Business of the Month: Exit9 Gift Emporium, 51 Avenue A

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Co-proprietor Christy at the counter.

Where can you get a last minute gift for anyone of any age? Buy a pizza tattoo, locally made silver jewelry, books on neighborhood history, socks that give back, a banana protector, stylish bags or hats, or a Trump coloring book?  At Exit9 Gift Emporium, 51 Avenue A– our August Business of the Month.

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Exit9 founder Charles rocking a hat available in the shop.

Owned and operated by the charismatic business team of Charles and Christy, Exit9 first opened on Avenue A in 1995, and has been in its current location since 2011, in Ageloff Tower (built in 1929), between East 3rd and 4th Streets.

Before relocating within the neighborhood, the detail oriented team (who co-parent a daughter currently looking at colleges) did lots of research, including foot traffic studies.  The move and investment have paid off, with regulars and visitors alike continuing to be lured by the popular sandwich board out front with creative, catchy sayings.  Or the window displays by Julie Delano, who is also in the band “Gold” with Christy.   You can catch them at the Mercury Lounge next Tuesday.  As drummer Christy said, “We are rocking and rolling and working our butts off and keeping it real.”  That is the East Village flavor of Exit9.

Every store needs a name, but according to its owners, ‘Exit9′ was kind of random.  It certainly does not refer to the New Brunswick exit on the New Jersey Turnpike.  And why “Emporium”?  Christy notes that it conjured a Midwest kitschy variety store, kind of the opposite of the then-grittier East Village, where the store opened over 20 years ago.

Both Charles and Christy highlight the importance of their relationship to the community, from seeing their regulars, to saying hi to fellow shop owners opening in the morning.  Some people buy all their gift cards there, with a range and subject matter well beyond what Hallmark offers.  Exit9 truly has a gift for everyone.  People on their way to an after-school party, a fiftieth birthday party, or a wedding will stop in on their way to the soiree.  And thoughtfully, Exit9 gift wraps for free.

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Some of the well curated gift cards.

They also carry items in an expanding section of special local interest, from books like Storefront by James and Karla Murray, to GVSHP’s own Greenwich Village Stories, to Big Gay Ice Cream’s debut cookbook,  to jewelry by Jillery (who has her own shop on Avenue B).

Some of the store’s humorous items. Not pictured:  Trump dog poo bags that School For the Dogs on East 2nd Street helped obtain, to keep the streets clean.

Some products give back a portion of their sales to HIV causes, or building schools in Africa.  For the Exit9 Tuesdays for Good initiative,  a percentage of sales that day go to a local non-profit. They believe that business  should be designed to give back.  To date, Exit9 has donated over $37,000 to charity, non-profits, and to NYC public schools.  A few of their current and past recipients include: Gilda’s Club, The Earth School, The Lower East Side Girls Club of NY, La Plaza Cultural Community Garden, East Village Community Coalition and more.static1.squarespace

You can also find Charles and Christy at East Village Independents Merchants Association (EVIMA) meetings and events, working to strengthen the small business climate in the community.  Charles says being engaged in local efforts like EVIMA gets him out of the store and is fun.  Exit9 is also a certified LGBT Business Enterprise® by the The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC).

A wide selection as seen on their Instagram page.

A wide selection as seen on their Instagram page.

When you walk in, you’ll see the distinct E9 shop logo on a striking teal background.  Charles designed the logo and hand fashioned the impressive wood piece that hangs behind the counter.  A woodworker since college days, his father still has a fully equipped shop in his basement.  He also does the web design and marketing and has a timeless sense of aesthetics.

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Many items for the littlest ones!

There is no way to describe the entire array of items you will find there, from those for toddlers to elders, and everyone in between. You have to visit the fun and welcoming Exit9 Gift Emporium for yourself!  Oh, and they welcome dogs, including with treats.

What special small business would you like to see featured next? Just click here to fill out a brief form. Thank you!

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Harry Bubbins