In which I am filled with happiness at the sight of a store, Tender Buttons, in my neighborhood.

The other day, I happened to walk down 62nd Street near Lexington Avenue and passed by a little store, Tender Buttons. It’s a shop that sells nothing but – you guessed it – buttons.

The funny thing is that I frequently walk very close to the store, because it’s on my way to my gym, but I hadn’t walked down this particular block for years, apparently.

I was instantly flooded with happy memories. When I was growing up in Kansas City, my mother told me about visiting Tender Buttons on a trip to New York.

My mother has an extraordinary appreciation for beautiful and fine objects, and a real sense of style, so she was enthralled by this best-of-buttons store.

A few years later, when I came to New York with my parents, my mother and I made a return trip to the store. I felt very cultured that I picked up the reference to Gertrude Stein.

Tender Buttons represented everything that I still love most about New York City – the atmosphere of limitless possibility, the sense that lovely and quirky places are around every corner, the hope that people can make a good living pursuing an idiosyncratic passion.

The store is still there, but I’d forgotten about it – and it has been right in my neighborhood, this whole time. When I found it, I didn’t buy any buttons; I didn’t even go inside. Nevertheless, it made me very happy to re-discover it.

It’s funny what we remember about other people. I’m sure my mother has no recollection of telling me about Tender Buttons, or shopping there with me, and yet the mere sight of the store sign flooded me with tender thoughts of her.

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  • I really enjoyed your Tender Buttons story. Thanks!

  • Sonia

    I remember reading about Tender Buttons a number of times over the years in the recently-resurrected Victoria magazine. It looked like such a beautiful shop and remains on my list of places I want to visit in New York someday. Thanks for the lovely story — isn’t it nice how something so small can bring such happiness.

  • I wish we had a button store near us. Alas, we are far from New York and any large city, but I have my basket of buttons right here at home, to play with. I have fond memories of sorting buttons as a child, and that feeling stays with me today. thanks for this post — I’ll go to Tender Buttons if I come to NYC.

  • Amanda

    I thought only I had endearing button memories. My Grandma had an old button tin that I loved to play with when I was younger. I got it after she died. The smell when I open it…takes me right back to her.

  • Let’s hope that Tender Buttons won’t become a Starbucks, Duane Reade or Citibank branch anytime soon.

  • Hi Gretchen…my first and only time in NYC was nearly 10 years ago now, and one of the things that has always stuck with me about that fabulous, fabulous trip was visiting your neighborhood button store. I’m so glad you’ve rediscovered it!

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