When the pages remaining on December’s calendar start to wane and the pressure to find the perfect holiday gift begins to mount, a walk among the many diversified shops in Bayside could provide some surprising solutions. Here’s what’s offered at just a few of the stores that keep the area lively.
Karma, a tidy little boutique located at 38-27 Bell Blvd., takes its name from “the essence of life itself,” as owner Margaret Papacostas puts it, who says she is a strong believer in karma.
For 10 years, the shop had been known as Azure, but after a thorough renovation, it was rechristened as Karma on Feb. 1, she said.
The new design, according to Papacostas, was intended “to make a woman feel like she’s shopping in her own closet.
“I’ve worked hard to build trust in the community,” she explained, particularly to create a “stress-free environment” for her customers.
The one-stop shop for women, as its owner describes it, carries everything from evening to work attire. Most popular right now are the bandage dresses, she said, referring to a style still big with celebrities. “Women want to be like them,” she said.
Working much like a girdle, the dresses “make their bodies look absolutely amazing,” Papacostas said.
Regular prices for the dresses run from $99 to $180. But for the holiday season, shoppers are offered considerable discounts on their purchases: $10 off for $50 or more; $15 off for $100 or more; $20 off for $150 or more.
According to Papacostas, the store sells every accessory imaginable, including a full line of Laura Bling, which now comes with a 20 percent discount. Also available at 20 percent off are Michele Lovetri designer handbags.
An array of work attire and holiday dresses is featured, as are denim jeans, and “we’ve incorporated shoes into the store to complete the look,” Papacostas said.
Since reopening, business has been “very good,” she said. “The community has responded very well.”
On a recent visit, return customer Teresa Campanelli of Bayside said the store is “always good for the last minute to run to in an emergency,” a situation she faced the day before leaving on vacation.
Campanelli found something to her liking, a chic red dress, but needed a smaller size than was available. Papacostas promised to order it and give Campanelli a call later that afternoon, or the next morning at the latest, once it had arrived.
Signs around the store offer tidbits of advice such as “Teach others,” “Try new things,” “Love what you do” and “Live without limits.”
“Everything has positive thoughts in here,” Papacostas said.
Karma is open Monday to Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Call (718) 428-1114.
Nearby is a well-stocked hole-in-the-wall called Turn the Page ... Again!, a book shop run by Transitional Services for New York, a comprehensive, community-based mental health agency that provides a continuum of rehabilitative services to enrich the lives of people with mental illness. TSINY also facilitates their transition to increased levels of independence.
In addition to three professional staff members, 14 individuals are gaining valuable work experience in the store, working two or three days a week for up to 10 hours total per week. The work program generally runs for nine months.
Going on three years at 39-15a Bell Blvd., the store offers a wide variety of used books, from romance novels (on sale this month at two for $3) and mysteries ($1 a pop) to classics, Jewish studies and black studies (also $1 each).
There are even small sections of free and 50-cent books, and no book costs more than $5 in the entire store.
All books are donated by the Queens Library and people in the community.
“Any books you could possibly need we usually have,” said Assistant Manager Nina Cassius.
Among the more popular writers represented are James Patterson, Danielle Steele and Stephen King. Frequently requested titles include volumes in the “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” series.
Cassius said the store is popular among teenagers and young readers, who have their own sitting area at the rear. Many students come in, she said, to stock up on their summer reading lists.
“A lot of people come before going to the big chain stores,” she said.
The store maintains a “wish list,” according to Cassius. “If the book comes in we will put it on hold.”
Frequent buyer cards, which get punched every time a purchase is made, offer one free book after 20 punches for adults and 10 for children.
All purchases must be made in cash.
Turn the Page ... Again! is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call (718) 767-2341.
A shop with a much longer history is Bayside Florist, located at 39-19 Bell Blvd. The store has been owned for the past 17 years by Gregory Amentas, who said it has been around more than twice that long.
Amentas admitted that business is “not as great as it was,” citing “overwhelming expenses. Everything keeps going up and you can’t raise the price on customers.”
The good news is that business has picked up a bit, though Amentas said, “People are cautious with their money.”
Among the special attractions for this time of year are poinsettias, orchids and wreaths.
“We try to give customers as much as we can for the value,” Amentas said.
In addition to stocking a large selection of exotic flowers, the store caters to personalized weddings, offers expert funeral designs, and sells fruit and gourmet baskets.
The store, which employs three workers, delivers worldwide, with same-day service across Queens and Nassau if an order is placed before 3 p.m., the owner said. With purchases of five cut flower bunches, the sixth is free (cash and carry only). Major credit cards are accepted.
Bayside Florist is open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (718) 423-0900 or 800-362-5951).