By Kim Taylor

Bendel’s, the quintessential New York City department store on Fifth Avenue, offers a surprisingly fun, informal atmosphere along with amazing quality brands. Located on Fifth Avenue at 56th Street in a gorgeous Beaux Arts building, Bendel’s is open, light and airy. The first floor–cosmetics–is most crowded, but my destination was fragrance.

I climbed the spiral staircase, lined with marble stairs, to a mini fragrance section on the landing between first and second floors, feeling very much like I was in an estate instead of a department store. A Chanel counter awaited my finely-honed perusing skills, and I was not disappointed. A few more steps up, and I was in a gorgeous realm of fragrance, with Annick Goutal bottles glistening arow. Bendel’s doesn’t offer an extensive array of perfumes and specializes in non-commercial, high quality brands, but what it does offer is truly top of the line.

Here is where you’ll find all of Annick Goutal’s unique fragrance creations, along with Caron’s timeless urns, filled with sophisticated fragrances that have stood the test of time for decades. New and offbeat perfumes such as Velvet Rope and IF intermingle with Caron, and Paris’s L’Artisan Parfumeur has its own boutique within the store.

The L’Artisan Parfumeur boutique offers a wider array of L’Artisan products than anywhere else in the city, and is akin to stepping in to a tiny parfum boutique on a side street in Paris. This is a must-smell destination for anyone who loves fragrance.

Salespeople range from warm and friendly to clearly suspicious, and my sole complaint is that few will leave you alone to browse. The L’Artisan Parfumeur boutique staff is fantastic and well-informed, so if you have any questions about ingredients or new products, step into New York’s version of Paris.

Henri Bendel’s store is located at 712 Fifth Avenue (@ 56th Street). 212-247-1100.

Open Mon-Wed and Fri-Sat 10a.m. to 7p.m., Thursday 10a.m. to 8p.m., and Sunday 12p.m. to 6p.m.

Originally published March 2006
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