Bronxville: Bucolic & Bustling

This one-square-mile town balances a storybook setting with cool downtown destinations.



It Takes A Village

Small, adorable, and hipper every day, Bronxville

is one of the county’s true treasures

 

By Meredith Matthews                  Photography by John Fortunato

 

By turns stately and cute, sleepy and active, Bronxville is the kind of place that can sneak up on you, with tree-lined streets, fine architecture, and lovely rows of shops. This one-square-mile village (technically, part of the town of Eastchester) celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1998—making it 107 years old today. Over the years, Bronxville’s charming cottages, illustrious mansions, and well-appointed townhouses and flats have been home to many famous names—Elizabeth Custer (widow of George “Little Big Horn” Custer), Jerome Kern, Ed McMahon, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gwen Verdon, and, for a time, members of the Kennedy clan (Joe Sr. moved the family from Boston to Riverdale in 1927, then shortly after to Bronxville). Its proximity to Manhattan (one half hour by Metro-North’s Harlem line) and its ideal location nearby many highways have made the village a favorite choice for commuters, including wealthy lawyers, doctors, bankers, and brokers. “A high percentage of the biggest names on Wall Street and Madison Avenue live here, drawn by the short commute and the quality of life,” says

Donna Tierney, managing broker at the village’s Prudential Ragetté Realtors. The current population is about 6,500, and the average income of a household with children is $235,000, close to $100,000 more than the average in the county. 

 

Beauty, history, and quiet suburban living don’t come cheap, though, and would-be Bronxvillians should be prepared to pony up. Single-family homes in the village sell for an average of $1.7 million, with co-op apartments averaging nearly $450,000. Prudential Ragetté agent Brianne Boller says the most expensive deal for a house was almost $5 million. Many gladly contend with the pricey real estate to live in “a storybook kind of village,” as Boller aptly puts it.

 

The heart of Bronxville is made for strolling, and bespectacled dowagers share the sidewalks with young moms and infants, financial titans in casual-Friday khakis, and students from nearby Sarah Lawrence College. Savanna at Home co-owner Frank Canale, a village resident (and undeniably biased), muses, “Bronxville is a very desirable town—a destination town.” Here, then, is a brief guided tour.

 

A Shopper’s Paradise

The village’s main business district stretches along Pondfield Road and wraps around Kraft Avenue. Most stores are native to Bronxville or are installments of tiny chains; but in the village you’ll also find national chains like Food Emporium, Starbucks, Häagen-Dazs, and CVS. Bronxville strictly enforces its parking regulations and some metered spots are set aside for residents during weekdays, so the best bets for visitors are the Garden Avenue and Kraft Avenue lots, along with unmetered, two-hour parking spaces on some side streets.

 

Wonderful Wearables

You’ll find a mellow vibe at Iris Boutique (10 Park Pl., 914-337-1823). Owner Patricia Stevens says her store’s merchandise is made from “natural fibers that are easy to care for, with a relaxed, easy fit to suit a broad array of sizes.” The racks are full of designs from Flax, Cut Loose, and CP Shades; accessories and artsy gift items are also offered. It’s a customer-oriented place, where the salesperson will happily hold your infant while you’re in the dressing room. “It’s because I hail from the Midwest,” explains Stevens. “And Bronxville is like a small midwestern town where you get to know your banker, your fellow businesspeople, and customers really well.”

 

Fashionistas can get their fix at Yum-Yum Tree (96 Pondfield Rd., 914-395-1875). With its huge plate-glass windows and bare wood floors, the store looks like a SoHo boutique set in the ’burbs. This is the place to go for hip labels like Juicy Couture, New Scotland, Seven Jeans, CC California, and Love Letters. Another hot spot is Toney Toni & the Gang (70 Pondfield Rd., 914-793-0397), whose sister location is in Katonah. Think fashionable dresses, smart suits, and fun weekend wear for suburban women still in touch with the city vibe. Be sure to pick up some soft, slinky velvet tops, perfect for work, dates, or lazing about the house.

