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New York

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Melissa Bishop

April 17, 2013
Melissa Bishop, UncommonGoods Senior Buyer–Children’s, Leisure & Desktop

My hometown is…
Los Angeles, CA

My favorite product that I’ve brought into the assortment at UncommonGoods is…
Kinetic Sand.

I’m inspired by…
The amazing friends, family, and colleagues I am surrounded by. Also I’m a huge tech geek so I’m inspired by Kickstarter and TechCrunch.

My guilty pleasure is…
Goldfish crackers, sour candy, and young adult fiction novels.

An uncommon fact about me…
I play on two nationally competitive kickball teams. (Yes, really.)

My favorite place to eat in New York City is…
I’m a sucker for restaurants with twinkle lights and candles – and great wine lists.

My style is…
Completely mood-based – I’m a chameleon. California casual, if I had to pick a lane. Learning how to dress for my first winter has been a comedy…

Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
How to navigate the subway & survive in New York City. (I started at UG the day after I moved to NYC!)

Would you rather… Have a front row spot at any sporting event you choose for the rest of your life OR get free stuff from your favorite clothing store for the rest of your life?
Definitely front row at any sporting event! (!!!) – I’m a football and baseball fanatic. Hopefully this choice comes with transportation to get me there, too, since I’m far away from my Cali teams now!

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Personalities: Meet Candace Holloway Gregory

March 27, 2013

Candace Holloway Gregory, UncommonGoods Senior Manager – Merchandising
My hometown is…
Sherman, TX (GO BEARCATS!)

My favorite product that I’ve brought into the assortment at UncommonGoods is…
That is a hard one. I love them all! I guess I would say the MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY KIT – CUISINE. I did a gift lab on the product and had a BLAST making all the different dishes with my friends. I’m not much of a cook, but I felt fancy doing all these complex food alterations in the kitchen. (Secret: the kit makes everything super easy.)

I’m inspired by…
I’m inspired by my friends and family every day.

My guilty pleasure is…
The television show So You Think You Can Dance! And I will scream it from the mountain tops. I have been a die-hard fan from the first season, first episode. I like to think I can dance and critique like I know what I’m talking about. But my dance experience is……ummm……pretty much zero. LOVE EVERY SECOND OF THAT SHOW.

An uncommon fact about me…
I dabbled in acting. Lots of people thought that is why I moved to NYC, but I never wanted to have a career as an actress. I just wanted to live in the greatest city in the world!

My favorite place to eat in New York City is…
Another hard one! Vinegar Hill House is simply delicious. We usually go for “special occasions” so every time I have gone I have left with great memories.

My style is…
Simple and comfortable…in fashion and decorating.

Working at UncommonGoods, I’ve learned…
I have learned a lot about sustainability and B Corps. I am very proud to be a part of a company that cares so much about their customers, employees, and community. I also learned how to ride a bike in NYC. I still hold my breath going through busy intersections but I’m getting more comfortable every day.

Would you rather… Entertain guests every night for a week OR spend a whole week all alone?
I guess I would have to go with entertain guests every night for a week. My husband can put together an amazing party platter.

The Uncommon Life

Help Us Let State Officials Know that NY State’s Min. Wage is Not Enough to Live On

February 6, 2013

Dear New York State UncommonGoods Customers:

As you know, UncommonGoods, since its founding, has pursued the goal of running a sustainable business. We seek out goods that are handmade, recycled and organic, and print our catalogs on recycled paper approved by the Forest Stewardship Council.

But to us, “sustainability” means more than just being “green.” We believe true sustainability starts with integrity in everything we do. Being a founding member of B Corporation is one example of that philosophy. So is our Better to Give program. Integrity and care in our dealings with you, our customers, is another. And so is providing a living wage to our employees.

At UncommonGoods, we pay all our workers, including people who are just here for the holiday season, well above the minimum hourly wage. That’s because New York State’s current minimum wage, $7.25/hr, is too little to live on.

I, along with 80% of New York State voters, feel strongly that all of our state’s workers must be paid a fairer wage, asap. We’ve gone 6 years with zero increase. 19 other states have higher minimum wages than New York. If minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since 1970, it would be $11.15 an hour.

