Monday, April 13, 2009

Canal Plastics & Rubber

Canal Street is not for the faint of heart. Mostly, it is to be avoided at all costs. The crush of counterfeiters hauling suitcases packed with knock-off handbags and the swarms of tourists who follow them like sharks in a feeding frenzy are enough to make you homicidal.

But there are a few gems here worth checking out if you can brave the throng. My two favorites are Canal Plastics and Canal Rubber. Their signage, more than anything, enthralls. Especially with their anachronistic-sounding catch phrases.

IF IT'S IN RUBBER - WE HAVE IT!



ALL YOUR PLASTIC NEEDS AND MORE...



I went inside, trying to think of what my plastic needs might be. I nearly convinced myself that those needs included a handful of solid lucite spheres or a couple of plastic ice cubes, or a sheet of psychedelic corrugated poster paper.

In Canal Rubber, I was fiercely tempted to purchase a lengthy coil of pink rubber tubing that looked, when held just so, like a human large intestine. I also considered getting a piece of rubber flooring cut to size to create an industrial-design bathmat.

Instead, I walked out of both places empty-handed, wondering who shops there and for what. And feeling grateful that people with truer plastic and rubber needs than mine continue to exist.

19 comments:

EV Grieve said...

I'm just grateful that there's a store called Canal Rubber.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad those places are still there. My dad and I would go in there when I was a kid many many many years ago. He needed something but for me, it was a really neat place to check out cool stuff. Fond memories.

Adam said...

"... wondering who shops there and for what."

artists, of course.

Carol Gardens said...

I have shopped at Canal Plastic. Because sometimes it is cheaper to buy the parts for metal frames at Pearl and then you stroll over to the plastics place and get your pre-cut plexiglass. I've been doing this since art school. But I am certainly not keeping the place open!

Anonymous said...

I've shopped at these places. They've been there forever and I've actually used them a lot. My first job, about a million years ago, when I first moved to NYC, was working with a high-end decorator and party planner. We did stuff for rich people and corporate events all over the country, and some of this involved very elaborate sets, staging and decorations. So we would build all of this really groovy stuff out of materials we got at places like Canal Plastics.

Funny story--we had a gig in Florida one year for a really big cosmetics company. I drove a 36' truck packed with all kinds of really "arty" looking stuff, including life-size costumes of various cosmetics. (Now that you've been in this store you can imagine what some of it looked like). When we got to the Florida border, the cops made me open the back 'cause they want to make sure that people aren't smuggling plants and whatever. So this cop sees all of this really elegant- weird looking stuff and he just got super pissed, asking me what my problem was, what the stuff was for and why people like me exist in the first place. When I mentioned the name of the cosmetics company and "West Palm Beach" he glared real hard at me and then said to "get the hell out of my checkpoint".

It was great.

Anonymous said...

Canal plastics is a front operation for a back room gambling parlor. It has been for 20 years or more. Did you think they paid the rent selling fake ice-cubes?

Jennifer L. Dawson said...

Yes, one can only wonder what "true rubber and plastic needs" may be. When I spent last summer in New York I avoided Canal Street--and the area around it--for that very reason. When I returned to Florida, and I often wish I hadn't, nearly everyone asked me if I went to Canal Street and bought a watch, wallet, or purse. I'm not sure what the infatuation is with blatantly counterfeit merchandise, the purchase of which feeds organized crime, human trafficking and other illegal activities.

Bowery Boogie said...

good find! i love seeing those old school business catch phrases.

Anonymous said...

I bought various small plastic objects which I incorporated into collages. I also bought plastic boxes which now hold things like paper clips, pencils, pens. Canal Street is becoming increasingly "malled".

Jeremiah Moss said...

glad to hear so many people shop there. and the florida cop story is pretty fantastic. thanks!

rebecca said...

I had to go there years ago for a project I was doing for a class at F.I.T.

Love the blog, by the way.

hntrnyc said...

Nice to see that the place even still exists. I remember Canal St. as a one stop shopping place for batteries, casio watches, blank cassettes, and any kind of audio gear. Cash was king and with a little haggling, always a good deal.
My favorite cheap audio shop one day mysteriously turned into a sneaker joint. I recognized the owner from the audio shop and asked him what happened. He simply explained that he wasn't making any money selling headphones, walkmans, and foreign converters and had to make the switch. So I bought a pair of Pumas, cheap.
Entire blocks of vendors have been disappearing as they get shut down by the city for a variety of reasons. But I suspect not all of the them were carrying on some kind of nefarious activity...just guilty of having a stall in an area that is getting more valuable.
The city continues to get more unaffordable.......

Anonymous said...

Back in the 1980's, I worked at Pearl Paint across the street. I often stopped into Canal Plastics to buy various containers to use in my apt. Everything was in bright plastic colors of different sizes!

Erik said...

I can say as a commercial photographer stores like these are clutch. Those little cubes and other clear plastic parts you refer to are used all the time by us. Photoshop does not do everything (almost) just yet!

Anonymous said...

These stores are frequented by artists and art students. If you've ever taken a package design course, you've probably been to Canal Plastics.

Anonymous said...

I know Industrial Plastics closed a while ago but there were two other plastics stores, I went down there last week and I only found one, did the other one also close. I couldn't remember where it was so I wasn't sure.

LaCondesa said...

Canal Plastic is my favorite store in NYC I have won thousands of dollars in the last 10 year because of the great things I get at canal plastic to use with my cosutume designs, for a super creative person like moi it's a dream store. I now Live in Paris France and I am flying to NYC July 2nd to shop at Canal Plastic there is no place like this in Paris, it's a shame :(
I have many things I need to get to make get another award winning costume
I LOVE YOU CANAL PLASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Angelo of Paris

R said...

Thanks be for Canal Plastics. When I need parts for my Rube Goldberg-esque, thug-landlord, flooding abatement apparatus, who else can make the parts that I need?

Anonymous said...

I bought plastic there to make a filter cell for my binocular so I could do solar observing and recently picked up a cube of neoprene to keep me telescope from bouncing on the bottom of the milk crate bundle tied to my hand cart when I am moving it between potholes en route to my observing location. Now I need more plastic to laser cut and etch for another astronomy project.