Monday, August 16, 2010

Andrews' Remainders

Following up on my post about the closure of one of the last Andrews Coffee Shops in Manhattan, I set out to find the local chain's remainders. As we learned last week, Andrew Zamel's coffee shops, opened in 1963, once numbered 15. It took 30 years to halve that number to 8 in 1993. Today, there are 2 that I managed to find.

There's one at 35th Street and 7th Avenue and another nearby on 38th, between 7th and 8th. The rest, still listed online, were confirmed closed or didn't answer their phones.

The 35th Street Andrews occupies a large corner spot and was busy with lunchtime customers, most of whom looked like tourists or shoppers spilling over from Macy's.

It was too crowded for me, and too renovated, so I headed over to 38th where I found a smaller, quieter, shabbier Andrews tucked in between zipper shops and sewing machine supply stores on a block bustling with garment business. This was more my speed.

It was blissfully desolate. My BLT and fries came quickly and tasted fine. But I don't sit in restaurants, generally, for the taste of the food. I go for the place itself, for a feeling it gives me, and the feeling in the 38th Street Andrews was a good one.

It had a slightly desultory air about it. No one was pumping happiness into the place. There were no flatscreen TVs screaming and no bouncy music. The song on the radio when I walked in was singing from 1990, "If you don't love me, why don't you let me go?" Here, they let you eat in peace.

The customers did not seem like tourists or shoppers. They seemed like Garment District people. They were mostly single men. The sort of men who wear Hawaiian shirts, gold watches, and fragrant oils in their silver hair. The sort of men who carry their cash in a money clip and call the waitress "Sweetheart."

The customers here are known. The cashier recognizes them, calls the men "Padron." They joke around together at the register.

If I had to bet which Andrews will be next to vanish, I'd say it's 38th Street, for all of the above reasons. It's not loud enough, not obnoxious enough to survive. For some reason, people like to eat in crowds. They like noise with their food. Also, this location seems to depend on the old-school Garment District crowd, and they are vanishing.

So if you're looking for a coffee-shop experience, give Andrews of 38th Street a try. Before it's gone, too.


Ken Mac said...

an excellent post, full of information, sadness and respect. Why do people like noise when they eat? Then I feel like a criminal when I ask the staff to turn down the music (if you can call it that)?

ellen said...

I worked in that neighborhood for several years, and loved your description of the garment industry types. I sold fabric as a rep and loved the feel of the coffee shop as we hustled in and out during the busy lunch hour.

ellen said...

fond memories of rushing through lunch at the coffee shop. The garment industry types were just as you describe them. Alas you forgot to include the women in the garment industry. We were there, hustling, eating, and laughing.

laura said...

jeremiah said the 3 key words EAT IN PEACE!!! these old coffee shops are great for that. you are not be subjected to some corporations branding. or their desperate ploys to manipulate most people, with loud music etc. (people are like trained dogs, yes folks its dumbing down down down......, i don't think most dogs would even like that). modern people do not want any peace, eating or otherwize. i am usually on the verge of a nervous breakdown. this blog is necessary for mental health.

Marty Wombacher said...

Nice place and great descriptive writing. I'll check it out soon, before it closes and a Starbucks moves in.

Shawn said...

I work at 34th and 9th, so guess where I'm going for a while... Thanks Jeremiah!

Suburban Guy said...

If there ever was a modern version of Hoppers "Nighthawks" Andrews would be it.

MagWildwood said...

I was there a day or two before Chrismas, during lunchtime rush. But there was no rush. It was dead. I had a big ol' booth all to myself.

After my tuna melt and coffee, I asked the cashier if they'd be open on Christmas Eve and he said, "Naw, probably not. It's just too dead."

Since then I've wanted to go back but couldn't remember exactly which street it was on. So THANKS for the reminder.

MagWildwood said...


I'd like to find out if anyone knows what happened to the evangelist lady who used to be on 42nd Street, near the AT&T building, every day like clockwork. Her first name was-is Brenda. Years ago she was on the north side of 42nd Street and Broadway. Then she moved to the south side of 42nd Street. An African American woman who is probably in her 50s by now.