It felt a little lonely, perhaps appropriate for a Tibetan store. A cold February weeknight and I was the only one in the tiny shop. Not far away in tres chic SoHo, we have places just busting with customers like the Apple store, which sees thousands of customers per day and where it's hard to get the attention of a sales person for more than a few minutes. The streets are now dotted with the likes of Louis Vuitton, Prada, Armani, Bulgari and the less stratospheric places like Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, Victoria's Secret, etc.
But further west along Thompson, Sullivan and MacDougal Streets near Houston Street, there are small, neighborhood stores - restaurants, boutiques, food specialty shops and some virtual institutions. Places like Joe's Dairy, Raffetto's, Rocco, Tiro A Segno New York Rifle Club and Alidoro. Along MacDougal south of Houston there are a handful of French restaurants and cafes - Bastille Day is celebrated here annually with a closing of the block - click here. Along Thompson you have two chess shops on one block - miraculous occurrences allowing for the retail and rental climate of the day. The very small retail spaces, occupying the tenement style buildings of the area, are a factor in preventing major development by the large high-end retailers seen in the cast-iron district of central SoHo.
Vision of Tibet typifies many of the small mom and pop businesses found in this immediate area. Started in 1987, it is the oldest Tibetan shop in the city, selling handicrafts from Tibet, Nepal & India, whenever possible made by Tibetan artisans, and almost always from family-run businesses. Not surprisingly, they carry no items made in China. The owner, Sonam Zoksang (who is also a photographer) was born in Tibet. His sister, Tenzin Chodon, manages the shop.
If you want to experience an unadulterated NYC, take a stroll here. This area is truly a sleepy backwater - for now ...