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It is a shop front on Nassau Street, a couple of blocks away from Wall Street, that would be utterly forgettable were it not for the two words stamped across its glass: Free Store.

Every item on display inside the small shop is absolutely free. Anyone off the street can browse through its goods, select an item, and if they think they need it, walk out with it without charge. The store operates in two different ways. First, there is the free shopping method based on a barter and exchange system. Visitors offer their “useful” possessions, like books and clothing, in exchange for items in the store. Some limited edition goods produced in-house by the artists are available for barter while supplies last. Second, the Free Store takes donations of goods and services and offers in-store “credit” in the form of what they call “World Bills”. The bills can be traded or collected and later used for future barters.

The shop is the creation of two artists, Athena Robles and Anna Stein, who have launched it with the help of a $9,000 grant from a local cultural body and the September 11th fund. They began planning it 18 months ago but believe the timing of its opening now is singularly appropriate. “It’s a certain time in history in this country when people really need to help each other out,” they told the New York Post. Free Store will also host a range of events catered to artists dealing with the tough economy. Every Sunday from 2-5pm the store will present “Never as Good as the First Time,” a chance for artists and curators to meet with Director of Exhibitions for the Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, Edwin Ramoran. Edwin will schedule 15 minute meetings with only people he has never met in person to provide feedback on proposals and free professional development advice.

The irony of it all is how close this store for “challenging economic times” is located so close to what some consider to be the cause of it all, Wall Street.

Free Store
99 Nassau Street at Ann Street, Manhattan
Thursday – Saturday 12-7pm
Sunday 12-5pm

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