Originally appeared in the New York Press in 1998




The grand tradition of  “ye old gifte shoppe”  gets smartly reinvented at Shakespeare’s Sister, a good-smelling joint right across from the Cobble Hill Cinema in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens.   The store’s name is a hip reference to writer Virginia Woolf’s speculation that if Shakespeare had had a sister, she might have possessed his talent—but likely she would have died unknown, in childbirth.   


Grim, eh?  Except this is the store she would have started if she’d pulled through, snapped out of it and married that talented sensitive new age artist boy from Park Slope.   The store, airy and build for browsing,  is dominated by   big black and white photos of  American women writers, from Queen of Creep A.M. Homes to an endearingly goofy shot of nature-nutty Annie Dillard.    Venetian glass pens,  pinky-sized metal Buddhas ($1.50), and distractingly sexy scented French soap  compete with lots of original art, from hand-crafted paper clocks (under 30 bucks)  and “fantastical creatures”  in clay by Mexican artists.  There are even tiny seascapes, sand and shells included,  captured in stamp-sized plastic boxes ($10).     If a handicrafts make you heave,  try a hipster tchotchke:   a bevy of refrigerator magnets sport  quotes from Colette, Ruth Gordon,  and Katherine Hepburn.   Meanwhile, the store’s sound system lulls you with Billie Holiday, then does a 180 right into Chrissie Hynde.  


The store’s back room boasts a café,  where cozy overstuffed midnight blue chairs clash just a shade with  arty-but-scary  sharp-edged cast metal tables.    Next to a cozy fireplace,  a built-in bookshelf sports lots of books by women writers, from Jayne Loader’s “Between Pictures,” to a  curious 1954 work by Emily Kimbrough called “40 Plus and Fancy Free.”    It’s the perfect place to contemplate your purchases, or debate the need for that papier-mache turtle that holds a roll of stamps in its belly.  To quote my refrigerator magnet,  “You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm. (Colette)”


Shakespeare’s Sister, 270 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231.   718-694-4415. 




Martha Garvey