A vote about raising New York’s minimum wage, and automatically adjusting it to inflation, is coming up soon in the New York State government. Signing one of the below petitions could truly make a huge difference to a great number (hundreds of thousands) of your fellow New Yorkers.

I’ve written up my thoughts on the issue in this piece:

If you agree, please let our state officials know that New York State’s lowest-paid workers need a raise to help get them out of poverty.

Business owners, sign this one. (The signatures of business owners will have the most impact on our politicians.)

Individuals, sign this one.

Thanks for reading, and, I hope, for signing. Please share this message with other NY State businesses that you think would want to support this.

Dave Bolotsky
Founder and CEO, UncommonGoods

If you would like to do more, contacting your local state senator will have a real impact:

Find my New York State Senator:
(Enter your address and it finds yours.)
You can also Google “Twitter Senator (add their name)” and find their Twitter feed.
Ditto for Facebook.
For example:

To contact the Governor:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Tel: (518)474-8390

If you’re interested in reading more about minimum wage, this website is chock-full of clear and understandable information:

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: The Perfect Wingman

October 29, 2012

Let’s just say I’m a bar guy. Want to see my friends? I go to a bar. Want to watch a baseball game? Bar. Play Jenga? Well, you get the idea. But, how do you stay lubricated in between a barhop? With a flask!

Being a design-focused guy, however, made me very judgmental of most flasks. Your local liquor store usually has flasks that an ex-con named “Spyder” would appreciate. Not exactly my style. So, I’ve been on the lookout for a good flask for a very long time.


The flask was actually recommended to me by a friend of mine, Leah Bourne, editor at Stylecaster’s The Vivant, a luxury and lifestyle blog. I immediately took a liking to it. It’s not so obvious to say “hey, look at me! I’m a writer/photographer/owner of a free-range, grass-fed, localvore farm that offers free massages and tucks in each of its cattle individually each night.” But, it has some subtle humor with the wingman vibe.

As pouring liquor into a flask is not exactly rocket science, my hypothesis was more about social acceptability than function. So, the question to test is: will people think I’m a crazy loon when they see a bespectacled, nerdy-looking guy whipping out a flask in a bar, and on a successions of stoops in the stroller mecca called Park Slope? Will they think he is even loonier when he strikes up a conversation about data and statistics as he swigs from his flask full of bourbon?


Step 1: Fill the flask with Bulleit Bourbon.

Step 2: Meet Leah at Barbe’s, a local watering hole in Park Slope.

Step 3: Engage in a little stoop drinking.

Step 4: Have the flask take me to Talde, a restaurant and bar nearby. (Remember, as Seinfeld’s Kramer says, “I’m not going to Sardi’s, the Tony is taking me to Sardi’s.”)

Step 5: Break out the flask! It helped me supercharge a Moscow Mule.


The bartenders were remarkably tolerant of the flask! That was unexpected. And the stroller-chasers of Park Slope? Too busy replaying their Dora the Explorer videos in a desperate attempt to put the kids to bed to notice. However, the in-depth discussion of polynomial regressions did confuse a few passers-by.

A big hit! The flask will be very useful for barhops/concerts/weddings/bar mitzvahs/Tuesday afternoons. It will especially help dull the pain of watching daytime TV when I wait for the doctor or dentist.

The Uncommon Life

B Corp Status Renewed: The Mission to be a Responsible and Sustainable Business

August 8, 2012

When you think UncommonGoods you probably think unique, creatively designed and, well, uncommon products. Perhaps UncommonGoods is even your go-to place for gifts for those hard-to-buy-for family and friends and maybe even the place to gift yourself (don’t we all do that occasionally).

What you may not know is that UncommonGoods is voluntarily meeting higher standards of social and environmental performance through the B Corporation certification. The B Impact Assessment, conducted by the non-profit organization B Lab, aims to look beyond the marketing efforts of a company to assess the true impact of a business on their workers, community, and the environment.

Earlier this year, I led the effort to recertify UncommonGoods as a B Corporation, working with cross-departmental team members to assess how we’re doing. A founding member of B Corp, we’ve now reached our third term and our score of 91.3 shows that we are committed to upholding a higher standard when it comes to our stakeholders, including the environment, our employees, and the community.

