Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Strangely New York: City's Best Pitch at World's Smallest Store

Don't blink or you'll miss the World's Smallest Store that is found in New York City.
By Mitch Broder

Parks asked me to tell you that he wept when he got respect from a bro, so I’m telling you.

He got respect from a bro. And then he wept.

People in the suburbs of New York City have closests bigger then this store.
“It’s the first time I’ve been validated and accepted by bros,” he sobbed, his face in his hand. “The guy was strong enough to be a cop, and he liked me. I never got picked for sports. I never got picked for kickball.”

It was all too much. He collapsed to the floor. But he kept talking into his mike.

This was just one moment of drama from a life lived on the edge, or at least on the stoop, at 131 Christopher Street. It’s the stoop that leads to an indentation called World’s Smallest Store, but more engagingly, it’s the stoop that’s the stage to World’s Unlikeliest Storekeeper.

He gives his first name as Parks are Zoos for Trees. He gave his last name to me as Zimmerman, but later retracted that. He speaks into a microphone hooked up to a little guitar amp. He speaks into it even when he’s talking to himself, which is not infrequently.

But more frequently he talks to you, or to whomever is passing by, because in the end there’s more in him of performer than proprietor. “Hey, how am I?” he’ll call out. Or: “Hey, Ryan Gosling will be giving twerk lessons at 6 p.m.” Lately he’s had a thing about Ryan Gosling.

A photo of the inside of the World's Smallest Store which is New in New York
A board on the sidewalk advertises “World’s Smallest Store + Free Advice.” The Free Advice part is where the bro came in. He was a young man trying to determine the next step in his life. Among his options were joining the NYPD and joining the National Guard.

Like any good counselor, Parks actually does more clarifying than advising. Still, the future officer came to him and listened carefully. So Parks lapsed into the bro show — but was it all show? The more you know him, the more you believe that he really could have been weeping.

“I’ll tell you the truth,” he told me in confidence. “I was raised by wolves. Then I was raised by llamas. Then I was found by scientists.” A guy walked by, and Parks interrupted himself to predict the guy’s future. “You know what?” he called out. “At some point tonight, you’re gonna be hungry.”

A group of people passed. Parks watched them and helpfully instructed: “Keep yourself hydrated. It’s very important.” A young woman walked by with a guitar case slung over her shoulder. “Let me just tell you,” he assured her, “you’re one of my favorite guitar players.”

He observes it all from the stoop, at which he also has a popcorn machine and a “naturally shed” deer antler to entertain dogs. That’s critical if the dogs are accompanied by people, because he’s lucky if just a person can get in and out of the store.

A line of two people make the World's Smallest Store look packed
Customers fill the store.
He says it comprises a total of 50 square feet, which makes it a sure contender for the city’s smallest store, if not the world’s. It has sea-green walls festooned with gold stars and mirror art and a bear. It took me seven steps to walk its length. If you count the merchandise, it has no width.

You might miss this New in New York storefront, but you won't be able to miss Parks, the stores owner.
The bro.
The merchandise is mostly T-shirts and hoodies that Parks silk-screens with messages like “I Support the War on War” and “Legalize Gay Divorce.” “They’re special types of fibers,” he revealed, “that if you try to light them on fire, they’ll actually burn up. They’re all flammable.”

He must have been getting to trust me, because he followed that secret with another. He furtively glanced up toward the shop and then spoke in earnest: “Even though the place is tiny, I have a huge — you can’t see it from here, it’s in the back — I have a huge human-resource department.”

It was hard to leave Parks are Zoos for Trees. Especially after I asked him what had occupied his store before he did and he replied: “a water park.”

“If any investors want to come in,” he added, “and turn it into an organic cotton-candy shop or a herpes-free kissing booth, I’m open to either.”

You can't turn down something for free and a trip to the World's Smallest Store will offer up some free advice.

Commune with Parks are Zoos for Trees at World’s Smallest Store, 131 Christopher Street, between Greenwich and Hudson streets, in New York City.


  1. What a unique post! Very neat but then again NYC is always very neat!! Thank you !!

  2. Hey Mitch,
    Let me know when Parks opens up the world's smallest roller-coaster in his place. -- Peter

  3. "At some point tonight, you're gonna be hungry." Finally someone with advice we can use. Thanks, Mitch, for warm portrait of New York.

  4. Put the Yanks - Mets subway series in there. Not a bad seat in the house.

  5. "it’s the stoop that leads to an indentation called World’s Smallest Store..."
    Brilliant. I am glad you listened to Mr. NonZimmerman (not Bob). I think it would have been the World's Shortest Moment for me. He's probably a scholar in the closet.

  6. The most handsome shop owner I know of :)

  7. Great place to visit, can't get the affection for 'Benny Hill' but no-one's perfect. Bought a great T Shirt, love the flexible prices and having a good chat.

  8. Thanks for the reporting... smallest store sporting a big heart for sure!!