Once you step off the 7 train, be sure to exit not from the staircases in the middle of the station but from the station’s entrance and you’ll find yourself on Roosevelt Avenue. No, you haven’t been magically transported to the streets of Hong Kong or Seoul. Like its food, energy, and noise, downtown Flushing’s shopping scene also seems to be straight out of an east Asian metropolis. Businesses are stacked on top of each other and the garish signage extends into the street.
According to the Visit Korea Committee survey, the items tourists most want to purchase when traveling to South Korea are beauty products. Roosevelt Avenue delivers the South Korean shopping experience without needing a passport. “[Downtown Flushing] is the only place where you can find all these [Korean] beauty brands clustered together,” said Susan An, an employee at Skin Food. “And because Korean culture seems to be so popular today, we’re getting a lot more traffic from people outside of Flushing looking to try out things they’ve never tried before.”
Sisley/Shiseido: The oldest of the bunch, Sisley is on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue. Unlike the other Korean cosmetics stores there, they sell products from both South Korean and other Asian brands. However, their high-end brand name inventory also means steep prices. For example, products from SK-II, a Japanese skin care brand, can easily run you a couple hundred dollars. And although SK-II is now sold in mainstream department stores like Macy’s, Sisley carries a wider variety and often offers different package deals.
Skin Food: Just a few stores down from Sisley is Skin Food and as its name suggests, Skin Food aims to create products with the nutritional values of food. Their products consist only of natural ingredients. “[The employees] wear aprons because we want the consumer to feel like they are in a farmer’s market,” An said. With names like Tomato Jelly Lip Tint and Agave Cactus Cream, you feel as though you’re ordering lunch rather than looking for lipstick or lotion. Their prices range from $10 to $60.
Club Clio: Across the street from Skin Food is Club Clio and they might appeal more to the night club enthusiasts. The staff dress head to toe in flashy black clothing and killer heels and a constant stream of dance music flows out onto the street. Club Clio’s prices are slightly lower than Skin Food’s and range from about $2 to $40.
“I love that I can see these products in person rather than taking a risk on Amazon or eBay,” said Jennifer McLaughlin. She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn and had trouble finding the cosmetics shops she came to love while teaching in South Korea. Now she comes to Flushing to stock up on all her favorite brands. “It’s just makeup at the end of the day, but I think that the experience of hearing music that’s in a foreign language and the unique signs sort of create this cultural experience that’s hard to find elsewhere.”
The stores listed above are just a few of the cosmetics stores you’ll find on Roosevelt Avenue. It may be hard to choose so pick whichever cardboard cutout of a K-Pop star (all the stores display them out front) screams to you the most and walk in. And with the holidays coming up before you know it, not only can you pick up something for yourself, but a trip to downtown Flushing will also give you plenty of ideas of gifts for friends and family.