THE BLOG
10/28/2008 05:48 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Downtown New York's Best-Kept Secret

I live steps away from one of New York City's best-kept secrets, National Wholesale Liquidators on Broadway between Bleecker and Houston. Recession-proof prices here are one of the most stable things we can count on lately. Where else can I find my essentials like toilet paper, q-tips, sponges, nails, doorknobs, shower curtains, and Halloween candy at bargain basement prices on our beloved but still overpriced island of Manhattan? I suppose with a car and a whole day to kill one could make the trip out to Costco in Jersey, but who has time or money for gas to do that? It seems strange that just one block away across Houston awaits high-fashion hipster haven, SOHO. Cobblestone streets here are paved with trust funds, credit card debt, and overpriced vintage Nike kicks.

The oversized blocked neon yellow sign is complemented by their window display, showing possibly everything the store carries before a purple tinsel backdrop. The weekly ad is also taped to the window, just in case they forgot something.

Maybe it's strange to think this way but I feel sympathy for the items on the shelves at NWL. I don't know exactly where they spent their time before arriving at my secret store. I can only imagine the possible rejection they must have faced from a shinier retailer that hadn't reached its weekly quota. The eager-for-adoption items sit on the Liquidators shelves now a little more slouched, seeming not to expect much. My righteous spirit roots for these little items that could. I feel they are unique, not like their cousins that ended up at the big chains. They have a chance now to stand out and be part of a store with such diversity and character. The Strand is to Barnes & Noble what Liquidators is to the big chains. You can search for hours and always walk away with a bag full of treasures. Usually you spent less then twenty bucks and always walk out with a smile.

I was certain they wouldn't have a website until I googled it up and discovered their website. The site is snazzier than I expected, even including illustrations of happy shoppers browsing through the wide selection. I have to admit I was a little shocked. An animated scroll graphic they titled "Treasure Hunt" lists the wide categories of items they carry. Some surprising categories are botanicals, luggage, watches, and shoes. I may have to go take another look soon.

My Top 10 Finds at NWL

1. Tropicana Orange Juice. Same brand and expiration date as Whole Foods, half the price.

2. 10 packs of paper towels. They last months. I don't even use many paper towels, but they're discounted! Makes what they charge at the supermarket look really embarrassing.

3. Sponges. I'm a pushover for cleaning items that come in packages of three or more.

4. Nails. Not sure I needed them, but might as well stock up since they're on sale.

5. Comp Notebooks. I've always been a fan of the black and white composition notebook for journaling, and they are half the price you'll see at Duane Reade.

6. Pens. Same deal as notebooks.

7. Coloring books. Coloring is relaxing even for adults, and cheap therapy. I never stopped.

8. Underwear. I know it's strange but I took a trip to the 3rd floor at NWL and discovered some bright-colored undies with margaritas and cosmos on them. I could picture the same thing at Urban Outfitters for triple the price.

9. Canned goods. You never know, and they have everything.

10. Jesus candles. Who doesn't love a Jesus candle? Also sold at Ricky's and Urban for double or more the price.

Top 5 Warnings for NWL Shoppers

1. Expiration date. Check all food before buying. I ate a piece of chocolate once from NWL that tasted dusty. Gross!

2. Electronics. Unless you're getting a TV for the bathroom, I wouldn't trust the quality or longevity of some things you see in the electronics department. But that's just me.

3. Long lines. You've got to go at off times and avoid weekends.

4. People you know. For some people NWL is a dirty secret. Don't let your feelings get hurt if you discover someone you know there, and see them take the nearest escape route. Some people haven't come to terms that NWL is the coolest store ever.

5. Bottled water in bulk. More of it is worse than less of it at any price. Just because it's cheap doesn't mean you need it. Filter from your tap, and if you do occasionally buy the bottles please recycle.