November 11, 2008

You Mean There Are Places Here to Shop?!

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Whether you want to take advantage of the last bit of warmth still clinging on like those last leaves around campus, are already holiday gift-searching, or want to express your remaining joy from Tuesday by giving a gift to our friend the Economy, here is a guide to some stores on the Commons I find to be worthwhile places to spend your money.
Diaspora is a store I first discovered before classes when I was strolling the Commons after a lovely dinner with my mom. Intrigued by a store I had never seen before, and by the fact that it was open so late, we went in. Apparently, this was all according to their plan — Diaspora had recently moved from the Pyramid Mall in order to have a nicer space and to cater to the diverse population that is found on the Commons — locals, of course, students from CU, Ithaca, TC3 and Cortland, day tourists from Horseheads and other nearby towns, summer tourists who come from all over the country and the semi-tourists: parents and families of students. All who wander are not lost, but, especially after a yummy dinner, they are looking for something to do.
Diaspora knows that, and stays open late every night for just that reason. When we went in, we found a cozy wonderland of imported goods. Diaspora has products from over 20 African countries and the Carribean, the majority of which are hand picked by the owners, who make twice yearly trips to Africa and to other importers throughout the northeast. They also have items made locally.
Let me make something clear: this is a store I kinda wanted to keep to myself, but I feel its awesomeness is such that I was obligated to let you know. The prices range from glass beads and other incidentals at under a dollar to the tribal masks that adorn the walls at up to $1,000. The diversity of the inventory is astounding, but I’ll stick to talking about my area of expertise.
The two categories that amazed me the most were their jewelry and fabrics. I absolutely adore interesting earrings, and Diaspora has a huge range of styles, shapes, and sizes of earrings — many at $6 a pair! And they’re good quality earrings, too — I checked the workmanship and my jewelry-making self approves. Allow me to repeat that: kick-ass high-quality stylish earrings for six bucks. What?!?
In the back right corner of the store is a selection of fabrics imported from Cote D’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana and some beautiful hand-died bolts from Mali. The price range is $6-18 a yard, which is pretty outstanding for high quality imported cottons. And the patterns! Oh the patterns. When my mom and I were standing in front of the bolts of cloth, it was only a question of … which one?! I ended up with a dark blue background with light grey and green paisleys. I’ve been wearing it as a wrap skirt and a scarf and I love it! You have to pop in to see the rest of the inventory and to talk to the lively and passionate owners, a huge treat in and of itself.
Trader K’s, which, like the similar Goodwill or Salvation Army, requires a willingness to really look as well as an astute and adventurous eye, can definitely yield some gems. The store is organized by clothing type and size for increased browseability. So, all the sweaters are together, etc. However, I highly recommend looking at all sizes so as not to miss any bizarre awesomeness. On my most recent trip, my friend and I found a Land’s End down vest for $22 and a pair of crazily cowboy-fringed brown high heel ankle boots downstairs in the women’s section. Upstairs in men’s we found a great selection of jeans (perfect for tight-rolling!) for as low as $4.95. But the best item by far was a pair of (sadly) size 14 seafoam Timberlands. They were in perfect condition and absolutely gorgeous: for $28!
Another newbie to the Commons is the Home Grown Skate Shop, which moved to its new location just a few weeks ago. As my friend said when we saw it, “I didn’t know we had a sick ass kicks store.” A change from its previous look, the new store is stark, white and sparsely stocked in that quintessential boutique-y way. But the white does show off the colors of their inventory — shirts on the left wall, boards on the back and shoes on the right. That was what drew me in. They carry apparel and shoes by the Nike SB line, Adidas and In4mation, among others.
But my favorite clothing store on The Commons, also recently relocated from another site, is Petrune, hands down. Petrune is a vintage store geared towards “college kids and twenty-somethings” as employee Miranda Mccue put it, also commenting that older generations are less keen on vintage, in part because they were around when the clothes were new. Petrune only carries items from the ’80s or before, but they have items that date back to the Victorian era.
About 80 percent of their inventory is vintage, acquired through estate sales, weekly trips by buyers to New York City and via people calling in to say that they have a box of stuff they found in the attic. When selecting inventory for the store, buyers look for clothes in good condition that they feel have a place in current fashion. For example, they stay away from “blaringly ’80s stuff.” The rest of the inventory is new clothing with a vintage feel.
Right now they have some gorgeous wool coats by the label Tulle in mustard yellow, emerald green and other colors, chosen in part to brighten up the vintage winter palette, which toward beige and grey. Their prices range from kickin’ sunglasses and jewelry at about $5, to designer outerwear and furs at about $200. I recently bought a wonderful cobalt blue button-up with a self tie and a grey silky box dress with Victorian-esque buttons and necktie, both from the ’80s, for a total of $42.
They also carry some fantastic shoes — their shoe inventory is about 50/50 vintage/new and features some gorgeous Ferragamos for absurdly low prices … and small feet. But the shoes I really fell in love with were these incredible cowboy boots with dark green and turquoise leather on a tan background. Sadly, they were size six. Somebody tiny please buy them so I can live vicariously through your feet …
I hope this has given you a renewed sense of hope in Ithaca’s shopping possibilities. And remember, the Commons is about a 10 minute walk, maximum, from central Collegetown, so please walk, there AND back. Your waistline and the environment will thank you.

Alex Harlig is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at amh98@cornell.edu. Dressing On the Side appears alternate Tuesdays.