Friday, April 22, 2011

E. 7th Shift

This week, Grieve wrote about the changing face of 7th St., how it's gone, and keeps going, from a quiet block to the Food Capital of NYC. He worries that "this precious stretch of the neighborhood will simply become one big line of people waiting to eat."

I recalled one of my favorite bookshops, Tompkins Square Books and Records, which used to be at 111 E. 7th and closed sometime around the turn of the millennium. It was run by a man named Gani Remorca, who could find you any book you asked for within a week or two of asking. You could sit in a tattered easy chair and read, listening to the opera music that Gani played from an old turntable, while an orange cat rubbed your pant legs. Is there another Heaven?

Visit 90s Woman blog for a video of See, Hear

While Googling for the shop, I came upon the New York Times' 1995 guide to shopping in the East Village, an interesting time capsule. The writer of the article is thrilled by the sudden appearances of a bunch of boutiques between 9th and 7th Streets. He calls it "shopping nirvana." Most of what he mentions are those boutiques, but a few choice listings, all of them now lost:

"SEE HEAR (59 East Seventh) is an underground repository for collectors of trash culture, full of the latest in adult comics and rock-and-roll fanzines as well as books covering every aspect of both fields. Gift items like Heroes of the Blues trading cards, with portraits by R. Crumb, coexist with issues of the old folk periodical Sing Out and Psychotronic magazine, which focuses on horror and exploitation movies. If you are looking for a coffee-table book on tattoos, this is the place.

TOMPKINS SQUARE BOOKS AND RECORDS (111 East Seventh) is a more contemplative sort of place, with used books and records stacked everywhere. The opera on the stereo is a definite switch for this rock-and-roll neighborhood but fits the dusty, Strand Books-in-miniature feel of the place. It seems especially good for literature, books on architecture and hard-to-find records, including 78's.

STOOZ RECORDS (122 East Seventh) is a cramped little record store where the clerks are disarmingly honest. "What do you think of the new Oasis album?" a customer asked. "I didn't like it," a clerk responded. "Fine way to make a sale," another clerk said. If you can clear the cat off the compact disks and records, you'll find a good selection of 60's rock."

photo: Alex in NYC


Carol Gardens said...

See Hear was a really unique place, back when you had to search for zines. You could discover wonderful things there. I wonder where Ted Gottfried is now"?

EV Grieve said...

All old favorites.

I recall that See Hear moved around the corner to St. Mark's ... then came back to 7th then closed?

Jeremiah Moss said...

i think he's still out there somewhere, playing the uke:

Anonymous said...

i always see the guy who owned the bookstore shopping/browsing at the strand. for some reason, he's always at the used auction catalogue section.

Anonymous said...

see hear moved to st. marks where that sliders place is now, next to the cd store. don't remember them after that. the old location on 7th was fun, they had zines galore. i got some good music stuff from them.

Marty Wombacher said...

I remember being thrilled when See Hear agreed to stock my zine fishwrap. I used to wait for Ted to be busy with customers and then would move fishwrap next to Murder Can Be Fun for better exposure. I sure miss the fanzine days and that store.

James Taylor said...

The writer of that article is now the Times' chief wine critic. How's that for symbolism.

Jeremiah Moss said...

chief wine critic. perfect. he must enjoy what 7th st. has become today.

Anonymous said...

The most truly annoying thing that's happened to 7th street is the restaurant "Caracas". They allow their patrons to block the way for people to walk. Whether I'm coming home from work or just going to the Deli, the little groups of couples stand and block the way and don't hesitate to move after even a polite "excuse me" is said.
I've even called Caracas and the owner
MARIBEL ARAUJO was so RUDE and hung up the phone when I brought it to her attention.

Alex Trocchi said...

Tompkins Square Books never had a cat, are you sure it wasn't another shopper while you snoozed in the big orange chair. Gani had the BEST bookstore in New York, and the last literary salon since the closing of Rare Book Room on Greenwich Ave in 1989. I lived on 7th&D for 12 years and rarely got home before 1 a.m., Gani was often open past midnight. After the last rent hike he decided not to renew the lease, and had a fabulous weeks long clearance sale. Tompkins Square Books finally closed, believe it or not, on Monday September 10, 2001. Sadly, but typically, thousands of good books and records went to the curb.