Well over a decade ago, an influx of artists and musicians made Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood trendy. Retro-style bars flourished, as did fun, quirky shops along the area's main drag, Bedford Avenue (namely, the stretch from Metropolitan Avenue to North 12th Street). These days the area is becoming increasingly mass-market retail oriented—see recent additions like Urban Outfitters and J.Crew—but there's still plenty of creative energy in the neighborhood's independently run boutiques. Shoppers can find reasonably priced items and friendly, helpful sales representatives (who may wear statement eyeglasses and/or have directional haircuts). Explore a cozy bookstore, one-of-a-kind thrift shops and a jeweler that allows customers to make their own baubles. Read on for a full list of must-visit shops.
How to Get There
Take the L train to Williamsburg's Bedford Ave. stop. (Find out how to get to Williamsburg during the L shutdown.)
Sometimes credited with starting the stackable ring trend, Catbird, which counts Zoe Kravitz and Winona Ryder among its fans, is a jewelry shop that's been in business on Bedford Avenue since 2004. The whimsical boutique is small (which makes it hard to peruse on a busy day), but its dainty pieces have an outsize appeal. Find earrings, necklaces and the covetable stacking rings, which are made in house using 14-karat yellow gold or sterling silver. In 2014, Catbird opened another location on Driggs Avenue; called the Wedding Annex, the location sells—you guessed it—engagement rings and wedding bands.
Verameat is another whimsical jewelry company with a loyal following. Their pieces are polished and artful, all handcrafted from recycled silver or 14-karat gold. Look out for chunky gold brass knuckles, sterling silver necklaces that dangle pendants shaped like internal organs, and rings featuring animal faces and emoji. (We did say “whimsical.”)
At Norbu the jewelry is boho-inspired with a mix of modern, antique and fine pieces that incorporate silver, gold vermeil, brass and semiprecious stones. The boutique carries pieces from local artisans including Lio + Linn and Rebecka Froberg, as well as a house line of necklaces.
Stone Flower is a Barbie's Dream House of a boutique. Think pink walls, frilly clothing and accessories that sparkle from one end of the space to the other. Their jewelry, trinkets and clothing are dazzling—and, it goes without saying, very girly.
DIY jewelry space Brooklyn Charm puts customers in the driver's seat, allowing them to create and customize their own jewelry. Along with a treasure trove of beads, charms and other things that sparkle, patrons can choose from a variety of different chains. They also offer finished products, as well as taxidermy and other items.
Cozy Berlyn 65 is tucked behind a café and features a carefully edited selection of accessories, jewelry and housewares from all over the world. The shop also stocks hand-woven Turkish bath towels, turquoise stone pieces and other items for the home.
The Bedford Avenue Mini Mall (between North 4th and North 5th Streets) serves as the base for a host of other local businesses as well. Cyclical Industry sells rings, necklaces and bracelets, some of which draw inspiration from bicycling and bicycle culture, a passion of designer Soo An. Elsewhere in the mall you'll find kitschy product purveyor MeMe Antenna Gifts & Music, indie anchor Spoonbill & Sugartown Books and a nook at the back where The Market NYC, a bazaar home to around 20 local vendors, is located.
The Mini Mall's appeal is further enhanced by Awoke Vintage and Brooklyn Fox Lingerie. The former, an import from Australia, carries pre-loved clothing generally from the '70s and '80s, and features a variety of colorful dresses, shirts and skirts at a range of price points. The latter, meanwhile, is a local favorite, carrying intimate items from American and European labels like Only Hearts and Cosabella. Its sister store, located a block away, sells accessories and clothing made from a little more fabric.
For apparel and jewelry with an heirloom feel, try Bedford Avenue veteran In God We Trust. The boutique has a vintage, rustic feel, and sells form-fitting styles from local designers as well as jewelry made by owner Shana Tabor in her Greenpoint studio. Farther south are two stores, side by side, sure to entice shoppers: Amarcord, which specializes in vintage luxury items from the '60s, '70s and '80s, and Pema, around since 2004 as a vendor for cute and reasonably priced clothes, accessories and handbags from smaller labels.
A Pinkyotto location, hawking trendy and flowy threads, gives the thoroughfare a feminine feel, while Fanaberie brings hip, wallet-friendly clothing south of Metropolitan Avenue. Also located in South Williamsburg is Babel Fair, whose gallery-like interior has a minimalist aesthetic and features sleek clothing from a global selection of designers.
Guys needn't feel left out either. Those who are in the market for slim-fitting clothing should try ID Menswear, which serves a preppy clientele with brands like Fred Perry, Penguin Classic and local labels. For vintage threads, visit The Quality Mending Co. over on Driggs Avenue. The shop specializes in hard-to-find denim, leather jackets and work-wear items.
Audiophiles, meanwhile, should make sure to visit Williamsburg's oldest record shop, Earwax Records. And anybody who likes to smell nice ought to stop in at Soap Cherié, a chic shop selling beauty and bath products, with a focus on handmade soaps and scrubs.
Other Nearby Shops
Although the north part of Bedford Avenue is Williamsburg's main commercial strip, the neighborhood includes plenty of other enticing options. See our shortlist below:
504 Driggs Ave., 718-384-6901
The color-coded racks are stuffed with T-shirts, jeans, tanks and sweaters, which makes for hours of pleasurable perusing.
Concrete + Water
485 Driggs Ave., 917-909-1828
Browse this stylish and airy concept shop that carries a collection of accessories and fashion pieces (for both men and women) made by independent and high-end designers.
Dirty Hands Jewelry
296 Bedford Ave., 718-599-0375
The boutique's one-of-a-kind pieces—made from semiprecious gemstones, metal, leather and gold—feel more South America than South Williamsburg.
567 Driggs Ave.,718-640-6299
As its name implies, this emporium stocks a proudly cluttered variety of vintage furniture and knickknacks.
Le Grand Strip
197 Grand St., 718-599-3525
Find a rainbow of vintage clothing, shoes and accessories handpicked by owner C.C. McGurr.
80 Nassau Ave., 347-529-5771
Shop the original made-in-Brooklyn denim line.