Our NYC shop is in a pretty special/odd little corner of Lower Manhattan, something we talk about a lot and wrote about here. One thing we joke about a lot is just how many inexpensive treasures can be found here, from the Chinese dollar stores to the fruit markets on Grand Street. There's a lot going on in these parts!
This week I challenged everyone to see what they could find around here with $5. Here were the rules:
At least half of the things we sell are less than $5, so I also asked everyone to spend $5 (including tax) in the shop to see what they could do with a budget.
TOTAL: $4.90 including tax
- Three toothbrushes with matching toothbrush holders - $1.29
- Pack of 8 squishy pencil grips - $1.00
- Fancy flat peach - $1.50
- Hamburger gummy - $0.50
TIME LEFT: 1 second
Notes: Having already chosen my CWPE items, I was on a mission to find accompanying things. As per Caitlin's excellent suggestion, I was on the lookout for a toothbrush holder to use as a pencil case and found a great trio in my favorite colors, including a sky blue one to match my pencil. The other thing I was really set on finding was some lychees, because they're EVERYWHERE right now. Much to my dismay, the lychee prices went up this week and it was out of my budget, so I settled on a nice looking flat, white peach (which was delicious! I'd never had one like it before) and a hamburger gummy from my childhood. This challenge was much harder than I expected, mostly because I wasted a lot of time trying to find the right fruit. Overall, I am pleased with my purchases. The pencil grips are actually really comfortable and I will definitely put all of the toothbrush holders to use.
Total: $5.00 including tax
Avocado - $1.75
- JJ's Sweets Sea Salt Cocomel - $0.79
- Jane Jenni Buttons - $1.00ea x2
- Haribo Gold-Bears - $0.25
Time left: 2 min, 56 seconds
I immediately messed up the $5 challenge by totally forgetting that we needed to get at least one stationery item! And as it turns out, most of my items were food, which is not a total misrepresentation of my understanding of our neighborhood. My first stop was AAA Avocados, which is right across the park from us and, if I may say so, one of Manhattan's unsung treasures. Caroline tipped me off to this place several months ago, and it truly is a wonder. Mostly they do wholesale avocado orders for shops and restaurants around New York. But you can also walk in, like I did, and ask for a single avocado (you can even specify the ripeness you want!). From there, I went over to Orchard Grocer, a vegan market/deli. I'm not vegan (or even vegetarian), but they have delicious sandwiches. I always get one of these sea salt Cocomels (vegan caramel) and swear I'm not going to eat it until after my sandwich, and invariably end up eating it while I wait for my order to be ready. The Tenement Museum is just a few blocks north of there and they have a pretty good gift shop. I originally went in thinking I'd get a postcard or a pencil, but then I got distracted (see this is where I forgot about the rules...) by a bin of PUN PINS. I spent most of thirty minutes reading them--there must have been 20 different ones, at least. I picked "cutie pie" and "handsome devil." I thought I'd be done after that, but I had a quarter and some copper left over, so I stopped at a dollar store and picked up some gummy bears as well.
Total (including tax): $4.79
- 3-pack liquid glue sticks - $1.25
- M&G Miffy 4B eraser - $0.75
- Double-sided pencil case - $1.25
- M&G 0.35mm gel pen - $1.00
- Mini Slim Jims X 2 - $0.75
Time Left: 15 min, 40 seconds
I knew exactly where I wanted to go when Caroline handed me $5.00 for this challenge. Alyx and I often go on adventures in the neighborhood when we are tasked with picking up something for the office - this has lead to pit stops in the local aquarium shop, long pauses in the Duane Reade stationery aisle, and discovery of the best bargain stores in the LES. There's one on Eldridge, right across the street from Vanessa's Dumplings (where you can also get a delicious meal for less than $5.00!!) that has the BEST stationery section. The first time I went there, I picked up a plastic hand-crank sharpener with Miffy illustrations on it for $4.00 -- and it turned out to be one of the best sharpeners I have! I went to this 99cent store with the hopes I could get another Miffy sharpener, but they were unfortunately sold out. I didn't fret, the stationery section is prolific so I bought a couple fun things I needed: liquid glue sticks for letter embellishments, a nicely compartmentalized pencil case, a Miffy eraser (I love that Japanese erasers are graded just like pencils), and a 0.35mm gel pen. Up by the front register you HAVE to check out the pens - there are actually really good fine point pens, as well as excellent novelty pens and mechanical pencils. Having a plethora of time and $0.75 left over, I then took a leisurely stroll to our favorite deli/bodega Don Juan, where I picked up a couple mini Slim Jims. Fun note: I've never known either of these places to charge tax if you pay in cash.