 

Those in the know often stop by Plaza Too (64 Pondfield Rd., 914-937-6110) for the finishing touches, like oh-so-resplendent Stuart Weitzman clogs and lots of glam jewelry. If it’s a hot shoe, boot, or sandal, this shop will have it first. In addition, Plaza Too is splurge central for handbags, with loads of Kate Spades.

 

For a small shop, E. Ross Jewelers (96 Kraft Ave., 914-771-6485) boasts a sizable collection of diamond wedding bands, specializing in Kwiat diamonds. Customers come far and wide for the expertise of gemologist Laura Shahinian and colleague Gary Turco. Denice Filc of Stamford, CT, says she treks here for  “the personal attention,” while Rosemary Mangiamele of Rye raves, “Once you discover this shop you won’t go anywhere else.”

 

On the other end of the price scale, Pennyweights (19 Park Pl., 914-337-2320) is well-loved by silver mavens. The bracelets, earrings, rings, and necklaces here are adorable, plentiful, and quite affordable. Girls of all ages have been known to get giddy here!

 

For a fierce, fashion-forward makeup experience, sashay over to Maison Rouge (27 Pondfield Rd., 914-779-8869). This “beauty lounge” belongs to makeup artist Patricia Margro, and it’s the place to find Laura Mercier, Sue Devitt, and Paula Dorf cosmetics, as well as Bumble and Bumble, Two Faced, Darphin, the Belli line for pregnant women, as well as Agent Provacateur lingerie.

 

Kid City

All things small and splendid adorn the walls and shelves of Silver Spoon (82B Kraft Ave., 914-771-7645). An infant gift store, it specializes in sterling silver items and linens, offering engraving and embroidery. The shop has an exclusive on Kimberly House and Serena & Lilly linens, and it also sells clothing from Bliss and Kissy Kissy.

 

Remember the grand Main Street store your mom used to take you to for school clothes? Fierson’s (48 Pondfield Rd., 914-337-0475) is Bronxville’s version, spacious and airy, with rack upon rack of classic, timeless designs. From coats to tights, baby books and bedding/layette to holiday dresses and suits, Fierson’s is old-school, in a very good way.

 

By contrast, the new kid on the block (okay, the next block over), Precious Angels (7 Park Pl., 914-337-7142) aims for now looks for today’s tots. Owners Maria Castaldo and Eleanor DeStefano supply lots of Malina, Sarah Louise, KC Parker, and Kitestrings for little ones as well as for preteen girls. Get here fast during Communion season, as the frocks fly out the door! Maria Castaldo describes the store’s genesis as serendipity: “It just happened. I had a shop in Pelham for three years, was taking a walk in Bronxville for ice cream, and noticed the empty store.” The rest is history!

 

Bronxville’s youngsters always thrill to take a trip to Try & Buy (52 Pondfield Rd., 914-337-0074; another outlet of the chain from Pleasantville and Katonah). Not the same schlock in which the big-box toy stores traffic, this pleasant little play place is home to oodles of cuddly stuffed animals, a well-stocked book alcove, and all manner of creative toys and games.

 

EtCetera

Plan to spend some time poking around Robert’s Restoration Gallery (139 Parkway Rd., 914-793-4870). Is that a real wind-up phonograph? Wouldn’t that demure glass punch-bowl set be a lovely present? With a wide range of merchandise, all refinished and restored, the shop specializes in antique furniture and collectibles from the Victorian and Art Deco eras.

 

Then it’s on to the new, by way of Savanna at Home (45 Kraft Ave., 914-371-4468). Patty Canale, a former furniture buyer for department stores, hunts for one-of-a-kind items and artists’ pieces, ranging from furniture to odds and ends to chandeliers, with a mix of traditional, modern, and antique looks. At any given time, the shop might hold a Chesterfield sofa with a mohair bench seat, a gigantic armoire hand-painted by a South American artist, or a table lamp with a shade made entirely of Murano glass beads, among other cool finds.

