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This Times Contributor Knows Where to Get Thai Dolls on 17th Street

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New York City has more stores than anyone could physically tackle, but somehow we always keep returning to the usual suspects. To break out of the rut, we've asked some local shopping and fashion gurus to provide their hidden retail gems—those unique stores around our fantastic city that we might not all know about. Cue the Beatles: We're about to get a little help from our friends.

Image via Alex Hawgood's iPhone

Alex Hawgood, a freelance writer and journalist for The New York Times, is currently in the process of developing a new retail concept and collaborating with Lady Gaga's stylist Nicola Formichetti on an upcoming digital project. His obscure store of choice is the Flatiron District shop Beads of Paradise, a megastore filled with inventory from South East Asia, India, Indonesia, China, the Middle East, and, most recently, Mexico. With the long weekend coming up, there's really no excuse not to go and spend some time perusing the vast array of international merchandise. Hey, if you want to get on Gaga's good side, maybe a few of these "little monsters" will do the trick.

Beads of Paradise is best known for selling African masks, Tibetan mats, exotic jewelry, and all sorts of ethnic beads, but the enormous selection of 'small world yarn dollies' in the center of the store are the real gems. Handmade in Thailand by hill tribe villagers, the miniature toys are eccentric and joyously deranged. There is one for everyone no matter your taste, from punk rockers and Rastafarians to soccer players and prison inmates. My favorites are the little crippled guys with crutches. My friend Brian Molloy, a stylist, told me about them and even used them to create a necklace for an upcoming shoot.
· Beads of Paradise [Official Site]
· Alex Hawgood's archive [T Magazine]

Beads of Paradise

16 East 17th Street, New York NY 10003