Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gino the Royal Tailor

For 40 years, Gino DiGirolamo had a busy, cluttered tailor shop on Avenue A near the corner of 12th Street. In late 2006, his landlord moved him out to a new space on 14th Street between A & B. That’s where you’ll find him now, at the Royal Tailor shop, chatting with customers in English so broken it’s utterly scrambled, peppering his talk with Italian words brought over from his native Palermo.

He wears a measuring tape around his neck. He has two televisions sitting one on top of the other. His walls are covered with pictures of the Italian soccer team, boxer Rocky Marciano, and a poster showing popular lengths of sleeves and trouser legs.

A gray-haired woman sits with him. While customers are present, she is silent. But after the customer leaves the shop, she gets up and berates Gino, telling him what he’s doing wrong and asking why can’t he do things the way she says. The tailor just smiles.

He seems happy with the way business is going on 14th Street, but he liked his old spot better. After a year, the abandoned shop is still empty, a FOR RENT sign hanging overhead. In fact, all four commercial corners of 12th and A have been empty for at least the past year. People wonder what’s happening there.

One Livejournaler who used to live on the corner noticed recently that his building has been almost completely emptied of residents. He also reminds us that Mary Help of Christians Church and flea market were sold “under rumors that the land was being bought for a condo development and/or NYU dorms.”

I asked a man I encountered emerging from the basement and he denied such rumors, saying Gino's old space would be rented soon. (*Read this update for the answer.)

Whatever is happening on those long-shuttered corners, Gino's tailor shop won't be returning. He'll be staying on 14th Street. For now.

Watch Gino on Youtube in these short films by Matthew Handal:


Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks to the commenter who tipped me off to gino's shop!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering when you were going to cover that place. Gino is in there until at least 2am every night.
I live directly across the street from Mary Help of Christians. The flea market was an extremely vibrant neighborhood gathering before it vanished early last year. The congregants still gather on the steps to pray every night - rain of shine. Maybe you should stop by and talk to them about it.

Jeremiah Moss said...

shatteredM, thanks again--what time are they usually there?

Anonymous said...

It seems like folks are out there anywhere between 6pm - 8pm.

L'Emmerdeur said...

OT: New York City made it to #2 on Something Awful's "25 Most Awful Places According to Hollywood". And I quote:

"The gangs and giant monsters might have been a more noble end."

Bob Arihood said...

Jeremiah , I believe people are praying on the steps of MHC around 7 PM . I have been there a few times but have not yet gotten the picture that I want . It is a moving scene ,people gathering to pray every evening . this all may change the church for the better . Lets hope so .

Jill said...

You didn't mention Gino's prices which hark back to the 1970's. For all the years I've been going to him (about 15) he has never changed his prices. He charges $4 to hem pants and $6 if there are cuffs. Once, he shortened the sleeves of my leather jacket for $20. He fixes my zippers (sort of, those can take up to a month) and despite NEVER giving out a ticket he has never lost anything.

He appears to be doing more business in the new store - there are always people in there now when I go in.

The funniest part of his move was that he took all those old clothes that nobody ever picked up with him to the new space, so it is as musty and cluttered as ever. When I asked him about it, he said "you never know when someone comes back and wants their pants."

Anonymous said...

Northeast corner seems to have avoided the wrecking ball. Go take a look; even the silver Skullphone painting remains.

Deb said...

***** GOOD NEWS !!!!!!
Mary Help of Christians Market Vendors have relocated. Some of market vendors have reformed for a great cause, to raise funds for the schools in the area that have lost funding for several programs. The Earth School, Thompson Square Middle School and P.S. 64, have welcomed the market to help raise sorely needed funds. Running for a few weekends in the fall of 2008, the market resumed for the spring of 2009 and has since opened as of May 9th at 4th St. between Avenues B and C. It will be running until June 14th and possibly longer. Open Saturdays and Sundays 7am - 7pm. New Vendor are welcome to contact Jeanette at 212-979-2186 or Deb 347-216-4691!! All are welcome to come and show your support for the schools and the vendors. See you at the Schoolyard!

Anonymous said...

As of June 2014, Royal Tailor has moved again, to East 11th St between Ave A & First Ave I think. Almost the entire block between A & B on 14th St has been emptied, after a fire that took out the first seven storefronts a few years ago, and apparently some maneuvering to empty more of the old buildings for a larger new building or development. But fortunately for those of us who still need a cheap place to get jeans hemmed, Gino's still hanging in there in the East Village on a side street.

A grateful customer said...

On March 30, 2018, Gino passed away. This is a great loss to so many customers and people in the neighborhood. He was beloved.