Monday, January 14, 2013


Reader Everettsville writes in about his recent visit to the Lexington and 51st location of Barclay-Rex, part of the tobacconist business that's been around since 1910:

"They were having a two-for-one sale. Why, I asked? 'Last day in' the guy said. When I asked why, the guy told me, 'the landlord didn't stop at just doubling the rent, he tripled it.' When I sarcastically promised the guys behind the counter that I wouldn't patronize the 7-11 or Fro-Yo joint that would take its place, they corrected me: 'No, it's gonna be a burger joint!'"

Feil Organization

Barclay Rex has two other locations in town--one near Grand Central and another downtown on Broad St. The original was opened on Barclay (hence the first part of the name) in 1910 by Vincent Nastri, a pipe maker from Salerno, Italy, with his dog, a Great Dane called Rex (hence the second part of the name). The business is still run by Vincent Nastri (the Third).

The just-shuttered shop on Lexington opened in 1997 with a prime spot in the gorgeous General Electric Building, formerly the RCA Victor, a marvel of architecture festooned with radio waves that look like lightning bolts zig-zagging down the building's rosy granite face.

my flickr: 2009

The windows of the tobacconist shop, on the rare occasion that I passed by, attracted me with their displays of fedoras and walking sticks--and their view of walls covered with a mural that brought to mind the WPA works that celebrate the city's industry, or Edward Trumbull's murals in the Graybar Passage of Grand Central and in the Chrysler Building.

One New Year's Eve, a few years ago, I stopped to take a few photos, wondering if the art dated back to the 1930s. Turns out, the 36-foot mural in Barclay-Rex was commissioned from artist Mark di Vincenzo in 1997, no doubt to match the vintage of the building and conjure thoughts of the past.

Somehow, I doubt the deep-pocketed burger joint will keep it.

P.S. What if, instead of one those trendy new burger chains (Good Burger, Bare Burger, 5 Napkin Guys Burger, etc.), the great Prime Burger has chosen this spot to make a comeback? That might make it alright. But with a tripled rent, it does seem unlikely.


Anonymous said...

And Pj Clarke's is opening their Clarke's Standard burger joint right up the block on 54th and Lex. This burger bubble is gonna burst soon.

Anonymous said...

I worked at Barclay Rex for 5 years including that last day of business. MY bosses name was Billy Rella. He was an old-school local 3 electrician who got into the cigar business as a result of his friendship with Vince Nasri. Billy was the best boss I ever had. A man who cared deeply for his crew and actually took pride in paying a living wage. I will miss him most of all. Thanks boss.

Darlene said...

I think that location was Caswell- Masssey in the 60's and 70's am I mistaken??

Smaug said...

I'm glad that I found this entry of yours, I stopped by the store located on Broad while in the city for a preservation technology conference. I decided that my souvenir for myself should be a nice New York pipe with a house tobacco blend. The store is beautiful, the furniture and fixtures are all gorgeous. I bought a pipe that I hope will not outlast the company. I only wish I could remember the name of man who is their current pipe maker. Reading this brings the weekend full circle as it is about to end, between the preservation conference, my journey through the skyscraper lined streets, and this reading here my pipe just became a little bit more significant to me.