Lee's Art Shop is stocked with the usual supplies - and a slew of unusual finds
By Laura Shanahan
I defy you to venture above the first floor during any single visit ? even though this legendary shop boasts four levels.
Unless you have a burning need for, say, a custom-made picture frame (second floor), personalized stationery (third floor) or children's creative gifts (fourth floor), you will spend more time than you could ever possibly have imagined nosing around Lee's Art Shop's stadium-size ground floor. The categories and selection ? and sheer mass of novel and clever items ? will have you hypnotized until an impossible-seeming number of hours have passed.
"I keep seeing things I like," a real rough-and-tumble macho type protested to his girlfriend, as she lassoed him out the door, past the faceted-glass wine stoppers and upscale toiletry gifts. I felt his pain. I, too, am helpless in the face of whimsy and elegance ? nice to know even tough guys are vulnerable.
Located at 220 W. 57th St., Lee's is a more-than-half-century-old New York institution. If you are, too, and, like Lee's, still look great, self-celebrate with the big, beautiful, baroque coffee mug that declares ? in artful lettering, of course ? "50 never looked so good." This cream-colored ceramic item has ornate raised scrollwork borders and a large well-curved handle to prevent the knuckle-burn that inevitably results from stingy little versions. The interior of the mug, as well as the handle, are swimming-pool blue. So lovely, so refreshing and with such a self-affirming message (would be even more affirming to get as a gift, of course, but you can't always rely on people ? perhaps you've noticed). Anyway, $12 for this Grasslands Road item ? and, yes, versions with varying slogans and color accents are available for other ages, too.
Consider now the same brand's realistic-looking little corn-on-the-cob topped with a melting pat of butter that is actually ? surprise! ? a ceramic salt or pepper shaker. Not into the corn? How about a zesty slice of watermelon, a beefy burger or a hot dog? These mini versions, just begging to complement your barbecue table, are also great pretenders crafted of ceramic; your choice, $5. Pair them, perhaps, with the disposable red-and-white-tablecloth-checked plates by Amscan; $3.50-$8.50 for varying sized sets of eight.
"Coffee ? the last cheap drug." Agreed? Then you might want to consider the glossy zip-top coin purse with that slogan, illustrated with a steaming cup of joe versus a cheery colorful background. Made of 95 percent post-consumer material, this crave-worthy Blue Q item is only $4.95. There's also a "Cash Cow" model with a picture of a money-bag-producing bovine against a madly colorful yellow-fuchsia-emerald-orange ground. Another purse is emblazoned "My 2 Cents." There are loads more zip-tops of varying sizes, plus a large web-strapped messenger bag, all highly covetable.
Oh yeah, almost forgot: Lee's Art Shop also has art supplies. But you knew that ? what you may not know is that the selection is not just geared to the pro, or to any one "art," but to everything from scrapbooking to T-shirt design and virtually any other kind of DIY craft. If you like to make your own greeting cards, you will plotz over the materials available here.
"I wind up keeping these for myself," I confided to another browser, who was also enamored with some glittering-decal card-making supplies.
"Me, too," she smiled.