Alphabet City has a strong history of being a neighbourhood that represents the fun and revolting spirit of New York and Alphabets is a great reflection of this. Originally opening its doors on November 11th, 1985 it stood at the heart of the East Village. In the '80s, the East Village was experiencing a prolific art scene with more than 80 small galleries, as well as the punk music scene, and lots of drugs. However there were not many eclectic retails stores in the area, but owner Linda Heidinger was interested in opening a small card shop and after seeing a "for rent" sign she inquired and within 48 hours signed a lease and named the store Alphabets due to it being located in Alphabet City.

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The original store was stocked with cards and toys from the '50s and '60s. They also started selling fun t-shirts, which is still a major part of their market. In 1987, the store doubled in size by taking over a neighbouring store and opening it as a design/gift shop. Expansion continued and in 1992 they crossed over to the West Village and opened a new store on Greenwich Avenue, followed by a shop opening on the Upper West Side on Broadway and 82nd Street in 1995. With business growing the option to step out of Manhattan was possible and a store was opened at Roosevelt Field Mall but unfortunately closed after 14 months. New York is steadily changing and has become increasingly expensive thus resulting in all the stores closing due to rent increases except for the original store which has relocated two blocks south from due to a triple time rent increase. Despite this, Alphabets is still going strong and is continuing to mirror that hardcore resilience of the LES all while attracting new and old customers.

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Today the store is not just in the business of selling novelties and retro toys but also is a bit in the political satire market. From figurines of politicians, cards and t-shirts poking fun at Trump, and even gum to chew after kissing a Republican. The store is also hella feminist with amazing books for adults and kids as well as great buttons, and even a Beyoncé collage shirt sitting in the window during the time of my visit. The respect that is had for the store is based solely on the willingness it has to survive in a changing neighbourhood and that it is daring to provide a piece of history.

For more information on Alphabets, check out their Instagram.


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