Managing Editor Betsy Ladyzhets needed a vacuum cleaner. In order to solve this problem, she walked a couple of blocks to University Hardware & Housewares, then wandered through the store. During her journey, she noticed that the store sells a lot more than meets the eye. This post is part of our new ShopHop series highlighting unique businesses in Morningside Heights.
My roommate and I needed a vacuum cleaner. Like, really needed a vacuum cleaner. Like, our floor was starting to look like the aftermath of a kindergarten class’ arts and crafts hour needed a vacuum cleaner. I could’ve ordered one online or taken the subway down to Bed Bath & Beyond, but I had a suspicion that I could find one with much less shipping and handling required. So, I headed out of Woodbridge, up to Broadway, and over to 114th Street.
University Hardware & Housewares (or H&H, as I like to call it) is located on Broadway between 114th and 113th Streets, right next to the New York Public Library. Before last summer, this store was split in two: University Hardware and University Housewares, both run by the same owner, and both occupying smaller spaces on the other side of Broadway next to International. The stores combined in July and moved across the street. This new location (the former home of Spirit Halloween) is much larger, allowing H&H to diversify their stock and make their store more easily navigable.
What does “hardware and housewares” encompass? H&H subscribes to a pretty broad definition. As I wandered through the store, I came across the expected pots and pans, glassware, cleaning supplies, and basic repair equipment. But I also found some less conventional sections, including greeting cards, party supplies, multiple rows of keychains, and a few shower shoes. Even on the shelves of normal “houseware items,” I found a few surprises: superhero water bottles among the camelbacks, leopard-print masking tape among the packing supplies. H&H is also carrying on the spirit of Spirit Halloween with a costume section. Everything is well-organized on wire shelves stretching up to the ceiling, clearly labeled with prices more reasonable than you would find at a larger store.
Although I love the packed aisles, the colorful inventory, and the not-quite-logical organization of H&H, my favorite thing about the store is its staff. Everyone who works at the store is super knowledgeable about their products, and they’re always willing to help out a broke college student just looking for a good deal. In past trips, I’ve learned about lampshades, worked out how many packing boxes I needed, and found the most durable water bottles. I always leave the store feeling like maybe I can actually do this “responsible shopping” thing.
Today, I bought a small but powerful vacuum cleaner that converts easily from standing to hand-held configurations. Maybe next month, I’ll buy some plates or oven mitts, or I’ll splurge on a new shower curtain. No matter what, I know I’ll miss University Hardware & Housewares when I graduate. I never want to go to Bed Bath & Beyond again.
Photos via Betsy Ladyzhets