 

One of Bronxville’s biggest draws for out-of-the-area shoppers is its abundance of fine gift shops. Mano a Mano (80 Kraft Ave., 914-793-8329) is packed floor-to-ceiling with playful decorations and just-for-fun things by Mackenzie Childs, Tracy Porter (who recently did a meet-and-greet here), and others. At the recently opened A Perfect Presence (81 Pondfield Rd., 914-779-6799), owner Tricia Killeen delights with Varga Hungarian crystal, bright, polka-dotted Love plates, and Ercuis frog-shaped place-card holders. After 39 years, Gifts and Interiors by Joan Manning Inc. (65 Pondfield Rd., 914-337-3300) is still the village’s source for Laliques and Nambe as well as Limoges porcelain, Lynn Chase animal sculptures, and Lenox figurines. Longtime customers and new ones lose themselves in the myriad nooks of Joan’s shop. One of her most popular new items is Kenneth Jay Lane “Home Collection” bejeweled photo frames from $35 to $400 (“Men just love them,” she confides, as last-minute gifts for their wives). 

 

Another truly Bronxville place is Jacqueline Bed & Bath (118 Kraft Ave., 914-337-9161), a one-stop shop for bed, bath, and luxury items like silver shaving kits, cashmere blankets, hand-milled soaps, and all-natural toothpastes from France and Italy. It’s a joy just to hear owner Jacqueline Lucchese’s soothing Scottish lilt as she walks you through her wares, mainly imported from Europe. “The emphasis is on luxury,” she says, “but customers don’t have to spend a fortune.” Lucchese lives in Manhattan but likes

having her shop here because “people have more patience in Bronxville.”

 

From the bath to the kitchen, The Complete Kitchen (65 Pondfield Rd., 914-793-6925) that is. Local cooks know this is the place to go for quality equipment and serving ware like Le Creuset and Villeroy & Boch, specialty foods and appliances. The warm and caring staff gladly gift-wraps everything from cookie cutters to blenders to fish-shaped dishes.

 

Idle days are well spent browsing Womrath Bookshop (76 Pondfield Rd., 914-337-0199). A far cry from its corporate cousins, the atmosphere is homey and intimate, with clerks happy to recommend and special-order books. The local authors and children’s sections are worth a long look.

 

Goodies Galore

Recognizing Bronxville’s rep as a diverse, upscale destination, a number of exciting eateries have opened in just the past year, including Kraft Bistro (104 Kraft Ave., 914-337-4545), a sleek and elegant spot for fusion fare and classic films on the TV at the bar, and Haiku (56 Pondfield Rd., 914-337-5601), which blends Chinese, Japanese, and Thai flavors. (Hardcore sushi fans are also advised to check out Japan Inn, 28 Palmer Ave., 914-337-1296.) An especially popular new arrival is Blue Moon Mexican Café (7-27 Pondfield Rd., 914-337-4000), a fun, family-oriented place and the only Westchester incarnation of the Jersey chain.

 

Java junkies get their daily dose at Slave to the Grind (58 Pondfield Rd., 914-961-7777), with yummy flavors like snickerdoodle and Kahlua-and-cream.

 

At lunchtime, Bronxville has so many choices it’s hard to choose. Moms with toddlers in tow swarm to Il Bacio Trattoria (1 Park Pl., 914-337-4100), with its made-to-order calzones, mouthwatering sandwiches on fluffy focaccia, and fresh gelato. Or sit a spell at A’Mangiare (26 Palmer Ave., 914-793-9224/9229), home to solid soups and fanciful creations like baked-ziti pizza; their salad pizza is the best in the village.

 

And you haven’t eaten in Bronxville until you’ve deliberated among the endless options at Lange’s Delicatessen (94 Pondfield Rd., 914-337-3354). The small army behind the counter at this old-fashioned deli deftly fashions made-to-order sandwiches along with village favorites like the Acapulco, the Executive, and the Black Forest. (Just nibbly? Pick up a side of mac ’n cheese or a knish.)

