Thursday, February 11, 2010

Village Paper, nee Sutter's

As first reported by Gothamist and Runnin Scared, the Village Paper party store on Greenwich Avenue has burned down.

Witnesses recall a loud explosion in the morning before the shop opened. Two firefighters were injured fighting the blaze that gutted the entire shop and shuttered a neighboring store.

The owner, Sun Wong, told the Daily News: "I worked so hard for this store, for my family. I'm so sad right now. I have three little ones. What am I going to do now? I feel sick about it. I don't know what I'm going to do next. We all depend on this store, it's our whole life."

An employee told the Post that "the store’s destruction was a great loss for the neighborhood."

By the afternoon, the sidewalk was littered with debris, a sickening carnivalesque mix of charred black destruction and colorful Mardi-Gras celebration.

Animal masks and glittering party masks, disco balls, sequined decorations, strings of purple beads, and racks of greeting cards sat piled in fetid-smelling tatters.

As the snowfall intensified, a white blanket covered it all, draped like the pale sheet police officers use to cover dead bodies on the sidewalk.

Village Paper moved here at least 20 years ago. Many will recall that Sutter's Bakery used to stand in this spot, next door to the original offices of The Village Voice. Villagers loved Sutter's and many writers partook of its delicacies.

In the Villager, Patricia Fieldsteel remembered, "it was possible to sit for hours over a cup of coffee and what was known in those days as a 'Danish pastry.' There were no lattes, grandes, mochachinos or even cappuccinos--just plain old coffee for 20 cents a cup with free refills."

In her book Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl recalls visiting Sutter's when the Women's House of Detention loomed just overhead:

It is very difficult to find a photo of Sutter's. In all my searching, I've only found one, taken by the wonderful photographer Robert Otter in 1964. There it is on the left, across from the "House of D."

photo by Robert Otter

Sutter's closed on May 23, 1976, after exactly 50 years in business. The New York Times reported that the closure was due to "a sharp increase in rent...from $40,000 to $60,000 a year." In addition, the landlord was asking for a $50,000 fee for a new lease. The owners, twin sisters Helen Mulcahey and Marie Kammenzind, daughters of Sutter, could not swing it.

The New Yorker's Talk of the Town was on the scene the day of the auction:

Yesterday, people were staring through the same big windows, estimating the damage, sizing up the destruction, wondering when and if Village Paper will reopen. By day's end, the windows were boarded shut.

It was, like Sutter's, a beloved neighborhood place. I bought my greeting cards there and the occasional Halloween disguise. I always enjoyed their window displays, filled with holiday chaos and kookiness (like their annual Zagat bursting from a corpse's stomach display). I hope they come back soon.

See all photos of Village Paper


Mykola Dementiuk said...

Greenwich Avenue was a pick up place in the 60s and Sutter's was a place to have a pastry, before you went and had your face stuffed with other things.

EV Grieve said...

I feel really badly for the Wong family... I know a lot of people who shopped here.

I also appreciate the history of this address, JM.

JaWz said...

After Sutter's and before Village Paper this space was home to Paper House, a fabulous stationery store. My childhood friends and I would buy stickers and such there.
I am fairly sure that Village Paper simply bought the business from them, since over the years I have occasionally seen stock I recognize from my 70s and 80s childhood. Not sure if it was before or after the change of hands that costumes were added, but I know it was to compete with Abracadabra, which at the time was the only Halloween shop in NYC (Imagine THAT! No Ricky's back then!) and was doing enviable October biz around the corner on Christopher Street.

Goggla said...

Reading about the aftermath makes me even more sad. I used to love this place - so stuffed with fun. I hope they're able to re-open.

I wonder if the explosion is related to any of the recent manhole explosions?

Anonymous said...

J, once again those presient words: goodbye to all that.

Roberta said...

This is very sad. Any word on what caused the explosion? Thanks for the info on Sutters (before my time), I always love to know the history of these oh so familiar streets. I had forgotten all about Paper House! Thanks for reminding me.

Melanie said...

This is a terrible loss for all involved. I always enjoyed walking by Village Paper and looking at the masks,party favors and Halloween stuff--being on that corner made the corner seen like the old days. I remember Sutter's Bakery but cannot remember what I bought there???Anyone remember what pastries they sold??

Mykola Dementiuk said...

I usually stopped in at Sutter's going to or coming from Loews Sheridan Theater on 11 Street and 7th Avenue, across the street from St Vincent's Hospital.

What a madhouse of couples in balcony that was... Learned all about sex in the Sheridan movie house.

JackS said...

