Thursday, January 14, 2010



On West Houston, Alphaville has announced it is closing by the end of the month.

Thanks to the commenter who alerted me to the shuttering, a visit to the shop confirmed it, with signs for a 40 - 50% off closing sale. Toys, robots, coloring books, jewelry, vintage sunglasses--the place is packed with discounted items.

photo of co-owner Karchin, by Daily News

Opened 16 years ago by Steve Karchin and Gary Kraut, Alphaville has been a fun place to browse and shop while waiting for your movie to start at the nearby Film Forum. New York said: "Nostalgic boomers and retro-hungry design geeks flock to this unique store/gallery for their fix of reasonably priced mid-century vintage toys and posters," including "whimsical Billy the Kid cork popguns and original-issue Mr. Potato heads."

There are also lots of robots, including these guys made out of tins and bottlecaps:

When the shop opened in 1994, Karchin told the Times, "The world is very tense, very corporate, very financial. I have a feeling it's helped by balancing with something that has a feeling of a simpler time." Alphaville was "named after the Jean-Luc Godard film about interplanetary and time travel, in order to evoke 'the past, present and future.'"

As the past slips evermore away from us, get your space-age pin-up girl magnets while they last.

And with the future hurtling fast towards us, as new construction goes up on the block, you've also got to wonder how long Alphaville's little two-story building will be standing.


EV Grieve said...

Kitsch and thrift just doesn't go well in fancy new condos.

A shame places like this continue to close.

editrrix said...

This is a great store. Lots of unique stuff. Sorry to see it go. The owners/employees were always nice and let my boyfriend and I browse while holding our dog. Good people.

Anonymous said...

I am heart broken, disgusted, and beyond!!! It's more than a shame.
All wrong!!!

JakeGould said...

Sad, but honestly this place always had jacked up prices even back in the early 1990s. Anyone remember "Scouting Party" in Park Slope in the early 1990s? A mix of jewelry, books and an amazing toy/novelty selection. I remember distinctly buying stuff from "Scouting Party" for as low as a quarter and seeing the same stuff at "Alphaville" for tons more. I know "the city" is more expensive than the boroughs, but c'mon.

Past that the online world and it's more realistic (ie: cheaper) prices makes this even clearer.

But I still liked this place. Much more than "Love Saves the Day"; the owners are nice and friendly and the place was setup like a gallery to old toys.

Anonymous said...

Dreams, by default, belong to another time.

In the past, it meant a lot to us to sit in a booth at the original Brothers and eat ribs and drink Red Stripes until drunk or nearly drunk, then stop at Alphaville's windows to stare at something peculiar and gone by in time, before seeing a movie at Film Forum about characters and connections that no longer exist.

Gena said...

Indeed, this was the best part about waiting for a movie to start at the Film Forum. Interesting thrift stuff, especially old books and eyeglasses. But it's kind of amazing it lasted as long as it did. I never saw anybody walk in even to browse, much less by anything. I think one of its main problems was that it had no sign stating what it sold. You could completely walk by it and not even know it was there. I'll miss it just the same, however. Now I'll have to hang out at nearby Mickey D's while waiting for my film to start.

Anonymous said...

SOOOO SAD!!! Great place! amazing guys!!! i'm constantly heartbroken these days!

Nancy Giles said...

I'm in that neighborhood every once in a while when I have a job at Saatchi and Saatchi, and was stunned to see the place empty last month. Yes, it was a bit pricey, but it was such a pleasant place with great items from my childhood. Bought an old Viewmaster and slide wheels, vintage jelly glasses with cartoon characters, old World's Fair stuff, and so on. Any idea if they're selling things online, or how to contact them? Thanks. Nancy G.

Paul Schifino said...

I just heard that Alphaville has closed. What a sad thing.

I remember the first time that I walked in there. I think that is when I bought my Beany and Cecil Getar. I just loved how Steve and Gary treated the toys with such respect. I always told people that it was more like a toy museum than a store. I loved that they would have the little cards with names and production year of the products, and there was always a nice amount of white space around each toy... just like a museum vitrene. Everything was always flawlessly displayed. I have so many treasures that I got at that shop. Now when I see them they will mean even more. I am happy that Alphaville will live on in cyberspace. That is a great thing for anyone who might never have been able to come to the shop... but for the rest of us who had the privilege to experience it... and got to know Steve and Gary the web will always be a little bittersweet.

Paul Schifino said...

One of the saddest times that I can remember is walking down Houston and NOT seeing the Mr. Potato Display in the Alphaville Window. I still can't walk past where they used to be. I loved going in there and catching up with Steve and Gary. They were the best. What I loved about Alphaville the best was that they REALLY treated their toys with respect... like artwork. They way they displayed their pieces gave you the sense that it was more like a museum than a shop. I really miss those guys.