In the old city centre, just south of the iconic Westerkerk, is the popular area of the 9 little streets (in Dutch Negen Straatjes). It used to be an area full of surprising, quirky, local shops. Often artisanal, sometimes artistic and always full of surprises. Nowadays big clothing brands are taking over the area. Luckily some of the old diamonds of the old days survive. We visited some of those diamonds with a LGBTQ interest or the rainbow diamonds of the neighborhood.
Our first stop was the Pink Point next to the Westerkerk, but most importantly next to the Homomonument. It was started in an era when internet was not yet the source of information fort the LGBTQ community. At this central location in the city and next to LGBTQ hot spot for tourist is was the perfect place to give people information of what to do as a LGBTQ visitor of Amsterdam. But it also always has been an accessible place for people who wanted to take their first steps in their coming out.
Despite the ascent of internet, the Pink Point still has this function. Young kids form the suburbs of Amsterdam of further afield dare to enter this little market stall and have look through the leaflets and other information inside. The friendly and informed staff are always at the stand by for a talk.
But the owners combine their idealisme with a healthy commercial attitude. The people behind the Pink Point are also behind Club Church and NZ Sauna, so they know what it takes a business and they know what is happening in the gay scene. Over the years they have heard a lot of stories and seen a lot of things change. So we plan to have a more in depth interview with them shortly.
So they earn their bread and butter with selling trinkets, postcards and small gadgets. Always useful to by a little present here for friends or family. And with buying a little present for them, you support the them helping you gay people find their way.
Another hidden gem is M-E-K. And a gem it is! M-E-K is a china and interior design store with style and grace and a very friendly attitude. The two friendly gay owners have specialty store cutlery, pots and pans, gifts etc. etc. Whatever they have on sale, it will always surprise and inspire you. For their selection of products they look for the best designers and producers. Think of Versace, Alessi, Borek Spinek, Demeyere, Fürstenberg and many, many more.
We had a little talk with them and asked them how they survived as a small store in this increasingly popular neighborhood. They told us that the shop was the real life show case for a bigger business behind it. Their website is an important part of their business. Next to that they also do the tableware and interior design for hotels and rich patrons all over the world.
We also asked them if they also saw an increase of gay and lesbian couples coming into their store for the wedding lists. We thought that the marriage equality might have opened up a new market for them. That wasn’t the case however. Of course they have gay clients, but they tend to by their cutlery themselves. Apparently weddings lists are not a gay thing!
In the age of online bookstores, Xantippe Unlimited is surviving against all the odds. It started out as a women’s bookstore on this spot in the seventies and eighties. The present owners took it over and it survived into the new era by adjusting to the times. Nowadays it is an independent neighborhood bookstore with a wide range of good quality books. It hasn’t lost touched with it’s roots though, because in each genre you will still find more than the usual number of books by or for women or LGBTQ themed books.
Xantippe Unlimited is run by two nice ladies Jos Ypma and Pia Fruytier. These ladies love to read and love books. That makes it easy for them to give you good advise or just have a nice chat about books. They just celebrated their 20th anniversary as a bookstore and extended the lease for their store for another 5 years. The store is located on a very popular spot and the Prinsengracht. The interior is a real cavern for book lovers, with a beautiful cast iron winding staircase going up to an entresol level.
So if you need a moment of quiet and delve into a wide selection of books to find a new read, we strongly advise to go to Xantippe Unlimited. Of course most books are in Dutch, but you will find enough books in English. And if you go their do support our local bookstore by buying something.