You won’t find cheesy postcards or generic T-shirts at Project No. 8a, the minimalist 'anti-souvenir' design shop inside the Ace Hotel New York. The space itself has plenty of personality and funky design touches, including lime-green 1970s library shelves from the Pompidou Center in Paris, carved-wood clothing racks, and antique tiled and herringbone-patterned wood floors unearthed during the renovation of the building (the shop area was once a hotel bar). Curated by Elizabeth Beer and Brian Janusiak - the folks behind Chinatown shop Project No. 8, they operate under the name Various Projects - Project No. 8a is a marvelous global mix of things, many of which you won't find anywhere but here.
There’s an emphasis on the locally made and found. "In the store we carry things that we think might surprise or attract you even if you live in New York, a place where you can find almost anything," say Beer and Janusiak. To that end, the stock is always changing. Want a charming little reminder of the flora and fauna of the Big Apple to take home? Try a field guide to the wildlife of nearby Madison Square Park, a lovely nature oasis in the middle of the city, or a hilarious stuffed knit-wool pigeon commissioned especially for Various Projects. Food tourists can choose from a number of culinary-minded selections, including bespoke handmade sweets from Park Slope’s Nunu Chocolates, jars of NYC deli pickles from Brooklyn Brine Co., and a cocktail reference book from beloved Brooklyn Italian restaurant Frankies Spuntino. The shop also just started carrying Frankies 457, the restaurant’s own brand of organic extra virgin olive oil, imported from Sicily.
Beer and Janusiak have reimagined the travel shop by marrying place with thoughtful design and a sense of fun. The shop’s revolving 'Mementos' collection is curated by designers Josee LePage and Tobias Wong, spotlighting kooky New York-centric items: a Statue of Liberty nightlight, Chinatown Soccer Club mugs, graffiti markers. But there are also useful objects to be found here: reusable shopping bags by Baggu are constructed with ethically-made duck canvas from China and come in lots of colors; soft cashmere slit scarves commissioned from Sanchia Playfair guard against the winter air.
Project No. 8a also carries a terrific selection of printed matter worthy of the schlep home, including Christoph Niemann’s I LEGO NY, a whimsical book that collects the LEGO life vignettes of New York that the designer and illustrator created for The New York Times. You could say that the book is a design lover’s original take on the iconic 'I ❤ NY' souvenir T-shirt. So is the shop, which focuses on items made in New York by people who have made the city their home. Say Beer and Janusiak: "It seems fitting that these are the voices that are speaking about this place to other places."