Total (including tax): $4.63
- 5-pack of sticky notes - $1.25
- Crazy Plunger .5mm pen - $1.00
- R.I.P. Sanitary Tax button - $1.00
- Peanut M&Ms - $1.00
Time Left: 2 minutes, give or take a few seconds
I had a couple vague destinations rolling around in my mind when I set off on this task, mostly food-related. I thought I'd kick off the hunt with a sweet red bean bun from Vanessa's (a fine dumpling shop which has provided me with many lunches and dinners), but before I could even get through their door, I was sidetracked by the word "DISCOUNT" glaring at me from across the street. Wondering if this was the mysterious bargain store I've heard so much about in the past year, I scurried across the street to check it out. Based off the excellent stationery section, I assumed it was, and I settled in for a solid 15 minutes. I ultimately grabbed some sticky notes (a favorite of mine for doing some low-pressure doodles) and the Crazy Plunger pen ( but only after much debate. There was a 3-pack of toy trucks that were calling my name for whatever reason). With $2.25 spent, I went over to Don Juan's (the bodega down the street from CWPE that constantly surprises me with their humane prices) and scooped one of my favorite candies, Peanut M&Ms, because it just felt right. I had $1.75 left at this point and about 10 minutes. So, I took a quick lap and then decided to take a gamble on TicTail, a favorite shop of mine that's filled with lots of fun, artist-made goods (pens, patches, apparel, etc). Running out of time, I made reasonable choice of entering the shop and immediately asking " DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING THAT IS AROUND $1.75," and they pointed me in the direction of a jar full of $1 buttons. After sorting through the lot and debating the propriety of a few for this blog post (including a brilliant riff on the TV show "Cheers"), I settled on the sanitary tax tombstone pin. With just over two minutes left, I paid for my pin and nearly high-fived the woman working behind the counter.
Total (including tax): $4.95
- Hot Pink Nail Polish - $1.25
- 5 Pack of Toy Story Themed Gel Pens - $1.25
- 4 Piece Jonas Brothers Stationery Set by Disney - $1.00
- Strawberry Banana Tropical Drinkable Lowfat Yogurt - $1.00
Time Left: 7 minutes
Boy oh boy are you in for a treat! There I was, wandering the streets with a vague plan in mind: I'll get some food or something and grab a pack of paperclips from the discount store, I thought, but nay, this venture turned out to be much bigger than I had ever expected. First, I began with a romp, popping my head into many of the delis and bodegas within a three block radius—one of the challenge's requirements. After entering and leaving multiple stores empty handed, I decided it was high time to stop messing around. If I was to complete this challenge and label it a success, I had to buckle down and buckle tight, it was time to get serious. I found myself on Eldridge between Grand and Broome, walking into a Discount Store. It is here that I purchased the Hot Pink Nail Polish, the 5 pack of Toy Story Themed Gel Pens, and the 4 Piece Jonas Brothers Stationery Set by Disney, coming to a total of $3.50. With only $1.50 left, I set off to Don Juan, ready to purchase a snack. I had trouble deciding, Pop Tarts were a worthy competitor, but alas, I decided on a Strawberry Banana Tropical Drinkable Lowfat Yogurt because of course. Now I'm ready for a night of painting my nails and drinking lowfat yogurt while I write about my crush on Joe Jonas in a small notebook with his face on it. Neat.