(source, B Corp)

Our founder David Bolotsky has been making a continuous and strong effort in running a sustainable business ever since the company was founded in 1999. We are passionate about changing the way business is conducted by making sustainability a part of every decision we make. An important focus is to have a positive impact, not only in our own work place but in the world at large. For example, some benefits available to employees are that 80% of health insurance premiums are paid by UG (50% for families), whenever feasible alternate work schedules like part-time, flex-time or telecommuting are an option, there is a health and wellness program in place, including offering fresh organic fruit in the break rooms and incentives are given to encourage low-impact commutes to and from work.

Dave speaking to fellow NY B Corps.

A positive impact also means offering our customers creative and exciting merchandise that is built to last and made without harm to humans and animals; giving talented artists and designers a platform to sell their unique and often handmade product on a larger scale; making truthful and substantiated claims around all our products and avoiding the pitfalls of green-washing; and making smart packaging decisions when we ship the goods out to our customers and their friends and families.

(source, B Corp)

While not always an option in every product category, we prefer to work with local, sustainable, and fair trade suppliers. As a matter of fact, 14% of sales last year was generated with local and independent suppliers alone, ‘local’ meaning suppliers within a 200 mile radius. About half of our sales came from items made in the US, a little over a third from handmade products and about a fifth from products made of recycled content.

Being an internet and catalog retailer, we understand that producing a catalog uses the earth’s resources. Our goal is to minimize that impact by shifting more business online, limiting how many catalogs we mail, and continuing to print our catalogs on either recycled paper or paper sourced from FSC certified forests.

We love to give back to the environment and the community whenever we can. In 2011, we helped plant hundreds of trees (1,400 to be exact!) in Marine Bay Park as part of the MillionTreesNYC initiative. After over a year of tenacious persuasion tactics we also convinced city officials to make the landscape more appealing by planting street trees around Brooklyn Army Terminal (our offices) and we are volunteering our time and resources to help keep them in good health. I’m happy to report that so far they look quite happy!

Planting with MillionTreesNYC

Beautifying tree beds in and around Brooklyn Army Terminal.

Through the Better To Give program, UncommonGoods supports the mission of local and national non-profits. The Better To Give program gives our customers the opportunity to have UncommonGoods contribute to a non-profit organization each time they shop with us. Also, a portion of the sales of our Plates with Purpose, the Be The Change Paperweight and the Pelican and Sandpiper Nightlights is donated to non-profit partners – each item listing tells our customers exactly how much is donated and which organization it’s donated to. Last year we donated about $120K through our Better To Give program as well as $75K in product donations!

Our products that are making a difference.

On an ongoing basis, employees from all areas of our company are given the opportunity to discuss how we can make UncommonGoods more environmentally friendly, socially responsible and an ever-more rewarding place to work. Our four company goals serve as our guiding principles to be a responsible company; these goals are to be a great place to work, to be our customer’s favorite place to shop, to have a positive impact on the outside world, and to produce strong financial results.

Some members of the Certified B Corp community in front of Independence Hall in Philly. (source, B Corp)

The great thing about the B Corp seal is that it certifies the company as a whole, not just an individual aspect. It gives a customer insight on how a company is doing overall, from providing a living wage, to employee wellness, to lessening the environmental impact, to giving back to the community.

Fellow B Corp BBMG conducted a study on why B Corps matter and found that 73% of consumers care about the company, not just the product, when making a purchasing decision. Another interesting finding is that less than 1% of consumers actually trust company advertisements or statements when assessing a product or company. The more consumers know about the concept behind the B Corp certification/Benefit Corporation, the more consumer-spending will be influenced by this knowledge.

Check out this infographic to learn more about B Corps.(source, GOOD)

The bi-annual assessment and re-certification process is an excellent way to share our achievements with our customers and team members. More important, it helps us to set benchmarks for the social and environmental impacts of UncommonGoods and identify opportunities for future improvement.

We strive to be a driver of positive change and are convinced that collaborating with fellow B Corps and other industry leaders will have a positive impact. The certified B Corp community is made up of over 550 companies from 60 different industries and represents about $3.1 billion in revenues. It’s a large community of value-driven companies wanting to make a positive impact that are open to sharing advice and insights.

