The first time I noticed Olivia Garay’s makeshift “shop” on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, I did a double take. Crammed into a few glass display cases, right out on the sidewalk, were gorgeous vintage bracelets, belts, necklaces, brooches and rings from Hermes, Chanel, Gucci, Tiffany, Cartier, Judith Jack and more. Joining other shoppers to peer into the cases like a little kid peeking at a candy store display, I tried on at least half a dozen pieces and bought a Bakelite bracelet from the fifties.
FOF Olivia told me she hit the streets almost 20 years ago, when the rent on her store was becoming unreasonable. “I was having a harder and harder time making a decent living, so I closed the shop, got a vendor permit and I was in business.
Besides her reasonable prices (thanks to low overhead), Olivia lets customers exchange their purchases any time. “Just keep it in good shape,” she told me when I bought a Gucci silver ring designed by Tom Ford. I’m not a label lover, but I loved the two Gs facing each other, since my maiden name was Geri Goldberg. You can also bring Olivia vintage pieces you didn’t buy from her, as a shopper next to me was doing. “If I don’t wear something for five years, I retire it,” the woman said.
The Gucci ring costs $250 (“new Gucci silver rings are $400” Olivia said), but it’s entirely possible to plop down thousands at her vintage paradise. She’s stationed at the NW corner of 70th Street and Third Avenue during the afternoons, whenever the weather is nice, expect when she’s at antique shows. If you’re coming to visit New York, make sure to include her “shop” on your must-see list.