One block east of the Diamond District on 47th Street. One half block west of J. Press and Madison Avenue. Do yourself a favor and approach via Madison and save yourself the punishment that is 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. I remember someone once said that “real” New Yorkers say “Sixth Ave” and not Avenue of the Americas. I definitely say Sixth avenue, but I don’t consider myself a “real” New Yorker, and don’t think I ever will.
Anyway, the guys running Phil’s Stationery are definitely real New Yorkers. Walking into the shop took me back to 1970, yeah 1970 after what must have been some sort of riot, because Phil’s is a goddamn mess. The place is an amazing clusterfuck of boxes and dusty office supplies — some that clearly have been sitting there for years. It seems to stay afloat by supplying the diamond district with all sorts of specialty office supplies. The “office” in the back (if you can call it an office) is even more messy and completely old-school charming. There are boxes and boxes askew and four or five Windows ’95 era computers stacked on top of other stacks of old boxes. The place is just begging for one of those hoarding shows to come in and clean it up and get the owners checked into some sort of therapy. If you have any sort of spacial anxieties, you will definitely need to stop by the bodega for a Klonopin and a Coke before heading over.
All that said, I utterly and completely love the place. Office supplies are one of my all time favorite things (when I was a kid school shopping was enchanting) and this place has some great old stuff you don’t see anymore Staples and the like. In fact, Staples could be one of the worst places on earth. Everything is cheap and plain and made under the Staples house brand, which sucks. I want the classic stuff, from the little independent makers. I want more options and I have to think that there are people out there that (like me) still want quality. (Any private equity in the house? I have an idea — reach out.)
I asked the owner, Sam (I believe) if I could take photos in the shop and he quickly said no because of some agreement with a company in DUMBO, which to me sounded like horseshit. Anyway, I tried but was denied, so all I have for you is this exterior shot. Next time you have 45 minutes you want to kill, head over to 1970 on 47th Street.