Monday, October 19, 2009

Rugged Sole

Rugged Sole is a sneaker shop I visited deep in the heart of Brooklyn--Crown Heights to be exact. Wait a minute, the Crown Heights where the 1991 riots took place? The Crown Heights where Biggie and Jay-Z grew up in? Yup, that's the place.

The store is located on Utica Ave just about a block south of Eastern Ave, the big tree-lined main street that runs through the neighborhood. To get there, we took the B line outta Manhattan, over the East River on the Manhattan Bridge (great views of the city) and into Brooklyn, then transfered to the 3 at Atlantic, and finally got off at the Crown Heights - Utica station. Musta taken us 45 minutes including the wait at Atlantic. Once we got up to street level, we realized just how different this part of the city is from Manhattan.

This is the New York that tourists don't see. Dirty, decrepit, forgotten. Trash everywhere. People just hanging out on street corners, going nowhere, doing nothing. Every restaurant--except for McDonalds--seemed to operate their cash registers from behind a protective glass wall. The hustle and bustle of the Manhattan shopping, all those tourists spending money, none of that is anywhere to be found in Crown Heights. Just the people who live in the neighborhood, trying to make it. That's it. We actually bought a fresh cut mango in a Ziplock baggie off a woman on the street corner who was sitting there with a box, a knife, and a cutting board. What the hell? You'd never see that in Manhattan. LOL

But on the corner of a small three story building, behind a bus stop and an overflowing trash can, is this great little sneaker shop, Rugged Sole. I think just about every brand was represented: Nike, Jordan, Adidas, Puma, Vans, Alife, Asics, Converse, DC, Clae, Creative Recreation, Keds, New Balance, PF Flyers, Dr Martens, Timberland, Sperry, Red Wings, Clarks--damn I mean, it's hard to come up with a sneaker brand they didn't have. On top of that, the entire back wall of the shop was covered in New Era 59fiftys, including some unique Brooklyn collabs.

What really made the place stand out, though, was the prices--and the random old deadstock they had laying around. So like, there's these pair of Jordan 1s in the metallic red Do The Right Thing colorway that I'd had my eye on the whole trip. Every single sneaker shop in Manhattan had them, and everyone was selling 'em at full MSRP of $110, but Rugged Sole had them for $80 bucks. You know I had to cop em right then, didn't even blink.

Then, while I was looking around at other stuff, I found a pair of Jordan 5s in the original colorway from the 2008 Countdown Pack--the ones that came with the 18s no one wanted. But they were selling the 5s alone, split outta the CTP without the 18. They only had two pair left, and one was in my size. But the icing on the cake was the price: they were originally marked $310, marked down to $260, then $150, and finally were tagged at $100. WTF??? I'd literally held the exact shoes in my hands the day before at Flight Club for $195--and had considered buying them. At $100 it was a no brainer. Cop'ed!

I don't know if it was because of their location, or clientele, or what, but they had tons of older sneakers that they just hadn't sold, colorways that other shops had run out of months or even years ago. So many Air Max 95s and Dunks and Blazers that you haven't seen anywhere else in forever, and at killer markdown prices. This place was a gold mine!

NOTE #1: Rugged Sole has another location in Manhattan in the West Village, which I also stopped by. Even though it's smaller, current brands and products were well represented, but the crazy good deals and the old stock were nowhere to be found. You know those $80 Jordan 1s I bought at the Utica location? They were $110 at the Manhattan shop--and it was the same day.

NOTE #2: In the month since I was there, the Utica location and phone number has been removed off their website. When I called their old number, it was disconnected, so I was afraid the location had been closed, but I called their Manhattan shop friday and they said the Utica location was still open. Dunno why the info is off the website; maybe they're gonna close it or maybe move in the future? Who knows. Probably worth giving them a call first before you head down there tho, just to make sure it's still open.

Recommended for adventurous sneakerheads

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Alife Rivington Club

Alife Rivington Club (A.R.C.) is sneakerhead heaven. Flat out, there's no better place in NYC to buy hot new kicks than the Rivington Club. Damn, let's not limit that to just NYC; it's the best place in the entire world. Seriously, this is the pinnacle of high concept sneaker shops.

First off, you'd better know the address of the shop is 158 Rivington Street because that's how you gotta find it--there's no big sign outside like you'd find at any normal store. Other than the address, the only external marking you'll find is a small bronzed plaque on the wall between two locked doors. Locked? Yeah, that's right, locked. You gotta press a button to be buzzed in.

Once you're in the door, you'll find the richest looking shop ever. On the right is a long leather bench along an ostrich-skin wall, and across the plush green carpeting is a wall of individually illuminated dark wood cubby holes showcasing each sneaker like a work of art. Above the cubbys, locked behind glass, are rare Air Jordans. Hanging from the ceiling is a lavish chandelier. At the back is a wooden podium with an old time red telephone. Then out the back is a large open air courtyard to chill in. Spend one minute in the shop and you'll instantly know why it's called the Rivington Club.

As for the kicks, what you'll find is the absolute best selection of the newest sneakers available. Being one of only six Nike Tier Zero accounts in the entire country, the Rivington Club gets the hottest and rarest new Nike kicks. Of course, being consistently rated as one of the best--and often THE best--sneaker shops in the world, they also get the new hotness from other manufactures like Adidas, Reebok, New Balance, Fila, and more. Watch out tho; they sell out of sneakers fast, and they don't restock old joints (gotta keep it fresh) so if you see something you want, you better jump on it fast because it'll probably be gone if you wait--and then you'll be stuck slummin it at your local mall searching for leftovers hoping to find the heat you seen and shoulda bought at the Rivington Club.

About the staff--I met Chris and Jesse, and they were two of the coolest doods I met in NYC. They treated me like I was their best friend, talked about sneakers, music, made fun of some rude dumbasses, just all kinds of shit. I happened to be wearing my Wu Tang shirt and Chris asked me if I was going to the Raekwon show @ Santos that night (which unfortunately I wasn't) and we got to talking about the music video that was filmed there that summer; it was for a Dilla song featuring Raekwon and Havoc that of course I'd already seen. Chris mentioned that the dude in the video that gets tied up was Jesse--that's cool as hell. Who wouldn't wanna be in a music video, and a Wu + Dilla one at that? Damn.

In addition to the Rivington Club, you'll find two other Alife stores in the vicinity. Next door--through the other locked door out front--is the Alife brand store where you'll find sneakers and apparel from the Alife brand themselves. Across the street is their third store, A.R.C. Sports, where you'll find the Alife collaborations with companies like Nike, Fila, and other major brands. I ran over there to pick up some of the limited edition Black, White, Gum & Bang! A.R.C. Nike Dunk High Supreme TZ sneakers--and as luck would have it, I bought the next to last pair of size 10.5 they had.

Yeah okay, so can you tell I liked the place? Ha ha! What's not to like for a true sneakerhead? Freshest kicks, rare heat, unique collabs, best atmosphere imaginable, and the coolest staff. Absolutely without a doubt, Alife Rivington Club is the shit. If you're going to NYC, you absolutely must hit this place up.

Highest possible recommendation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Academy LPs

Academy LPs in the East Village is one of three stores run by Academy Records, each with its own unique focus. The Flatiron location sells Classical and Jazz LPs and used CDs, the Williamsburg annex sells rock and jazz LPs, while the East Village shop specializes in Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Hip Hop. Naturally, that's the location I was most interested in.

The selection at the shop is extensive--in my opinion, one of the best in NYC for diggers looking for sampling material. The dollar bins are deep and full of gems. I bought an armload in there, more than any other shop I hit on my vacation.

There's also a very respectable selection of classic hip hop joints and even some new reissues. You may not find exactly what you're looking for if you're hunting for something specific, but you certainly won't have any trouble finding lotsa good stuff to buy. There's also a listening station where you can check out your potential purchases.

Nice spot for diggers. Recommended.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reed Space

Reed Space is store that sells--well, cool. That's the best way to describe it, really. They carry such a wide range of street lifestyle goods that it's hard to pin down exactly what they specialize in, except to say that it's all really cool shit.

Shirts, jackets, caps, sneakers, books, magazines, mixtapes, toys, jewelry, watches--man you name it, if it's part of the streetwear culture, Reed Space probably sells it. Brands represented include 10 Deep, Acapulco Gold, Crooks & Castles, Burton, The Hundreds, Stussy, Rogue Status, Alife, Benny Gold, Diamond Supply, Freshjive, Kangol, In4mation, Mighty Healthy, it just goes on and on and on.

Of course the star attraction--at least in my mind--is the brand Staple, purveyors of the Pigeon (complete with poop). Staple is one of my very favorite streetwear brands--probably because I got a soft spot for pigeons, comes from living downtown I guess--which is the brainchild of graphic designer Jeff Staple, who also happens to own Reed Space.

They literally put a picture of shit (pigeon shit) on clothing people step all over themselves to buy it--including me! If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what else is.

If I could only shop for streetwear at one store in the whole world, Reed Space would be it.

Highest possible recommendation.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Sound Library

The Sound Library is a great little vinyl record shop located in the Lower East Side neighborhood of NYC. The selection seems to be focused on Hip Hop with a bit of Funk, Soul, and Disco as well--which pretty much describes the kind of records I buy, so needless to say I was impressed.

The vast majority of their well-organized and extensive selection is used vinyl, and there are a couple of listening stations so you can drop a needle on most everything you might be interested in to see if you really wanna buy it. That's a good thing since the prices--while very fair--are exactly what you'd expect them to be; that is to say, they know what they got and they price accordingly. Most LPs seem to be in the $5 to $15 range, but there are some classics and rare joints that command more. If you wanna do some diggin, there are plenty of dollar bins to sift through as well.

All in all, I'd say this is one of the best hip hop centric used vinyl record shops I've ever been to. If this place was in Dallas, I'd be broke as hell!

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Russ & Daughters

Russ & Daughters Appetizers is another place in the Lower East Side that I found out about from watching Anthony Bourdain’s Disappearing Manhattan episode of No Reservations.

This tiny family owned storefront is a New York landmark that's been in business since 1914 seving the quintessential New York dish: lox on a bagel with cream cheese. Until you've tried it, the thought of cured salmon with cream cheese might not sound appealing, but once you take a bite you'll understand why it gets so much hype. Very unique flavor that I can't quite describe better than "yummy".

If you're ever in New York, do yourself a favor and get a bagel with Lox at Russ & Daughters. Sit on the bench outside, watch the city, and enjoy.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Katz's Delicatessen

At first, I felt like such a tourist whore for planning to eat at Katz's Deli in the Lower East Side, but after I watched Anthony Bourdain’s Disappearing Manhattan episode of No Reservations, I just knew I had to go. One of the many reasons I was going to NYC was to eat like a pig, and what better way to do that than stuffing an old school New York pastrami on rye down my gullet?

At $14.95, the sandwich ain't cheap, but it was large enough that my wife and I split it--and we were both stuffed. It's a sloppy mess of a sandwich, but it's friggin' delicious. Hell, I didn't even know I liked pastrami--maybe that's because until now, I'd never had good pastrami.

Thankfully our Hotel was only 3 blocks away because after that meal, I needed to take a nap.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ninth Street Espresso

I found out about Ninth Street Espresso from a blog post on Gizmodo--and after reading about the one-of-a-kind, hand-built $15,000 La Marzocco espresso machine, I just had to check the place out.

Their main location is on 9th street in the Alphabet City neighborhood of the East Village, just a few blocks east of Tompkins Square Park, but they have two other locations as well, including one on 10th street on the other side of the park--but I wanted to see the La Marzocco machine, so we went to the main location.

It's surprisingly large for a coffee shop in NYC; so many others I saw were tiny in comparison. Ample seating indoors and a large front patio. The place has a nice independent vibe.

Of course, the real star here is the espresso. Holy shit is it good--I ordered a macchiato and honestly, it was probably the most perfect cup of coffee I've ever had. My wife had an espresso, which was dead on perfect with the most beautiful creama ever, but I personally feel a macchiato is a better balanced coffee drink than straight espresso. But that's just my opinion--drink whatever floats your boat, because I believe everything they serve is just about as good as it gets.

Highest possible recommendation.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Turntable Lab

I was really excited about heading down to the East Village and checking out Turntable Lab--and the TTL Annex next door--because I order stuff from them all the time. Hell, I check their website everyday for the new goods.

Turntable Lab sells music, gear, and related accessories while the TTL Annex sells clothing, caps, bags, books & magazines, gadgets, toys, sunglasses and...well pretty much anything they deem cool. You never know what's gonna be popping up for sale next.

The stores are really pretty damn small, even by NYC standards, but they seem to pack a helluva lot of product in there. I imagine that if you have a need for something turntable or DJ related, they can hook you up. And if you just want to see what's new and cool in the scene, they got you covered there, too.

Highly recommended.

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