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Shopping With and For Babies in New York City

[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 11/17/2006 - www.Littleviews.com ]

>>  As a child, my weekends were spent filling our wood-paneled station wagon to the brim with shopping bags. A whole season could be outfitted with one car ride to the mall. In Manhattan, where most of us with kids survive without cars or mega stores, shopping is restricted to small boutiques and even smaller backpacks.

For Manhattan parents, there are certain rites of passage you can bet on. An overflowing assortment of Mommy and Me classes. Crash-course Lamaze. Scheduled C-Sections. And the hunt for the perfect stroller.

Which leads me to the hunt for the perfect baby-gear store. In New York City, where square footage is scant, it is a tightrope walk between the "must-haves" and the "has-way-too-much." But as soon as that pregnancy test reads positive, there is a lot to do. And a lot to buy.

The baby "superstore" is usually reserved for the suburbs. Which means a car, a trip, and more time than Manhattan dwellers are willing to spend.

Enter Babies "R" Us. This sister store of Toys "R" Us emerged in Union Square, the space usually reserved for hip restaurants, bars, and upscale boutiques. In Babies "R" Us exists the ideal baby store - huge, clean, and accessible by a subway (which also has an elevator).

Call me crazy, but I fell in love with Babies "R" Us when I touched the shopping cart. It is almost ergonomic - even a big pregnant lady can push it with ease. The ground floor is teeming with essentials at every price point, housed in wide, well-marked aisles. Specific sections of appeal are the bathing accessories, baby proofing area (complete with remote control gate), and baby monitors that include video for high-tech surveillance.

The second floor includes the popular stroller lot. The salespeople are ever ready to assist even the most irritatingly discriminating consumer (me). It should be noted that Babies "R" Us does not yet carry the very upscale brands like the Bugaboo and Stokke, but have a wide variety of everything else. It is the ideal place to pick up your replacement Maclaren that has known too many days in Central Park. Play yards and bouncy seats can also be found on this floor, along with other recreational furniture.

Before we reach the third floor, let me not fail to mention the elevators, whose expanse of size will specifically resonate with those who are ten months pregnant, pushing a double stroller or shopping with a toddler who does not understand the meaning of "personal space."

The third floor is filled with furniture for the nursery, including gliders, cribs, and dressers, as well as general staples of decor. In the center of the floor are several salespeople at computers who can assist with registries and items available only online. (The Babies "R" Us website and registry are hosted by Amazon.com and are easily accessible, but do not offer all of the items that are available in-store.) Deliveries are arranged seamlessly for all larger-sized items.

The store also boasts of "Kiddie Candids," where you can photograph your children for far less than that for a private photographer. Grandparents will love these shots, and it is easy to keep them updated with reasonably priced packages.

Before we check out, it's worth mentioning that the whole check-out process is well-manned, fast, and friendly. They offer a self-wrap gift wrap table by the entrance for those who are shopping for that birthday gift on the way to the party. Don't forget to stop for a quick diaper check - the bathroom is luxurious in its child-friendliness. They sure know their customers.

If you have made it this far without a meltdown, treat the family to one of the many spacious restaurants in New York's Union Square. The Square offers room to frolic outside at a park with playground equipment, and the weekend Greenmarket is bursting with organic veggies and home-baked treats.

Babies "R" Us is located at 24-30 Union Square East. www.babiesrus.com

Amy Kotulski

Article by Amy Kotulski. Photos by Karen Little. First published on 11/17/2006. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.

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