Monday, October 20, 2014

Colonized by Bears

After much anticipation, after two years of temporary schlockfests in the old Colony Music space, including Halloween stores and Christmas shops, it looks like landlord Stonehenge Properties finally found someone to commit to the reported $5 million rent.

Reader Ken Jacowitz did some snooping around and sent in the following shots. Is that a teddy bear peeking from behind Colony's door?


photos by Ken Jacowitz

Why, yes, it is. But not just any bear. Signs say it's the Build-a-Bear Workshop bear, native to Overland, Missouri, and conqueror of suburban shopping malls across the nation, with over 400 stores worldwide, including three already in New York City.



Colony Music had been here for over 60 years, since 1948. They were forced out after Stonehenge bought the Brill Building and quintupled the legendary record and music store's rent.

Add this one to the ever-growing list. Where once was a New York original, a one of a kind, there's now another piece of bland, middle-American ubiquity.



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Stage to Stagecoach

After 75 years in celebrated business, the venerable Stage Delicatessen shuttered at the end of 2012, due in part to rising rent. While it was lousy with tourists, it was a landmark institution and many in the city mourned its loss.

What replaced the Stage? Reader Ken Jacowitz checked in to find the Stagecoach Tavern where the Stage Deli used to be.


photos by Ken Jacowitz

The Stage's name conjured the footlights of Broadway. The Stagecoach is named for--a lack of creativity? Or should we think of covered wagons carrying pioneers to their Manifest Destiny? Just please don't tell me it's "an homage" to the lost deli.

A sports bar stocked with several high-def television screens, the Stagecoach looks like all the other nouveau Irish pubs in town--same Celtic font on the sign, same beige interior, same menu. Where once were pastrami sandwiches, egg creams, and matzoh balls are now hot wings, sliders, and mozzarella sticks.

And on it goes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Village Voice: Best of New York 2014

The Village Voice has included this blog in their Best of New York 2014 issue, naming it "Best Chronicle of New York's Ever-Changing Face."




Many thanks to the unnamed someone at the paper who wrote this lovely and lyrical description:

New York is changing at light-speed, with glassy condos and fro-yo shops mushrooming out of every corner. Sometimes it's hard to even take stock of all the changes; it can take weeks or months before you notice that your favorite old sign for a '30s jazz club has disappeared, or an Italian restaurant that has been tucked in some corner of (what's left of) Little Italy since the dawn of time. No one takes stock of New York's changes with the same mixture of snark, sorrow, poeticism, and lyric wit as Jeremiah Moss, the voice behind Jeremiah's Vanishing New York. Nothing escapes Moss's notice: When a beautiful robin's-egg-blue newsstand was suddenly gone from the corner of 23rd Street and Park Avenue South this past summer, he mourned its passing. "It was crooked and quirky, just like all our newsstands used to be. It had character," he eulogized. "Really it was the only bit of original New York character left on that chain-strangled corner." Even as the changes he's cataloging break our hearts a little, it's that kind of lovely, precise writing that makes Moss's blog essential reading.

B. Shackman's

In 2010, I did a little post on the word "novelties," and about how it's been vanishing from the cityscape. In the post, I mentioned Shackman's, a toy store long on 5th Avenue and 16th Street, since replaced by the Anthropologie clothing chain.


photo by Ed Sijmons, flickr

I'd not been able to find any photos of the old shop. But then Ed Sijmons of Amsterdam got in touch to share some wonderful shots he'd taken of Shackman's on a trip to New York back in 1980.


photo by Ed Sijmons, flickr

Shackman's had been selling toys and gifts since 1898. The "B" in B. Shackman stood for Bertha, who was killed by a car on Amsterdam Ave. in 1925.


photo by Ed Sijmons, flickr

You can still find a number of vintage Shackman items on Etsy--paper dolls, miniatures for doll houses, dolls, and cards.


photo by Ed Sijmons, flickr

You can also see many more shots of Mr. Sijmon's 1980 trip to New York on his Flickr page.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Essex Street Judaica

Recently, Tablet magazine reported on the struggles of West Side Judaica, an 80-year-old shop swamped by the Upper West Side's rising rents and increase in chain stores.

It makes me wonder what I sometimes wonder: What happened to the Jewish supply stores of Essex Street? I keep walking down there, trying to find them--to find just one of them--but they all vanished, and in just a few years.


All photos taken in 2007--all have since vanished

It seems impossible. For decades, the street between Grand and Canal was full of them. Their signs swung out over the sidewalk, announcing Sefer Torahs, Mezuzos, Tallises, Bar Mitzvah Sets.



Customers roamed the shops, checking out the wares, buying everyday things and important items for special occasions.



Walking by, even in the late 2000s, you felt like you were in a Berenice Abbott photo. You know, that feeling. Especially at Zelig Blumenthal's, with the old writing painted on the window. It had been there for 60 years.

And then a big change came, all at once.



Blumenthal shuttered in 2010. The shop was gutted and given over to Cafe Grumpy, with high-priced apartments above. A neighboring shop, also 60 years old, followed in 2011.

One by one, in the span of only two or three years, all of the Judaica shops were pushed out by neighborhood changes, high rents, and pushy landlords. Deep history annihilated in an instant.



Today it's all cafes, bars, galleries. Something called "The Juicery." Everything new. Everything for the new population. I keep walking up and down, thinking I'll find one Judaica store, one sign, a lone survivor, but I haven't found one yet.






Monday, October 13, 2014

Marble Cemeteries

From my piece in today's Metro NY:



...Mostly marked by plaques, some of the vaults here have monuments above them. One of the largest belongs to Mangle Minthorne Quakenbos, real estate magnate with a spectacular name. But the most famous here is Preserved Fish—famous for his curious name, not for his life, which was spent in shipping and banking and outliving one wife after another.

A cemetery volunteer shared the apocryphal story behind Mr. Fish’s naming: “As a baby, while traveling by ship, he fell overboard. He washed ashore and was found by a whaling captain, who gave him the name.” Because he was like a fish preserved.



It’s a pleasure to stroll through a cemetery, a peaceful activity not often possible in Manhattan. As people wandered over the graves, long-time East Villager Helen Stratford played her accordion. She wore a black dress and black-feathered wings, the angel of death playing Andy Williams hits, like “Moon River” and the “Theme from Love Story.”

Please read the whole essay here.




Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Bronx Morning

Ubu.com found this amazing artifact of old New York. Made in 1931, it shows 11 minutes of life on a Bronx street.

From the text:  

"A Bronx Morning is a 1931 avant-garde film by American filmmaker Jay Leyda (1910–1988). Described as 'city symphony,' the eleven-minute European style film recorded a Bronx street in New York City before it is crowded with traffic... In 2004, A Bronx Morning was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being 'culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.'"



Visit Ubu to view the film.