or (re)read her stories in the Library Room.
Products on offer at the Shop at the Standard run the gamut from useful-while-traveling goods, such as a matching eye mask, blanket, and pouch made from alpaca, to souvenirs, such as a Biergarten t-shirt, silk-screened to look like lederhosen and dirndls, and a boombox made from cardboard. The Shop also sells one-of-a-kind objects, such as limited edition flags and pennants by San Francisco artist Jeff Canham, or exclusive prints by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm. Often this work is commissioned by the hotel, usually in conjunction with an art opening or event held at the Standard itself.
One shop? Pshaw. The Mandarin Oriental has a whole mall attached. This luxury hotel takes up floors 35 through 54 of the Time Warner Center, with the views of Central Park, Midtown, and the Upper West Side to match. The Shops at Columbus Circle occupy the first few floors of the building, and include Whole Foods, J. Crew, Aveda, Bose, Williams-Sonoma, and H&M. And forget about piped-in Muzak: the Time Warner Center also has Jazz at Lincoln Center, the first performing arts center dedicated to jazz in the world.