 

Ladies who lunch like Scarborough Fair (65 Pondfield Rd., 914-337-2735): you can dine outdoors on two terraces, or slide into a big, plush booth. There’s also an informal sandwich shop upstairs.

 

For fine dining, it’s hard to beat Underhills Crossing (74 1/2 Pondfield Rd., 914-337-1200), proudly bearing the village’s pre-Bronxville moniker. Whether you drift in for afternoon tea or reserve your seat for the weekly lobster night in the summer, you’ll be amazed at the delicious creations dreamed up by Johnson and Wales-educated Chef de Cuisine Paul Harrison. He also has the perfect wine to pair with your hangar steak or osso bucco.

 

Even Italians are impressed by Pane e Vino (124 Pondfield Rd., 914-337-3330). Chris Casanova, who also owns Gedney Grille in White Plains, has a winner here. In addition to the menu’s mainstays, the restaurant changes its menu seasonally to reflect a different region of Italy.

 

If your idea of a great night is wetting your whistle in a place where everybody knows your name, head to Pete’s Park Place Tavern (18-20 Park Pl., 914-337-9887), the prototypical local watering hole. Pete’s has an ample selection of brews, good conversation, the game on TV, and straightforward American food. The village is also home to a 26-year-old popular  bar, The Wheel (32 Palmer Ave., 914-337-1121), dark and quiet with dusty floors and dartboards, Old West decor, and the aroma of cigars and pipes. Locals and commuters alike soak up the no-frills atmosphere and draughts of Guinness.

 

So Much to Do

Even if you’re shopped-out and sated, Bronxville’s not finished with you yet. The cognoscenti show up at Noel Fine Art (80 Kraft Ave., 914-337-4050) to view the latest canvasses and sculptures from a variety of artists. Firmly established after only five years, owner Noel DeGaetano (a practicing artist himself) also displays antique oriental rugs, vintage watches; the ethereal glass ornaments glinting through the big picture window at Christmastime draw “lots of spectators.” DeGaetano prizes the Bronxville crowd because they’re “sophisticated.”

 

A little-known fact about Gillard’s Stationery (20 Palmer Ave., 914-793-6812) is that back behind the newspapers, cigars, and Green Mountain Coffee carafes, the shop has built a small art gallery. Proprietor Bob Abele, Jr., says “The Store-Room Gallery” is the handiwork of his artist-son Rob, and he exhibits the works of one or two painters, sculptors, potters or photographers each month.

 

And not only is Objects & Images Fine Art (99 Pondfield Rd., 914-779-7979) Bronxville’s big-ticket, SoHo-style showroom, it’s also launching a new addition, The Painter’s Workshop, for children and adults alike to study with master artists and bring their brushes outdoors in plein-air workshops.

 

Getting tired? Then sit back in the cushy seats at Clearview’s Bronxville Cinemas (84 Kraft Ave., 914-961-4030). This three-screen complex shows a mix of mainstream and left-of-center films; lines formed for My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Fahrenheit 9/11 for months. Many artsy and foreign flicks that rarely venture north of Manhattan appear here.

 

And if all this traipsing around the village has just tuckered you out, then treat yourself to some pampering. The Village Day Spa (45 Kraft Ave., 914-337-7727) is a getaway from the stresses of the world, an ohm-type sanctuary specializing in massages and facials. Zen Spa (25 Pondfield Rd., 914-771-5056), which incorporates spa staples into a full-service salon, buzzes with so many hip chicks getting their nails done and their hair coiffed that it almost resembles an automat of beauty.

 

The Bottom Line

Extensive as this list is, it’s really just a smidgen of what Bronxville has to offer. Whether you’re a history buff, a charge-card maven, or a gourmand, there’s something for everyone here. Put on a pair of comfortable shoes and come explore for yourself!

 

Meredith Matthews is a Tuckahoe-based journalist who appreciates living just a hop, skip, and jump away from the heart of Bronxville.

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