I concur with JaWz. I distinctly recall visiting something prior to Village Paper that sold similar stock. But being the 1970s/1980s the variety was better/deeper.

Barbara Hanson said...

That was always my go-to place for party stuff. Nice people, always helpful. Very sad.

Liz said...

Was this place formerly called "Paper House Party Store"? I don't remember "Village Paper". This would have been in the mid-late 70s to mid 80s. Melanie's Natural was nearby.

Grand St. said...


Saw a sign today on the old Village Paper location that they moved to 8th between University & 5th.

The Wong family strikes back.

BSQ said...

What's even worse than the explosion (though not as bad as the closing of Sutter's) is its new incarnation--something called Rosemary's. A cheap patchwork remodeling, with a lot of Roman brick destroyed to put in bigger windows. And then the crowning blow--what was left of the brick has been painted a greyish white.

dalawson said...

In 1968 I was a young RN working at Bellevue Hospital, I purchased a cake at Sutters for a party we were giving for a fellow RN who was getting married.We nurses,interns and residents had a nice time and the cake was delicious.I have photos from the party including the cake.Sutters cakes and pasties were super good!!

Anonymous said...

I was looking for references to Sutter's because of their wonderful cheesecake, which I remember very well. I was in second grade and went to school on Greenwich Ave next to the women's house of detention in the late fifties. There was a wonderful store own ed by Randy Schaffer, "the Jewel box," a tiny place, full of curious items from everywhere. The Village had many interesting stores and restaurants in those days- a Peruvian shop, a restaurant called "The Bocce," which had straw on the floor in the back, Japanese stores, marvelous book stores...

Diana Horn said...

Every Sunday, as a child, I would go to Aunt Mary's apartment(Zia) to have dinner. Dinner was always the soup, the macaroni, the salad and the meat, followed by the fruit, the nuts and the oh so wonderful pastries my daddy would buy at Sutter's French Bakery.I used to love to walk down Greenwich Avenue, holding daddy's hand, smelling the aromas of whatever was baking in the kitchen. I always wondered what happened to that bakery, and when I decided to Google it, I was so excited to find the article that described its' history and the year that it closed. I am only so sorry that I will not be able to revisit that place, which brings back so many wonderful memories of my childhood, my daddy and Sunday dinner at Aunt Mary's.

Diana Horn said...

Remember the Belgian cookies??!! They were the best!

Anonymous said...

I was also so glad to find this article. My mother would sometimes bring home half of a chocolate cake from Sutter's. It was the best! All butter and dark chocolate. They also made wonderful brioche and croissant. Thanks for the memories.

gantipas said...

32946Over 50 years ago , as a college student , I had a part time job selling at the front counter at Sutter's in Brooklyn.
I got my job through a friend of my father's , another Greek immigrant, who worked as a pastry chef.
Another fine person was an older man, Peter, who was one of the managers.
The products were fabulous. I never forgot the cookies, chocolate cream pies, eclairs, napoleons and buttercream slices. The chocolate fudge cake was a favorite for many kids.
Over the years I shopped at the Greenwich Village location, same great quality.
Bakeries came and went, I remember Jon Vie also in the Village.
In 2005 a relative of Sutter's posted in the egullet forum that he was thinking of reopening Sutter's , he had the recipes from his great grandfather Edison Sutter. However, I never heard of this again.
One day maybe he will publish the Sutter's recipes. I am sure many people would be delighted to buy the book and savor the incredible pastries.

TahoePJ said...

Sutter's also had a branch up in The Bronx on the Grand Concourse next to Robert Hall's...across from Poe grandparents lived across the street and my grandmother was such a good customer, she didnt even take a number...just would stand to the side.."yes, mrs mcdonough, what would you like"...every weekend they'd visit us with a car trunk full of boxes tied together with blue+white string....cheese cake, pecan coffee cake, lemon meringue tarts, danish, chocolate leaves, butter this day i can taste it all if i remember....Long Live Sutters!

rgnyc said...

I've been trying and trying to find anyone who may know whether or not any relatives of the Sutter's Bakery family are still living, or anyone who might have some knowledge of the possible whereabouts of the recipes. There seems to be a post from many years ago about a grandson who had the recipes, but after that, I couldn't find any additional information. While I know that memory sharpens the senses, to this day there are desserts and pastries I had from Sutter's that no one, not one pastry chef on the planet, could do as well. The Peach Stars!! Baba suRhum. A Napoleon I still dream about. The coffee ring. I don't think a week goes by without my thinking of Sutter's. There were a lot of Jon View people around then, but they didn't know any better.