There is no need to jump on a subway bound for the tourist-laden Manhattan streets to shop for your loved ones this holiday season.
Some of the best deals with the most personable customer service won’t be found on Madison Avenue or Broadway. Instead, they can be found right here on the busy streets of Forest Hills and Rego Park.
Big stores such as Old Navy and Abercrombie may offer bulk supplies of stylish clothing, but to truly stand out from the crowd, Instant Replay at 72-20 Austin St. in Forest Hills offers unique items you won’t find in your average department store.
Owner Marc Pine opened Instant Replay 35 years ago as a simple women’s clothing store, but the business has evolved into one that prides itself on selling designer handbags and elegant jewelry.
The small, yet intimate establishment seemingly has just about anything a woman would want for her bedroom or wardrobe. And that’s not all — a painting of the Last Supper dating back to the 1630s can even be found leaning up against a portrait of The Beatles alongside the counter.
“I grew up in the retail business and I was given many good ideas,” Pine said. “People say I have a good eye for retail. I sell a lot of different things here.”
Pine says that, despite the economic downturn over the last several years, his eccentric shop has actually continued to grow. Even in the face of an unstable market, the fearless businessman expects to enjoy success in the coming days prior to Christmas.
“Even when the recession hit, the store still did well,” he said. “I’m still quite optimistic. These objects are very strong gifts and you’re going to get things here that you won’t be able to get anywhere else.”
In terms of special holiday deals, Pine, Instant Replay’s only worker, says that there aren’t any, as there are no boundaries on his items’ low prices.
“There are always specials here,” he said. “I carry a lot of cheap clothing. Some of it might be out of fashion but it’s quality stuff. It definitely is not what you would see in Macy’s or any other store.”
Another small, under-the-radar Forest Hills business that offers a wide range of gifts is Go Antiques at 116-09 Queens Blvd.
For the past 24 years, the shop, owned and operated by Daniel Maman, whose wife and four sons all help run the business, has been an excellent source of interior design gifts and other items.
“Paintings and jewelry are our best-selling items,” Maman said. “We have sales going on for jewelry right now where things are 30 to 50 percent off. Chandeliers are 25 percent off as well.”
Much like Instant Replay, Go Antiques has also seen success this holiday season despite the uncertain economy, according to Maman.
“You have to adjust yourself,” he continued. “Yes, the economy is not great but if you can adjust yourself to the business, then you’ll be just fine.
“Everything is pretty good right now,” he continued. “We have good prices and we give the right services. For 24 years, we have been treating the customers right. Treat them right and they will recommend you to the next person.”
In Rego Park, providing customers with a chance to improve their health and their lives is a top priority for Jimmy Yeh and his bicycle shop, Spin City Cycle, at 98-73 Queens Blvd.
“Get out of the car and ride a bike,” Yeh said. “Exercise is key, so come on down here and buy a bike.”
Spin City Cycle, unlike Instant Replay and Go Antiques, is having a “subpar” shopping season, according to Yeh, even though models from 2013 and older are 10 to 20 percent off for the holidays.
Yeh, who runs the shop along with retail associate Ioshi Dussek, does have plans to brighten the business’ outlook, including repair tutorials for those cyclists with busted bikes.
“We have a lot of things here that you can’t get online or anywhere else,” he said. “We offer great customer service and soon we’ll be giving repair classes.”
Spin City Cycle features dozens of models ranging from mountain bikes to children’s training bicycles, and it may see a bump in sales now that the city ban on e-bikes has been law for a month.
“[Business] will improve somewhat, maybe,” Yeh said. “It will hopefully help a little.”
For holiday shoppers who spend their days in the corporate world instead of hitting the bike trails, Eric Shoes at 96-56 Queens Blvd. in Rego Park provides footwear for those seeking both comfort and style.
Dozens of stylish shoes for both men and women line the display shelves of the small shop and, because the need for shoes will always exist, manager David Lama says that business is going well so far this holiday shopping season.
“It started off very good, like it normally does,” Lama said. “We’re expecting more people before Christmas too.”
Eric Shoes, which has been in business for almost 20 years, is offering some sizable holiday discounts to shoppers as well.
A banner hanging outside the store advertises a clearance sale in which certain shoes and boots are being sold for 50 percent off, while therapeutic shoes designed for diabetics are free with Medicare.
“We have a lot of holiday discounts,” Lama said. “We have some good specials for people to take advantage of.”
Holiday shopping season can be an extremely stressful time for some, and in a city full of big-box stores and name-brand retailers, the small business owner can often get overlooked.
Rego Park and Forest Hills residents have easy access to multiple large-scale shopping complexes, but, according to Maman, you can’t find personality or a family connection in the maze of aisles at Target or Best Buy.
“We are a family company; my four sons and my wife work here,” he said. “They all know everything about this company and they love it.”