The Amazon-free guide to holiday gifts in Cobble Hill & Carroll Gardens


Neighborhood baseball caps at Woods Grove Photo: Kara Zuaro

Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill are some of the easiest shopping neighborhoods in Brooklyn to navigate on foot. Smith Street and Court Street run parallel through these adjacent neighborhoods, and they’re dotted with bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants, and bars to keep you nourished and hydrated as you go. This area has an ever-increasing number of chain stores, but real treasure troves are the neighborhood shops that you won’t find anywhere else. So, ditch your Amazon guilt, get some fresh air, and visit some mom-and-pop shops before more chains stores swoop in to claim their space.

For Your Brother: Woods Grove

The toast to the Notorious RBG, the Notorious B.I.G. and the Beastie Boys with these rock glasses from Woods Grove. Photo: Kara Zuaro

Whether he’s your actual brother, brother-from-another mother, or brother-in-law, Woods Grove has something to give to this hard-to-gift man-person. It’s owned by a pair of dudes who’ve been buddies for 20 years has a major home goods-for-homies vibe. It’s the only place you can get their 11-ounce, house-designed rock glasses featuring a selection of artists, historical figures and other characters, including Biggie, the Beastie Boys, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Prince, Dolly Parton, and the Golden Girls. (Note: They’re hand-wash only! Perfect for someone who doesn’t own a dishwasher!) Priced at 16 bucks each, they make a pretty great low-end gift. Pair with a bottle of booze from Smith and Vine (317 Smith Street) and you’re done-zo.

If you wanna spend a little more on hero-inspired kitchenware, they’ve also go a wall covered with antique china decorated with similar characters, ranging from the Beatles to Kurt Cobain to Chewbacca. The one-of-a-kind art plates are made locally, sold for $46 each, and would make a fine cookie plate of kitchen wall hanging. Woods Grove, 302 Court Street

Wall art or cookie plates? Grandmotherly china finds new life at Woods Grove. Photo: Kara Zuaro

For Your Favorite Introvert: Books Are Magic

For the most magical gifts for all ages, there’s only one place to go. Photo: Kara Zuaro

Maybe it’s your partner, maybe it’s your best friend, maybe it’s your bookworm babysitter. Someone in your life needs something wonderful to read. That special someone also wants you to print out a picture of yourself against the Books Are Magic sign on the side of the building so they can use it as a bookmark. Trust us, they do. For an incredibly special low-priced gift, we always recommend grabbing an autographed copy of one of Emma Straub’s books. Emma owns and operates the shop with her husband, Michael Fusco-Straub, and she’s happy to personalize a book with a little advance notice. If you’re shopping for someone who loved her most recent works, Modern Lovers and The Vacationers, you’ve got to grab Other People We Married, the short story collection that made us fall in love with Emma in the first place.

On the high-end, the Monthly Magic Book Subscription promises 6 or 12 months of brand-new, staff-picked surprise books sent in the mail. The 6 genre options (Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Poetry, Picture Books, Middle Grade, and YA) cover every introvert on your list and range in price from $120 to $395. Buy subscriptions for your bookish besties, splurge on another subscriptions for yourself, and guess what—you just started a book club! Happy 2020 to you! Books are Magic, 225 Smith Street

“Do you love surprises built for introverts?” Books Are Magic asks and answers. Photo: Kara Zuaro

For Your Mother: Lily Brooklyn

A purse that’s handmade in NYC at Lily, a store that’s celebrating 20 years on Court Street. Photo: Kara Zuaro

In the 20 years since Lily opened its doors, the neighborhood has undergone some dramatic changes. The shop’s staying power comes from its friendly (but never overbearing) staff and affordable, stylish, carefully curated clothing and classic accessories for women of all ages. (Personally, I’ve been shopping here since I was in my twenties, and it’s not uncommon here to see a woman with a chic silver bob pop out of the dressing room, looking like a million bucks.) With brands like Kingston’s Karina Dresses, Lily also accommodates a wider range of sizes than most shops in the neighborhood. Owner Jennifer Gerien focuses on locally made items and fair-trade items, and most importantly, she has really great taste. If you’re looking to spend under $50, we love the super-soft, jewel-toned Shupaca scarves, which are warmer than wool and 100% hypo-allergenic ($45). We also love the $28 fur-lined gloves in bright solids and cute polka-dots (pictured below).

On the higher end, you can’t go wrong with a simple Pietro bag in your mom’s favorite color. These buttery-soft leather bags have been made by hand in NYC since 1982, and we love the metallic silver purse ($155, pictured above) that could work as a handled clutch but also has a detachable shoulder strap and can be worn cross-body. It’s a day-to-night bag that’ll add a little sparkle to mom’s wardrobe, and it’s just the right size as a slim 12-inch by 12-inch, with clean lines and zippered pockets on either side. Lily Brooklyn, 209 Court Street


Coziness, polka dots, and pom-poms at Lily. Photo: Kara Zuaro

For Your Niece and Nephew: The Brooklyn Strategist

At the Brooklyn Strategist, you can find every board game you remember from you childhood, plus many more. Photo: Kara Zuaro

Whether you’re looking to school your nieces and nephews in the board games of your youth (like Clue, Scrabble, or Stratego) or if you need to advice finding something to impress a serious gamer, the Brooklyn Strategist is here to help, with unbridled enthusiasm for all things game-related. For an inexpensive gift, they joyfully recommend collaborative card games (like Hanabi, The Game, and The Mind, priced at $11 to $15) in which the players work together to win.

For a higher-end present, the shopkeepers will happily out some very giftable, well-designed boxes, like Machi Koro ($50), a city-building Japanese card game that you can play in 30 minutes. They’ve also got the very serious, slightly scary-looking Necromunda: Dark Uprising boxed set, a $260 gift that comes with a 128-page rule-book, a double-sided play surface, and even some miniature “Corpse Grinder Cultists” to really spoil the gamer you hold closest to your dark, dark heart.

And if you need a shopping break, the Strategist has its own little cafe serving coffee, tea, wine, beer, and snacks, and they’ve got a library of games for walk-in play. The Brooklyn Strategist, 333 Court Street

The staff at Brooklyn Strategist highly recommends these collaborative card games. Photo: Kara Zuaro

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