You've heard of these shopping tours that various companies set up for tourists—or, we suppose, the shopping-challenged? They generally focus in on a neighborhood (Soho) or an age group (teens, olds) or a theme (sample sales, Sex and the City)? Well, Racked was recently invited to one such tour by one such company: Shop Gotham. Called the Men's Tour, it's a first-of-its-kind, dude-centric shopping trip starting on the Bowery and winding on down to Broadway in Soho.
We obviously graciously accepted—whether illuminating or ridiculous, we knew it would be entertaining. Plus: Discounts!
We're pleased to report that the tour absolutely was illuminating, if a little bit hokey—but we totally get it! It's not for a local someone who shops for a living and/or lives to shop. And we actually learned a lot. Plus: Those discounts!
The tour met up inside Peels, the diner-esque newbie from the hipsters at Freeman's, for coffee and a nosh. This, after checking in right outside with Shop Gotham's president Marla Hander and the tour's guide Robert Rokoff—a personal shopper and stylist for both individual finance and publishing magnates and the companies they make money for.
Shortly thereafter we set off. This turned out to have only been the second one of these Men's tours, and as such, all the attendees were locals. Amongst us were other Shop Gotham employees, there to offer feedback, and—we're surmising—friends, guests and other colleagues of Marla and company. So, this wasn't the prototypical tour and the duo sort of geared it thusly—a nice touch. That said, we were treated to neighborhood factoids and real estate history throughout, re: CBGB, the Morrison Gallery, the Bowery, the New Museum, a litany of shops and brands and designers. Fair to say it was both A Complete Idiot's Guide to Shopping in New York and Bowery for Dummies.
First stop: John Derian's tabletop shop where the designer came out to to chat with us about his curated selection of sundries as well as his signature decoupage ceramics and initial dishes. A lovely shop, and new to us, but maybe a little girly for a first stop? No matter, after a quick breeze through Derian's higher-end furniture shop we doubled back to Bowery and hit the John Varvatos flagship at CBGB. A Varvatos-clad clerk presented us with some key items—a laceless boat shoe (also a pick of Rob's), a lightweight jean, a classic white shirt. We also were treated to a 20% discount almost-store wide, accessible with your a little blue Shop Gotham card. That's awesome, but the tour scenario and its 15 or 20 minute shop-allotment could make deciding whether or not to splurge on designer shoes a little difficult (especially when veiled panic seeps into the voices of your guides when you collectively run a few minutes behind).
Solution: The discount card is valid for the entire day of the tour.
From there we stopped into INA Men where we were offered 15% off. That said, and as a fellow tour-taker noted, it was still too expensive (sometimes their pricing just seems nuts to us). Two other new-to-us shops came next: Almost neighbors Shoe (yuck) and Sew—where founder Scott Evan Wasserberger came out to chat with us about his bespoke menswear and offer a generous 25% discount. Wasserberger's gum-snapping must've made someone hungry—cue a mini-snack and bathroom break across the street at the decidedly un-butch Little Cupcake Bakeshop. (We guess stopping for steaks would take too long and not everybody drinks bourbon at 3pm). The cupcake was meh, and this part of the tour could've been a bit more organized—are we staying? Are we sitting? Who is buying? What are we ordering?
Anyway, next was Scout for vintage tees organized by color, inexpensive on-trend sunglasses, cowboy boots and private label basics. The prices are already within reason at Scout, and we got an extra 10% off! Just beware of the crazy shopgirl whose valley girl-stoner drawl and veiled hard-sell still haunts. Scout was followed by Brooklyn Industries—a great inclusion we wouldn't have thought of—where we were treated to 15% off and a quick tour of spring looks and hot sellers from the very young, very eager staff.
Around the corner we hit MiN New York, where the house publicity maven gave us a rundown of some of the shop's new and exclusive grooming products (plus Oprah's favs!), including a suite of imported lemon-essence product by Agua de Colonia Concentrada Alvarez Gomez (mouthful) and a really superb hand cream by Miller Harris—at least one tour member bit, taking advantage of a 10% discount and gift with purchase.
Across the street we popped into Housing Works Bookstore Café for a peruse and a bathroom break before a poke around the Staley-Wise Gallery's Bert Stern show and a +J primer at Uniqlo—where we dispersed.
Throughout the tour, both Rob and Marla provided tidbits on each store and their signature wares as well as advice on trends (boat shoes, tote bags, vintage tees, fits, colors) and styling—some of which seemed a bit duh but, again, we're not their target customer. They were really helpful and really engaged, flexible and very friendly.
Some final notes: Crossing the street en masse was a little ridiculous (Marla: "You know the rules of crossing the street in New York City—there are no rules!") It wasn't always easy to hear our guides. Stopping for a chat on Broadway and Spring: Not a great idea. And, finally, we sort of hoped to stop in at some of New York's most New York shops—the flagships that just don't exist in most, if not all, other cities: Jack Spade, Rogan, Billy Reid, Alexander Wang. But we're niggling, and we realize there are only three hours and geographically you just can't go everywhere. It was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon and we'd recommend it to out-of-towners or the utterly clueless (straight, gay, young, old) in a heartbeat.
Tours run every Friday from 2pm to 5pm and cost $52 per person through March 25th, after which they'll cost $58 (there's also a $2 ticketing fee). There is a maximum of eight guests per tour; groups get discounts; cupcakes and coffee are gratis; and each tour is lead by a led by personal stylist. A printed list of stops, discounts and additional pertinent shops is provided and maps are forthcoming.
· The Men's Tour [Shop Gotham]