Jill’s Corner: Craft Wars

Two craft studios battle it out on the Upper East Side of New York

The classic paradigm seen in Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail—the one where the small, neighborhood mom n’ pop shop has to compete against the conglomerate-spawned mega-machine version—is something we’re all familiar with. And while we all love those sweet independent stores, the movie doesn’t demonize chains because they happen to carry everything. It may not be as cozy but it’s still fun for the kiddies. And that’s what matters.

A similar dichotomy has hatched on the Upper East Side—the much-beloved Craft Studio on Third Avenue and 93rd street has a glossy new neighbor down the avenue on 85th street—Make Meaning. While the former is a huge, colorful loft space with an edgy DIY feel and cool music, the latter is a stark, high-gloss, high-design craft concept store, complete with a gleaming, pop-art vibe-infused townhouse where the children are able to wander and create a vast array of treasures such as glass jewelry, soaps, and hand-painted ceramics.

Both offer tons of fun for kiddies but the staff difference smacks of Meg Ryan’s undying passion versus the inevitable hired help vibe of large-scale operations. While Make is clearly impressive and Wonka-esque in its ability to charm children, at my three visits the staff appeared to be so low-energy I suspected lobotomies. One seemed to actively hate tots so much, the host of our party asked midway to boot her. She was then replaced by an awesome cheerful gay dude and all was fine. But it all didn’t compare with Craft Studio owner Lindsey Johnson’s infectious charm and boundless enthusiasm for her business and the nuggets who come in, many of whom she is on a first name basis with. There is more than enough room for both. And the more art in the world the better. But in the end, no matter how much the hedge fund investors pump in, you can’t buy that cozy, nurturing soul.