I went for a walk through the lower Lower East Side the other day, to see what had vanished and what still remains. I passed the wreckage of Gertel's bakery, a heap of twisted metal and rubble behind plywood fencing and a stop work order. Next door, not long ago, there used to be a wonderful candy and nut shop called Kadouri & Sons.
The old signage of the area is quickly vanishing, but this cool Bondy sign remains. And at Eldridge and Canal, I was greatly relieved to find that the Cup & Saucer Luncheonette still stands. I had a grilled cheese (on Pechter's rye) and potato salad.
Directly across Canal from the luncheonette, half a block is being demolished. I later did a little research and found that the "BEN" neon sign once stood for Beny's Authorized Sales and Service. In business for 50 years, the shop was run by Jerry Cohen who repaired lighters like Zippos and Ronsons. According to Curbed, once this structure comes down, a 16-story retail/residential tower designed by Peter Poon will take its place. I recommend you enjoy the Cup & Saucer before this happens. Its days are surely numbered.
Click this link for a Before shot of the above
Right behind the Cup & Saucer, I went into 39 Eldridge where a sign for Happy Dancing Club led me up a set of warped and filthy stairs, past locked doors scrawled with Chinese lettering in magic marker. I came to a slightly open steel door that had no knob. Romantic Chinese music flowed out from within. A homemade shrine sat on the floor, candles flickering.
I definitely got a "this is a brothel" kind of vibe and it took me several minutes to get up the courage to pull the door open. Inside, behind a curtain, Chinese couples danced around in an elegant circle beneath disco lights and red lanterns. I thought: Not a brothel, but maybe a taxi-dance hall? And yet some of the couples were made up of two elderly men. Men and women sat in chairs against the walls. They all turned to look at me when I peered inside.
While I later discovered that this same address did, in fact, once house a brothel, I think this dance hall is legit. A kindly older woman waved me in, smiling. She gave me a business card printed with the name "Zhou" and the number 646-662-3828.
If anyone speaks Chinese, I'd appreciate it if you could call Zhou for me and find out what the deal is. If it's simply a matter of paying a fee to spend an afternoon dancing, I'd like to give it a try--before this mysterious place, like many others, vanishes too.