I was drinking coffee and eating an almond croissant at my favorite French bakery in the city a couple of years ago when I got a text from a good friend back home.

She wrote, “Hey! I know you’re in NYC right now. If you come across a fire station will you see if you can buy a t-shirt for my husband? He collects them from all over the country and doesn’t have one from there.” I immediately wrote back, “You can do that?” To which she replied, “I think so!”.

I consider myself to be a pretty brave woman, but something about knocking on a firehouse door and asking if I could buy a t-shirt made me feel a little nervous. I comforted myself with the thought that it would be pretty unlikely that I’d come across a fire station before heading to the airport later that afternoon. And so, I left the bakery and walked toward Central Park where I was going to take my last stroll.

Wouldn’t you know? On that same street, just two blocks from the bakery was this very firehouse. Really? Ugh. So, I did what any logical person would do, and I hid in an alcove and googled the question: “Can you buy t-shirts at fire stations in New York City?” After sorting through the initial results, I found a message board on Trip Advisor where there was a post about this very thing. It seemed credible and indicated that this was, in fact, something that could be done.

So, I gathered my courage and approached the firehouse. As I did the door to the bay lifted and a couple of New York’s Bravest were standing there. I nervously asked them if it was possible to buy a t-shirt. They didn’t seem to think this was strange at all and brought me back to a locker where they showed me two different design options in a range of sizes. They were the same high-quality shirts they wear with their gear, customized to their specific Engine Company and Ladder number. These particular shirts say “Engine 74, Ladder 25. The Pride of the West Side”. They’re super cool, totally authentic. The shirts were $15 apiece (bring cash).

I’m always on the lookout for unique souvenirs, and I think this is one of the best I’ve found. Bonus: with a walk through the firehouse, you get a peek inside life in the FDNY which is also a special experience.

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