Who remembers the Grand Luncheonette? Owned by Fred Hakim, the wonderful little hole in the wall on 42nd Street was sadly closed "as part of the Times Square redevelopment project," wrote the Times at the time, "which has shuttered dozens of the neighborhood's older businesses -- many of them sex-oriented -- to make way for sparkling new restaurants, theaters and retail stores."
That seems like a lifetime ago, another world. We just got a note from Mark Hakim, son of the long-time luncheonette owner, with more sad news--and a request for memories.
Mark writes: "Hello everyone. On a very sad note, my father, Fred Hakim, who was the proprietor of the store for decades, is terminally ill with cancer. He is in hospice and the doctors say it is likely hours or a day or so. He suffers from aggressive cancer and is no longer conscious. He loved the store, 42nd street and, most of all, the people who patronized it. This video is timeless and, to our family, priceless. It captures him, times square and the store perfectly.
If any of you happen to have any additional pictures or videos that you don’t mind sharing, we’d be very appreciative."
If you'd like to get in touch with Mark, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo by Andrew Moore
The Grand Luncheonette lived on 42nd Street for 58 years. And it was grand. Richard Estes painted it in the 1960s. I went there as often as I could to soak up its greasy ambiance, nestled in chrome beneath the rotted marquee of the Selwyn theater.
Richard Estes, 1969
Writing about the Grand Luncheonette's demise, a journalist for the Daily News summed it up: "This is bigger than 42d St., bigger even than the Disney Corp. This is about New York being colonized by The Gap and Banana Republic and Starbuck's and all the rest. If new and improved Times Square is any indication, the standard for Italian cuisine will be the Olive Garden chain."
By the end of 1997, with mass demolitions shaking its foundations, the Selwyn Theater collapsed, burying the Grand Luncheonette in rubble. With it went my favorite ghost sign: "Cooped up? Feelin' low? Enjoy a movie today!"
What came next for 42nd Street was exactly as the Daily News reporter predicted--the Olive Gardening of the Deuce. It should not have been that way.
In 1996, a year before being shuttered, before the building collapse, Fred Hakim told the Times that he hoped he'd be given a lease by the new owner of the building, saying "This could be a link between the past and the future." But he was not given a lease. His luncheonette was not a part of Giuliani's and the New 42nd Street's plan.
As he said, "I was brought up on this street. I'd like to finish my years on this street."
See Mr. Hakim serving hot dogs in the luncheonette's last days
John Woolf Photography