The Hunters Point section of Long Island City is in the midst of massive change. Residential high-rises have soared, restaurants and bars multiplied, and even a beach has opened up. Shopping has started to change, too.
Chain stores and shopping malls haven't arrived just yet, but you will find a small number of shops and boutiques -- both new and old -- giving residents local options for unusual gifts. Visit these offbeat local shops when you want a unique gift for that special person.
The store's hottest items include prints of Long Island City street scenes by artist Sharon Florin ($75 framed; $60 unframed), magnets made by local artists featuring neighborhood icons like the Pepsi Cola sign ($2.50-$4.50), and a wide range of handmade jewelry, pottery, and even CDs by area musicians.
This place is perfect for unique holiday gifts and souvenirs and affordable one-of-a-kind items.
- Art-O-Mat, 46-46 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City
- Friday and Saturday 12-7, Sunday 12-5, and by appointment
What will bring you back every Christmas is the wall stocked high with puzzles, marionettes, and wooden toys. These make great gifts for kids, and will put a gleam in the eye of many adults.
Up for a culinary adventure? Try a loosely translated cookbook. I recommend the Czech National Cookbook ($25) with big color photographs and step-by-step instructions for traditional dishes like "Potato-Prune Dumplings" and "Old Bohemian Easter Cake."
- Slovak-Czech Varieties, 10-59 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, 718-752-2093
- Monday - Saturday 11:30-7:30, Sunday 11-5
3. Celtic ArtsThis small Irish gift shop sells lovely Celtic jewelry at affordable prices, including silver pendants and earrings ($25-$80) and gold and antique pieces for $100 and up. It's a place to find Belleek china ($25-$300), widely collected pottery from Northern Ireland.
An entire wall showcases paintings by Irish-American artists, but the most original art is by shop owner and artist Sean Crean. He makes stunning mosaics out of hand-cut Italian glass ($500-$1000).
Cheaper gift items include prints of Scottish and Irish family histories ($20), and printed Irish blessings ($40 framed; $20 unframed).
- Celtic Arts, 24-15 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, 718-482-7624
- Monday - Friday 10:30-6, Saturday 12-3; but closed Saturdays in summer
They have a good selection of kids' toys and some of the hottest items are the creative wooden animal puzzles ($10), bath toys ($5-10), and baseball stadium replicas.
The store employees will help you create an original gift basket for any occasion ($25+), with bath products, gourmet food items, or baby shower gifts. The store also stocks good choices for last-minute gifts like frames and photo albums ($15-25) and scented candles ($1-$10).
- The Purple Pumpkin, 47-14 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, 718-784-7300
- Monday - Friday 10-7, Saturday 10-5, Open Sundays 11-3 in December only