For 40 years, Gino DiGirolamo had a busy, cluttered tailor shop on Avenue A near the corner of 12th Street. In late 2006, his landlord moved him out to a new space on 14th Street between A & B. That’s where you’ll find him now, at the Royal Tailor shop, chatting with customers in English so broken it’s utterly scrambled, peppering his talk with Italian words brought over from his native Palermo.
He wears a measuring tape around his neck. He has two televisions sitting one on top of the other. His walls are covered with pictures of the Italian soccer team, boxer Rocky Marciano, and a poster showing popular lengths of sleeves and trouser legs.
A gray-haired woman sits with him. While customers are present, she is silent. But after the customer leaves the shop, she gets up and berates Gino, telling him what he’s doing wrong and asking why can’t he do things the way she says. The tailor just smiles.
He seems happy with the way business is going on 14th Street, but he liked his old spot better. After a year, the abandoned shop is still empty, a FOR RENT sign hanging overhead. In fact, all four commercial corners of 12th and A have been empty for at least the past year. People wonder what’s happening there.
One Livejournaler who used to live on the corner noticed recently that his building has been almost completely emptied of residents. He also reminds us that Mary Help of Christians Church and flea market were sold “under rumors that the land was being bought for a condo development and/or NYU dorms.”
I asked a man I encountered emerging from the basement and he denied such rumors, saying Gino's old space would be rented soon. (*Read this update for the answer.)
Whatever is happening on those long-shuttered corners, Gino's tailor shop won't be returning. He'll be staying on 14th Street. For now.
Watch Gino on Youtube in these short films by Matthew Handal: