Local businesses offer niche holiday gifts

City Island, Morris Park and Pelham Bay are home to a number of niche businesses that sell products found nowhere else in the Bronx, businesses that hope to make hay this holiday season.

At Exotiqa International Arts, a toy and gift shop at 280 City Island Avenue, owner Paul Klein is celebrating Exotiqa’s tenth anniversary with a huge sale.

“We offer great service and free lay-away,” Klein said. “A woman on Pelham Parkway needed stuffed animals. I told her we would bring them to her. She asked how much the delivery would cost and was shocked to learn it would be free. We do things that big retailers can’t.”

The Chocolate Place at 839 Morris Park Avenue, the only official Godiva Chocolatier in the east Bronx, offers sweets to suit all budgets and tastes. Merckens Melting Chocolate goes for only $4.50/pound.

“We’re able to capture a diverse market audience because of all of the unique gifts we sell,” co-owner Angela DaBenigno said. “People on a budget can get [Merckens] molds and make chocolate in any shape they want.”

DaBenigno also stocks Betty Boop merchandise, Bearington Collection stuffed animals and costume jewelry.

 Increasingly, Klein has focused on toys: Russ brand toys, UglyDoll brand dolls and more. Handcrafted gifts from Africa and Asia are popular. Klein sells his own handmade jewelry as well.

“Why waste money on gas traveling to Wal-Mart?” Klein said. “Our prices are always reasonable and often very competitive. There’s a certain charm to shopping in a privately owned store, a ‘main street’ business.”

At Unique to Antique, a second-hand shop at 3000 Middletown Road, service is owner Ann Panarese’s calling card.

“We offer free boxes and gift wrapping, not found at other stores,” Panarese said. “Everything is priced very modestly for neighborhood people. We’re not selling for a Manhattan crowd.” 

Unique to Antique’s top holiday season sellers are Lenox china, costume jewelry and solid mahogany furniture.

“Everything is vintage,” Panarese said. “We let the customer know the condition of the item up front, so there are no surprises.”

    To reach Unique to Antique, call 718 829-8807. To reach Exotiqa, call 718 885-3090. The Chocolate Place is 718 892-5783.

Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at 718 742-3393 or procchio@cnglocal.com

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