Flashback: The days of Tent & Trails

I was at the Williams Sonoma in the Roosevelt Field Mall (and yes, it was painful) when an especially knowledgeable saleswoman asked if I needed help. I did — was seeking a parmesan rotary grater — and once we made that connection, she asked if I needed to find the parm. I didn’t, I said, I live near two Eatalys. And she says, oh, I had a store near Eataly Downtown, on Park Place. And I knew then it was Jamie Lipman from Tent & Trails. I could picture her clearly, on the elevated register, barking orders.

Of all the lost retail and restaurants in this neighborhood, and there’s a lot (yes, Racoon Lodge), I am most nostalgic and most bereft over that shop. There is hardly an item of outdoor gear that I own — or my kids or husband own — that did *not* come from that store. It had been installed at 21 Park Place since 1972 — they owned the entire building but operated the store out of the first floor and basement — and it was just crammed to the ceiling with top-rate gear, and with Sherpa salesmen who knew what mattered when it came to that kind of stuff. (Though I loved the shoe guy downstairs, who Jamie said ended up at Paragon.)

You may recall that the store closed in May 2018, in what was billed as a temporary move — the construction of 19 Park Place next door evidently caused structural damage to 21 Park Place, and as a result, the building had to be given a new underpinning (no small project in a 100-year-old edifice). But by June 4 they were closed for good — the building was sold.

And then in December 2018, 21 Park Place pancaked. “All that was left was the facade and the staircase, with the fire extinguishers still attached to the wall,” Jamie said.

Jamie and I chatted about the brutalities of the mall, which she shrugged off, (“I remember when shopping became a pastime — in the ’70s when goods started pouring in from China”) and the history of her business.

Her father opened United Chambers Trading Corp, a sporting goods store, on Chambers Street in 1956, right around when Jamie was born. The family lived in the Bronx and when she was 10, moved to Long Island. (“My father would never let us live in the building — he said it was too old.”) By the time she was 14, when her parents deemed her old enough to take the railroad by herself, she was working in the shop.

In 1972 they opened Tent & Trails, and kept United Chambers until 1984.

She and her sister spent their entire career working for Tent & Trails, and by 2017, Jamie had had enough. So the sisters listed 21 Park Place. “Built in 1915, it is fully occupied by an outdoor equipment and adventure store in business since 1956 and at its present location since 1972,” the listing said. “This represents the building’s first sale in over 45 years and will be delivered vacant.”

“After almost 50 years working there, six days a week, it gets a little old,” Jamie said. “And Amazon wasn’t helping us. People just love free shipping.”

But I’ll tell you, she’s still selling. After a year of retirement, where she said she lived the life of a cat (“wake up, groom yourself, take a nap, eat a little something, take a nap”) she took the job at Williams Sonoma since she likes to cook. She got me with the olivewood bench scraper (“It will save your knives. It’s great for scooping up chopped onions.”) and the parmesan grater (“We haven’t had these in ages, and everyone comes in here asking. Someone might mug you for it.”) and the giant Big Y vegetable peeler (“You will love it for eggplant.”). It was all I could do to resist the breakfast butter blade, “my favorite gadget in the store,” she said. In fact, I’m still thinking about that one.



  1. Jaime,
    we miss you!!!!

  2. Not even an hour ago my husband said, “I need to replace this jacket and I have no idea where to go since Tent and Trails is no more!”. Like Pam’s family, most of our outdoor gear was purchased at T&Ts over many years. We miss that special place, as much as we miss Riverrun! Good luck to Jaime and all the employees who helped us find what we needed.

  3. I worked in the area for 24 years and bought many warm gloves, hats and socks there. Need a new winter jacket and wish the store was still there. I miss Downtown Deli too. Horrible landlord (aren’t they all?).

  4. Jaime!
    Cranky, kind and interesting, knew every detail of her stock.
    Her wonderful staff and her amazing merch!
    She was an advocate for the neighborhood and jumped on board (signed petitions) supporting initiatives for historic preservation and community efforts.

    Glad they got out alive!

  5. What a great store! It had everything . I live down here 32 years. We miss all the old stores and pubs in the area.

  6. Cool Place. Some of us worked in the area. Something to do. Looked at shoes a lot, and many Jackets. I still hate Amazon. Their labor practices are disgusting.