The holy grail of 100% sustainability is no small task to achieve – after all, the most sustainable product is the one that was never made – but we are very dedicated to making responsible, thought-through and well-informed decisions in everyday operations and to leading our business with integrity.


Germaphobes Rejoice! Cleaner Kitchens, One Sponge at a Time

January 5, 2012

Some people aren’t too picky about their cleaning supplies. For those less-than-germ-conscious types, any old sponge will do. Engineer Michael Frank was one of those folks, but his roommate was far from it. Although Michael now admits that kitchens can be pretty gross, when he first designed his innovative two-teared sponge rack, the Spongester, he did it with the germaphobia of others in mind.

Of course, those germaphobes aren’t scrubbing up the wrong sink. According to WebMD, your kitchen sink can actually contain more germs than your toilet bowl. Fortunately, cross-contamination may have met it’s worst enemy. Spongester is made of industrial-grade stainless steel, is slanted just right to prevent water from pooling up, and features semi-perforated shelves for extra drainage.

Here at UncommonGoods we think the idea is pretty ingenious, but Michael faced a few hurdles before his clever system made it big. The designer took a moment to tell us about how Spongester came to be, describe what makes a Sponge evil, and make us laugh.

Q.In your video, you explain that the product was created to keep the good sponge and the evil sponge from getting mixed up. What makes a sponge angelic or evil?

The original prototype, and the one in the video I made while I was living in Singapore, said “Dish” and “Misc”. I didn’t come up with “Good” and “Evil” until I was back in NYC. Something about this city. But in reality, I always thought the counter and sink were a bit “grosser” than dishes, especially my counter and sink.

Mike sent us this cartoon by Tony Murphy, which he says “proved to me I was not alone.”

Q. You said that your former roommate is a germaphobe. Any other examples of the lengths you would have to go to keep things clean/prevent cross-contamination?

I’m actually pretty bad about this, and I have to admit I sometimes clean the counter with the good sponge, then feel bad about it. I’m a biomedical engineer by training, so I do spend a lot of time wondering how much mold I’m ingesting when I use a smelly sponge on a drinking glass.

He also passed along this image from his alleged germaphobic friend Sean’s Facebook. He assures us his ol’ roomie was just kidding.

Q.Spongester has been a big hit among germaphobes and those who like to stay organized. Did you expect such a great response?

The idea to actually sell them outside of my friends was formed during business school last year in NYC. My professor said it was the stupidest thing he ever saw, and I also got rejected from the entrepreneurship funding program because no one understood why anyone would want one. Despite this, I always thought there were at least 100 other people out there who shared this problem, so I kept pushing it despite the skepticism.

Q. Be honest-would you rather lick a used sponge, dirty dishes that have been sitting in the sink overnight, or the kitchen floor?

For me that is an easy question; I have a niche brand of OCD which requires me to lick the kitchen floor three times whenever I open the fridge and microwave. The sink I only have to lick on Thursdays. And I don’t use dishes, just ice-cube trays to partition food by color and type of animal.

Not coincidentally, I live alone with my cat, Eki, in Soho.

We’re pretty sure he’s joking about the last one, but we know that there are some interesting cleaning quirks out there. What’s the greatest length you’ve gone to avoid germs?


Share the Love!

July 30, 2011

I Heart NY

We’re proud New Yorkers, so of course we’re excited to see Milton Glaser’s iconic logo on this ceramic “paper” cup. Like the Ceramic Greek Coffee Cup and The Original I Am Not A Paper Cup, this design is worthy of a double-take.

Do you want to sip your coffee while showing off your NY pride? If you love the I Love NY Cup, give it a thumbs up in our community voting app.

The Uncommon Life

Meet our Moderator

July 6, 2011

Here at UncommonGoods, we love getting customer feedback, hearing your stories and helping you find products you love. My name is Cassie, and as your Community Moderator, it’s my job to answer your questions and tell you more about our company and goods.

When I’m not testing our products to provide answers to your questions on our website, commenting on your feedback in our Voting App or replying to your product reviews, I’m usually sending out tweets from @UncommonGoods or writing posts for this blog. Since I learn so much about our customers and their interests from all of the fantastic feedback we receive, I’m going to give you the chance to learn a bit more about me.

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