After spotting this sign in the window of a five-and-dime on 14th Street between A & B, I went inside and took a look around. The 41-year-old place is exactly the way it was described in the Voice 7 years ago. Ancient wooden tables hold plastic tubs full of greeting cards, each hand-labeled according to its intended receiver: Niece, Nephew, Mother, Father, etc. Bigger tubs hold a random assortment of books.
There's a toy section on the wall where you can find small bags of plastic dinosaurs or cowboys or zoo animals. There are paper streamers, paper plates, paper cups, and an abbreviated collection of piggy banks, figurines, and coffee mugs. For the season, you can also find foil-paper party hats and noisemakers that say Happy New Year.
I talked a bit with the manager, Danny, who is the grandson of Charlie. He told me they used to have many stores in the area, each with a different theme. "We're a community service more than a regular business," he said, "People come in here and tell me they still have glassware they bought from us years ago, or shoes or furniture. The old people come in from Stuyvesant Town, just to visit and talk. If we weren't here, they wouldn't come out at all. It gives them some exercise."
About 15 years ago, the landlord tried to raise the rent 400%, but protesters, politicians, and newscameras came and Yes! This Is Charlie's stayed. Now they need help again. Protests and politics aren't going to cut it this time. They need financial help. They need a grant. Or an angel investor.
If anyone knows an angel, please send them to Charlie's. And even if you don't know any angels, go to Charlie's anyway and buy some paper hats and noisemakers. They may not be there long after the New Year.